Saturday, September 6, 2014


Cape May Point Labor Day surf

The most photogenic spot I visit often is the stretch of the Delaware Bay beach in North Cape May, New Jersey, that I've known all my life. I enjoy shooting sunsets and rough surf there as my Facebook friends are quite aware. This is also the best place to try out new techniques and tricks in order to come up with new perspectives on the place and different-looking photos. Here's a round-up of ideas that you can use no matter what kind of camera you are using.

JUST BEFORE SUNSET, everything turns golden in other locations, too, but on the beach this is especially flattering light for people, dogs, and scenery with the sun at the the photographer's back.

Gladys at Sunset (Margaret Montet)

Shooting into the sun, we can catch some spectacular sunsets and silhouettes, too. Try positioning the subject in front of the setting sun: kids frolicking, boats sailing, dogs fetching, fishermen fishing, lighthouses and other iconic seashore structures are some of my recent silhouette subjects.

Fishin' (Margaret Montet, iPhone shot)

This is probably a good time to let you in on my big digital photography editing secret. I don't just take one perfect shot of a subject. I take many, changing settings and perspectives even when I'm not really sure what the result of the changes will be. Later on, I look through my shots and pick the very best to use or post. Based on what I just said in the previous paragraph, I would have thought that the best shot of these paddle boarders at sunset would have happened when they paddles in front of the sun (from my vantage point). My favorite turned out to be this one, just before they got to that spot. I'm really glad I took lots of extra shots.

Paddleboarders at Sunset (Margaret Montet)

THE BLUE HOUR starts about thirty minutes after sunset. I had been unaware of this concept until I read an article in the May2014 Outdoor Photographer magazine by photographer Kurt Budliger ("Get into the Wet Zone"). Budliger writes about the Golden Hour, extended shutter speeds for silky water, unspoiled sand at low tide, and this mysterious Blue Hour. Cool, I thought, I won't pack up and go home as soon as the sun goes down. I'll stick around and shoot in various directions and see what I get. Here's one of what I got:

The Blue Hour at the Delaware Bay (Margaret Montet)

It's fun to use props when shooting beach photos. We have to take care not to get sand into anything that might be harmed by it, and that includes props and regular photo gear. Keep the camera in its case while setting up shots with props, and maybe make some plastic-bag booties if you are using a tripod. The two props I experimented with recently didn't care much about sand, but my camera and lenses always care.

THE CONVEX MIRROR is a fun gizmo that I use to get interesting shots. Again, I take many shots and look through them later to find the best. Not only do I fiddle with camera settings, but I also move around a bit to adjust the angle between me, the mirror, and the subject I think I want to show up in the mirror. Here are some samples using a small convex mirror from the hardware store:

Convex Bay Sunset (Margaret Montet)
Convex Gladys (Margaret Montet)
Convex Margie and Gladys (Margaret Montet)
Then there is the repurposed PICTURE FRAME. This might be a cliche technique for snapshots of people, but I haven't seen it used much for landscapes. The idea here is the same as for anything that appears in a frame, whether it is art in a literal frame, or live entertainment on a stage with a proscenium arch, or a person's face surrounded by a floppy hat. The eye goes to whatever is inside the frame first. My cheapo plastic frame broke as soon as I tried to position it in the sand, but I was able to get some cool shots before it completely fell apart. In the future, I might drill a hole in the side of the frame so that I can stand it on my tripod or Gorilla Pod. I like this shot of the lighthouse with the gulls standing around acting naturally, and the beachgoers outside the frame. I wasn't paying any attention to them while lying on my stomach on my towel shooting this series of photos, but I like what the colorful people add to the shot.

Cape May Point Lighthouse and Gulls (Margaret Montet)

So you see, you can take some interesting shots no matter what kind of camera you have and a little creative thinking. Check out this guy:
North Cape May