So Patrick Smith who averages well over 30,000 views per photo (or so it seems ;) decided to call me out on my umbrella technique, so I thought I better give a little explanation as to it’s origins. That way when you guys begin to see tons of umbrellas being used by coastal photographers all over the world, you will know the true story of how this came to be.
If you ask any coastal shooter what the toughest aspects of shooting the ocean up close and personal are, their response would most likely be crashing rogue waves, sea spray, and the toll the sand and salt water takes on their expensive camera equipment. Being fairly new to coastal photography, I have had to send my 5dmkii back to Canon TWICE already in the last month and a half due to water related issues, so I began to try and devise a way to get the shots I envision while trying to mitigate the adverse effects to my gear. The first step in this process was a cheap and simple fix, which is a custom “camera condom” made from a large clear plastic bags (admittedly nothing new here). I simply cut out holes for my lens (use rubberband to secure), my L bracket, etc. On days where there is rain or particularly fierce sea spray or rogue wave danger, I usually slip this cover on before I shoot just to protect my cam. It looks pretty ridiculous in the field, but I have to overcome some of the cheap build construction and lack of weather proofing on the 5dmkii (which I love otherwise).
This cover has seemed to help, but on a recent particularly difficult shoot at Carmel River Beach, I was trying to get a shot with water cascading down the beach rocks to the sea, and not having much luck. In order to get the cascades, there needed to be a sizable wave crashing and pushing well beyond my vantage point, and the cascade would only flow for 3-4 seconds as the wave receded to the ocean. Due to the bright horizon, I had a 3 stop reverse GND on a Lee Foundation Kit holder. As I would wait for the larger waves in the set, sea spray from the violent surf was blowing like crazy and eventhough I covered my filter while I waited for my shot with a baggy, everytime a large enough wave would pound down I was forced to pull the camera and baggy and run like a little girl away from the incoming wave, not able to get the shot I wanted. After cleaning my filter numerous times and failing miserably to get the shot I wanted (and getting drenched literally head to toe by crashing waves), I decided to rethink this. I usually carry a rather large “Just-in-case” type camera bag, and always carry an umbrella for rainy situations. Well, I figured the conditions I was shooting in were KIND of like rain, why not try the umbrella to shield my cam from the wave crashes and sea spray (I could duck under it too if need be). I began to use this technique, and low and behold, the umbrella was strong enough that I could leave my camera in place, shield the camera and lens from the crash and sea spray, then remove the umbrella at the last second to capture the moment I needed. I’m sure I looked like a total moron to other passersby on the beach, but I’m of the mindset that you gotta do whatever it takes to get the shot, even if you may not be fashionable or may not look like you know what you’re doing. Other photographers will always size you up based on your gear, your clothes, technique (or lack thereof) etc., but rarely are we able to see what they actually come away from a location, which is part of the fun.
This was shot on the only cloudy day we've had in the past week or so, On that beach you've seen a million times before. I HAD to include some image as an excuse to convey my umbrella story, so as the late Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story...
Thanks again for the nice little write up Patrick and for not being too hard on my unconventional techniques in the field-I'll buy you a beer next time ;)