How I got the shot - Out to Sea

Out to Sea was my most popular photograph of 2017.  This image was taken last summer in Sea Isle, New Jersey.  Sea Isle is a short distance away from Stone Harbor and Avalon, where we typically vacation each summer.  Despite its proximity, I had never been there but and wanted to explore a new area.  

In preparation for the early morning outing, I used The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) app (available for iOS or Android) to scout out potential photographic opportunities. TPE does a lot of things but I primarily use it to track the path of the sunrise and sunset relative to my shooting position.  In addition, I use the maps view to look at the terrain.  In this case, the maps view was my primary tool because I was looking for interesting features along the shoreline.  Note: You could easily do this on Google Maps or Apple Maps using satellite view.  After I had pinpointed a couple of points of interest, I got my gear ready and set the alarm for 4:30 am. Why so early?  The best light for landscape photography is most often just before and just after sunrise or sunset. During this 'golden hour,' colors are rich and vibrant and the light is soft - ideal conditions for photography. 

BZZZ, BZZZ, BZZZ - I tiptoe around the family and quickly get dressed without waking them.  I grab my gear and head to WaWa for a mega-large coffee - coffee is my friend ;-).  The drive was less than 10 minutes.  In short order, I’m barefoot on the beach and searching for those points of interest and just enjoying the solitude of the early morning.  Life is good! 

Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

There were too many clouds for a rich and vibrant sunrise but what I did get was soft and muted colors which suit my style anyway.  The composition I had in mind was simple...I wanted a straightaway shot with the jetty starting at the front of the frame and extending to the horizon.  My vision was to create an ethereal image by making the water creamy and getting some movement in the clouds.  Also, I had black and white in mind since the morning colors were obscured by the cloud layer.

I put my camera on the tripod and found my composition.  Next, I added a 3-stop ND and polarizing filter. I then dialed-in the settings using Aperture Priority mode which I set at f11. I also manually set my ISO to 64.  These settings resulted in a 60-second shutter speed (exposure time). When shooting moving objects, such as water, longer shutter speeds smooth out the water making it like creamy. 


A shorter shutter speed, such as 1/25 of a second, would have shown the texture of the water and the surf.  Either approach is fine.  It comes down to artistic choice.

After getting the shot I wanted, I wandered the beach a bit and took two other images but then headed back to join my family for breakfast.

Editing the RAW Image

Later that week I found some time to edit the image.  I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and cataloging all of my photographs.  I enjoy this part of the is probably the tech nerd in me but there is something cathartic about. Sometimes I make a lot of changes sometimes very few...again, it comes down to artistic choice and what the photographer had in mind when taking the image. 

In this case, there were not a lot of changes but a few big ones. 

  1. My normal tweaks:  Some black and white level adjustments to get the exposure just right.
  2. I converted it to black and white and adjusted some of the tonal values to my liking.
  3. Desaturated the sky completely.
  4. Added some blue-greens into the shadows of the water.

While this may seem like a 15-minute process, the final image was the result of several different edits and changes over multiple days.  I have found it is helpful to step away from an edit and come back the next day to see if it still looks good.  Sometimes it does...sometimes it doesn' just takes time to get it to feel right. 

The result is clean, simple, minimalist image.  It's something that would not be seen by the naked eye.  Tens of thousands of people walk by this jetty every year but they've never seen it this way.  It’s 60 seconds worth of time captured in a single moment.

Use the comments section, below if you have any questions.  I'm always happy to help. 

If you are interested in hanging Out To Sea on your wall, please CONTACT ME and we can discuss printing and sizing options.  

Make it a great day!

John Guillaume