A solitarily wave, breaking under a very dark sky, was an image I’d had in mind for awhile. The idea came after seeing prints of Minor White’s wonderful monochrome photography of the California coast at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.
The subject of the shot came easily: the clean, off-shore break of Seaside Reef at the Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas, California. Unfortunately, the image I envisioned wasn’t present on typical Southern California days. The weather was too good and Seaside Reef was too inviting. The numerous surfers at the break were great for action photography, but not ideal for my elusive shot.
Then, an unusual summer storm entered the area from Mexico. A hard rain on the afternoon of July 18th looked promising, so I headed out. The beach and break were nearly empty. For shelter, I set up my Gitzo tripod in the crawl space under a lifeguard stand. My camera was a Nikon D800 with a Nikkor 105mm/2.5 (Gauss type) lens and a remote shutter release. To capture the motion of the breaking wave, shutter speed was slowed to 1/40th of a second by stopping-down to ƒ/16 and pulling ISO to 64.
Initial post processing, including exposure adjustments and cropping, was done in Adobe Lightroom. The idea was to maintain the dark skies, and the hint of the distant horizon, I had seen that afternoon. Black-and-white conversion was accomplished in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. A test print on Hahnemuhle photo rag paper was viewed and final edits were made after receiving comments from my friend, and outstanding photographer, Suda House.
After thinking about this image for a long time, finding the right conditions to photograph it was very rewarding. It was a great reminder that what Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell wrote about the importance of visualization in photography was spot on.
To see more of Jeff Maysent’s photography, visit jeffmaysentphotography.com.