Sometimes, when you go out to photograph, you have a plan, a vision. But many times, that vision is changed by Nature’s own plans and you need to be open to what's in front of you.
I was teaching a photography workshop this weekend, at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and we headed early one morning for sunrise light. When we arrived, the beach had ground fog obscuring some of the cliffs. There was a large pool of water left over from high tide, and the potential for great reflections was there, but not with the fog still thick and low. While we kept an eye towards the cliffs to see if the conditions would change, we had to look elsewhere for our pictures. We spread down the beach, away from that layer of ground fog, each student working on expressing the essence of the beach and ocean. Since the assignment was personal vision, they were to wander alone and connect on their own level with their surroundings.
I gave myself the same assignment. As I explored, I discovered this wonderful stone. I loved the egg-like shape of it, and the sand around it had great texture from the backlight. I set up my camera and made a simple composition, balancing the stone against the expanse of sand. But I wasn’t finished, and I knew it. There’s always the possibility of an even better picture, or at least a different one, so I decided to work the situation a little more by walking around the stone, getting in closer, etc. But just then, a wave came in, and the whole scene was about to change radically. I quickly pressed the shutter and captured the action of the wave coming in, to show the contrast of textures between wave and sand, and to suggest the impermanence of any scene in nature. The wave washed over the rock, and I again thought I was done, but when the wave receded, it left behind a neat pattern of foamy bubbles, and a gilded surface of wet sand. I quickly made that picture, too. The next wave took the stone to a different place altogether, and that time, I felt I was finished - and had gotten images I was pleased with overall. These three pictures proved the value of working a scene, of seeing more deeply what was right in front of me and being flexible to whatever happened next. Each picture is unique and in its own way expressing the essence of ocean or beach. You can work a scene by changing compositions entirely, or work a scene by letting nature take its course through your composition.