Early morning Folly Beach photography – Tips and Tricks

Folly Beach old pier by Bob Grytten
Folly Beach old pier by Bob Grytten

Early morning Folly Beach photography – Tips and Tricks

It’s an hour before sunrise, and the ambient light has just begun exposing elements of the beach. An hour before I was sitting in the car, in the dark, watching the moon come up and mentally reviewing my procedures.

Rule #1 Don’t wait until your on scene to do your pre-shoot reviews. I had worn open sandals. I should have worn socks and boots or socks at least. The no-see-ums had feasted on my ankles and legs and I was miserable. Also I had forgotten to include my red light. A white flash light can wipe night vision in a flash – red light won’t.

But the moons walk across the sky was interesting, and that’s how it shows up on film or sensor – a blur!

Tip #1 Increasing the ISO will decrease the amount of light the film or sensor requires for proper exposure.  I stayed with ISO 200 and this is what it looked like…

Moon & Stars, Folly Beach, SC
Moon & Stars, Folly Beach, SC

If you want to do this kind of photography but are unsure of the exposure, do this – set your camera on Aperture Priority. The shutter will stay open until enough light has entered the camera, then close. That’s how this exposure was made. The aperture is the largest for the lesns I was using – f/4.5, 18-200 mm and the shutter remained open for 13 seconds. Of course, camera on tripod. ISO is 200. If you look close you’ll notice the stars are streaked. This example is cropped to about 20% of the original to better see the moon & stars.

This time of morning is so neat. Quiet, the surf is low and slow. It make for the nice swirls that say what’s happening, without having to use a caption.

Old pier timbers, Folly Beach, Dawn by Bob Grytten
Old pier timbers, Folly Beach, Dawn by Bob Grytten

The camera is still set on Aperture Priority and lens open all the way. Recorded settings are f/4.5, 4 seconds, EV-0, ISO 200, Matrix Metering, 70 mm focal length. The reflection in the bottom left caught my attention and the higher horizon and timbers, help to balance the image.

Finally, the sun came up. This is always a problem because there are so many opportunities … One set up was an HDR with horizon low to include as many of the clouds as possible. I made sure the pier was included as I think that helps the story. Settings are Aperture Priority, 18mm focal length, f/4, 1/2500 sec, ISO 200, five images put together in Photomatix Pro 5.

In this example, I selected the “Painterly option” Photomatix provides, as it was the best one for the clouds. As an additional control, I could have taken my completed HDR back into my Post Production program and used controls there to provide the effect I wanted. As always the photographer is the artist and his/her choice of how they interpret the scene is always their option.

Sunrise, Folly Baech, SC by Bob Grytten
Sunrise, Folly Beach, SC by Bob Grytten

Tip #2 When including a fence or some kind of possible obstruction in a frame, leave room for the viewer to visually walk around it. In this case the small section of beach allows the viewer to walk around the pier ruins and down the beach…

Tip #3 If wishing really dreamy water, add an ND (neutral density) filter or polarizer. They both reduce the amount of light entering the camera which causes the shutter to remain open longer until the film or sensor has enough light. However, by simply stopping down to f/22 I could have slowed the water movement and that would have changed the look considerably (softer moving water).

That evening … Carol & I had the Lowcountry Boil at the Crab Shack on Folly Beach. Yummy!! She had a good laugh about the No-see-ums that morning. Fortunately, the bites don’t last. Next time though, I’ll take my socks…

Carol & Bob at the Crab Shack, Folly Beach, SC
Carol & Bob at the Crab Shack, Folly Beach, SC

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