Here on Daniel Island, we are connected to Mount Pleasant and North Charleston by the Mark Clark Expressway, more commonly referred to as the 526. These images are from underneath the belly of the expressway as it crosses the Wando River on the north eastern side of Daniel Island.
In long-exposure photography, I am always on the hunt for still objects surrounded by water. This allows for perfectly focused, sharp, and detailed subjects set within a wash of smooth, dreamy water. Fog is also extremely exciting-it removes distracting background elements and provides a beautiful, blank canvas to compose on.
Yesterday I left for my morning walk around 7:30 am. Sunrise is at 7:03 am these days, so even though there was a slight cover of fog around our apartment, I assumed I missed any dramatic light. Armed with my iPhone, I decided to walk straight up Seven Farms Drive and behind the Family Circle Tennis Center, just to see if there was anything exciting to capture.
The fog thickened up nicely as I got closer to the Wando river. I made my way under the bridge, across a tiny wooden plank, a broken wooden palette, and long, slippery tree branch that forge the path to the beach. In my excitement I wasn’t careful enough, and slipped off of the branch and stepped ankle-deep in the smelly “pluff mud” that surrounds the briny banks of the river.
It was all worth it the moment I arrived at this location. I knew I needed to get my camera-and fast. When the sun is above the horizon, it burns off fog in a hurry, so I didn’t have much time to work with. It was nearly 8am by now, I figured I had less than an hour of dramatic fog and light. I turned back, and immediately slipped into the marsh again, this time with my other, previously clean foot.
Undeterred, I ran all the way home-a little over two miles. Covered in mud and sweat, I rounded up my Nikon D600, Nikon 16-35mm f4 lens, an extra battery (you never know!), and made certain I had the eye-cup cover and remote for my camera. I grabbed my new Lee Filters Big Stopper, and made sure I had my trusty B+W 77mm 10-Stop ND filter as a back up. I had never used the Big Stopper before, and I didn’t want to end up with no shots for some unforeseen reason!
I drove straight back, used my tripod as a walking stick so I could balance my way along the path, and set up as quickly as possible with the Big Stopper. My first shot is time-stamped 8:45 am, however after two shots I knew I needed to slow down and start over. The Big Stopper had an unacceptable blue cast, extreme vignetting, and some kind of light leak. Not wanting to lose shots to figure out how to get the best results from this new filter set, I packed up the Lee set and grabbed my B+W.
My first shot with the B+W is from 8:52 am, and the last shot with any fog in it is from 9:03 am. I had 11 minutes to make it work, and I managed to get the shots I had visualized.
The moral of this post is to always:
1. PLAN YOUR SHOOT AHEAD OF TIME
Know where the light is, where the sun rises and sets, and the time it rises and sets! I use an app called Sun Compass on my iPhone that is indispensable. There is a more expensive and full-featured app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris that I plan on adopting in the near future.
2. HAVE A BACK UP PLAN
If I had left my B+W filter at home, I would have walked away covered in mud and smelling like a swamp for no reason. I also had my Fuji x100s in my camera bag, with the Lee 49mm filter ring adapter in case something happened to my Nikon. I am standing in a swamp, after all!
3. TRY BEFORE YOU RELY
I was eager to test out the Lee Filter set in the wild. I had done a dry run at home, and took a few pictures in my office, but had never used the Big Stopper. If I had, I would have known that I would need some time to correct the color cast and how to get best results. I would have skipped it on this day, and spent that first 8 minutes getting more shots!
I have been to this spot numerous times, with my iPhone and my Fuji x100s. I know what it looks like and how to shoot it at 28mm (iPhone) and 35mm (Fuji), and what shots are achievable. I walked in knowing the compositions I wanted, so I could spend my time watching the clouds move and waiting for the sun to disappear in a way that I wanted it to, instead of trying to figure out how to compose.