To start with I have heard on a lot of occasions and I am sure many a photographer has heard this line as well (Wow thats a nice picture, you must have a pretty nice camera huh). The answer to this famously annoying question is yes, I do in fact have a very nice camera, however that is not all it takes to make a good image. It takes so much more than most people would ever realize and this is the story behind just one of them.
It all started with a Spring break trip with my Wife and my six year old Son to Charleston, South Carolina. Incidentally this trip just happened to be at what I would consider to be the right time to be photographing in that area. With that thought in mind we loaded up the truck with all the necessities includeing my camera gear and headed out for the eight hour drive it would take to get there. I drove through the night and let the other two sleep so I would be able to be at the location I wanted for sunrise. Unfortunately after a very tiring drive we arrived at the location only to find the road was washed out and impassible. I was very disappointed as this was a shot that I have been wanting to get for a very long time. So off to the hotel we went to regroup and come up with a plan.
We had planned to spend just four days in Charleston and then move on to stay at some friends house in Georgia for the rest of our vacation. With trying to balance seeing the sights with family and photography I was only left with one more chance to try and get the shot I was after. So the morning of the day we had planned to leave I woke up at 4am to make the hour drive from the hotel to the location on Edisto Island. I was crossing my fingers the whole way hoping that the water had subsided and I could make it down the previously impassable road. Just as I arrived I saw another vehicle drive through what was still a very muddy semi washed out road and made the decision to follow. When I caught up to what ended up being two vehicles a Jeep and another SUV they were stopped at a gate. Turns out the gate is opened by a ranger and the only way to the location on the beach we were all hoping to get to. After pondering what to do I decided I wanted to catch what light was left and photograph the trees on the road that we had came in on. Bad mistake on my part! On the way back through the what now is a very obvious mud hole I should not be driving through I got stuck. Not just a little stuck. The kind of stuck that is in the middle of nowhere on an island with the closest tow truck an hour away. Oh yeah and with that I managed to completely block the road to the other vehicles that were now behind me. Not my proudest of moments!
Thankfully the workshop of people that Keith and Tiffany Briley of Charleston Photography Tours were understanding and very patient while I waited for a tow truck that would actually come out to this remote location. After getting out I decided to cut my losses and just move on. This photo was apparently not meant to happen.
Jump ahead two weeks and I received a message from a group of photographer friends that informed me that they were planning on going down to this exact location for a few days and asked if I would like to join them. Of course I couldn't pass it up! So back in the truck for another eight plus hours of driving overnight to reach this location by sunrise. This time with much better luck! The road was dried up and the gate opened up right on time at 6am. Now from the gate to the place to park is probably a mile drive then a half mile walk to the beach and you have to find your shot and get set up all before the sun comes up at 6:30am.
When I first set my eyes on this magnificent place I thought I might have been cast as an extra in the show Lost or maybe that Leonardo Decaprio movie The Beach! It was perfectly untouched with large conch shells everywhere and trees rising up from the oceans edge. I didn't know how I could possibly find just one thing I wanted to photograph.
After taking in the scene for a moment I decided to focus on this lonely tree that managed to survive a little farther out in the surf than most. Looking at the conditions and noticing there wasn't going to be a lot of color in the sunrise I considered a longer exposure to show the movement in the clouds and water. As the waves came in I set up my tripod in the sand and chose my lens. I used a 14-24 2.8 lens at 14mm to capture as much of the scene as I could. My settings were ISO 100 F22 @ 30sec with no filters.
I felt extremely relieved to finally have this shot that I had dreamed up in my head for a long time now. I felt at one with this tree and the ocean at the time and now I feel very happy to share my experience with you.