The Skills Used In Photographing The Shore by Keith R Wahl, Made From RI Gallery

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One of the concerns expressed to me is to be careful as I photograph the shore. Believe me, photographing the shore is something that I am very careful about. I have grown up on the shore and have developed some skills that have developed over time. Between ships, boats, and "messing around" on the shore, I have a lifetime of experience to share. 

Calm Pool And Ocean Beyond at the Narragansett Shore (Select the photo to see in a larger format)

Calm Pool And Ocean BeyondReflective pool formed in the rocks off Newton Avenue in Narragansett, Rhode Island. The sun is shining from the west as we view southward at the shore.

The first item is appropriate footwear. This selection differs from place to place. I generally wear some waterproof hiking sandals on the beach. While there is sand, where I tend to venture out, there is always the possibility of small rocks and even glass. When on rocks, I tend to wear hiking boots or shoes with good grip.

The second is pants. Yes, on the beach I wear shorts as the season permits. When on rocks, I wear either jeans or hiking pants. Rocks can be rough on the legs, so it is best to protect them.

I always wear the appropriate type of shirt or hat for sun protection. I am often out for hours at a time and wish to protect myself from sun damage. This also places my eyes in consistent lighting for observation of my surroundings.

Sunset Reflection At Matunuck (Select the photo to see in a larger format)

Sunset Reflection At MatunuckAs the sun sets at Matunuck Beach, reflections form along the water's edge. In South Kingstown, Rhode Island

About the topic of observation, I have a mantra that I repeat to our children, "Be aware of your surroundings". My trips on the shore always have a certain degree of preparation. I consult tide and charts. I use National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide charts (Tide Predictions - NOAA Tides & Currents). Knowing the tide tells me the level of water that I am working with. The current will tell me the speed of rise as well as if I need to be cautious of rip currents or other elements. I have been to the Bay of Fundy where one hears a rumble and, "whoosh" the tide is in. I have walked on Conimicut Point (Warwick, RI) where people have had the sand-swept out from beneath them.

Crashing (Select the photo to see in a larger format)

CrashingTaken from Black Point in Narragansett, Rhode Island, the rocks are painted in the early morning sunlight as the waves crash.

This leads me to check the weather for my trip. Knowing the sun and lighting is important for photography, but also for safety. If rain or even dew is on the menu of the day, rocks can become slippery. This especially applies to rocks made smooth by weather and waves. I use several weather resources (including my own weather station). I often start with the National Weather Service (National Weather Service).

Conimicut Lighthouse Late Afternoon Light (Select the photo to see in a larger format)

Conimicut Lighthouse Late Afternoon LightPassing Conimicut Lighthouse in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay in the late afternoon sunlight

Charts and maps are also my tools. Here it is okay to start with Google or Apple Maps, but I want to know topographic information as well. One resource I use for this is Topozone (Rhode Island Topographic Maps by Topo Zone). The shore does not have a lot of level changes, there are many changes in the texture of the ground beneath me. Sand, smooth rocks, sharp rocks, and loose soil. These are all conditions of concern.

The last item on my inventory is my senses:

Sight. Does that rock look slippery? Will those little shells cut me up if I go down? What is the period between waves (counting "one, two three"... repeat). What is the size of those waves and do they draw back material from the beach? What is that green stuff on that rock and is it slimy?

Sound. What do the waves sound like? Are they pounding? Do I hear the rolling of stones coming off of the shore (the sound of undertow)? Do I hear the rocking of two rocks together (a sign of instability)?

Smell. Is that a briny smell (indicating that the puddle is a tide pool and full of slimy algae)? Are those dead fish (indicating an environmental issue)? And is that low tide (a small all its own made of mud, exposed rotting vegetation, and other things we will not discuss).

In summary, I photograph the shore with a lifetime of experience and healthy caution. I hope that by sharing some of my experience, the reader may enjoy the shore as well!

Running Ahead Of The Storm (Select the photo to see in a larger format)

Running Ahead Of The StormA small fishing boat running ahead of a storm from the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge, Narragansett, Rhode Island. A storm is rolling in from the northwest and is seen overhead and there is a clearing in the east.

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© Keith R Wahl, Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keith R Wahl and Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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