Whidbey Island Images: Trying a New Technique


On Sunday, Heidi and I went for a drive over to Whidbey Island along the Puget Sound in western Washington.

Deception Pass between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. The bridges are 180 feet over the average of the tides.

It was a warm sunny day. I took the back roads instead of hitting the interstate. I-5 is O.K. when going to and fro your business, but when you want to be a “Sunday driver,” it’s not a good choice.

The Tulip Festival is going on in Skagit County, but from all the rains we’ve been getting, the fields seem flooded. The fields are either bare, or the flowers just suck. Not very good viewing if you follow the “Tulip Route” in western Skagit County. There was only a few fields that looked O.K. and only one that was phenomenal.

A rock juts into Deception Pass.

When we passed it, there were over a hundred people walking through and photographing the field. We decided not to stop and waste time just to look for parking.

So we kept driving.

We soon came up to the bridges of Deception Pass.

These high bridges over the strait which connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Skagit Bay in the Puget Sound are 180 feet above the water. From the top of the bridges, you can hike down to the shores below.

With a sunny day like today, why not. We packed our gear and headed out. Down the trail and then onto the beach.

It was fun. After almost two hours of shooting and rock collecting, we returned to the car to head to the western shores of Whidbey Island.

For the past several months, I’ve been trying to capture this ethereal look to the surface of the ocean I’ve seen in some photographs. Not the silky look of water in a waterfall, but a foggy ethereal look of the surface of the water. Almost as if the water had a thin layer of fog over it.

I’ve even asked several photographers and Tweeted the question to no avail. The kept telling me to “use a long shutter speed to capture the water fall.”

The problem kept hounding me. I needed to figure out the answer. It’s the mathematician in me.

But what I can derive from studying these image is that an extremely long shutter speed was used to blur the white caps.

To get the silky feel of the surf pounding the rocks, I used a long shutter speed. To achieve this I used f/22 at 8 secs with a ND64 and Polarizing filter.

During our drive down the coast, I pulled into a boat launch. Heidi climbed down the rocks to sit by the ocean as its waves pounded at her feet. It’s why she moved here: to enjoy the natural beauty of the great northwest.

As I’ve wandered about, I noticed how the waves crashed in and around the boulders. With my imagination, I watched the waves would surround the rocks, how the waves became white when the crashed over, and mot importantly, how the would blur on the camera’s sensor during a long shutter speed.

So I went to the car, grabbed by D300s, put my 17-35 f/2.8 on it, screwed on my ND 64 and polarizing filters, and took a quick ambient light reading. At ISO 200, I could get a 8 second shutter speed at f/22.

But the one thing I did forget that I must forewarn other togs shooting in rough surf: a camera cover. It’ll save your camera in case a rogue wave splashes you.

Saltwater is bad for cameras. I know from experience. But that’s another story.

Back to the action. I shot photos in horizontal and vertical. And most of the time I pre-visualized the image in black & white. I didn’t want the color to ruin the feel of the image.

After stopping at a few more beaches to photograph, walk, and hunt for sea shells, we watched the sunset from Joseph Whidbey Beach.

A long shutter speed was need to make the rough waves appear soft. Nikon D300s, 80-200 f/2.8, f/22 at 8 secs with a ND64 and Polarizing filters.

No photos of the incredible sunset. Just one for the soul.

Hopefully today, we’ll be stopping by the tulip fields in western Skagit County

Thanks for stopping by.

Paul Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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