Waves Crashed Reid State Park

I shot 400 frames this day at 1/30 seconds or slower so as to get a bit of a blur in the waves to convey a sense of motion.

The sea has mitigated climate change thus far by absorbing most of the heat from the greenhouse effect. However, it has come at a great cost; as the sea warms it becomes more acidic thus changing the balance of life. The coral reefs, upon which so many aquatic species depend, are dying. Here in Maine the lobsters are moving towards Atlantic Canada and the sharks are moving in. Reid State Park Beach now has shark alert flags that are raised during a spotting, along with a warning horn.

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As you can see, it was quite the day. The surfing site, Magic Seaweed, reported wave heights at 9-13 feet. It was raining heavily on the drive up, but according to the radar it was supposed to let up about the time I arrived. By the time I got there it was only misting. Only?! The mist was like a fog. Although I brought a hooded rain jacket and all my clothing was synthetic, quick-dry including a waterproof camera cover (my camera and lens are supposedly weather-sealed), I was concerned that the driving wind would force salty air into my equipment. Fortunately, all my equipment only needed an exterior cleaning after I returned home.

So, here I was walking around on wet, mossy rocks carrying my camera on its tripod looking for places to shoot, protected from the wind. When on wet rocks it is best to plant your foot and see if it grips before taking the next step. It takes more time but saves broken bones or worse.

I shot 400 frames this day at 1/30 seconds or slower so as to get a bit of a blur in the waves to convey a sense of motion. I shot all my previous wave scenes at high-speed to freeze the action, giving the waves a sharp look. Both techniques provide impressive results, it just depends on what the photographer wants to convey.

After several hours of post-processing and culling photos, I reduced those worth showing to 12.

There were only three other vehicles that showed up at different times during my four hour stay. The only exception was a woman driving a four-door pick-up truck who came about two hours after me. Her truck was still there when I left. I captured a shot of her from afar standing on the rock ledge looking out at the surf.

You will find my wave photos of the day (the first twelve) at my on-line gallery.

Florida Surfing

It wasn’t exactly warm in Florida, as the temperature took a dive from the 70s to 45 — 60o F.


With some angst I booked a flight and visited friends in Florida (I’m pleased to report that I tested negative for Covid-19 three days after my return). Since they live near a surfing beach I dragged my heavy lenses and tripod to photograph these water warriors. It wasn’t exactly warm in Florida, as the temperature took a dive from the 70s to 45 — 60o F. So even here in northern Florida surfers were wearing their lighter wet-suits.

I first went to a stretch of beach where there were several surfers. Unfortunately, none of them were very adept at catching waves; I was mostly looking at bobbing heads and failed attempts. But further down the beach there were two surfers, once of which had no problems catching waves (see him, above).

I include surfers on this environmental blog because, aside from driving to and from beaches, this is a pretty green activity. Of course, their primary reason for surfing is fun, and many report it to be a Zen-like experience. To see more of these surfing images go to my on-line gallery.

I plan some surfing videos in the near future. In the meantime for those of you with Amazon Prime, check out White Rhino.

If you’re a surfer let me know about some of your experiences in the comments section.

Surfin’ Safari

Setting up my camera I was confronted with two exposure problems. The first was the beach’s southern exposure that required me to maintain a shooting angle away from the sun. The second was the surfer’s black wet-suits.

Listen to the Beach Boys to get into the surfing perspective.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

I’ve been doing some background work to better prepare for photographing surfers. Some readers of my blog might recall my recent post about photographing waves (during a Nor’easter). The goals then were to figure out the best lens, and combination of shutter speed and f stop to stop motion. After looking at those photos, although my 70-200mm at 200mm lens did a nice job of capturing the waves, I realized that had there been a surfer in one of those photos he or she would have been pretty small. This meant I would have use the “big glass” and go with my heavy 100-400mm lens at 400mm and tripod.

I also needed to know about detailed surfing conditions and soon discovered there are several websites providing this information. Knowing when the “surf’s up” is rather important for finding surfers. My favorite website for this is Magicseaweed. I also stumbled across a Maine Calling broadcast from a few years ago about Maine surfing. These sources provided me with at least a basic understanding about Maine surfing.

Well, I’ve been on a surfin’ safari for the past few weeks, watching the surf reports and driving up and down the southern coast looking for surfers, to no avail. But today’s weather with a strong cross-wind (generally off-shore wind is preferred since it makes the waves taller), and given that the swells weren’t all that high seemed less than ideal. However, it was a sunny Sunday with the air temperature around 40 degrees F so I figured I would check Higgins Beach. I got to the beach at 9:00 and the place was packed with surfers and dog walkers (one dog came up to me and dropped a ball at my feet, I had to throw it three times back towards his owner before the dog tired of me).

Here, I was confronted with two exposure problems. The first was the beach’s southern exposure that required me to maintain a shooting angle away from the sun. The second was the surfer’s black wet-suits. If you have ever tried to photograph a black dog you know how difficult it is to get any details captured in their fur. The same problem occurs with white dogs and snow. Ideally, for photographers, surfers should wear anything but black or white. In any event, here are some of the day’s participants in the photographs below, including several people who just decided to go in for a dip–without wet-suits!

After shooting for about an hour it was time to “pull up stakes” as the sun was getting to be an ever greater problem. I did speak briefly with one surfer coming out of the water. He had spent several years surfing in California and said that the surfing here in Maine is just as good, except there are fewer good surfing days. And, since Maine’s best surfing is during the fall and winter you need to have a winter wet-suit.

So there you have it. Take surfing lessons, rent a board, and jump in! BTW, surfing is not only good for body and soul, it’s very green.

Finally, I might mention that most of my shots were not tack sharp. In some cases auto-focus was likely thrown off by wave spray. However, I suspect the bigger problem was due to setting image stabilization for panning. Next time I’ll try a faster shutter speed and turn image stabilization off.

Look for my sharpest action surfing shots of the day at my on-line gallery.

The Nor-easter Barrels In

Although the storm peaked the night after my Prelude post, it was still going the following day (wind was between 25 & 30 MPH) when these photos were taken. Still, southern Maine wasn’t hit as hard as Boston and New York that saw wind speeds up to 60 MPH. Each shot was taken 0.1 seconds apart. You can view all of my selected wave shots at my on-line gallery.

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The Celebration of Surf

Ahh, surf. I love its sound—it roars in, then pounds and crashes onto the beach. It’s even better when it hits the rocks! It’s loud, yet relaxing. Of course, as we all know, the Beach Boys popularized surf. I grew up with surf at Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts.

My sister and I loved going there. With the approach of high tide and perhaps assisted by swells from a distant sea storm, one could be battered by waves IMG_5187 IMG_5186 IMG_5188 IMG_5189 IMG_5190 IMG_5191 IMG_5192cresting to as much as six or more feet. Although West Coasters and Hawaiians would scoff at such small waves, this was a pretty big deal to us East Coast kids. We would body surf. The great fun was watching a swell approach, then become a wall and curl before it broke over you. We quickly learned to take a deep breath because if you were caught under the break it would keep you down for several seconds (it seemed like much longer) until its energy petered out towards the shore. Wow!

No one in Maine is swimming now, but I always see people at beaches, sometimes sitting in beach chairs, just watching and listening to the waves. How cool they are. Living on an island, I don’t have to go too far to see surf. You just have to look for shoreline that faces the open sea. So, again, it was back to the backshore. Now that I have a Portland tidal chart, provided by my friend Debbie, I knew high tide would be at 6:56 PM at 9.1 feet on the day of the shoot (the tides run at their highest, over 11 feet, when the moon is at its fullest). Since sunset was at almost the same time, I got to the shore around 5:00 PM when the waves would be better lit (all these things to think about when composing naturescapes). Fortunately, bright sunshine prevailed.

Maybe the best way to present my photo surfin’ safari is to show some wave sequence shots (on the left). Actually, they are all like mini tsunamis, beginning as gentle swells (though they don’t travel at 500 mph). Then, as they approach the shore, the shallower depths compress the wave’s energy so that it rises up to create that curl, which then breaks as the water’s depth further decreases. An undertow resultsas this mass of water begins to recede.

The larger photos, below, show what happens to these waves after they hit the rocks. I played around with shutter speeds so some shots freeze the action while others blur the action.

As you can see, surf has a lot of energy. Given enough time, these rocks will be ground to sand. The tides also contain tremendous kinetic energy. Just imagine what it takes to move up to 30 feet of the sea (at the Bay of Fundy). The Scots, still part of the U.K., are implementing tidal power technology to generate electricity.

But as powerful as the sea is, in some ways we are more powerful. IMG_5007 IMG_5034 IMG_5071 IMG_5086 IMG_5221Global warming is proceeding faster than predicted by prior computer modeling. Scientific data show that this is due in great part to our burning of fossil fuels.

According to a recent news report, the Gulf of Maine is warming at five times the rate of the rest of the seas. This is bad news for lobsters that require cold water, and those who eat them, not to mention all the other known and unknown environmental implications.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

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