Pegasus Bay, Christchurch New Zealand
Updated: Nov 6, 2018
The Road to Godley Head
On the outskirts of Christchurch – behind the seaside settlement of Sumner towards the east, is an expansive view to the north which encompassed the beach suburbs of the city, the entire Pegasus Bay, and the Kaikoura Ranges far in the distance.
It was one of those views which seem impossible to capture in one photo, impossible to replicate the feeling of vastness and distance and contrasts of seascapes and mountainscapes and cityscapes and landscapes all in one image.
Added to the vista was a sea mist which I had heard about, but never seen from this vantage point. When the wind blows on shore from the Pacific Ocean it will often drag with it a fine spray across the suburbs along the coast. It can’t be much good for the locals cars with all that salt in the air.
I pondered about how I could take a photo of the scene – covering aspects of it, from the sea, beach, the New Brighton Pier, the mist. One of the techniques I had used in the past was to do something completely the opposite of what might initially come to mind for including all elements of the widely spread scene – and that was to grab a hefty zoom lens. I intended to ‘compress’ the image, which is something that happens when using a longer zoom on a landscape scene. It gives the impression of bringing everything closer together. The pier is 10 kilometres from where I set up for this shot – however the 309mm focal length I used makes it appear much closer.
Using the zoom lens, I could capture a lot of detail, but had a very narrow field of view. To overcome this I took several shots both from one side to the other and also lower to include the foreground. This meant that I could merge the images together later in post processing giving a final picture that covered all of the scene. That was step one and two, zooming in for compression and merging several shots together for a wider angle of view.
This worked fine for a detailed wide angle image – but didn’t really show the effect of the sea mist as much as I would have liked. So I needed to have another go at capturing the shot. I wanted to try a long exposure – which would be interesting for a photo taken in the middle of the day. I decreased the aperture to f29. There are two benefits to this – one being the increased sharpness from foreground to the very background of the photo, and two, limiting the amount of light hitting the sensor. Combining this with a neutral density filter – which is like putting a welders mask in front of the lens I was able to block out a lot more light, so that the final balanced exposure came out at 25 seconds.
What happens during a 25 second long exposure during the day? For starters the rolling surf smooths out and the streaking effect of the white wash in the water is produced. Secondly anything or anyone moving disappears from the frame. As a result there are no cars on the roads and no people on the beach. And no dogs running madly around. Although at the time there was a lot of people on the beach.
As a nice little bonus – one individual on the beach near the mouth of the estuary, stood relatively still for the full 25 seconds of the exposure, so he or she is the only person in the shot. And for everything in the final image – this single person on the beach is my favourite part of the scene. I think it would have been quite boring without that person.
Not the Final Edit
As I was doing a bit of post editing on the final image, I tried to boost up the contrast a bit to make the scene ‘pop’ a bit more – but it was very hard to do. I had captured the effect of the sea mist – however the sea mist itself meant the scene was a bit washed out. All this work now looked like it was heading to the recycling bin as I wasn’t getting the result I was after.
But eventually in the final edit I converted the image to Black and White which I think gave the best solution.
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