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Planning Your Shots

Dawn at Dume

If you’re a photographer you hear this term a lot in books and workshops.  You can probably do a quick search online and find hundreds of people talking about this concept.  I’d like to share with you what it means to me.

There are several aspects to “planning a shot.”  In the photograph here, what you see is the result of waiting for the right day (and failing on several other occasions when the light wasn’t cooperating), having the right equipment, and knowing the locale intimately.


Before I expand on these points, the most important thing here to remember is emotion.  I know how this place makes me feel, but to convey that in a photograph isn’t always easy.  I wanted to be here on a day when the light was soft and expressive.  I didn’t know exactly what Mother Nature had in store, but I had a pretty good idea that it would be a foggy morning, allowing me to create sort of a painting-like image.  I knew I wanted detail in the sand, free from seaweed, and I wanted to show the slope of the beach.  I had to wait until the right moment.  The fog kept rolling in and out, being too thick at times and too thin at others.  With words in my head I heard in a lecture from well known photographer, Sam Abell, I told myself, “Compose the shot, and wait.”  The fog finally brushed the point, allowing the peak to show through and I knew that was my moment.  I finally felt everything I remembered Pt Dume being in my memories and my dreams.

Time of day and type of light

The morning light coming from behind the point allows the rocks to be in almost complete shadow, while the soft light is slowly allowing the camera to pick up the blue in the water.  The sun had already been up for five minutes, but my previous exposures were not right.  Either the sky wasn’t colorful enough, or the clouds were too thick, or the water pattern wasn’t appealing.  Again, they key was to get there early and wait.  We all see things differently, but this has a few elements you might notice in some of my other photographs that I try to capture.  I lean toward making photographs very high contrast, sometimes almost cinematic in nature.  While the light is soft, there is great contrast between light and shadow.  The early morning was the only time of day to accomplish this.

Composition, and Equipment

Having photographed Pt Dume before, I knew exactly where I wanted to stand on the beach to show the sloping sand and to get enough of the rocks and sky in the frame.  To accomplish this I knew I needed the perfect telephoto lens that would be able to keep everything in focus in both the foreground and background without distortion.  The Zeiss 2/135 Milvus was the obvious choice.  I feel that Zeiss makes the best lenses in the world for what I do.  The manual focus is buttery smooth, allowing me to control what is sharp effortlessly.  At f/22 everything is still in focus without chromatic aberration.  I kept the shutter open for 2.5 seconds (ISO 31) to allow the water to move and blur.  For aspiring photographers I can’t stress enough how important it is to be locked down and not moving.  I almost always use a carbon fiber tripod, as I did in this case.  They are light, yet sturdy.

Thanks for appreciating this image and taking the time to read this post.  I hope it gives you some insight into how I work.

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