Location: Kauai, HI (Hanalei bay pier)
Photographing land and seascapes in Kauai is an epic experience and the Hanalei bay pier is just one location to check out when you visit. On my recent trip to the islands, I was primarily shooting film and video for a commercial project I'm working on. Of course, the beauty of filming on DSLR's (the primary tool for this project), is that there's always the opportunity to shoot a photograph without much of a set-up change. Such was the case for this shot.
Let's talk shop for a minute - there are two things you might pick up on in this image:
1) There's direct sunlight hitting the pier.
2) The water is at a complete standstill.
The truth is that this image was taken on one of the best surf days of the year in Kauai. There was a 20-30 foot swell that followed the disastrous Japan Tsunami all the way to the islands (fortunately doing little damage to the islands) and the tow-in surfers were out in spades getting in on the swell. The large sets were breaking well outside of this frame, but there was a decent little break all the way to the beach.
So how do we expose for long periods of time with that much light and create the effect of a sea of glass? ND filters to the rescue! I pushed this exposure to 30 seconds and f/22 using one of my favorite tools, a 77mm Tiffin, 7-stop (2.1), IRND filter. A 7 stop filter is an awesome tool for pushing your seascape photography into a different realm. All of the sudden you can start experimenting with longer exposures at high noon on a bluebird day!
For more info on the filters I use and why:
I hate to carry more gear than needed, especially when traveling, so I have one set of filters that I use for both Video and photography - Tiffin IR-ND series filters - 7 Filters total (1-7 stops). I won't go anywhere without these babies. This is the first filter specifically designed to shoot video on DSLR's and produce the best image (no IR contamination) bar none. They rule for photographs in the same way. Check Shane Hurlbut's Tiffin IR ND Filter test, for an industry leading opinion if you have any questions. They're a bit spendy, but well worth it.
Video Note: [Why you need ND filters for filming: As many of you do, I shoot a lot of film/video in addition to my photographic work and ND filters are one of the most important tools to create a shallow depth of field in brightly lit situations for film. Shooting video on a DSLR (or any camera) means that your shutter speed is a constant (e.g. 1/50th of a second for 24p footage) and thus the only way to shoot at say f/2.8 or wider in bright light is to pull out the ND's. You can't bump your shutter up to 1/5,000 of a second anymore.]