Down By The Sea: #ShootingInTerribleLight

A new photography project making use of trash, trashy light, sand and sea.

Above: A composite image of a bottle and paintbrush, both found at the same beach near the same time. Notice how the shadows of each fall the same way? I may as well hashtag this project now although I suspect it's pretty general in use: #DownByTheSea, at least for this day's shoot. But I believe #ShootingInTerribleLight, however long and unsexy, is more apt.

There are days when life intrudes and I'm unable to get out to shoot during one of the Golden Hours. Yesterday was one such day. When I messaged my assistant prior to meeting him, I mentioned that we should try out a project that makes use of terrible light, since we'd be arriving late morning (10am) and the sun would be too high in the sky. Some photographers wouldn't even bother with such light, me included. But the challenge was on, gauntlet tossed at my feet.

Above: This isn't a composite image. I found this intact little lightbulb and thought it might look interesting to photography. I rinsed it in the sea then screwed it into a sandbar with a partial view of buildings in Versova. The thing I didn't notice right away was my reflection in the bulb. With the help of Photoshop, I was able to bring back much of my reflection. In the high resolution version, you can even sea the small ocean breakers behind me.

The first thing one typically notices on a late morning, Mumbai beach is the lack of people. Most visitors will avoid this time up through late afternoon, reserving the coolest hours for exercises and general visitations. Apart from a few locals and a cleanup crew on the south end of the beach, we were forced to look down onto the sand for subjects and inspiration, no easy task. We first happened upon some tracks left by a tractor dragging a sled for supplies and hauling trash. There were other tracks too. We explored some of the more pronounced textures, and photographed a few of them in an attempt to capture their lines and patterns to the horizon while maintaining most of the detail. For these kind of things there's usually an optimum angle. We experimented for a bit and then separated. Sohan went to photograph his eagles, and I moved southward along the shoreline to see what trash I could find, literally.

Above: What I like about this composite image is the relationship between the two originals. The first image is of the sand texture patches I had mentioned earlier. Later, I was able to photograph the tractor which made them. Combining them was relatively simple. I used one of the blending modes in Photoshop and then applied color grading to tease out the hues. It looks like a sand painting. I can't wait to try more of these.

I admit the entire purpose of this project is to merely make room for otherwise bad shooting experiences. But there are benefits: it's challenging; it forces me to look at subjects I'd otherwise not photograph; and at the same time shooting with the overall goal of making epic images, however lofty in reality.

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