Creativity Challenge #2 - Far Horizons

The second instalment of my 52-week Creativity Challenge - Far Horizons

Horizons are often the misunderstood middle child (pun intended) of landscape photography. Too frequently, I just try and keep the horizon level and decide where it should be in the frame—high, low or centre—then get on with the rest of the composition. However, horizons are a significant feature in many landscapes, particularly seascapes, so they deserve a little more attention. There are a few ways I could have approached this challenge but I decided to try and make the horizon interesting enough to be a subject within the image rather than just a line in the background.

 

indented head - wreck of the ozone

Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula has a wreck (of the paddle steamer, Ozone) near the shore that provides a roosting site for cormorants, pelicans, gulls and terns and that can be lined up with the Melbourne city skyline on the distant (45km) horizon. All I needed was a bit of colour in the sky and direct, early morning sunlight on the city buildings to add some interest on the horizon as a counterpoint to the wreck in the foreground. Luckily the heavy cloud stayed high enough to provide an interesting framing layer above the horizon and allow the first rays of sunshine to hit the city buildings.

 ISO 100, 160mm, 8 seconds at f/16, circular polariser filter

ISO 100, 160mm, 8 seconds at f/16, circular polariser filter

This first shot was from a vantage point high enough to ensure the wreck did not break the horizon and was early enough (right on sunrise) that the misty haze on the city side of the bay was illuminated by a beautiful magenta light. However, when reviewing this shot on the back of the camera, I decide there was too much separation between the wreck and the city skyline and not enough interest in sky to justify so much of it in the frame. So, I moved a few metres to my left and a few metres back and used a slightly longer focal length. This allowed me to compress the perspective and have the wreck and city skyline slightly larger and more central in the image. I also tipped the camera forward slightly—placing the horizon in the middle of the frame. This is often claimed to be a "no-no" but, in this case, I think it works because it reduces the amount of sky and adds emphasis to the skyline on the horizon. 

 ISO 100, 200mm, 13 seconds at f/16, circular polariser + 3-stop ND filters

ISO 100, 200mm, 13 seconds at f/16, circular polariser + 3-stop ND filters

The misty haze had disappeared in the few minutes between these shots so I lost most of the magenta colour but gained some clarity in the city buildings, again emphasising them as a counterpoint subject in the image.

My luck continued when I was able to photograph an Australian Pelican in the foreground of another shot to create a different style of image.

 ISO 1600, 200mm, 1/200 second at f/16, no filters

ISO 1600, 200mm, 1/200 second at f/16, no filters

Focussing on the pelican in the foreground (only a few metres away) meant that the mid- and background would be out of focus but the aperture of f/16 enable me to retain enough detail in the mid-ground wreck and background horizon to make them recognisable and thereby place the pelican in context in the environment (in the two other images, I had focused on the wreck and the narrow aperture of f/16 allowed me to keep everything from the mid ground to the horizon in focus. I bumped the ISO up to 1600 to maintain a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the movement of the swimming pelican and avoid camera shake as I was hand-holding. 

The following video from my YouTube Channel shows how I shot these images.

Please feel free to comment below. Constructive criticism and informed discussion are always welcome.

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