A Coast Bereft of Colour

Introduction

Visits to the coast have a tendency to cause my shutter finger to go doolally. I’ve never been sure of the cause; whether it’s the smell of the ocean breeze wafting across my face, the rugged weather-beaten cliffs and foreshores, the lapping and crashing and tumbling of water coming ashore, or the brilliant spectrum of blues and greens dancing through the waves.

This week, I decided to spend some time getting to know my black and white contrast filters a little better. Courtesy of some trees blocking the view of Mosgiel from Saddle Hill, I found myself unable to undertake my planned “Mosgiel in Monochrome” post. Therefore, I present the contingency plan: a coast bereft of colour.

Green with Ocean

White Island, viewed from Ocean View beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green Filter. 1/50 s, f/8, ISO 100.
White Island, as seen from Ocean View beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm lens and Tiffen 13 Green 2 filter. 1/50 s, f/8, ISO 100.

Saturday was spent on the coast from Blackhead to Brighton. The filter I used for this stretch of coastline was a 13 Green 2. After holding it in my hand and looking through it, I felt it had the best tonal balance under the overcast sky. While it did its job of increasing contrast, it maintained some of the mellow atmosphere.

A broken shell amongst the rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green Filter. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.
A broken shell amongst the rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green 2 Filter. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 100.

When fitted to the camera, the green filter isn’t much of a nuisance. Thanks to having a relatively weak effect compared to some filters, there is still sufficient light coming through the viewfinder for composition. Additionally, the green tint doesn’t cause everything to become so alien as to be unrecognisable.

Waves approaching to rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green Filter. 1/15 s, f/8, ISO 100.
Small waves approaching the rocks at Blackhead Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen 13 Green 2 Filter. 1/15 s, f/8, ISO 100.

Red Sea

A seagull, whose name probably isn't Nigel, bathing  his legs at Aramoana. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/40 s, f/5.6, ISO 100.
A seagull, whose name probably isn’t Nigel, bathing his legs at Aramoana. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/40 s, f/5.6, ISO 100.

Sunday found me at Aramoana, using a Red 25 filter. This filter choice came down to the presence of blue sky and deep blue-green water, which are both darkened by a red filter. Generally, the contrast is much stronger with the Red 25 than with the 13 Green 2.

Waves breaking over the rocks on The Mole at Aramoana. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/6 s, f/8, ISO 100.
Waves break over the rocks at the foot of The Mole, Aramoana. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/6 s, f/8, ISO 100.

The downside of the Red 25 filter, being a relatively strong filter, is the viewfinder experience. All I saw were various shapes in either white, red, orange or black. After a bit of perseverance, however, I was able to carry on composing without any issues. This should become even less of a problem with continued use. However, I doubt it will be as easy in use as the green or yellow filters I have.

Looking from The Mole at Aramoana towards Hayward Point as the sun sets behind the hills. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/40 s, f/8, ISO 100.
Looking from The Mole at Aramoana, towards Hayward Point, as the sun sets behind the hills. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 mm and Tiffen Red 25 Filter. 1/40 s, f/8, ISO 100.

Concluding Remarks

The allure of the coast still draws me in at every opportunity. Even robbed of its colour, there’s something about it that makes me want to stay and do a tap dance on the shutter button with my finger. There’s also something about it that makes me want to delve a little further into black and white contrast filters. Cue autumn colours without colours…

Post Script: Technical Notes

Those of you who regularly read the technical details of the photos I post may notice ISO 100 appearing in the caption to my E-M5 photos for the first time. This is not a typo: ISO 100 has been enabled by the latest firmware update. Based on what I have seen so far (in terms of dynamic range, resolution and noise performance), this will be my go-to ISO from now on.

Another thing I have tried this week is “pulling” the exposures; I over-exposed the majority of the photos when I took them, then under-exposed them in the computer, simulating shooting at a lower ISO. This has given me more shadow detail and less noise, at the expense of some blown highlights. The highlight clipping seems to be less noticeable in monochrome.

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