Wind, Light, and Water

February 6, 2020

This may look like low angle light on ripples of sand, but it’s actually a photo of midday light being refracted by windblown water. I photographed this image with my cell phone during my Wonders of the Oregon Coast Landscape Photography Workshop. My group and I were on the beach in Bandon, Oregon and we noticed the way that water finding its way back to the ocean with the receding tide was being blown by the wind, causing the light to be refracted by the ripples. You can see a video of it at the bottom of the page.

An iPhone photo of windblown water refracting sunlight at Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon.

An iPhone photo of windblown water refracting sunlight at Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon.

What I love about this photo is that it’s not immediately apparent as to what it is specifically. Even as someone who obsessively photographs water-refracted light it made me question what I was looking at. It arrested my attention and caused me to look deeper into the photo. It’s my guess that most people who view this photo would also not know what they were looking at specifically, and likely just assume that it’s low angled light on rippled sand.

I played around with the photo in the Snapseed app, including a black and white version that I did just for fun. 

An iPhone photo of windblown water refracting sunlight at Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon.

An iPhone photo of windblown water refracting sunlight at Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon.

As you look deeper into the image, you might notice that there ARE ridges of sand. This sand is actually under the surface of the water, and the ripples created by the heavy wind are picking the sand up as they pass over. The ripples are also what’s refracting the light which is why it takes the same shape as the sand and what causes the illusion. At the time I took this photo the wind was blowing it in a very parallel fashion.

I obsessively photograph this type of light. I challenge myself to utilize it in different ways and in different types of streams, rivers, ponds, and puddles. I have many portfolio-worthy images that I plan to process for a large project, and you can already find one in my portfolio (view “Stained Glass”).

For me, photographing light and water can be deeply meditative. I get lost in my viewfinder, getting to know the way the water moves and the rhythms it has. I watch the shapes travel through my frame and click the shutter the instant I see or anticipate a harmonious arrangement. I build an intimate relationship with the water I photograph, one that I can only get through my viewfinder. Each press of the shutter is deliberate.

On my photography workshops, I teach that light does interesting things all day long if you pay attention. These things might not be apparent at first. You may find yourself on a beach that at first glance may be a photographically uninspiring place. But once you slow down and immerse yourself in the environment, it can start to speak to you. Things will catch your eye.. call to you. I implore you to give into those things, no matter what they are, and spend some time with them through your viewfinder. Get to know them. Why are they calling to you? What are they saying? Try to capture that in a photo.

You might not get a photo out of it. If you’re like me… you probably won’t. But the relationship that you built will still remain and your soul will still be elevated by that moment in time where it was just you and nature. The photos that you DO get will be much more personal and meaningful to you.

Listen to the landscape, follow the light, and shoot from your heart.

If you're interested in investing in your creative vision, please visit my Group Landscape Photography Workshops schedule.

Here's a video that I captured right after I took the photos above. It's from a different angle and with stronger wind, but maybe it will provide you some context for the photos:

Posted in Tips and Tricks.