Landscape photographer Tom teaches us to look again at debris
Making interesting and unique images from details within the landscape that are often overlooked or considered not photogenic is a challenge that I love. The coast is a particularly great place to do this kind of photo project: it’s in a constant state of change, with new weird and wonderful subjects revealing themselves with the ebb and flow of each new tide.
On the late December morning I took this shot, I arrived at Whitley Bay Beach to find the stormy winter seas had washed up large banks of tangled kelp. Overnight sub-zero temperatures had dusted the kelp in a light frost, accentuating its form. I was drawn to this arrangement as I was instantly reminded of octopus tentacles.
To get this shot, I mounted my Canon EOS 6D and 24-105mm lens on a tripod. I set the sensitivity to ISO 100 and the aperture to f/11, and used a remote cable release to take an exposure of 2 sec. In post-processing I wanted to try to create a dark sci-fi feel reminiscent of work by the artist HR Giger. To do this, I desaturated the image and introduced cold tones. I also boosted contrast and clarity and used radial filters to draw the viewer’s eye to the main part of the frame.
Look down. When you’re out in the landscape, try to ignore the wider view and focus on all of the many small details that make it up. Look out for bold colours, texture, patterns and contrast.
At the beach, try to shoot on a falling tide. The receding water will reveal photogenic patterns and shapes in the sand, and will strand interesting objects such as kelp and driftwood on the beach.
Don’t be afraid to stage a shot. I often collect natural objects that I then place within the landscape to get a pleasing shot.
Slow down. When making coastal abstract images, it can take time to get your eye in and make good compositions. Use a tripod to help slow you down and consider which elements to include in your shots.