Start anywhere!

You have to start somewhere, and experimenting is a good way to "warm up" without a commitment to a particular outcome. Today's lesson: try not to wreck your gear in the process!

Sometimes you can be gripped by the need to take photos, but not be quite sure what subject to look for. This has happened to me several times over recent wintry weekends; I've headed out with my gear, only to come home an hour or two later without even taking the camera from it's case. The problem was that I didn't have a strategy for what to do if I couldn't decide what to photograph. This weekend I knew it would be different; I was mentally prepared to experiment, no matter what I found.

With a break from the cold, rainy weather of late, I once again piled into the car with my camera and lenses. I headed to a favourite beach, Point Impossible, where Thompson Creek meets the ocean. The surf was a good size, and high tide meant that the turbulent sea-water was rushing up-river, crashing along the banks and sandbars on it's way.

I usually prefer long exposures of 1/4 to 1/2 sec, to produce blurred-water effects, but today's conditions were perfect for experimenting with high-speed water-splash photography in the outdoors. Knowing your gear helps here: the Fuji X100 can sync with an external flash at shutter speeds up to it's  maximum of 1/4000 sec, unlike my Canon 600D, which has a 1/200 sec synch speed. Manually setting my Canon 430EX flash to 1/8 power results in a 1/4200 sec, so a perfect combination with the Fuji to freeze the flying drops of water!

The only thing I hadn't accounted for was that I move much slower than a splashing wave; I finished taking these photos when a final splash, captured at less than a metre (3 ft), left both camera and flash dripping with salt water and suspended sand. I quickly cleaned them up and dried them as best I could, but the flash now makes a distinctly gritty sound as the head rotates. I hope the X100 survives!

The important thing about experimenting like this is reviewing the end-results. The background was a bit under-exposed, so I should have used a lower shutter speed on the Fuji, probably 1/1000 or 1/2000 sec. I hadn't thought it through enough at the time, so a good lesson for the day. Other than that, I count the experiment as a success.