On a cloudy late afternoon I stood on the Great Beach of Point Reyes, California, watching the roiling surf that had made its way across the empty miles of the open Pacific Ocean. Sky, spray, and waves seemed to blend tumultuously as the light faded.
“Darkness was upon the face of the deep” goes the creation story in the Book of Genesis. From the oceans came life, and the first to come may be the last to go. In this teaming world there is still plenty of mystery in the deep—threatened by greed and rapacity like all environments, but still wild and wonderful.
I like to make images that use photography to reveal things that are not normally seen. The deep—the ocean—has so many faces. At a fast shutter speed, with the camera diaphragm open for a very short duration, the spray of water is crisply stopped in mid-air, down to the droplets, flicking off the wave (click here for two example photos at the bottom of the linked story).
Lengthening the duration of time the shutter is open smooths out the waves. Fast moving, crashing rollers become dreamlike when the camera helps you “see” their motion “graphed” over a second or two. You can check out this effect, also shot on Point Reyes, by clicking here.
Things are not always what they appear. What is the face of the deep? There is void, there is fullness, there is wonder: more facets visually and conceptually than we can truly encompass. The world is an amazing and wonderful place. The camera is but a paintbrush to help us know the face of the deep and does not always reflect the eye of the creator.
So musing on these things, I experimented with really long exposures. As the light faded, I dialed my ISO as low as it could go, to ISO 32, stopped the lens down to its smallest aperture, and exposed these images for several minutes each. The waves become abstracted layers. We humans can look on the chaotic scene of breaking surf and spray and explore it as a serene manifestation of the rapture of the deep.