Looking out of the window my bleary eyes encountered a hint of grey dawn smudging the horizon through the heavy humid blanket of cloud. I like cloud at this time of the day, the rising sun can work its alchemy with sometimes-spectacular results.
The road climbed past the Slangkop lighthouse at Kommetjie as I drove south along the cliffs of the southern Cape peninsular watching the huge yellow moon sink into a bank of cloud in the west. I had a location in mind but as usual whatever unfolded from the land and light would be my canvas.
Iv’e been to this place many times but never managed to capture its secrets…
The dull concrete jetty jutted out of the kelp strewn rocks merged into the grey sea; it seemed to offer little magic. The slipway and surrounding rocks covered in fresh sea grass and kelp made it treacherous underfoot which didn’t help my investigation of the location – I waited determined, my senses engaged. Then as the sun got higher behind the thick cumulous the mercury light suddenly transformed the featureless scene.
The low heavy cloud reflected the strengthening glow acting like a huge light box. The rocks, which moments ago were dull and lifeless took on a silvery glow from the luminous sea – I envisaged a moody black and white image.
I quickly set up my tripod and black box. Looking through the viewfinder then back at the scene I struggled to see how I would capture what was in my imagination. I needed the sea to be a calm silvery mirror in order to contrast with the severe brutal rocks.
I changed the lens to my favourite wide-angle glass: Zeiss 21mm Distagon; this would include more of jetty and rocks and increase the highlights in the foreground. I could now see the image coming to life; all that was needed was a very long exposure to create the smooth silvery sea.
I read the scene with my spot meter and reckoned 1/80th of a second for a normal exposure. With the ND1024 filter on the lens I calculated a 13 second exposure. I took 3 shots, 13 seconds was underexposed, 22seconds blew the highlights in the eastern sky, 18 seconds gave me the perfect digital negative to produce: