One Shot: On the Beach


What grabbed our attention was the captured key moment of the morning sun breaking above the clouds. Then we took in the layers and tones of color, texture and light. When we spoke to the photographer, Deborah Sandidge, we found out those factors were the results, but not the reason for the image.

Deborah grew up in Florida, and this photo, taken on Miami Beach's South Beach just after sunrise, is the memory of what she frequently saw and experienced. "I was out there to capture the combination of the playful action of the waves and the power of the ocean," Deborah says.

She arrived well before sunrise and waited to see what the morning would bring. "There was a pretty good band of clouds," she says, "so I was hoping the sun would break through the thickness at the horizon line."

There were elements she couldn't control, like the buildup of the clouds or what the light was going to do, but some she could, like choosing a shutter speed fast enough to preserve the shape, texture and power of the ocean, but slow enough to control the light and give the water a sense of motion. "I was looking for specific action and motion," Deborah says, "and mostly working with angle, light and the way the waves hit the shore and pulled back out. There's a moment that creates that beautiful action right next to the shoreline, and that was what I was hoping to be able to get."

I was looking for specific action and motion…and mostly working with angle, light and the way the waves hit the shore and pulled back out.

Then there was the one thing that was more or less controlled: the tripod.

As anyone who's attempted photography beyond snapshot level on a beach knows, pushing tripod legs into sand to get a picture requires adjusting, manipulating...okay, let's call it get the 'pod reasonably steady and level with the horizon line. "The waves were rushing in and out," Deborah says, "sucking at the tripod, so it's sort of a stabilizer, but I was holding tight to the camera, in effect stabilizing the tripod, which was giving me, at best, a little bit of help."

Because those waves were less than predictable, Deborah was prepared to run for it. "The tide was changing," she says, "and it had its own mind. I couldn't become too fascinated by what I was seeing in the viewfinder. I kept both eyes open, making sure the horizon line was level and watching what was happening with the wave action to see if the waves close to me had the motion I want to see."

Summing up: "It was a very engaged experience."

The specs: D810, AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, f/20, 1/13 second, ISO 40, manual exposure, Matrix metering.

Deborah's website,, features a selection of images and information about her upcoming workshops.

Author, instructor and world-traveling photographer, Deborah Sandidge uses and teaches creative techniques to achieve dramatic and compelling images. Information about photo tours, workshops and events is available at

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