Marsh Grass at Sunrise
South Carolina

Marsh Grass at Sunrise

13×33 prints are $1,500
20×50 prints are $3,000

In 2014 Ruth and I went on a cross country photo trip in our camper van. The weather and foliage were not cooperative on this trip. Nothing out west. Nothing in the Appalachian mountains. In three weeks I had made only one photograph. It was almost the end of October, if the trees and forest were not being cooperative it was time to try something else.

We studied our maps and decided to go to Huntington Beach in South Carolina. There was a park and arboretum which sounded promising. The park and arboretum were lovely but not something I found inspired to photograph. However, the salt marsh adjacent to the park was another story.

The marsh has a mixture of salt water and fresh water and there was a very long boardwalk that led from solid ground to the middle of the marsh. After some study I decided to try to find a photograph both at sunrise and at sunset. At those times the color of light would complement the autumn colors of the marsh grass and the angle of the light would accentuate their form and textures in two different ways.

The next morning we were out on the boardwalk before dawn. The sun was rising with nice color in the sky but the light wasn’t quite right for the marsh grasses. I wasn’t seeing what to do with them until the sun came up a bit further and the colors in the sky were more pastel.

I found a panoramic composition and quickly setup the 8x10 camera. When I was focusing my 450mm Nikkor M lens on the water I realized there was a slight current. The water was flowing through the scene from right to left, occasionally carrying a piece of debris with it. I calculated my shutter speed and realized I needed a two second exposure. Any moving debris would be blurred, an unacceptable distraction.

I stopped the lens to f/32-1/2, cocked the shutter, waited for a small piece of grass to float by and then made one exposure on Provia film. Then the pastel colors in the sky and clouds faded away. Later back in Oregon when I examined the processed film I was pleased to see that the image was all I hoped it would be. The marsh grasses are razor sharp but the reflections are smoothed from the slightly moving water. This visually separates the grasses from their reflections, making them more three dimensional.

Perhaps it’s just my imagination but the feeling I get from this Cibachrome print is one of a triple masted sailing ship, peacefully sailing in a sea of pastel clouds.

Format: Panoramic (horizontal)
Location: South Carolina
Reference key: mgs