Bigger lenses, up-res’ing software and other solutions to make your photo’s subject larger are incomplete solutions to the problem of distant action.
Surfer at Playa Grande
I spent some time on the beach at Playa Grande in Costa Rica in February. The beach in front of the Hotel Las Tortugas has some of the better surfing on the northern Pacific coast of this delightful country. The morning light on the beach and the good waves combined for a unique photo opportunity. With a moderate telephoto lens you can get some pretty decent shots of the action from the safety of the dry sand.
Long Lens Shooters
If you have a monster lens like this gentleman, you can get incredibly close shots of the surfers in action. I couldn’t help but notice that he placed himself and his multi-thousand dollar lens well back from the water’s edge. I have no doubt this photographer got some great shots but then again he was tied to a spot and saddled with heavy gear and a lot of expense. If you will notice he is talking on a headset. I wondered to whom.
Remote Voice-activated Camera
He was conversing with an assistant who was in the waves with the surfers (wearing appropriate protective gear by the way). The assistant (or maybe he was the head-dude) was getting the shots from the wave’s breaking perspective. His fancy underwater housing insured his gear was protected against the ocean’s malice. Between the two of them they had me outgunned by more than two to one.
The longest lens in my more portable bag was the Canon 300MM-F4L mounted on a 40D whose crop factor gave me an equivalent 480MM reach. This was well short of the reach of the monster-tripod-mounted lens featured above so I had to compensate. Foregoing personal comfort and risking exposure of equipment to the detrimental effects of salt water, I waded out as far as I was comfortable.
The slope of the beach at the low tide was sufficiently gradual to allow me to get very close to the surfers as they mounted each successive wave. I was able to effectively halve the distance from the water’s edge and the location of the mega lens.
Close-up Action Courtesy of Zooming with My Feet
Using an program like Alien Skin’s Blow Up, which is designed to up-res your image in software, or using elaborate converters to extend existing lens reach are often economical ways to improve your field of view. Expensive long lenses are a better way-if you can afford the glass and the weight. When those fail or are beyond your means, your feet will often take you into the action. My feet took me in up to my waist. Any farther and I couldn’t guarantee I could lift the camera out of the way of the next wave!
Nervous? You bet, but I got some great shots. Drown a camera? Just lucky I guess.
Next time the excitement appears too distant for your attention, consider zooming with your feet and placing yourself in the middle of the action-or at least up to your waist!
Rikk Flohr © 2009