Stranded Boat Offers So Many Photographic Opportunities

The Surprises You Can Find By Diving Into Your Subject

This old boat has been beached here for an eternity and offers so much more than the photo like you see here.
This old boat has been beached here for an eternity and offers so much more than the photo you see here.

While teaching workshops, I am many times amazed at how short-sighted many photographers are. On a 12-day trip to Svalbard a few weeks ago, I witnessed just that.

We made a landing at a location I have been to many times before. It was an old mine site and there was a weather boat that was on the beach. It’s set up and positioned perfectly for making a good strand boat phot and that is what many of the photographers saw. But there was so much more.

I have a phrase, picture in a picture. This means in this case that while the one main picture is the boat on the beach there are so many more possibilities to be had from this one photo. You need to see though and look for things that are landscapes. You need to get out of your comfort zone.

The side of the boat holds all sorts of possibilities for interesting photos
The side of the boat holds all sorts of possibilities for interesting photos

I have a phrase for this too. ABL, Always Be Looking. As photographers, we need to break out of our comfort zones and all the rules that we have been spoon-fed over the years. We need to break those rules. The first thing I ask is that photographers give up the tripod. While a tripod is a great tool, it is limiting.

Usually, photographers set it up to eye level and then proceed to shoot from the level. They miss low angles, they miss looking at the ground they are standing on. They fail to move in close.

With today’s newer cameras, high ISO performance is fantastic along with Image Stabilization. This allows you to handhold and shoot subjects without the fear of blurry images. With my Sony a1 and a7riv I can shoot up to 12,800 ISO and see the same performance I used when I shot at ISO 400 on Tri-X film.

Shot from the stern of the boat showing the high hills jutting straight up from the beach
Shot from the stern of the boat showing the high hills jutting straight up from the beach

I also have confidence because I know I can use third-party programs in post-processing to clean up my images of noise and sharpen my images. My favorite tools for this are Topaz Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI. These programs are amazing. I did a story on DeNoise a few years ago, Sony a7riv Pushed To The Limits, where I showed the then-previous version of DeNoise at work. https://photopxl.com/sony-a7r-iv-pushed-to-the-limits/

The Set Up

On the beach, I encouraged all the photographers in the group to explore all the aspects of what this old weathered boat had to offer. I shot with a 16-35mm lens. I suggested they put their ISO on auto and set the camera to manual with a shutter speed of around 1/500th of a second. I also suggest starting at a f/stop of f/8 but this could change on the angle they were shooting and if they needed to stop down further for extra depth of field. The camera I used was a Sony a7riv.

The secret to success is framing the textures and colors to that it follows some rules of basic composition. By zooming in and out, as well as moving the camera up and down as well as sideways, you could discover abstract type of scenes. This boat was loaded with them. Weathered paint, blue hints of paint once there. Textured and dried-out wood. There was also rust and decay as well as shape and form.

The boat with our ship the Stockholm off to the left
The boat with our ship the Stockholm off to the left

Many photographers would pass this opportunity up but it was a great exercise to discover new compositions and images.

I processed my images in Capture One. Also, many of the images were post-processed after a tiff file was made in Topaz Sharpen AI.

I have also included a photo at the end of the images below of a feature I saw on the ground. This is just a reminder that the picture is not always in front of you. ABL – Always Be Looking, behind, down and up. You may find surprises you never knew were there.

I did say that you should look behind you. This is what the scene looked like if you turned around while photographing the boat.
I did say that you should look behind you. This is what the scene looked like if you turned around while photographing the boat.

I hope you enjoy these. I’ll soon share something similar done with icebergs.

The Photos

As a silver or gold member of photoPXL you can click on an image and see it much larger.

When you get up and personal, you see things that you can’t even see from a few feet away.  Once found, you need to frame the shot by zooming in and out or moving sideways or up and down. The human eye likes to see small details and thus a viewer will spend time exploring photographs like this as the mind tries to interrupt it. In the shot above you see the knot in the wood and different colored paint flakes as well as the grain of the wood.

In the shot above, we see nail holes.  Some of these holes are still plugged and one is open as your eye wants to explore what is in the hole.

Here we are introduced to blue paint color flakes as well as the rust color on the wood.

This image is all about the texture.

In the shot above, I liked the big knot in the wood.  Along with the colors it keeps the eye moving around the image.

This image is all about the horizontal line running straight across the image, creating a fake horizon line.

It’s all about the vertical line and nail holes/

This is one of the stern corners of the boat.  Left undefined, I leave the viewer to determine what it is.

Let’s go in a bit closer, textures of the wood and metal as well as colors greet us in this image.

I wonder how well these repairs worked.  Or maybe they are why the boat is now on the beach.

Notice the nails are square. So many details.

Micro textures of pain mixed with the grain of the wood and nail holes make for a fun photo to explore.

Are we looking at erosion or insects (termites)?

The other stern corner of the boat held together with rusted metal.  I love the wood peaking out.

A rusted brace tries but fails to keep the boat held together.

Then when it is all over I look down and see this.  Always Be Looking

Thank You for viewing these images.  Feel free to leave comments in the forum.


Kevin Raber
October 2022
Kevin Raber
Indianapolis, IN

Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Article Type: Tutorials, Columns, MISC

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