Visibly different, part 2

early morning on Outer Banks, North Carolina
For our next entry in this topic, we have an image shot on negative film at an unknown date and location, that can at least be narrowed down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, somewhere between 1994 and 1997, which would also make it shot most likely on an Olympus OM-10 – beyond that, I have no recollection nor notes. Obviously, I’d selected an abandoned stretch of beach, which is a lot easier at the Outer Banks than you might imagine, not long after sunrise. Noticeable in the image is a diffraction effect off of the sun, which was actually accomplished with a small filter that I had; not a proper one designed for photography, but a kid’s toy that I’d had for ages, As such, it was made from durable vinyl (or some analog thereof – I think I still have it someplace,) which meant that it acted like a soft-focus diffuser as well, so to get the rest of the beach sharp, it’s only peeking in at the edge, which is why there are only two rainbow arms and not more surrounding the sun – if you look very close, you can see the curved edge of a faint discoloration in the corner.

But even with that, the image lacks a point of focus, decent colors, and even any interest from the breakers. It barely serves as promoting a mood, and for the most part, it’s only a reminder of one of the trips that I made. There’s no indication of season at all. We can see a spot on the ocean at the horizon that might be a boat, but it’s too small to discern while still being obvious enough to attract attention momentarily.

We contrast that now with an image from 2018, twenty-some years later on.

sun-hiding clouds behind fishing trawler and driftwood on North Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia
The difference is drastic, but let’s break it down. I was not only out before sunrise, I was at a very scenic location, North Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia. There’s now foreground and background interest as well as a strong focal point, the fishing trawler, and the digital settings were enough to enhance the colors and contrast better than negative film ever could (though this is routine for digital images.) No filters – I now consider them mostly gimmicky and not worth carrying, though on occasion I’ll use a polarizer or neutral-density filter. While some of the appeal of the image can be credited to conditions that I had no control over, I’d made the effort to be in place to take advantage of them, and even when the sun never showed itself until well after sunrise, I’d found a way to make it work anyway.

But perhaps it should have been a little wider, getting more of the foreground driftwood in the frame instead of the little ‘hints’ from down below. Or I could have eschewed the driftwood and been right down at the water, perhaps shooting vertically, to make the ocean more dominant; it would have been easy to eliminate the beach entirely and then the idea is simply “out at sea” rather than from the beach, so we get more of an impression of being with the trawler instead of observing it. While this is allowing the exposure meter to define the settings, it would be get it a little brighter, lowering the contrast of the sky but bringing out the details of the boat better. And of course, with a little luck some coastal birds might get into the frame.

While I would probably not even attempt to shoot something like the first image again, given the same conditions and what I know now (which partially came from seeing that very image,) I’d certainly be making the effort to find something more compelling on the beach – and may have anyway. There’s a decent chance this shot was taken the same morning; I’ll have to go back through the negative binders and see if they’re from the same roll (both scans were done long ago, so I have no recent reference.) At the very least, they’re not more than a couple of years apart, so I wasn’t a total noob back then.

UPDATE: They were from the same roll, only a few frames apart, and judging from the position within the binder (which is not perfectly accurate because the negatives were not added in exact chronological order,) not long before I switched to Canon equipment, so probably 1997. Only took about ten minutes to determine that.

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