Angry Sea at Makua Beach

Many photographers get wrapped up in the technical aspects of photography. But, it’s not about the number of pixels or the toe and shoulder curve on the tonal range of a film base, it’s about vision. It’s vision that transforms a mundane scene to one that is memorable; one that sticks in our minds.

One Sunday afternoon I drove to Makua Beach on the Waianae coast of the island of Oahu. I had vision of a photograph taken at particular rock formation near the end of the beach. In the late afternoon, during the winter months, it isn’t unusual to get a bit of overcast skies, with a smattering of rain. So, I knew from experience that it was possible to get a bit of cloudiness and a sun lit sky, close to sunset.

The problem was, the rock was teeming with fishermen and children playing in the surf. With a slight sprinkle, everyone soon decided it was time to move on, and I was left with the location to myself. I hurriedly waded out into the sand, camera mounted on the tripod, Nikon F5 slung around my shoulder to use as a light meter.


Angry Sea. Toyo 45AII Camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5/6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50.

Watching the movement of the sea, I timed my exposure for a point in time when the surf was receding from the shore, which I knew would leave the sea wet. I also knew that a slow shutter speed would leave “fingers” of water.

Since, I’ve taken this photograph, I’ve learned a bit more about how others perceive a photograph. The photograph that appears above isn’t my favorite of the session, but it’s the one most popular with others. My favorite was taken just after the first, from a different point of view.

The reason that the second photograph appeals to me more, is the result of a technical flaw on the first. Looking at the transparency, I can see where the upper left hand corner of the slide isn’t sharp. This was due to the film holder not holding the film as flat as it should have been; I was using a Fuji Quick Load holder.


Angry Sea #2. Toyo 45AII Camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5/6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50.

I’m not sure why, but the technical flaw diminishes the first photograph in my mind in some respect. I fully agree that the first photograph has much more impact than the second. It seems many viewers will accept some technical flaw, that I as the photographer have trouble accepting.

Something to learn, and to ponder.


About roteague
I’m a landscape photographer, residing on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I love large format photography, in fact, I love any kind of photography involving film.

5 Responses to Angry Sea at Makua Beach

  1. Russ Bishop says:

    Beautiful images, Robert. Number two is my favorite as well – the swirling clouds and water really compliment each other.

  2. Tim Parkin says:

    I prefer the second – very nice shot..

  3. roteague says:

    I too prefer the second version. However, I’ve done the first one as a 30×40 print … and its quite impressive at that size.

  4. Beno says:

    Robert, I prefer the first….. It seems to be a better balanced composition. The second is very ‘old’. Its your classic (and thus some what worn out in my mind at any rate) angle. Looking down at rocks by the sea into a sunset….. Its very ‘formula’.
    The first shot is a really nice angle. The light on the rocks and over the top of the sea is just beautiful. The fact that you are not shooting into the sun seems to keep the light over the whole photo more in line with the feel.
    That said. Both are beautiful shots Robert. Well done and thanks for sharing.

  5. Garry says:

    I like number 2, not because of the flaw in the first (I did not notice), but the great sky in the second one. The first is great too, I’d be glad to make such “mistakes”.

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