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Energy, the way in which it’s made and manifests has always fascinated me, in particular, the energy generated by moving water. One of my favourite things to watch is the gravity defying display of colliding waves. I could watch it for hours, days even, and in fact I do just that when the conditions align or more so, when i find this occurrence, as I am continually hunting for such a thing. In the surf world, it’s referred to as backwash, and it is created when waves crash up against rocks or sand that have a particular sloping angle to them, so that when the water flows back down, it generates enough momentum and force to create a wave that heads back out to sea. With the right tidal conditions and swell size, this backwash can collide with incoming waves and create a truly marvellous spectacle. I just love it, especially when there is some size and energy to it. I scour the coast for hours, capturing the different angles and anticipating the unique collisions when the set waves roll in. It doesn’t happen often, and requires very particular and rare conditions to come to life, but when it does, oh man..
A fairly significant amount of ocean knowledge goes a long way in this type of photography though, I was using a telephoto lens but still had to get quite close to the shoreline in order to capture these photos, which can be very dangerous. I’ve spent a lifetime around the ocean so I have enough experience to position myself safely. In big storm swells, I can’t stress the importance of keeping your distance from the ocean, it’s very unpredictable, and can quickly catch you off guard and either soak you and all your gear or worse, knock you from the rocks and into the ocean, which is a scenario that no one wants to experience. Ever. Trust me..
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Given the risks though, there is serious rewards. On this particular day, my friend Warren and I headed to this tucked away little spot, well aware that the ocean was alive and angry, what we didn’t expect however though, is just how incredibly rare and magnificent what we were about to come across really was. I took all my lenses and both my camera bodies with me in my ProLight 230L Bumblebee backpack, as I wasn’t sure what focal length or how close I could get to the subject. Generally, if I’m not sure what’s ahead, I like to be prepared for a range of different scenarios just in case, taking with me a Manfrotto tripod, spare batteries, lenses and filters etc as you just never know what could happen, especially if I’m travelling a reasonable distance to shoot.
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Even for a competent ocean goer, it was too dangerous to swim this day, so we opted to scramble around on the rocks and see what angles we could work. The early morning golden light was incredibly bright making it difficult to see down the beach, but flickers of gold reflections and mist flying into the air was a good enough indication for us to know that the ocean was doing its thing. Through my telephoto, I could just read the movements of the waves and managed to line up some layers of triangular peaks amongst a stirring flock of birds. When the sun lifted a little, I made my way closer to the action using a 70-200mm to get full frame of this energy generating arena of exploding salt and light. It was certainly, a morning to remember.
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I have to confess, I lean more towards having an artistic approach to my photography, rather than a journalistic approach. It’s just the way I’m wired, so when I’m shooting this kind of thing, I’m looking for lines, symmetry, patterns, composition, unique elements that draw the beauty and surrealism out of what I see, more so than the reality of what’s happening. I carried this perspective through into the editing process as well with this series, experimenting on certain images by isolating parts of the image, enhancing certain elements and aspects and mediating on where I can take it creatively. In two of the images, with the way in which the water was shooting directly upwards into the air, it reminded me of an upside down waterfall, so, I turned the image upside down and discovered a unique perspective of a surging waterfall falling into infinite blackness, I like it, in fact I’ll keep it.
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There was so many birds this day as well, it was magical! It was hard to orchestrate the birds but when they aligned with the waves it was an extra special treat! I got lucky a few times, and I think it’s important to add, when out in the field, it’s helpful to know what you’re doing technically, but so much of good photography really does just come down to being in the right place at the right time!
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I hope you enjoy this new photography series entitled “Colliding Forces” captured on the South Coast of NSW, Australia. Get out there and get creative!
See you in the water,
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