Behind the Photo allows New York Institute of Photography students to answer a few questions about their photograph featured on our Student Photo Gallery.
Where was the photo taken?
Brighton Pier, Brighton Beach, England
What inspired you to take it?
I really wanted to get out of London and spend some time with my camera and my own thoughts. I drove down to Brighton one Sunday in time for sunrise, without any clue what I'd want to photograph. It was freezing cold and a gale was blowing off the sea, and I felt miserable - the place was desolate that early, just the odd stray partygoer or two from the night before making their ways home!!!
I wandered on the beach and saw these rusted iron 'legs' of the old pier. (The pier was closed in 1975, and subsequently burned down in a fire and left to be consumed by the sea since). I immediately wanted to capture the ghostly atmosphere that I felt in Brighton that cold morning; a seaside town whose glory days of the 19th century are long over, but whose legacy remains in these traces of the past. I also love the beauty and symmetry of the rusted ruin, and the contrast of the stubborn man-made vertical pillars against the natural horizontal elements.
What camera settings did you use?
Nikon 18mm-200mm f3,5-5.6 kit lens
24mm focal length (36mm Equivalent)
Lee Big Stopper ND3.0
Manfrotto tripod and ballhead
Tell us a bit about the technique you used.
To get the ghostly feel, I knew I needed a long exposure. The sun had been up for about 30mins, so I used a ND3.0 (Lee Big Stopper) to slow everything down. I also used a ND0.9 Grad to darken the sky a little more. Luckily the sea was pretty rough - so there was lots of white foam to make the foreground eerie.
I chose f11 to give me a good DoF but I didn't want to take too high, to avoid aberrations at smaller apertures. With just the ND Grad in place and in aperture priority I got an exposure time of around 1/60th I think. In liveview I made sure I got the focus and detail on two foreground posts sharp, then switched everything to manual. I put the Big Stopper on and calculated a revised exposure of c16secs (10 stops diff). The first shot seemed a little dark (maybe my math failed me) so (manually) bracketed two more at 18 and 20 secs.
This was about the third/fourth angle I tried. I really just wanted the ruins in the picture - with no distractions. The angle also leads from the ruins nicely toward the remains of the pier though which I couldn't quite exclude and ultimately didn't want to crop out.
I processed in Lightroom 5. There is no cropping, and the only processing is a white balance adjustment to remove some of the blue cast from the filter. I sharpened and increased the clarity to highlight the rust detail, plus lens correction to make sure my verticals were as good as possible.