ON1 Inspiration — Episode 7: Queen’s Bath Sunset by James Brandon

Since my first trip to the Big Island in 2010, I’ve been itching to visit Kauai after hearing story after story of its beauty and ruggedness. It wasn’t until last week that I was able to finally make it over there after leading a photography workshop on the Big Island.

Being a fairly seasoned landscape photographer, I’ve become a huge proponent of researching locations, sun angles, Milky Way positions, etc before a trip. And once I get there, I spend even more time scouting the locations with my own eye so I’m not running around like crazy when the light is good trying to find the best compositions. With that said, one of main locations I wanted to visit on this trip was a place in Princeville known as Queen’s Bath (view it here on Google Earth). Queen’s Bath is an insanely beautiful tide pool on the north shore. The “bath” itself is a sinkhole made up of lava rock. Under high surf conditions, QB is extremely dangerous; so much so that 29 people have died there by being swept out to sea by rogue waves. That information is not to be taken lightly, and paired with the high surf advisory that was issued the day I arrived on the island I had all but decided not to risk it since I was alone.

Then, out of the blue, a local photographer named Matt Feeser contacted me saying he saw that I was on the island and wanted to know if I was up for shooting together. I always jump at these opportunities; not just because it’s more fun to have company than being alone, but because locals know all the best spots and have experience with conditions unique to the place you are visiting. As luck would have it, Queen’s Bath was Matt’s suggestion for sunset that night and I jumped at the opportunity to go there with a local.

Still, the surf was even worse than he had anticipated. so we stood and watched the surf for quite a while before venturing out onto the rocks. I followed close behind Matt and neither of us took our eyes off the water the entire time. By the time the light got right, a couple locals had ventured to the edge of the bath and were taking turns jumping in and hurrying out before the next big wave came over the wall (not exactly my idea of a good time). As one of the biggest waves of the evening came over the wall, I was able to capture a shot of the locals; one climbing out of the pool and the other standing watch.

Getting The Shot(s)

The challenge here is that lava rock is black, and it soaks up all the light making it quite hard to expose properly. My typical MO at sunset (if I doubt the camera’s ability to capture the entire spectrum of light in a scene) is to take two separate exposures: a darker exposure exposing for the highlights in the sky and a brighter exposure for the foreground. So in this case I took one exposure for the sky, then slowed my shutter speed down a bit to brighten up the scene while I got shots of the waves coming in. Then in post I just pick my favorite shot of the waves and blend in the darker shot of the sky.

ON1 Photo 10 makes this incredibly easy, especially in the case of this photo where the horizon is straight across the image. I was able to quickly blend the two images together using the masking bug before adding a few presets from ON1 Effects 10 and a bit of touch up work to fix dust spots and blemishes from my overly dirty sensor (yes, cleaned it when I got home).

Equipment used:

  • Camera: Sony a7rII
  • Lens: Sony 16-35 f/4
  • Tripod & Tripod Accessories: Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-40 LR II Ballhead, Really Right Stuff L-Bracket

Camera Settings:

  • Focal Length: 19mm
  • Aperture: ƒ/13
  • Shutter Speed: .4 sec
  • ISO: 64

James Brandon is a landscape photographer, photography teacher and author residing in Dallas, Texas. Get access to his free video tutorial library at his website which is full of photo tips and articles to help photographers advance their skills and keep their passion for photography alive. James hosts photo tours around the world and sells ebooks, video courses, presets and more through his online store. Use the coupon code “ON110” for an exclusive discount!

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