Stratigraphic Seascapes


Churn. Waves swirl and crash on inclined layers of rocks on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 66mm, 1/10 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

In addition to lots of beaches, Portugal’s Silver Coast has amazing rocks and cliffs. There is great variety in the geology which makes for a great variety of photographic possibilities. The dramatic angled layers of rock in this location were particularly special, however, and they were such a group favorite that we returned a few days later for a second visit. That—and the fact that photographing waves crashing on rocks benefits from high frame rates—resulted in 3,200 images from which I settled on a mere six to show off here. (I must say that I am glad that my final few Portugal posts will have much more reasonable quantities of images to choose from!)

One of the ways that I tried to achieve a sense of depth in this location was to generate some separation between visual layers in the image. So, in the image below, there are some foreground rocks in the bottom left, then some spray behind them, then more rocks, then more waves and spray, and finally the rock face in the upper left. Without those intervening sections of water spray, all those rocks tended to visually blend from one to the next. While not as obvious in the image above, I used the same trick in the upper right of the image. Not all of the waves were big enough to generate the spray where I wanted it, so there was some persistence involved.

Violence. Inclined layers of rocks are pounded by the churning sea on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 165mm, 1/500 sec, f/9.5, ISO 800.

The spray-generated separation is also at work on the right hand side of the following image, but the main focus is clearly the explosive burst of spray on the left hand side. It’s particularly fun to be able to see straight through the hole in the middle of the spray.

Detonation. Waves crash on the rocks in a burst of spray on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 84mm, 1/45 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

The Portuguese apparently really enjoy their surf fishing, and, while the man below seemed to be in a rather precarious spot, he came to no harm and so I do enjoy the bit of interest and scale he adds to the late-afternoon scene. If you have been following my blog for long, you may have noticed that I do not often include people in my landscape images. In fact, I usually edit them out if I can’t avoid them. And I certainly don’t set the self-timer on the camera and march into the frame myself—an extremely tiresome Instagram fad. But in this case he is an authentic part of the story. In addition to the fisherman, I like the striking cool versus warm contrast between the water—which is not directly lit by the sun—and the rocks and spray—which are. I will admit that I am not a big fan of the color of the sky (it looks smoggy) but there is no way to crop it out and leave the fisherman in, so it stays. Maybe there is a way to tweak the color there, but I haven’t figured out exactly what to do about it.

Fishing Hole. A man fishes off jagged rocks on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 74mm, 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 1600.

With the section of rock below, I spent a lot of time trying to capture the very fleeting rays of sunlight through the falling spray. On of the maddening things about this area was that waves were crashing on rocks to the right—which looked more like the images above— and to the left—which looked more like the ones below. It always felt like your attention was focused to the left when a glorious wave hit to the right and vice versa. But if I tried to keep switching back and forth in real time, all I did was miss everything. So, I had to pick a side and stick with it for a while. Whenever a good sized wave hit the rocks below, a few seconds later I was rewarded with momentary scenes like this:

Rain of Copper. Spray from a crashing wave falls like rain on the jagged rocks of Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 97mm, 1/20 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

We’ll sunset (ouch!) this post with one last image:

Firespray. The setting sun backlights the spray from a crashing wave on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 52mm, 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 1600.

I would love to be on this coastline during some kind of storm. As a number of these images show, the water was relatively calm, but even so the waves were spectacular when they hit the rocks.

Of course, I would have stand a little further back…

If you would like to receive my weekly post as an email, please subscribe:



2 responses to “Stratigraphic Seascapes”