If you ever see me in the South Carolina town of Beaufort; chances are I’ll be tired. Throughout the years when I am photographing the areas around Beaufort I awaken at some insane hour, work all day and finally put the camera down well past sunset. Photograph Beaufort in the summer months , and those hours get even more obscene. Those 14 hours of searing daylight days of summer take it out of you. Throw in a heat index well over the 110’s and you earn your money by day’s end.
This photo; “High Tide at Sunset” was the result of being there, planning ahead, and some surprisingly good luck. Photographers have imagery in their minds when working. Photographers analyze a scene and imput their vision, mixed with the scenery available. I was in Beaufort the month of July because I knew the marshlands were at their peak green foliage. During the summer months the marsh assumes a vivid green hue and nature is cranking the chlorophyll. On the day of this photo, Beaufort was a spectacular location for photography. The weather was clear, the humidity was somewhat tolerable, and the marshlands were spectacular in their “greenery”. It was a perfect combination for photographing the marsh.
If you do see me in Beaufort, chances are I will be found on Hunting Island. I love that island. I feel a little wild down there due to the mix of sky, water, marshlands, wildlife, and the ocean. “High Tide at Sunset” was taken on Hunting Island. I was out early the morning of this photo and a crisp sun allowed me to photograph several marsh scenes. I really didn’t feel I got any photos that were spectacular. Photographers need spectacular; it keeps us out on those long days. I worked a few more scenes, the light lost its punch , and I was done for the morning session.
I always like to scout following a session of photography. I scouted locations where I could come back to get a sunset over the marsh. I found a location where a tidal creek cut diagonally through the marsh. With marshlands, water and sunset all contained in the scene, I had great potential for a spectacular photograph. If nature cooperated, I might have a decent chance to approach the photo potential I expected at this location. Tonight at sunset, the tide will be high, a clear sun will set, the marsh greens will “pop”. I was confident a great photograph was possible.
Nature always tempers a photographer’s confidence or arrogance in planning photos. Nature could not care less if you want or need a good sunset, no wind, or calm waters. An hour before sunset I left for my destination. The sun remained clear in the late afternoon sky. Several miles from my location I noticed the sunlight on the trees dimmed. When I had the chance to view the horizon while driving, I noticed the sun going behind a cloud bank. I let loose a string of choice words and caved in emotionally. “This always happens to me”, I thought. When I arrived at my location I stared at the horizon where the sun was to set. I kept looking for a break in the clouds; there was none. Most summer days end with the sun setting behind a cloud bank which forms when the curvature of the earth is overwhelmed with heat and humidity forming “dirty clouds” along the horizon. I just kept staring at the scene and playing through my mind what could have been. To top it off, it was windy also. Add more insult to injury.
Discouraged, I thought about leaving and calling it a day. At least I tried. Something made me stay a little longer. I gave the horizon one more look. I noticed a faint red area in the cloud bank. That was normal since the sun was setting. The red area kept getting intense with color and light. Was the sun going to come out from the clouds? I remember saying “sure it will” in the most sarcastic sense. I am an expert at sarcasm. If a sunset was going to happen, I better get my camera. I ran over to my bag, grabbed my camera and threw on a telephoto lens. I ran back to my selected spot and was amazed. In front of me was the most unique setting sun I had ever seen in my life. A soft sun-ball broke through a layer of clouds illuminated by the sunset. The cooling winds of the evening blurred and highlighted a high tide in the creek. The marsh greens popped against the reds. People always ask when they see this photo: “is that sunset real”? It was, and I was lucky to see it. “High Tide at Sunset” remains one of my best selling photos throughout the years.