Throwback Thursday No. 12


Images from the Film Archives — 1997

Gull at First Light — N. Wildwood, NJ © jj raia

Gull at First Light — N. Wildwood, NJ © jj raia

During those film years, there was always a family vacation in late August. My wife, her twin sister and her husband and daughter, joined our two kids to spend a week in Wildwood, that wonderful motel mecca of sand, surf and boardwalk on the southern shore of NJ. Each morning I would get up, leaving everyone else asleep, and head out to photograph the sunrise. On this particular morning, I drove up to the north end of town and saw a completely empty sky, figuring not much would come of it. But when I got there and could actually see the horizon, there were just those few clouds lined up along it.

Wildwood, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an area of very flat beaches, some stretching several hundred yards in length, making the trek to the water’s edge a tough slog if your carrying all the things that go along with a day spent on the beach: chairs, umbrellas, toys for the kids and sandcastles, frisbees, lotion, towels, reading material, and of course, food, snacks and coolers of cold drinks. I’m breaking a sweat just thinking about it. But being flat, if the tide were right, the beach could have a low water sheen reflecting the sky, and/or leave some pools of water held in by a slight sand bar. One of those pools of water made a nice curve leading toward the only clouds that morning, and it became the only real composition to be found along the beach there. So I was setting up the tripod, etc. and a gull lands right where you see it in the photo. Lucky for me to have a nice focal point at the pointed end of sand, but unlucky that the dim light made the exposure 4-seconds making it improbable that the bird would remain motionless during the exposure! Since I didn’t have a split neutral density filter then, or anytime when I shot film, I used a small piece of black card stock instead. To “dodge” the sky above the horizon, for 3-seconds the card was moved slightly while the mirror was up exposing the film, and removed during the final 1-second of exposure. It was a method that I had used for a while, but it did not always come out right since I couldn’t see through the viewfinder with the mirror up, and the dodging might end up crooked, too dark, or not exactly on the horizon. It really was hit or miss.

All I could do was cross my fingers and hope that the exposure was correct, the dodging had been done right, and that the bird didn’t move during those 4-seconds. The gull flew away after two attempts, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later until I found if there had been any success that morning.

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