Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What a wave

with 30 comments

Our first contact with Maine’s Acadia National Park came on June 8th. That afternoon, arriving from New Brunswick, we visited the Schoodic section of the park, which is not connected to the main part across the Mt. Desert Narrows. Like other sites we’d already been to on the Atlantic coast, this one had rocky outcrops standing against the sea. In one place I noticed how the rocks caused crashing waves to hurl their water upward.

The difficulty for a photographer was that incoming waves didn’t consistently break in the same spot, so it was hard to know where to aim. I chose a high shutter speed, put the camera in a mode that would take several pictures a second, and then stood waiting, looking through the viewfinder in the direction where some waves had already splashed up, hoping my reflexes would be good enough to press the shutter release button as soon as a wave seemed to be beginning to break. Given the difficulties, most of the resulting pictures didn’t turn out great. Still, I was happy with a few of them. The one I chose to show here pleases me because, while we usually think of waves as horizontal, the water in this one formed a vertical arc. If you look beyond the wave, you might reasonably think you’re seeing portions of a man-made wall; in fact those rocks were all natural.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2018 at 4:47 AM

30 Responses

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  1. I wonder what would have happened if you had slapped a ND filter on and used a long exposure? You surely wouldn’t have captured the feel of force that the one you’ve presented here does … but, it would have been interesting to see the result nonetheless. J and I have long wanted to visit Acadia … your images allow us to see what we’ve been missing.

    Pairodox Farm

    August 8, 2018 at 4:58 AM

  2. Nice capture of that vertical wave.


    August 8, 2018 at 6:36 AM

  3. Great photo!! This is so much more difficult than one would imagine.

    Jeri Porter

    August 8, 2018 at 7:22 AM

    • The fact that there were almost no successes among the dozens of pictures I took supports what you say.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2018 at 7:37 AM

  4. I have tried to catch similar waves crashing, and it is very difficult. Well done!


    August 8, 2018 at 9:05 AM

    • Ah, merci. You have an advantage in being able to paint a wave any way you like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2018 at 10:44 AM

      • In thinking about how you often photograph things in order to paint them, I was reminded that a high-speed photo of something like this exploding wave reveals details we can’t catch with our eyes and that you therefore couldn’t otherwise paint.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 8, 2018 at 10:56 AM

  5. I remember so well trying (and mostly failing) to take photos of the waves at Schoodic, so I admire all the more how you managed to catch this wall of wave.

    Susan Scheid

    August 8, 2018 at 10:58 AM

    • What a coincidence that you should’ve photographed waves at Schoodic too. I like the way you put it: “this wall of wave.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2018 at 12:45 PM

  6. Will be trying to capture a few of those in a few weeks when we go there. Nice one.

    Steve Gingold

    August 9, 2018 at 3:31 AM

    • Thanks. You can appreciate what went into this picture. I wish you well in recording more waves when you go to visit in a few weeks. Let’s hope the summer tourist crush has begun to subside by them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2018 at 7:14 AM

  7. The thicker column of water running through the center of the wave looks like a spine, or like the tail of a fish returning to the water after a jump. I wonder if the apparent thickness of that ‘spine’ resulted from water moving around the offshore rock from two directions, allowing the water to crash into itself as well as into the wall. The heavy crazing or crackling in the lower third of the wave certainly suggests some kind of force at work.

    There’s no opportunity here for this kind of photo, unless a hurricane’s rolling toward us. At that point, most people are heading away from the seawall. It must have been great fun to have the chance to take on the challenge.


    August 9, 2018 at 7:22 PM

    • Your wondering has made me wonder whether computer scientists are able to model a wave like this and create a credible facsimile using computer graphics. The difficulty in capturing the heavy crazing you mentioned can leave a photographer crazed.

      What you say about the lack of opportunity here for this kind of photo—and how much less in land-locked Austin than even along the Gulf of Mexico—leads me to spend much of my photographic time on the grander aspects of nature when I travel to scenic places, and relatively little on flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2018 at 7:06 AM

  8. Nice action photo!!


    August 9, 2018 at 9:09 PM

    • In this case an “actiony” shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second was a photographer’s friend.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2018 at 7:08 AM

  9. Why is the water blue there but green here?


    August 9, 2018 at 10:13 PM

  10. […] addition to waves shooting up from rocks along the Atlantic coast in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park on June 8th, I paid attention to several shallow […]

  11. The centre of the wave seems to have its own rock like spine. It’s a very forceful image. I am glad you included the map reference. If you look across and down from the Schoodic section you will see Great Cranberry Island where I spent a wonderful holiday with friends who had a summer home on the island.


    August 10, 2018 at 7:13 AM

    • Then I’m also glad I included the map (something I seldom do in these posts), given the way it brought back that wonderful summer holiday with your friends. How convenient to have access to a place away from hordes of tourists—unless Great Cranberry Island was also swarming with them.

      I like your impression of a wave with a rock spine. We often think of waves breaking against rocks, but not of a wave made of rock.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2018 at 8:03 AM

      • There were no hordes at all. But I wish we had had more time to explore the region.


        August 10, 2018 at 8:09 AM

        • Isn’t that the way of it? Each of our recent trips has left me wishing we’d had even more time to explore the areas we visited. We could say that about life in general.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 10, 2018 at 8:16 AM

  12. Beautiful shot. This reminds me of why I love the ocean so much: it’s predictably unpredictable and full of surprises.


    August 13, 2018 at 5:38 PM

    • Well said: predictably unpredictable and full of surprise. I was happily surprised to catch this wave at just the right split-second to see it spine-like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2018 at 10:04 PM

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