Polar Steam


Polar Steam

by Charles Cormier

Focal Length: 220mm
 1/500 sec
Aperture: f/8

I woke up on frigid Friday morning in December and nearly turned my alarm off and went back to sleep. I knew it was cold enough for ‘sea smoke’, but it was quite windy, which tends to push the smoke around, making it less dense and dramatic. Regardless, I dragged myself out of bed, and grabbed my gear. It was -18 degrees on the coast of New Hampshire, the location for this shoot.

Whaleback Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Piscataqua river which separates Maine and New Hampshire, is a popular subject for photographers when ‘sea smoke’ happens, but today, I was joined by just 3 other people. I set my tripod up and started firing some test shots with my Canon 5DMII and Sigma 150-500mm. When it seemed that the light just wasn’t going to pop, I packed my stuff away after about 45 minutes of shooting.

Just as I was about to leave, a large hole in the clouds opened up and dramatic beam of light illuminated the sea. Not having time to set back up, I grabbed my camera and ran. I fired off about 5-10 handheld shots, carefully composing the scene the best I could, using the camera’s view finder to steady the camera against my face. The fast moving clouds then swallowed up the beam, and with it the dramatic light after about 20 seconds.

I immediately knew I had something special when I flipped through the images on my camera. This was shot at 220mm, f/8. 1/500th of a second exposure. I did some cropping in Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to bring down the highlights and boost the shadows. This image was a product of luck and persistence in the field, something I’m proud of.

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