Have you experienced a surprise that paralyzed you? Stopped you cold. Maybe it’s a phone call from an old flame, or learning you won a prize for a contest you entered and prematurely wrote off as a loss. Life is full of surprises. The problem is that I don’t like surprises. I much prefer having control, and knowing what comes next. Don’t you? As a friend of mine says, we don’t always get what we want. We get what we deserve.
Photography equipment: Sony A7R3 with Zeiss Batis 40mm and 18mm prime lenses. This is my favorite travel kit. It’s lightweight, weather-resistant, and easy-to-use on the go. The 40mm lens is my standard favorite and is attached to my camera body most of the time. The 18mm wide angle came in situationally, but when I needed that atmospheric shot, it performed admirably! I captured all photos in RAW file format, and processed them in Lightroom.
I took a last minute trip to Newport, Rhode Island. For those in the dark, Newport is a seaside town with a classic New England style. Lobster rolls, wooden clapboard buildings, narrow streets, and vintage ships in the harbor–Tall masts and sails reach for the sky.
Do you like visiting quaint places like this?
Too bad, it was crowded. Yes, this is a tourist town, so there are T-shirts, cheap meme mugs, and the occasional street performer. It’s a fun place to visit, but perhaps not to live unless you’ve found a niche building real ships or some serious ocean-related job. (I’m sure there are fisherman and what-not, as well, but perhaps not so close the the clinically-clean parts of the the town).
A Visit to the Ocean
The purpose of this trip required little more than a keen sense of adventure, a camera, and an appetite for good food. You see, my traveling companion and I had zero committed plan. We were going to play this trip by ear. Whatever we felt like doing, we would try and do it. Impulse and practicality options ruled the day.
I wanted to see the sights, to get away from the daily grind. After a pleasant 90 minute drive, my friend (who drove) steered us across the main bridge into Newport.
The weather reports heralded a clear, cool Spring day, with sparse cloud cover. Perfect for photography, albeit a bit too bright with the sunlight throwing hard shadows over everything.
Did I mention the throngs of people? We spent quite a bit of time trying to find a parking spot for the small Honda Civic.
Lobster Rolls: Tourist or Prison Food?
Did you know that lobster was considered food so poor in taste that it was once considered only fit for criminals in prison? (Spoon University)
We were hungry. Now that were wholly in the tourist trap, and happy about it, we went about looking for the stereotypical New England snack–a shucked lobster doused in drawn butter and wrapped in a bread roll.
We ate our fill. Time to walk about and see what other goodies we could engage. Camera in-hand, us hobby photographers sought the sights as a seagull might scout for trash.
Ridiculous, we knew. We left one mortal coil by clearly engaging another.
“Mortal coil” is a poetic term for the troubles of daily life and the strife and suffering of the world.Wikipedia
A Cynic and a Sailboat
We spent $55 on tickets to ride a sailboat around Newport harbor. We were promised views of the sea, the beautiful sunset, and a glass of sparkling champagne. Teaser: The champagne came in gaudy red plastic cups and I’m allergic to alcohol. Suffice it to say, I didn’t drink.
Initially I was a bit disappointed with the sailboat, because my initial idea was to tour the harbor on a “normal” tour boat. Sailing seemed like a bad idea for a hobby photographer. Excessive movement and low light is the enemy of sharp photos.
Somewhere between the coffee break and cookies and walking through shops, I wanted to take pictures of the sunset. I wanted photos of a sky full of color. In my head, I surrendered to the idea that sailing would make this difficult and my camera might be wet.
Humility Wears Glasses
I was wrong. Sailing was amazing. The views destroyed every preconception of my idea of what a “sunset” should look like at least in person. My photographs fail to convey the experience. The images I have here are only a poor proxy of what Nature unveiled.
I apologize for the lack of more information. Words and my skills behind the lens cannot express the awe struck-ness of those few minutes on the ocean this day.
As the sailing ship cut through the water, the sound of lapping waves and the touch of a constant breeze, the occupants (7 tourists and 5 crew) leaned to counter the tilted hull. Me, included, I held tight to my expensive, uninsured camera.
The sky blossomed before us. Magnificent blues, blended like oil paint down to a blazing warm horizon. You see, unexpectedly, a rainstorm in the distance created a phenomena of atmospheric magic that made sunlight dance behind dark curtain clouds.
I tried hiding behind my viewfinder, but I sat there naked (metaphorically) realizing my wrongness. I felt small.
The Hero Returns: I’m No Hero
In stories, the “hero’s journey” is a formula for many narratives that involve a protagonist hero who goes on an adventure, encounters a challenge or crisis, and returns home changed or different (adapted from Masterclass: Writing 101).
Upon docking, my friend and I did not speak much. Or, at least we didn’t say anything important other than “that was amazing”, “spectacular view…”, or “dude, did you tip the crew?”.
All I remember saying when we got back to the parked car (with an expired meter) was “let’s get Ramen for dinner”. And, so we did.
Why Photography? It’s Art, Silly
Okay. As a hobby photographer, the true joy of a trip like the one we took was coming back with the digital treasure. When you take photos with the intention of capturing beauty, you’re not entirely sure you succeeded.
The live views you have on the back of your camera or screen don’t reveal enough information about color or contrast. You can see your composition, whether your photos are sharp and in-focus, but that’s about it.
We knew we photographed some of the best views of the ocean and setting sun that any photographer could ask for. The unexpected rainstorm prior to the golden hour sunset made for a fiery sky.
And, that is the wonder of true photography and importance of always having a camera with you. There are daily events that lead you toward awestruck moments. Unless you’re a in a studio or other controlled environment, the most inspiring photography is an artform of the unpredictable, a gift of the moment.
The Sea has Personality
The reason the sea and ocean are perfect photographic subjects is because they are like people. The natural landscape of open water is fickle with a personality driven by the physics of a dynamic atmosphere.
Depending on the time of day and season, an oceanscape greets visitors with a spectrum of facades, rushing with anger, tickling joy, or a peaceful complacency. I venture you poets have more words to describe the essence of water, but you get the point.
From this trip, I have no words, just photographs.
A Take Home Message: Be Here Now
Walking through town, I saw a T-shirt with the statement “Be Here Now” written on the front. A brief reflection, this seemed profound given that our unexpected, unplanned journey gave us the opportunity to enjoy the day’s moments. No expectations. We left the day’s events up to chance and were pleasantly surprised. And, maybe that’s part of the key with a good vacation.
Go in prepared; take resources, i.e., good health, a bit of cash, and an open mind, and you might just have a really good time.
Technical Information: Photography Equipment
On this trip, I carried my trusty Sony A7R3 and only two lenses: a Zeiss Batis 40mm and 18mm. All the images were captured using these lenses on good light, with apertures between f2.8 and f8. ISO and shutter speeds were adjusted for proper exposure, as needed. Take a look at another example of real world use of the Batis 40mm lens, which leverages the close focusing capabilities of the lens.
I performed all the RAW file post-processing in Adobe Lightroom.
I hope you enjoyed this brief jaunt with me through Newport, Rhode Island, the sea, and setting sun.
Did you enjoy this article? Any questions or feedback? Let me know with a comment below!