Through The Lens: Look Local, Look To Nature

This column is going to focus on great opportunities for amazing photographs right here at Jones Beach. I have many wonderful memories of plays performed at the Northwell Theatre (then called Jones Beach Marine Theater) with refreshments and live music after in gigantic tents throughout my childhood. Of course I also have beach memories of sunburns, walking on burning hot sand, dragging chairs and coolers etc. A few years ago, I decided to rediscover Jones Beach and I am really glad I did. From a photography perspective, it offers a plethora of opportunities for great pics.
The easiest and most obvious choice is sunset pics. The secret is that there has to be something other than just the sunset in the pic. If you go to the parking lot next to the Nature Center or park there and walk a little left, there is a path that leads to a building with benches where you can take great sunset photos with the dunes at the bottom. It’s super easy to get great shots of the tower with the sunset in the background. There are usually some ships far out in the water which look great with a sunset. Just make sure they are not too far out that they are unrecognizable. Everyone will say “Hey what is that?” and really bug you.
Nature photography is also fantastic at Jones. Starting at the Coast Guard Station there are gulls and assorted shore birds. The gulls perch for pics right on the pilings. Canada geese are always strolling around looking for food. There are different levels of walkway there and a cool trick is to take some photos at the geese’s eye level. In doing this, you automatically pick up more details of the bird and it makes for a better photo. Also, across from the Coast Guard parking lot is a multitude of twisted greenery. The wind at the beach has transformed the trees and bushes into cool shapes that look good alone or with some bird perched on them.
Do not discount going out on what would seem a bad photography day if you are in the mood. Take advantage of the weather and you can get some really good looking special effects that would only be available on programs like Lightroom or Photoshop. Any random shot taken with the shadowy background really pops. Having a blurred background is a very desirable effect and can require a good bit of effort to attain. Many times in photography competitions, a hazy background can actually raise your point scores. Many judges feel a blurry background enhances the photo by keeping your eye on the subject and not on background diversions. I once received a great score for a Canada goose picture taken on an exceptionally hazy day. The judge thought I had put gargantuan effort into an effective background to highlight my subject. In actuality, it was a two-second photo where nature did all the work. I kept my secret to myself and took the great score.
Another way to get really interesting shots at the beach is macro photography. This type of photography is all about showcasing a subject larger than it is in real life- an extreme close-up of something small. Walk along the shore, find any interesting shells or wood or kelp etc. Get your camera real close and shoot. It is quite amazing the beautiful spirals and designs provided by Mother Nature. Whelk shells-everywhere at Jones- have unbelievable spirals and colors that transform into unusual abstract photos for your home. Not long ago, the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan had an entire Macro photography exhibit entitled “Extinct and Endangered” which showcased butterflies and bugs.
Potential works of art can come from anywhere. Again Jones Beach is full of photo ops. Each fall, thousands of monarch butterflies continue their southward journey through the park. Many people flock there with really expensive camera equipment for the migration but you can get really great pics in the area behind the basketball courts. There are a lot of shrubs that the butterflies like. It is fairly easy to get some great shots while still keeping a respectful distance. Many times I will take just random shots at the beach for one reason or another. Sometimes I snap photos of large groups of birds or piles of shells and blow them up on my laptop.
The most important thing to remember is to enjoy photography however you choose to do it. Some people really enjoy delving into a hobby full force with very expensive equipment and extensive editing programs; others like to use a cell phone. Whatever camera you use, just enjoy yourself and have some fun.
—Mary Borowski is a member of the Manhasset-Great Neck Camera Club

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