Travelling light, seascapes with the Lumix GX8

February 03, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

 

Yes, I know...Panasonic already launched the GX9. But I bought the GX8 a while back, and for the moment I have no need to update to the GX9. 

Why did I buy the GX8? Well it actually took some convincing. In my role as an ambassador for Panasonic, I'd had discussions with them back in 2017 on various projects and they suggested I take a look at the GX8. At first I wasn't convinced, mainly because I had the preconception of larger size bodies and the ergonomics required for wildlife photography. However, a cash back promotion changed my mind and I decided to take the plunge and add the GX8 to my arsenal. I am glad I did. 

When it comes to travel, and I don't mean the type of travel I do for wildlife photography where I do need my full kit, I mean a vacation, short trip, cultural excursion, my dilemma has always been size versus functionality. There are plenty of small compact cameras on the market that take great photos and 4K video. I have the LX100, which I love as a general all round travel camera. Last year I added the LX15 to my collection. The LX15 is the ideal camera for me for family trips and vacations, there is so much functionality in that camera that makes it teenager friendly as a selfie and vlogging camera. But there are times when you need a little additional functionality such as a choice of lenses or the possibility to add filters. This is where the GX8 (and GX9) comes in. It is small enough, and compact enough to be lightweight to throw in your hand luggage, and gives you the option to take a couple of lenses with you. And with those lenses, you can always put a couple of filters in the bag with you, and suddenly you have a very powerful, small, compact creative package. 

So rewind to mid January 2019. The start of the year saw me head to Miami Beach of all places, for a non-photography trip. I went there for a conference, and that meant I was hotel bound for 4 days. So I knew I wouldn't have much time for photography. However, researching the location it seemed a shame to go all that way, exchange freezing European temperatures for 25C, and not take a camera with me. Although I will admit, my research didn't convince me that it was a location for my style of photography. After all Miami Beach is well know as a tourist/party destination. Given the beach was right on the hotel property I decided to take the GX8, 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 lens and my Lee filter kit with me. In my suitcase I threw in my very lightweight Manfrotto travel tripod. It's not the best tripod, but it does a job, especially for lightweight cameras.

 The view on Indian Creek just behind the beach.

I arrived at the hotel at 8pm, which was 2am for me (European time) and of course with jet lag, you wake up at ridiculous-o'clock. I knew this was going to happen. So before going to bed, I prepared my kit, with the intention of wandering down the beach for sunrise just around 7am. 

Sure enough that morning I was wide awake from 4am onwards. I was able to get down to the beach, and I was confronted with a very long strip of white sand and sea. That was it. In terms of compositional elements to play with, it was slim pickings. Now with that said I should give a shout out to another photography who I find inspiring. If there is one photographer who can take incredible coastal/seascape images with emotion and minimal compositional elements it is Rachel Talibart. If you don't know Rachel's work, I recommend you check it out here and follow her on Instagram. It is Rachel's work that I had in mind when I was confronted with this very minimalist beach in front of me. I had three, maybe four compositional elements in front of me: beach, sea, sky, and at a push, the seaweed on the beach!

My challenge was to use these very minimalist elements to make a compelling seascape/landscape image(s). When I arrived on the beach the sun was still below the horizon. This gave me some time to work out the relative position of the sun rise, look at cloud formations and then start to look for areas where waves were breaking in the shoreline. Having a little extra time is always worthwhile because once the sun rises, it does so much quicker than you think. 

I found my spot, I set up and the started to look at my settings. With limited natural light, I started with just a circular polariser, which is one of my favourite filters for two reasons; managing reflections, and bring out more colour especially in the sky. I then started to test shutter speeds with the ambient light I had in order to try and get movement in the waves and the sea on the shoreline. 

12mm, f13, 0.8 seconds at ISO 100

I could already see with these first few images, I was going to be in for a real treat. The subtle yellows and oranges started to show themselves behind the clouds and these same colours started to reflect in the water. With this type of sunrise photography, I can't emphasise enough to keep shooting images, because the colours will change and give you a spectacular sequence of images. 

15mm f16, 0.8 seconds, ISO 100

Whilst I was waiting for the sun to rise, I was watching the patterns from the waves breaking and spreading out on the shoreline. This was the moment for me to experiment with compositional orientation. We always think of landscape images to be taken in landscape orientation. But sometime switching to portrait can create more depth and perspective in the scene especially with elements that are moving. 

14mm f16 0.9 seconds ISO 100

14mm f22, 0.8 seconds, ISO 100

12mm f5.0 1.0 second, ISO 320 (Lee Little Stopper, 0.3 grad ND)

As the sun rose, obviously there is a lot more light. The challenge becomes balancing the exposure in the composition between the sky and the foreground sea and beach. As the sun came above the horizon and for the last couple of images in my sequence, I decided to put the Lee Little Stopper on my foundation filter kit together with a 0.3 grad ND filter. This allowed me to hold the light back in the sky. And with the GX8 I am limited to f22. To be able to keep slow shutter speeds I needed to stop down further, which I couldn't do. Another tip, remember that when you go to f16 or more, you are more likely to show up dust spots on your sensor. This has happened to me a lot, and it can often show you just how dirty your sensor is...so take care and be aware of that! With the little stopper in place and increasing the iso slightly, I was able to get a balanced composition and reduce the "dust bunnies" I knew were going to show up on my image if I stayed at f16 or more. 

Compositionally, I did try and use the seaweed as some foreground interest to break up some of the simplicity of the three layers of beach, sea and sky. However, when the sky is as spectacular as it was that morning, there is a lot to be said for keeping compositions clean and simple and let nature do all the work for you.

For my last composition in the sequence, I decided to change the angle of view.

12mm f10 0.8 seconds ISO 320.

I've been shooting wildlife for nearly 6 years now, and I've been shooting landscape for about 2 to 3 years on and off. Of the two genres of photography, without a doubt I find landscape photograph the greatest challenge, but potentially the most fulfilling. The reason is simple. You need to have weather and light on your side, always. Those two combined can make or break and image and they are things you, as the photographer have no control over. This is why, despite 2-3 years of putting myself in some incredible locations around Europe...these simple coastal seascape for me represent some of the best landscape imagery I've taken over that period of time. Unexpected? Absolutely. But very happy I took the GX8 with me on my trip. An inexpensive, compact camera that packs a punch well above it's weight. Next time you go on a trip, always think about having some form of travel camera with you. You never know when light and the weather will deliver one of natures incredible spectacles. 

 

Until next time...

Jon

 


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