• Wilson Haynes

Favorite Photos Breakdown #1

One of my favorite aspects of photography is the stories that go with the picture. I love hearing the process and the steps, planned or not, that occurred to get to the end result.


Over the years I have taken a lot of pictures and I plan on taking many more, but there is always a select few that stand out to me. I am not sure if being your own harshest critic is a creative thing but it is something that I am.


I will download, delete, and re-download a picture for instagram about 4 times on average, it's ridiculous. This process though pushes myself to try and deliver my best work and only put stuff out there that I am proud of. I think this is an approach that might be missed often due to the fear of getting more and more content out, that's a topic for another day though.


So the first picture that I want to dive into is this one:



It was shot on December 7th of 2019 a little before 7 am. The main type of photography I was doing around that time was surf photography. This really resonated with me having surfed on and off since I was a kid, and I enjoyed being able to get in the water, with the action and get shots of friends.


To do surf photography you need a surf housing and I was equipped with a Salty Surf Housing. Custom made in Australia, made out of one piece of aluminum, and allowed me to access all settings in the water. I loved it. When I started using it I just had a lens port for my 55mm lens which was not very wide but perfect for tight action shots. Just before this shot though I had purchased a dome port that would fit my 16-35mm lens. A lens that is favored among underwater photographers for its wide focal length without any distortion.


So this day began like most, I woke up about an hour and a half before the sunrise, got in my car and headed out to the pier. A place that was the subject of my first images ever taken in Jacksonville and continues to be a reminder of how far I have come. This time I had my new dome port and the ability to now shoot very wide. I had not yet used it and I was nervous and excited. Mostly nervous for the bone chilling water that I was about to undergo.


I get to the pier and can tell it is going to be a great sunrise, I make my way down into the water, simultaneously hoping I had everything screwed on correctly. Now I am in the water, no one else in sight, why would they be? It's 6 in the morning and freezing. I start to take pictures, and what I quickly realize is that since the water clarity is so poor in Jacksonville a dome port actually hinders the image because it just shows darkness under the water line and it is harder to capture macro type shots of the water.


So feeling slightly disappointed but also relieved that the dome port works well and I know that I can use it for diving and it will work great for that. I stay a little bit longer and try to get some wider shots of the pier from the water. Fortunately those worked better then the detailed water shots but still not enough to get me amped.


I make my way out of the water and as I am heading out I turn to my right to look at the pier and I see a tide pool in the foreground. I then notice the orange fiery sky with clouds like cotton candy looming up overhead. It was a moment I had always wanted to capture. I quickly brought the camera, still in the housing, up to my eye and started taking pictures, hoping that there were not any water spots on the lens which could ruin a shot like this.


Now I'm feeling excited because that was not something I had expected. I hadn’t planned for it but I was there to capture it and when you put yourself in the position to experience something beautiful, beautiful things might come.


So here is the second picture that I want to talk about:



This was taken on July 18th in Death Valley National Park.


I got this image while on a trip with my family when we did a road trip in California. We went from San Diego up to Monterey and then across Yosemite and back down. It was epic, we got to see such a wide variety of landscapes and cities all within one state.


One of the stops we did was Death Valley, a place none of us had ever been to. I had always wanted to go because of all the amazing shots over the years I had seen from there. I did not have that many expectations going into it except for the fact that it would be quite toasty. The highest the temperature got while we were there was 113 or 115. Florida isn’t known for being cold but that made it feel pretty cool. Fortunately it was a very dry heat so it wasn’t miserable by any means.


As we drove into the park our rental car started to overheat and we had to stop on the side of the road to let it cool down. We were surrounded by absolutely nothing except desert and rock. It felt like we were on another planet. Fortunately the car ended up being okay and just needed a little break from all the miles we were putting on it and the relentless heat.


We made our way into the park and found a small little hike that we did and it took us into a small canyon type area. The whole time we kept sort of laughing at the thought that there was no one else out there, which was pretty cool.


One thing that I have always wanted to photograph is sand dunes and in Death Valley there happens to be a lot of them. So we get back in the car and drive up to the parking lot where you can get to the sand dunes from. I start getting my gear ready and hop out expecting everyone to come with but they decide to hang back and just want to chill out. They tell me to be careful and not go too far. I then start walking.


That will forever be one of the coolest experiences of my life. Completely alone, no one in sight and an open desert. As I walk on top of sand dunes I feel the wind, the sun shining down on my face, and the sand swirling around me. The sun shines down on the dunes reflecting a gold like appearance.


I see a higher dune in the distance that I use as a way point and continue on my solo journey. I feel the sand moving around my shoes as I trudge through. All of my senses are aware of what's going on and I am fully present in the moment.


I make my way further into the sand dunes and take it all in. I can no longer see the parking lot but I know it's there. I turn to look at the sun as it is setting and see a potential shot. I put the camera to my eye and compose the curves of the dunes with the sun setting over the mountains in the distance. I set my aperture to f/16 to ensure that I will capture a sunburst effect and I take the picture.


That night in Death Valley we attempted to get a shot that I expected to be epic and it was a complete bust. We tried to do some astrophotography because it is one of the best places in the country for it, except on the night of a full moon. I think it was even a blue moon. So it was a good thing that I got a shot, which I hadn’t planned for, that I liked a lot during the day, because the one I planned for was a bust.


I mention this because it just goes to show that sometimes the best things in life are not planned. The shot in Death Valley is not the best thing I have ever captured but I loved the process of capturing that image because it felt like a true adventure, even if I was within walking distance of the car.



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