Each year my wife Shari and I take a trip on or around the time of our wedding anniversary. Although all of our trips are memorable, every fifth year we try to take a "special trip", be it to Bermuda for our 20th anniversary, Ireland for our 25th, or Italy last year for our 30th.
This year being our 31st anniversary we decided to stay a little closer to home as we plan to go out west in the fall. We debated between going to the mountains or a trip to the beach. We both had a strong desire to get back to the beach as it had been entirely too long since we walked on the beach or stuck our toes in the saltwater (I will not count getting my shoes wet last fall in Maine while photographing Boulder Beach in Acadia when an unexpected wave came a little too close.). I thought maybe we would head back to the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach, but we decided to visit Ocean City, Maryland. Although we do not frequently go to Maryland's famed beach town, it is a little closer to home than the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach and it had been many years since we had visited, so Ocean City it was (Fact is we had not been to Ocean City since 2003.).
We figured that by visiting Ocean City during the off-season (late April early May), we would avoid the large crowds that typically flock to the beach during the summer season. I will admit that I really do not like the large crowds at the beach, which is the main reason we had not gone back to Ocean City for so many years. Because it was the off-season, we were able to get an oceanfront room for a reasonable price and at very late notice. The hotel was located on 15th street and had been fully renovated in the spring of 2016, so it was almost like staying in a new hotel. The view from our oceanfront room was breathtaking. The boardwalk ran right in front of our hotel and I imagine it would be quite a busy location during the summer season. During our stay, however, it was extremely peaceful and Shari and I were one of the few couples on the beach for as far as I could see, especially during the weekday. Shari found a listing of the top 10 restaurants in Ocean City and we made it our mission to eat at as many of those restaurants as we could. In fact, one of the top 10 restaurants was located right in our hotel. I will agree with the list since the food in this restaurant was spectacular.
The weather cooperated and photographically speaking I could not have asked for more. Although the purpose of the trip was to get away to celebrate our anniversary and not strictly for photography, whenever we travel I try to take as many pictures as possible. It helps to have an "artist wife" who understands my need to take advantage of my photographic opportunities as I work an 8 to 5 office job so they do not come as frequently as I wish. For equipment, I shot mainly with my full-frame Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-105 f/4 L for landscapes, seascapes and general photography. I also took a second 5D Mark III with a 70-200 f/4 L for longer landscapes and nature shots that I could reach with 200mm. For longer wildlife shots and wild ponies on the beach in Assateague, I shot with my Canon 60D and a 400mm f/4 L. Since the 60D is a "crop sensor camera body", the 400mm gave a field of view of 640mm, which came in handy, as the wild horses are known to not only bite and kick but also charge if you get too close. I also took my new Canon 16-35 f/4 L, but I did not have too many situations where I needed an ultra-wide lens so I really did not use it much. I realize I could have just changed lenses on my camera rather than take three camera bodies, but shooting at the beach and frequently changing lenses is just asking for trouble. Nothing could be worse for your camera than getting blowing sand or water inside and on your sensor. Sand can do permanent damage to camera equipment especially if it gets inside. The Canon 5D Mark III has a sealed body so by not changing lenses, I knew I would be safe shooting in weather conditions that can be harmful to equipment. Having a 5D Mark III with 24-105 and a second with 70-200 was a perfect setup for beach shooting, even with blowing sand.
As always, my sleep suffered as I got up at 5:30 every morning and went out looking for something to shoot during the "golden hours". Two of the mornings we had a nice clear sunrise while the other two it was overcast and foggy, which created nice, soft, diffused light which yielded far different results from the clear sky sunrises. There were many nice locations, a short walk up the beach or a short drive up the street. The beach always provides an abundance of shooting subjects be it shells, birds, kites, seascapes, or surf and sand patterns. We also spent a day at Assateague Island National Seashore where we spotted egrets, willets, gulls, horseshoe crabs, wild ponies, as well as plenty other natural subjects.
I also took many "dreamy water" shots and to accomplish this task on a bright sunny day I used a nine-stop neutral density filter and a polarizing filter, which took away an additional two to three f-stops. With this two-filter setup, I was able to shoot black & white images at f/11 for 10-12 seconds in the middle of the day, and remove reflections on the sand or rocks.
Although I am still processing my images, and will be for quite some time, I am very pleased with what I have completed so far. We had a wonderful week and we both cannot wait until we go on our next artistic adventure.
Below are just a few sample images from our trip.