Jeff Smallwood Photography

"Decay and Renewal"

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I planned this shot from outer space, from a site visit, and even used my phone. Taken at Bayfront Park (also known at Brownies Beach), just south of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. I'd visited this beach several times over the last few years and recently thought about going back for a sunrise shoot. My first step was to look at the beach in The Photographer's Ephemeris to get the sunrise specs (5:47am @ 62 degrees). Once I saw the angle of the sun, I turned on the satellite view and scouted the shoreline. There were numerous downed trees laying in the Chesapeake Bay, the results of erosion from Calvert Cliffs. I knew the satellite view wasn't live, but given how long it takes for trees to be swept away and the frequency of erosion along the cliffs, I figured there would probably be some trees there no matter what. So the day before this shot I went for a site visit. Sure enough there is tree and branch debris along the shore. I got out my Android phone, brought up the compass app, pointed at 62 degrees (sunrise), and strolled along the beach scouting for the best shooting location. I was walking among all the other beach goers, except I was in my business clothes and dress shoes (having stopped here after work). This set of broken limbs caught my attention immediately. I envisioned this shot almost exactly in my head the day before. Now all I needed was a sunrise the next day to cooperate. When I went to bed that night the forecast was for overcast, mostly cloudy skies in the morning but I woke up early anyway and hoped for the best. As I drove through the early light I could tell the clouds were almost perfect: slightly patchy with areas of thick and thin. I arrived at the beach and setup my gear while listening to the sounds of a cool bay breeze and the occasional shore bird. A couple osprey flew by as well and I was hoping one of them might land somewhere on these branches, but they paid me no attention. Took photos for more than an hour, not another soul around...and that's what went into making this photo.