Outdoor Photography On The Beach In Costa Rica
From One of Our Photography Workshops
Sexy Sunset Photos
Camera: Olympus OM-D, EM-1, Mirrorless Digital Camera
Lens: Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f1.8 (Silver) Lens for Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras
Effective Focal Length: 150mm
Shutter Speed: 1/100
White Balance: 6000K
Camera Mode: Manual
Lighting: Hensel Porty Premium battery back, plus Hensel power head fitted with a Chimera 3-foot Octabox
The scenario was the last day during one of our Costa Rica photography workshops. My model Heather and I decided to grab a few sexy sunset photos during the last evening before our departure home. Instead of the typical “girl in a bikini” photo we went for “sexy girl in a sexy dress” look and feel. This eventually led to this photo where the eyes imply the sexy sunset feel. Toss in a little shoulder and a slight overpowering of the sun with flash technique, and you wind up with an instant connection between the subject and the viewer.
The Story Behind The Photo
In the past 15-plus years I’ve conducted well over 600 photography workshops, seminars, and lectures, spreading the gospel of photography whenever and wherever I can. During eight of those consecutive years I’ve conducted 33 workshops in the U.S. Virgin Islands, many with repeat customers including some customers with up to ten “VI” workshops under their belt.
Over the the last part of those years, many of my repeat customers mentioned they were “VI’d” out and wanted new locations to explore and attend future photography workshops and adventures; so a little over two years ago, we decided to explore and add new locations including the Bahamas, St. Maarten, Costa Rica, Aruba, Barcelona, Cabo, etc., and the research continues. So far we’ve conducted four workshops in the new locations of St. Maarten and Costa Rica, plus have Barcelona, Bahamas coming up as photography adventures, and have added Aruba to the list and are exploring Cabo and other locations since that decision was made and our customers have responded with their loyalty by attending the new locations.
We sincerely thank them for their feedback and ideas and in our last Costa Rica workshop, where this photo was taken, two of the five customers had done previous Virgin Islands photography workshops with us, and all but one had done at least one or more photography workshops at other locations. Between the recent two St. Maarten photography workshops, we’ve had a total of nine previous Virgin Island repeat customers and a total of four for Costa Rica from the Virgin Islands “family” of customers.
In the previous St. Maarten photography workshop that followed the preceding Costa Rica photography workshop, seven of the eight photographers had done prior Virgin Islands photography workshops, some multiple and consecutive times, and all but one of the photographers had done a photography workshop with us at some other location besides the Virgin Islands. Yes, an 88% return rate on the last St. Maarten photography workshop. The one photographer that hadn’t, or the 12%, was actually the brother of one of the other photographers that had.
When you have such a repeat loyalty base of photographers, you have to change it up, no one wants to see the constant repeat photo ideas from previous workshops they’ve attended; these returning photographers want something new. I’m the same way, I’m always looking for new ideas and I’m not crazy about shooting the previous ideas again.
Sometimes, after the workshop ends, the photographers by then have figured out some special shot they want to create on the private shoot day, typically on a Monday. Normally these exotic photography workshops end on Sunday night and Monday is reserved for our “private shoot day,” where basically photographers book models for one-on-one shooting by the hour for specific concepts they want to create.
That Monday evening of the Costa Rica workshop, Heather had some free time, so we decided to work on some sexy sunset photos just before her scheduled private shoot with one of those repeat customers, Harvey from Canada. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Harvey now in three countries, the United States (Moab, and the Virgin Islands), Canada (Drumheller wolf shoot) and Costa Rica (Jacó area). Interestingly, Harvey was using an Olympus OM-D, EM-1 mirrorless system, the same camera system I use, however his arsenal of camera bodies, lenses, and accessories are a much bigger and envious inventory than mine.
Arsenal or not, I wanted to ensure Harvey would have a working light ready to go for when his time would begin during the sunset that evening, so Heather and I arrived early enough on Jacó Beach before Harvey’s scheduled shoot time to do some warm-up photos. I had Jerry Cordero Sosa, our driver, guide and good friend plus the owner of Tukan Tours assist me that evening to help me get my shots done quicker so we’d be ready when Harvey arrived. Jerry is amazing I might add, and he’s assisted us since day one of the very first Costa Rica photography workshop.
With Jerry helping and holding the Hensel Porty Premium light fitted with a Chimera 3-foot Octabox, Heather and I were able to focus on our sexy sunset photos concept and capture the quick results. When Harvey showed up on the beach, the lighting gear was all in check, allowing him to focus on the sexy sunset photos he wanted. He captured his photos successfully in the hour he booked and we all walked back to the location where we were all staying, packed out, and were ready to depart Costa Rica the next day, early morning. Harvey being the world traveler that he is stayed a few more days in Costa Rica and continued his photography and exploration journey on his own.
Working outdoors always provides challenges that are often ruled by the time of day plus climate conditions. In the case of this photo creation, we’d be working on the beach, which means doing everything you can to keep sand off your photographic gear and always on the look out for splashing waves. Having an assistant like Jerry is always a big plus, especially when you have your eye on the camera viewfinder and need another set of eyes to keep a lookout for rouge ocean waves, suspicious onlookers, and just to give you a hand when your hands are full.
While I’m not a “spray and pray” type of photographer as I live by the mantra “get it right in the camera,” I still highly recommend and practice that you bring spare batteries with you on location and in this case, we not only had a spare camera battery, but a spare battery for our Hensel Porty Premium battery studio pack, plus a spare flash head and connector cable—you just never know when Murphy’s Law will hit. Again, having an assistant or helper always helps when lugging extra gear and especially when you need to concentrate while creating your sexy sunset photos.
Even though it’s easy to figure out your exposure for your subject, or model in this case, lighting conditions are constantly changing, especially as the sun is setting. The flash duration is the model’s “shutter speed” in an indirect way, so her lighting will almost always never change, however, the background, due to the light intensity dropping during a sunset, is changing and as a photographer you have to decide how dark or light you want the sky, or background to appear in your final photo and the technique that affects the final effect is called “dragging your shutter.”
Dragging your shutter merely means slowing your shutter speed down, say from a typical flash sync camera speed of 1/200 to 1/100 or lower. During sunset, once you’ve determined your exposure for your subject illuminated by flash, you simply start dropping your shutter speed as the sun sets and it’s not uncommon for me to do this to almost a full second exposure. As long as your model is still in your sexy sunset photos, the actual flash duration will “freeze” her, acting like her shutter speed and she will appear sharp in the final photo.
In my sexy sunset photos I didn’t have to worry so much about the very low shutter speeds, but if I had decided to lighten my sky, it’s as easy as dropping that shutter speed to 1/30 or 1/15 for a much brighter sunset. However, I wanted a more of “going from the evening to the night” effect in the final photo and decided to keep a higher shutter speed.
In order to keep the Golden Hour warmth effect, and this is crucial with sexy sunset photos, I set my white balance manually at 6000K which adds a warmer tone to the artificial light mimicking the Golden Hour vs. a more “on camera flash” look and feel. Warm tones add a more seductive and sensual look to your photos when it comes to sexy sunset photos.
While there can always be many challenges when working outdoors, one that can play havoc during a sunset photo shoot on the beach is the communication with your model, especially at longer focal lengths where you’re further apart from each other and any verbal direction between you and the model is muted because the sounds of the crashing ocean waves and surf. Combine this difficulty with the fact it’s hard sometimes to see your model’s facial expression since she’s backlit and appears as a silhouette, plus the difficulty of focusing on her eyes that you can’t really see in the viewfinder, and you both are challenged on patience.
Shooting on the beach can have its safety hazards, especially when shooting in lower light conditions. So here are some tips for beach sunset shoots. Make sure your model wears the proper foot gear, you don’t want her stepping on some stinger from a pesky insect anymore than broken glass or the fin of a dead fish that washed on shore.
Also, especially if you’re doing sexy sunset photos where your model isn’t wearing much, spray with, and bring with, insect repellant as some beaches have noseeums, or tiny, tiny sand flies that love to come out at sunset and sunrise and their bite is like that of misquotes and chiggers. I’d also recommend keeping some “After Bite” or any type of “no-itch” antihistamine product like the spray on Benadryl. Always ask your model and for that matter anyone on your team if they have any known allergies.
If your model decides to go out in the water, keep her near the edge and keep in mind, it’s hard to see jellyfish or other problematic ocean creatures. Keep her close as the possibilities of an undertow exists along shorelines, especially where the water is shallow and the waves are high, more commonly known as the surf zone. Make sure if you ever place a model in the ocean water that you’ve done your research and that you’re not in a “rip current” area.
Rip currents are strong and unpredictable and can occur in oceans, seas and even large lakes, basically anywhere there are breaking waves. Riptides are just as dangerous and are often confused with rip currents. Riptides are a “strong tidal flow of water within estuaries and other enclosed tidal areas.” All are deadly and the possibilities of their existence should always be considered.
When it comes to artificial lighting beyond on-camera flash or speed-lights, battery operated versions are better than those powered by household current—but all electricity is dangerous around water. Not to mention that battery powered packs may use low voltage, but when the flash is fired capacitors in the packs jack that voltage up into the thousands, so always be safety conscious and take necessary precautions, don’t take unnecessary risks. Now come join us on one of our photography workshops or adventures and capture your very own sexy sunset photos!