Paddling along Tomales Bay in my kayak one day, at a very low tide, I came across a star fish whose own weight had peeled it off of the rocks. I was enthralled by the various textures and shapes, the sucker-like tube feet reaching from the body, searching for a surface to grasp onto and right the fallen star.
I had a telephoto lens with me, with a “macro” function on the focus, and I began taking pictures at very close range. To do this, I switch the camera to manual focus, and set the focus as close to me as I can. I then move myself in and out from the subject until I believe that the parts I want in focus are so. I hold myself very still as I take several shots, since I know that this practice will often result in a few out of focus shots, no matter how still I try to hold myself, so I try to hedge my bets. If I am not trying to photograph something at the very edge of the focusing range, I will often leave the auto focus on and allow the camera to do its work.
The sun had already set behind the ridge I was kayaking under, so the lighting is very even- no deep shadows. Sometimes shade can be better for photographs than sun, because you won’t lose detail in the shadows. This did however mean that I was more limited in my shutter speed, ISO, and aperture in order to get the proper exposure. Using a 280mm I set the camera to ISO 100 for no noise and f/5.6 to have a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. I wanted a very crisp image with the maximum detail, because I was so enraptured by the textures. It wasn’t until I was later, as I was reviewing the pictures on my computer, that I realized that many of the suction scales on the starfish’s underside reminded me of the hands of the characters of the animated series The Simpsons. Sometimes, you don’t realize what you have on your memory card, until later.
For photographs of starfish that have peeled off of rocks, only to be snatched up by hungry gulls, try reading Gulls and Starfish: An essay in photos