“Kauai. Angry Storm Black Rock Beach” by Ron Schwager

As a working commercial photographer I am accustomed to “making” an image… usually in the studio. When my wife and I are on vacation I enjoy “finding” images. It’s all about the light and composition. On this occasion my wife surprised me with a trip to Kauai.

Although I have been fortunate to travel a good deal, I had never been anywhere in Hawaii, and this island is known to be arguably the best for spectacular scenics. I made previous arrangements with a flying service to have access to a small helicopter without back doors, and researched the best lighting time of day for aerial work. We were fortunate to miss the rains. This made possible stunning aerials. On a subsequent day we came upon this incredible black rock beach. Weather conditions often change quickly here, so being ready is important. This image, “Angry Storm” was one of many I made on this trip. I used my venerable Nikon D4 and a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. This equipment is heavy by today’s standards, but for me it’s more important to be thoroughly familiar with one’s equipment. A moment of equipment indecision can mean losing the once in a lifetime moment. The D4 is my rock out in the field. Never fails.

For me this kind of image making is a fulfilling counterpoint to corporate work. I am able to remove several things from my usual equation: no collaborations with art directors and marketing people, no power packs and light stands, no consideration for layout room for copy. Just visceral reaction based on 40 years of experience and visual instinct. These trips also serve to refresh my “attitude” when heading back to the studio.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

I feel strongly that the most important features of a photograph are quality of light and compelling composition. This is often more important than subject.

As an example: I shoot lots of chocolate in the studio. The difference between making a luscious shiny piece of dark chocolate look like a sexy Ferrari rather than a piece of dog poop is lighting!!! Nice softbox backlighting with bounced fill. In the field one needs to be observant to capitalize on what mother nature gifts us.

The exception to this rule is journalistic street photography. Because it is situational, the reaction to capture the decisive moment is all-critical. That takes instinct.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

To make this photo better or different, I would try to place my vantage point in as many various spots as possible within the short time opportunities that I had to work with.

Ron Schwager shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Ron Schwager, Chico, California, USA.


Equipment and settings

Nikon D4, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, polarizing filter

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Comments (4):

  1. Elizabeth Klanac

    July 17, 2021 at 20:12

    Great image! I’m glad there is a commercial photographer you still love what you do. I have had the opportunity to listen to some photographers who do it for a living and view it just as a business. I see no passion in their work no excitement for the craft, for them it is just a job. How disappointing. I do not get that sense from you at all.

    • Ron Schwager

      July 19, 2021 at 07:52

      I have some clients that rely on me for a unique style that defines their brand look. These are the seasoned pros that understand the value of their photographer. They are the clients that I cherish. I also shoot fine-art photos for me alone. That further nourishes my soul.

      • Elizabeth Klanac

        July 21, 2021 at 18:10

        Glad you do…..✌️

  2. Annie

    July 18, 2021 at 17:02

    Love the contrast between the sky and the ocean.


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