Recent Images~~ Big Sur

After spending a week in Carmel, California, I am reminded of why I love photographing coastal regions.  The power of waves, the immensity of the ocean, the incredible beauty of sunsets on the beach are all reasons to love spending time with your camera near the sea.  Big Sur is a series of turn outs off of Highway 1, one more beautiful than the next.  Rocky shore lines, the famous fog of Big Sur and beautiful morning and evening light combine to make this a wonderful area to visit!

This was a the first image I made upon my arrival in Big Sur.  I was quite taken by the succulent plants that are bright green and red and make for a wonderful foreground.  The was shot in the afternoon, when clouds had gathered on the horizon and the light was soft.  I shot several images, getting my base image just right.  Then I took multiple shots to capture the big crashing wave on the distant rock.  I merged the images in Photoshop.  The final image is a good example of what I talk about during workshops--it is important to have a pay off when you take your viewer on a trip through the photograph!  Here, the payoff is the splash!

This image was taken from the same location as the above photo, but on a different day.  This was shot in the morning when the sky was full of moving moody clouds.  When you see a cloudy sky with some movement, think long exposure!  I used Neutral Density filters to increase my shutter speed, allowing the clouds to streak and the water to smooth out.  This is a good example of using your exposure to be creative!  Shot with 6 stop ND filter, shutter speed was 48 seconds!

Finding Beauty When You Least Expect It!
I had gone to this beach location to shoot the sunlight streaming through Keyhole Arch.  A cloudy and foggy layer on the horizon prevented the light show I had hoped for, so I packed up and was walking back towards the parking lot.  I noticed some faintly pink clouds off to the right!  Maybe this will develop into a pretty sunset shot??  I set up a pleasing composition and waited while the sun lowered to the horizon.  When it peaked out just for a moment, it lit up the cloud formation with beautiful hues of pink and purple! And just like I had hoped, the clouds swirled and glowed and  I was even treated to a colorful reflection on the sand!  Lesson here??   Always look around for conditions that just might develop into a pretty photograph!  Be ready when the magic happens!  
Don't Forget Vertical Compositions!
I struggle with vertical compositions.  I find it much easier to set up a pleasing shot when my camera is horizontal.  So I challenged myself this morning to try to find a nice vertical shot.  The swirling pattern of the emerald water in that little basin was the gem in the scene, so I set up the image to highlight that feature.  The clarity of the foreground contrasts nicely with the foggy background, lending depth to the composition.  
Take home message here?  Always try horizontal and vertical compositions of a scene.  You probably prefer one over the other, as I do.  But it pays to try both and see which one you like best when you get home.  
Where is the Bridge??
This is a shot from the Bixby Bridge pullout.  But wait a minute, where is the bridge?  Well, it's just there out of frame to the left.  I was too timid to climb down the steep cliff to get a good shot of the bridge!  Scared?  I prefer to think of myself as careful and risk averse! 
So now what to do if I can't find a nice shot that includes the bridge?  I walked around until I found some foreground interest and was lucky enough to spot a patch of wild narcissus flowers.  They provide depth and interest, grabbing the eye of the viewer and then leading them from the flowers, down along the white waves and finally ending up at the small peek of the pink sky.
There's the Bixby Bridge!
A short hike along the rocky bluff yielded this view of the Bixby Bridge at sunset.  The bridge faces east/west, so I had planned to shoot it in the golden afternoon light, hoping for a softness to the light that would warm up the scene.  I got lucky and even had nice clouds on the horizon.  Late afternoon light often lets you use a longer shutter speed, even without ND filters.  This shutter speed of 1/4 second softened the water just a bit without making it too fluffy.  Note again the depth created by the sharp and saturated foreground contrasting with the hazier background.
Compositionally, the bluff creates a nice leading line towards the bridge and is grounded by the large rock just off the shore near the bottom of the frame.   The bridge is in the upper third and I used the dodge tool in Photoshop to lighten up the structure of the bridge to make it pop a bit.  I included a bit of the dramatic sky but not so much that it became the star and overwhelmed the bridge.  
These are all things to consider when setting up your shot in the field.  This is what makes me feel like I'm creating a photograph, not just recording the scene.
The Water Really is That Green!
I went to Big Sur with a goal of getting a dynamic wave shot.  I've been seeing such amazing images of waves online lately, and I really wanted to try to capture something with big wave action and good color.  It only took 1000 clicks to get this shot!  If you want to try to get an image like this, go when the waves are big and study them for a nice composition.  I included some background here to provide location information.  Afternoon light provides backlighting that lets the green water glow and keeps the front of the wave from getting overly bright.  Try to shoot the waves from the side, to get more structure in your shot.  A fast shutter speed (here 1/1200) freezes the action.  Use rapid fire shooting and fill that card!  Then you can take your time later and pick your favorite wave shot!
Sometimes, you just get lucky!
While exploring the Garrapata Park area after a drizzly morning, I was treated to a moment of magic!  The sky was clearing and the sun peaked out just enough to treat me to a double rainbow!
When something like this happens right before your eyes, you must work quickly and make snap decisions about how you want to photograph the scene that you know will be fleeting.  It pays to know your camera and be able to come up with a plan quickly and then execute that plan.  I had just enough time to quickly adjust my exposure, turn my camera vertical and capture a quick series of shots to make a pano!  And poof, the rainbow was gone!  I didn't have a wide enough lens on my camera to get it one shot, so I knew how to quickly shoot a pano.  Practice paid off this particular morning, I had the skills in place to get the shot before the magic disappeared.
Lesson here?  Know your camera and be able to adjust exposure quickly so that you can grab a shot that may only last a few seconds.  You will be rewarded if you are prepared!
Consider joining me on a workshop if you want to learn the techniques required to capture these kind of photographs.  I love going to a new location with my camera!  I come home with images that help me remember the trip and I love teaching folks how to get the most out of their camera!

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