Week 20 – Horizontal Line

The Challenge for Week 20 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Horizontal Line. What I realized when I did some research on Horizontal Line in Landscape Photography is that we use horizontal lines in our photography more than we (at least I) realize. There’s most likely at least 1 implied horizontal line in most landscape photographs – the horizon. Other than horizon, there are other examples of horizontal lines – fallen trees, waves, oceans, sleeping people, etc. All these subjects somehow show a sense of stability, rest, and timelessness.

Horizontal lines tend to indicate a sense of homeostasis (lack of change). Horizontal lines can be used when you want to impart a sentiment of timelessness or lack of change to an image. The horizon is stable, dependable and immovable, and for these reasons, horizons become the ultimate example of horizontal line. Horizontal lines are also relaxing and quiet.

When I thought about horizontal lines, I knew I’ll head to the beach and use the horizon as the horizontal line as well as use waves as horizontal lines. When the opportunity to go to Capitola Wharf presented itself, I knew I had the chance to use the Wharf as another horizontal line.

So, after taking several shots from different locations using Wharf in the Foreground, I decided to move to a location where I put the Wharf horizontally across the frame. I see multiple horizontal lines in play in this photo – waves in the foreground, wharf, horizon, and the mountains in the background. I thought this would make a good example of Horizontal Line for this week’s challenge.

Stargazer!

Location: Davenport, CA
Time: Wee Hour of the Morning
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm | 18mm | f/2.8 | 15s | ISO 4000

Is there anyone who claim not be fascinated by the vast universe we are part of? Is there anyone who doesn’t look up at the night sky and dream? I am sure there are people who aren’t fascinated or who just don’t care but I have a feeling they are few and far inbetween. I have been fascinated by the cosmos for a very long time.

Until recently, I didn’t know I could imagine, plan, and shoot Milky Way pictures. I have seen several photos of the Milky Way online and I have always wondered how difficult it would be to capture the Milky Way.

To be honest, I had no idea where to begin. I read several articles online and watched some tutorials and got a bit familiar with the mechanics of shooting the Milky Way. Luckily, the Core Group of Photographers I shoot with are equally (if not more) fascinated by the Milky Way and they knew lot more about the subject.

One of my first attempts at shooting the Milky Way was with the Core Group at Pinnacles National Park. It was a good experience being out in the middle of the night chasing the MW but I didn’t come back with good MW shots. I didn’t have the right lens; I didn’t have the right focus; and, I didn’t have right technique. Still, looking at the MW arch made the trip worth it.

My next chance came when we planned a trip to Yosemite to shoot MW from Glacier Point. I got a lot of great shots at Yosemite but all were before the sky went dark. I didn’t come up with any usable photos. I had a lens that was pretty fast but I didn’t know where to focus and how to get sharp stars. I did get some decent shots during a meetup at Shark Fin cove but nothing spectacular. I really wanted to get a shot that was sharp, clean, and well composed. Unfortunately, the window to see and photograph the MW was gone.

I waited till the season started again this year, which is Spring time in the Northern Hemisphere. The first opportunity this year came last week and I jumped on it. I woke up at 1:30 AM and got ready to shoot the MW. The sky was supposed to be clear. A friend of mine came home and we carpooled together and went to Shark Fin Cove. We picked up another friend of ours on the way. When we got to Shark Fin Cove, we were very disappointed. We couldn’t even see the MW; clouds completely covered just part of the sky where MW would rise. We waited for about 20 minutes and it didn’t clear. We came home empty handed. It was disappointing but what can you do. No matter how many tools you have to predict nature, it sure is unpredictable.

The next chance came this week when we realized weather was going to be clear. A few of us decided to give it a try and head to Shark Fin Cove. When we got there, we did see clouds moving in but we were hoping it would clear. We got a couple of shots and the clouds covered the MW. We waited for it to clear and luckily it did clear. But we saw lot of light pollution from Santa Cruz. Most of the shots were unusable. We were debating if we should go down to the beach and try some shots. It was high tide so we wouldn’t be able to line up the MW with Shark Fin. After a bit of back & forth, we decided to head to Davenport.

The goal was to get to the beach and use the sea stack as foreground element and shoot the MW. When we got there, the MW was clearly visible. We saw a lone tree so we decided to shoot some shots with the Lone Tree in the FG. We then went down to the beach and started shooting. The first few shots were blurry as the focus wasn’t quite right. I then found the right focus so I was firing away.

We thought we were safe from the waves but we underestimated the high tide. A wave came in and hit all of us. We got wet till our knees. While I was running, I couldn’t really catch my falling tripod with my camera mounted but luckily one of the guys with me caught it. Thank god!

We continued shooting and one of the guys suggested I go stand and ‘light’ the MW with my headlamp. I focused my camera and asked one of my friends to press the shutter. I stood there for several minutes so everyone can get their shots.

When I came home, I had several shots from Davenport that were usable. I liked the composition on this one and how the overall image turned out. A good start to learning MW photography but a long way to go. My goal is to maximize the clear weather and shoot as much MW from as many locations as possible. As a matter of fact, the next shoot is already planned.

Looking for Breakfast!

Location: Natural Bridges State Beach, California
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/15s | ISO 100

Ever since I joined the Escaype community, looking for Golden Hour predictions from the Escapye Forecasters seems to have become a regular part of the routine. The Forecast comes out 4 times a day and I am awake for 3 forecasts and in some cases the fourth one as well. Friday night was busy a busy night within Escaype community as Saturday was predicted to be very good for Sunrise.

I was debating whether to go to SF or SC for Sunrise. Debating where to go for a Photo Shoot has become a major part of the process. I just feel that I should just pick a place and go. I really shouldn’t spend a lot of time deciding where to to. But, I do this all the time. As a matter of fact, the core group of Photographers I shoot with do the same thing.

Anyways, the plan Friday night before I slept was to wake up in the morning and look at the latest forecast. If SF has higher numbers than SC, I would go there. If not, I’ll go to SC. If SC, I decided I’ll checkout Natural Bridges. Another Photographer from was planning to join me as well. He is part of a Whatsapp group for Photographers that I belong to. I haven’t met him before but have chatted with him via Whatsapp numerous times.

When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was check the forecast. Actually, I did this in the middle of the night when I woke up thinking it was time to head out. I must have done woken up multiple times throughout the night. This happens to me all the time. Sowmya tells me that I do this whenever I am planning to go to a Photo Shoot. I am not sure if it’s the anticipation of the shoot or what it is.

The numbers showed high potential for both SF and SC. When I asked the forecaster, he said go to SC instead of SF due to fog. As a matter of fact, he asked someone who was en route to SF to turn back and head to SC. So, my decision to head to SC was an easy one knowing that there was going to be fog in SF.

The drive was pretty smooth. We got there right at the beginning of Golden Hour. When we got there, what we saw was rather disappointing. We didn’t see any break in the horizon. It was completely fogged. We were really hoping that it was going to open up and the sky will light up.

We started shooting, trying to make the best out of the situation. We did meet a couple of other Escaype members. After about 30 minutes of shooting the grey skies, we realized that it was not going to open up. As always, I moved around to see what comp ideas I can try. I did look for ideas from others as people were standing in different places in the beach.

Everyone left after realizing that the sky was not going to light up. I decided to head back as well. I was on top of some rocks that were a bit slippery. On the way down, I almost took a tumble. I slipped but somehow managed to keep my balance. After gaining my balance, I see this scene in front of me. The reflection of the arch rock as well as a snowy egret. I didn’t have time to change my lens. So, I shot this with my wide-angle lens. I tried to put the bird on one of the third. I also tried to put the arch rock on the third as well.

I like the comp. I just wished the sky lit up as predicted but fog rolled in. Maybe, next time I’ll get the lit up sky from Natural Bridges.

Between the Rocks!

Location: Garrapata State Park, California
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/22 | 4s | ISO 100

We made a trip out to Garrapata State Park to see (and shoot) the Calla Lilies. There were lilies in the Valley but not as much as I hoped. Based on what others told me as well as some of the photos I saw online, I thought the entire valley would be covered with lilies. I am not sure if we went late in the season, or if this year there weren’t as many lilies, or if it was a combination of both. In any case, I tried different spots and came up with a decent shot. More about that shot and experience in my other post titled ‘Sunset Lilies’.

After shooting the lilies, I decided to head to the beach for the Sunset. My buddy decided to stick around in the Calla Lily Valley go get some starburst of the setting Sun with the lilies in the background. I thought about staying with him but decided to go to the beach to see try some Long Exposure shots.

The waves were really rough. No place seemed to be safe unless you were well behind these stacks. The rock on the left seemed to be safe as the waves weren’t hitting it as hard and often as the rocks on the right. I actually stood on top of the rock on the left with my tripod to get some shots. I was firing away shots and saw waves closing in. Before I knew it, the waves crashed on the rock and somehow went above my head without a drop of water touching me. It was awesome. Sowmya was taking video and had stooped seconds before this happened. I should have realized how lucky I was to not get my camera wet and not go on top of the rock again. Well, I went on top of the rock again. Guess what happened this time? The waves hit me and Sowmya captured that on video as well.

Anyways coming back to this shot. I got down from the rock when I got the idea to put the Setting Sun between the rocks. Waves were hitting me again and again. I was drenched will my hips.I tried several shots to get it right. Looking at the LCD, I knew there were a couple of decent shots. The Sunburst was not at all easy to get. I had to work hard in post processing to enhance what I got.

The Reflecting Tower!

Location: Fort Point, San Francisco
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/8 | 1/500s | ISO 100

Ever since I shot shots of Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point with the Chains in the Foreground, I wanted to go there. For some reason, I loved that composition. I saw several different comps from this location; some very similar but some very different. My goal was to go to Fort Point and try few different comps.

Escaype forecast predicated very high numbers for San Francisco so we decided to head there for Sunset. We decided to check out Fort Point. Ever since joining Escaype community, we have started chasing the clouds. Literally! The goal is to follow the clouds in hopes that they will light up. We thought we’ll start at Fort Point and move to another location if need be.

We got to Fort Point and saw that there were not that many clouds behind Golden Gate Bridge. We were disappointed but decided to at least try some shots to see what comp we like so we can come back another day. While we started shooting, we noticed that clouds started moving in. We thought we’ll just stay there in the hopes that clouds will stay behind the bridge during Sunset. Clouds did move it but it started dissipating as well. About 45 minutes before Sunset, most of the clouds behind the bridge disappeared.

I took this shot right before the clouds started disappearing. I was walking around and taking different shots of the bridge with different chains in the foreground. I was walking by and saw the reflection and decided to try a shot with the reflection. I had to move back and forth on the road, crouch in different positions to maximize the reflection. I took 3 bracketed shots. I checked for sharpness and comp on the LCD and it looked good. I just hoped I’d feel the same way when I come back home and see it in the big screen.

When I got back home, there were multiple shots from this location to choose from. I chose the version that I liked the most and blended to HDR in Lightroom. Getting the colors in this shot was not straight-forward. I tried multiple things – split toning, temp/tint, camera calibration, among other things. I was able to bring the colors I liked on the clouds. After posting, I realized that the bridge may have become a bit too red. One of my friends shared same feedback as well. Always good to work on a photo, take a break, and come back to it.

Definitely need to visit Fort Point again when conditions are optimal.

Sunset Lilies!

Location: Garrapata State Park, Big Sur
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/8 | 1/1000s | ISO 400

One of the things I learned from my Photography buddies as well as the Photography Community at 500px or Instagram was about the Calla Lilies at Garrapata State Park in Big Sur. I have driven on PCH 1 going to Big Sur several times but didn’t even know this existed. After I saw a few photos of the Calla Lilies with the beautiful beach in the background, I knew I had to pay a visit. What a beautiful place! If you are visiting the Big Sur area during late Winter or early Spring, then you definitely have to stop at the Wild Calla Lilies Valley at Garrapata State Park.

Garrapata State Park is home to a small valley where Wild Calla Lilies are abloom during late Winter or early Spring. Timing is a bit tricky as the grove can be in full bloom one day and past its prime another. Beautiful Calla Lilies line up and lead to the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

So, one of my buddies mentioned that he was gonna check out the Calla Lilies. I was debating whether to join him or not. When I checked Escaype, Monterey Bay came out with high potential. I have been meaning to go to Garrapata State Park to shoot sunset for a while. So I decided to head out with Sowmya to check out the Calla Lilies. My thought was that if the Calla Lilies don’t work out, I can at least shoot Sunset at the beach.

When we headed out, I put driving direction to Garrapata State Park. When we were entering Monterey, I checked with my buddy to see if there was a specific location for the Calla Lilies. He sent a pin to a location but came very close to Carmel beach. That didn’t seem right to me. Sowmya and I were debating whether to go to Garrapata State Park as planned or if we should go to the location that my friend sent. I wasn’t able to check back with him to confirm the location as we didn’t have any signal.

I decided to stick to my gut and go to Garrapata State Park. Sowmya coincidentally googled Calla Lilies at Garrapata and saw a post that said to look out for a specific mile marker and park there and hike down. This was a saving grace. We went to this specific mile marker (63) and parked there. We still weren’t sure if we were in the right place. There area absolutely no signs indicating the location of the Calla Lilies.

When we walked in, I saw a couple walking back from the trail. I asked them if they are coming back from the Calla Lilies Valley. They had no idea what I was talking about. We continued walking on the trail (as suggested by the post that Sowmya found) and we saw another family. We asked them the same question and they had no idea as well. I was a bit worried as to whether or not we were in the right place.

I finally saw another Photographer with his tripod. I asked him and he knew exactly where to go to see the Calla Lilies. The posting that Sowmya found was accurate; park at the mile marker (63), take the trail and walk to the right; keep walking and you’ll see a trail that take you all the way down to the Calla Lily Valley. Be extremely careful walking down to the Valley. This is said to be one of the scariest places to talk on as its surrounded by ravines and poison ivy. I kept telling Sowmya to watch out as I was very scared.

We finally hike all the way down to the Calla Lily Valley. I realize that most of the Lilies are on the other side of the fast flowing stream. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get to the other side. I see another Photographer on the other side so I asked him how he crossed the Stream and he says ‘he didn’t. I then realized that there is another trail on the other side. Basically, I could have parked a few hundred yard before where I did and taken a different trail.

Well, it was too late for that. So, the only option was to jump to the other side. The stream was no more than a few feet wide. I told Sowmya not to risk it. I went for it and made it safely. I went to the other side and took several shots but nothing really appealed to me. I decided to jump back so I can talk to Sowmya and decide what to do. The jump back was lot more difficult than expected. I landed in a place that was muddy and my shoes went completely in.

I also saw that there were lot of Lilies on the side that we were on but to get to that location, we had to go back up the trail and take a different trail to walk down a flight of steps. Sowmya was up for it so we decided to go for it. When we got down to the valley again, we had to jump through some tough spots to get there. We somehow managed to do that. We got to a location with a good population of lilies. I tried different comps. I spent a lot of time trying to get starburst with Sun behind one of the small hills. But I got a lot of solar flares.

Even from this location I had to jump back & forth from one location to another crossing the stream. But the stream was much narrower in this location compared to where I jumped before. Sowmya took some videos and photos of me jumping back & forth.

By the way, we had no idea whether my friend was coming to this location or if there was another location that he was at. The pin that he sent me showed a completely different location. After about 45 minutes in the Calla Lily Valley, we decided to check out the beach. While I was able to take the trail up the hill, I hear someone calling my name. I turn around and see my friend 🙂

After all, the location he sent me and the location that Sowmya found online were one and the same. Someone, the pin he dropped happened to be incorrect. I told him what I had tried so far and he jumped the stream a couple of times to try different shots. I joined him so I can get a few more shots.

One of those shots is this 3 shot HDR blend. I actually picked another 3 shot blend to process first. When I processed it, I realized it wasn’t as I expected. So, I asked Sowmya to do some clean up in Photoshop. She did so very patiently. I then found this 3 shot blend that actually was exactly what I was looking for. I converted the 3 bracketed shots to HDR in Lightroom and from there, it was pretty straight forward processing.

What I learned was that there were far few lilies this year compared to previous years. I have a feeling I got there just a bit late. A few weeks back would have made a different. Nevertheless, it was an awesome experience. It was definitely an adventure. I will definitely go back next Spring; but maybe a bit early to get a shot with the setting Sun.

After I got this shot, Sowmya and I decided to head to the beach. My friend decided to stay back and got the Calla Lilies with the setting sun in the background. I’ll try to get that next year. But we definitely had a lot of fun in the beach. More on that in an upcoming post.

Pigeon Point Starburst!

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero

Time: Sunset

EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 20mm | f/16 | 1/250s | ISO 100


This was shot during the same day as the shot (Ready to Shine) I wrote about a couple of weeks back. As mentioned in that post, we parked at the Lighthouse parking lot and started walking around to see if we can get any good shots. Sun was still pretty high up and hot. Most of the shots were blown out. Even when I tried HDR, I wasn’t able to get any decent shots. There were a lot of solar flares. I need to learn how to shoot straight into the Sun.

Anyways, while walking around, I noticed that if I shoot at a certain angle, I’d be able to get Starburst. Over the last few months, I have been obsessed with Starburst. Every opportunity I get, I try to capture a Starburst. Whether it’s the rising/setting Sun or lights on a Bridge, or even moon, I have tried to capture Starburst. So, when I saw the opportunity at Pigeon Point, I had to give it a shot.

I moved around quite a bit to see if I can get at least one shot without (or at least minimal) solar flares. But it turned out to be quite challenging. But I kept shooting. I did see looking at the LCD that some of the shots came out without solar flares and clean Starburst.

Once I came back home, I figured out that this was the best shot. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of imagination. I had to clean some flares, I had to dodge and burn a bit. I had to work different things to get the colors I wanted. More important, I had to get Sowmya’s help with some cleanup. I am not at all good with Photoshop so I pull in Sowmya whenever I need help 🙂

She worked on it for about 10 minutes and got it to where I wanted it. Definitely, lot more to learn when it comes to capturing Starbursts.

Ready to Shine!

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 70-200mm f/4L USM | 70mm | f/8 | 13s | ISO 100

This is my second Sunset attempt at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and both times, I got Golden Skies. The first time was when Sowmya’s mom was visiting us. In October, the Sun sets right behind the Lighthouse so one of my Photography buddies asked if I wanted to go. That shoot, I took Sowmya and her mom with me. We picked up my friend on the way and headed to the Lighthouse. The Sky was golden but absolutely no clouds so nothing really lit up.

For this time around, we had the Escaype forecast. Both SF and Pescadero were forecasted to have high potential. My friend and I went back & forth for several hours trying to decide if we should go to Pigeon Point Lighthouse or to SF. We finally decided to go to Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Sowmya and I stopped on the way at Shark Fin Cove as she has only seen it at night when we went to capture the Milky Way rising above Shark Fin. When we stopped this time, I saw a path down to the beach. It didn’t look that complicated so I asked Sowmya if she was up for it. She said yes and we headed down. I really didn’t get any good shots but I wanted to scout the location.

We then drove to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We were meeting my friend in the Lighthouse parking lot. We tried to see if there is any good comp in and around the Lighthouse but decided that we have to be a bit far from the Lighthouse to get the clouds behind it. But before heading to another location from where we shot last time, we decided to do some hand-held shots. I tried to get a starburst of sun behind the Lighthouse and it worked out well. I will write about it in an upcoming post.

We went to the other location and walked around a bit to see where to setup our tripods. We found a stop that we thought would work out well. Even though Escaype predicated that clouds will light up, it really didn’t happen. This was another Golden Sky sunset at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Nevertheless, it was still very beautiful.

I used my Telephoto Lens for this shot. I used an ND Filter to get long-exposure. In terms of processing, I just did my usual workflow in Lightroom and took it to Photoshop for some clean up and sharpness.

Walton’s Fire!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8.0 | 1/100s | ISO 100

Another trip to Walton Lighthouse for Sunrise. This time with Sowmya. So, Escaype forecasted slightly higher than medium potential for Santa Cruz but it was expected to be colorful. So, Sowmya and I decided to head to Walton Lighthouse to catch the Sunrise.

We woke up early in the morning and headed out in less than 10 minutes. The drive was pretty smooth; no traffic at all. Of course, at 5:00 AM you don’t expect that such traffic but with road closures and construction on HWY 17, we didn’t know what to expect. We got there about 30 minutes before Sunrise. The colors already started to show up.

It was high tide so no possibility of getting to the beach like last time. Sowmya and I tried to take a couple of shots with the curve of rocks and pathway leading to the Lighthouse. It was basically just the two of us. For some reason, Walton Lighthouse was empty that morning. Anyways, we started moving close to the Lighthouse and I see reflection of the Lighthouse on the pathway.

I immediately setup up my tripod and put the Lighthouse right smack in the middle of the frame with the reflection. I started firing away and the clouds started lighting up. It was simply superb. One of the best sunrises I have seen at Walton Lighthouse. Sowmya moved around a bit and was asking me to come there to check out her comp. But I didn’t want to change my comp. I was happy with it and kept shooting. After seeing Sowmya’s shot, I definitely should have moved. It was a very good perspective. I am glad she got it.

Right when the colors were disappearing, one of the Photographers that is part of Escaype showed up. He was shooting from Seabright beach. I could have done that as well. His comp was pretty good. If I go to Walton for sunrise again, that’s what I’ll do.

In terms of processing, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot. The colors were simply superb. I just enhanced it a bit and cleaned up some dust spots.

Guiding Sentinel!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 16mm | f/16 | 1/1s | ISO 100

This was shot during the same time as my last shot (Walton’s Reflection). After taking several shots of the reflection, I went up to the pathway leading to the Lighthouse and took a few shots. Nothing really worked out from there that day. When the sun started rising above the hills, I decided to go back down to the beach and use the waves as leading lines and put both the Lighthouse and sun in the frame.

I was able to execute on my vision but now that I look at the shot, having a startburst on the sun would have been awesome. I didn’t think about it while on the field. I didn’t want to miss the rising sun so I kept shooting. I didn’t want to add starburst in post processing.

I liked the way this turned out. I was able to use multiple compositional techniques on this one; the rule of thirds, leading line, balance, symmetry, and placement. In terms of post processing, other than my usual workflow in Lightroom, I also did some dodging and burning. I also cleaned some solar flares and dust in Photoshop.