Brilliancy of Colors

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/3s | ISO 100

Another shot from my recent trip to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. After I took several shots from the corner to as much of the burn as possible, I decided to move around to try different compositions.

One of the spots that I stopped was where I could use the picket fence as leading line. I have tried this before but not with too much luck as weather didn’t cooperate. This time around, I knew that the weather cooperated; sky was literally on fire. The question was whether I’d be able to include the colorful sky in my comp. One of the challenges when I go to a location is to find interesting comp. Not a unique comp per se but something interesting that I can try. I am going through a 52-week Photography Composition Challenge and my primary goal is to learn different compositional techniques.

There’s  lot of discussion about how you differentiate your photos from others. Everyone wants to get something new; something unique. I guess the feeling is natural. Everyone wants to be different. No one wants to comp-stomp. As far as I am concerned, I am still at a stage where I am learning Photography and one of the best ways for me to learn is to look at photos from other Photographers and try to emulate it. I don’t mean to say that I’ll copy other’s photos but take inspiration from their work. What I’d like to consider as paying homage. To me, there’s nothing wrong with taking someone else’s comp as there’s only so much you can do in a particular location.

To me, one of the best ways to differentiate your works is through post processing. Think about it. When you visit Yosemite National Park and go to the world famous Tunnel View, especially during Golden Hour, you’ll see anywhere 10 to 100 Photographers. Or, think about the Firefall spectacle. You’ll find hundreds of Photographers in one location. How much variation can you really achieve in your comp? However, how you process your photos can produce a completely different result compared to the Photographer who stood right next to you.

Anyways, getting off the soapbox and on to this photo. The sky was still burning and I went to this spot where I thought I’d use the picket fence as leading line and put the Lighthouse on the third. I was able to include the burning sky in my frame. I bracketed 3 shots so I merged the photos in Lightroom and followed my usual workflow.

Burst of Radiance!

Location: Carrizo Plains National Monument, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 1/15s | ISO 100

One of those days where Escaype predicted high potential/zero skunk for northern areas with no fog. So, it wasn’t a question of whether I was going out but as usual, the question was where. One of my buddies pinged me and we started the back & forth. We have done this several times before. We keep debating about which location to go until the very last minute. Going forward, we should just pick one and go. It’s not like we only get one shot at this; if not today, we can go another day.

So, the debate was between SF and Pescadero. The last few times we went to both locations when predications were high, we got skunked. After a lot of back & forth, we decided to head to Pescadero. Even though the forecaster’s note said north is preferred, we thought Pescadero is north enough and we’ll see a good burn. All I got the last 2 or 3 trips to Pescadero were yellow skies. I hoped and wished for a colorful Sunset.

Now that we decided on going to Pescadero, the question was where specifically in Pescadero. We had multiple options – Piegon Point, Bean Hollow Beach, and Pescadero State Beach. Since all 3 locations were within 10 minutes of each other, we decided to start at Bean Hollow and decided where to go. Since we got skunked the last few times, both of us were skeptical as to whether or not it’ll be a good show.

I headed to my friends place as the plan was for me to park my car there and go with him to Pescadero. I got caught in some heavy traffic on Highway 17 but it was expected. I got to my friends place as planned and we hit the road right away. Since we had plenty of time for Sunset, we decided to check out Greyhound Rock Beach on the way.

The hike down to Grey Hound Beach wasn’t too bad. It took us about 10 minutes to get down to the beach. It was super windy. There was hardly anyone in the beach. We knew that the time was not right to get any good shots as the Sun was pretty harsh. But this was more of a scouting detour than anything else. With so much wind, it was hard to even keep our eyes open; sand was flying everywhere. We walked around a bit and experimented with a few shots. After about 20 minutes on the beach we decided to head back. Obviously, the hike up was a bit more difficult but it wasn’t bad at all.

From Grey Hound Rock Beach, we headed straight to Bean Hollow Beach. We pulled into a beach where we saw signs for Bean Hollow. But that turned out to be the first entrance. We wanted to go to the second one. After a few experimental shots, we drove to the 2nd location. The beach was filled with rocks. Not really big sea stacks but lot of rocks with interesting texture. Bean Hollow is a very unique beach; I can’t quite explain what I saw. Many of the rocks had holes in them and the holes were filled with pebbles.

With some difficulty, we got down to a place where we thought will be good to setup our tripods. It was high tide and the waves started getting bigger by the minute. We spent about 20 to 25 minutes there trying different shots. We started seeing colors pop in the sky. We had a feeling the clouds were going to light up. The question now was to decide whether to stay where we were or to head to Pigeon Point. Honestly, I didn’t like the comp at Bean Hollow. There’s so many rocks, it’s hard to isolate anything. If we spent enough time there, I am sure we would have come up with some good comp. But, both of us agreed that we should head to Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

The drive took less than 10 minutes. We first went to the location that we usually shoot from, which is about a mile or so south of the Lighthouse. When we got there, we realized that the Sun and all the colors that were happening would not be in our frame at all due to the angle. Here came another question. Should we stay and try our luck or head to the Lighthouse and shoot from there. We decided to head to the Lighthouse.

As soon as we parked the car, we took our gear and ran to one corner of the Lighthouse property where we thought would be a good spot to capture most of the burn. Oh yeah, the burn already started and it was simply superb. It was one of the best Sunsets that I’ve seen and definitely THE best Sunset from Pigeon Point. When we got to the spot, I saw a young guy with his parents. I assume he was one of the guys from my Escaype group but I didn’t want to start a conversation. I started firing away.

Moving a few feet, I realized that the Sun was going behind one of the hostel buildings and I decided to go for the starburst. Unfortunately, there was so much dust and moisture on my lens that I kept getting halos. I did get starburst but not a clean one. I decided to switch my lens and give it a shot but by that time, the Sun went behind the building.

I knew I can add the starburst in post processing. It may not look ‘real’ to some trained eyes but I decided to give it a shot. I went through my normal workflow in Lightroom and then took the photo to Photoshop to add the star as well as clean up the photo. I posted the photo in my Escaype group and got some good feedback, which I incorporated.

After posting the shot, I now realize that the star wasn’t needed after all. The photo by itself would have still been spectacular. Lesson learned! I probably won’t add starburst in post anymore.

The Vast & Awesome Universe!

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthosue, Pescadero
Time: Wee Hours of the Morning
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 | 17mm | f/2.8 | 13s | ISO 4000

My third Milky Way outing this season. The first one was a complete bust; weather did not cooperate at all. I was told that even though there are patchy clouds, it could be ‘avoided’. So, we gambled and went to Shark Fin Cove. The patchy cloud completely covered the MW. We drove up north for more than 10 miles but we couldn’t see the MW at all.

The second attempt was good. Even though I didn’t get any good shots at Shark Fin, the Davenport ones turned out really well. One of my first successful Milky Way shots. I was hooked. I wanted to get as many Milky Way shots as possible this season. I wanted to go out any chance I got. The chance came along last week. Initially, I was planning to go Sunday morning. A bunch of guys from the Photography group wanted to join as well.

Somehow, we decided to go Saturday morning instead of Sunday. We decided to check out Pigeon Point Lighthouse as we have seen some great MW shots from there. One of the guys was supposed to pick me up around 2:15 in the morning. When I wake up at 2, there’s a message from him that another person that I haven’t seen in a while is joining as well. They both picked me up 2:15 and we headed to Pigeon Point. A couple of others were planning to carpool and come directly to Pigeon Point.

Unfortunately, one of my friends slept through his alarm which required my other friend to drive alone to Pigeon Point. When we got there we realized a couple of things: 1) MW does not align well with the Lighthouse and 2) fog was rolling in. We realized fog wasn’t going to be a problem as it was not thick nor persistent. It rolled off as fast as it rolled in. The real problem was alignment.

So, we walked around the Lighthouse to see if we could somehow lineup the MW with the Lighthouse. We even walked outside the Lighthouse compound but nothing seemed to work. We even tried shooting the MW with a dead tree that’s in the Lighthouse compound to at least get the MW. The only other option we had was to stand close to the hostel and shoot the MW from the side of the Lighthouse. My 17mm on a crop sensor wasn’t wide enough. But I started shooting and some of the shots in the LCD looked ok. I wasn’t super thrilled with the comp but I wanted to at least get some shots.

I learned about stacking MW shots to reduce noise. So, I took several shots without changing anything. I have tried to blend in PS but it doesn’t seem to work. I am not sure if I didn’t take the shots right or if my blending is not right. Either way, something for me to learn.

As for this shot, it’s a single shot at f/2.8, 13s, and 4000 iso. I hate the noise in this image but this is the best I can do. I definitely need a FF camera to shoot MW; my crop sensor doesn’t cut it. I tried my best to reduce noise but there still is significant amount of noise. Sowmya did a great job with the fences. Yeah, there was ugly fence all around the Lighthouse and Sowmya did her magic and completely removed it.

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.