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.

Standing Strong!

Location: Sierra Open Preserve, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/8 | 1/1250s | ISO 100

I have lived in the Bay Area for long time and this place is well within striking distance from home. It’ll probably take just 45 minutes to get up the winding roads to the top of the hill. Even though this place is so close, I haven’t really explored it. Definitely not for Photography. I have been there once or twice with friends before but those are what I call ‘drive-by’s. We basically drove up there, saw the city lights, spent a few minutes and drove back.

I’ve been thinking about going here during Sunrise or Sunset for a Photo Shoot; or, just to hike. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do it until recently. When Escaype forecasted high potential for inland areas, the usual back & forth started as to where we should go for Sunset. A friend and I were supposed to go to Sierra the previous day but because the forecast changed last minute, we decided to skip.

I checked on the Escaype forum and Sierra Open Preserve came up as a very good option for Sunset. So, we decided to check it out. My friend came to pick me up and we headed to Sierra. Another friend wanted to join as well so we went to his place and picked him up. The drive to the Open Preserve was smooth. When we got there, we had an hour or so before Sunset so we decided to explore one of the trails.

As we were walking the trail, all of us are thinking about comp ideas. We decided to go to one of the high spots so we can get a panoramic view. The view from the top was simply spectacular. On one side, we have the busy Silicon Valley buzzing and on the other side, the calm & serene rolling green hills. I took some shots trying to see what will work for Sunset. I took a couple of panoramic shots of the rolling green hills.

We all saw this lone tree, which was on the hill that we were standing but not on the top of the hill. So, I hiked down to see if I can get to the other side of the tree and use that as foreground during Sunset. As soon as I got there, I realized that’s not gonna work as the Sun was already going behind the hill. I decided to materialize the setting Sun and moved around to get a sunstar. It wasn’t easy but I got lucky. I was able to get a good Starburst and keep the image sharp.

 

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.

Golden Twinkle!

Location: Fort Baker, Saulsalito
Time: Twilight
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/11 | 30s | ISO 400

This was shot the same day as my shot from Fort Point (The Reflecting Tower!). As I mentioned in that post, while we got to Fort Point, there were no clouds behind Golden Gate Bridge. After waiting for a few minutes, we realized that clouds were moving in. So we hung around trying different compositions. what we realized was that clouds started clearing. We then debated for a few minutes as to whether we should stick around at Fort Point or if we should head over to the other side of the Bridge to Fort Baker. We were going back & forth. We finally decided that we’ll try our luck at Fort Baker.

We were driving to Fort Baker and a thought came as to whether we should check out Hawk Hill. We decided to stick to our plan and head to Fort Baker. When we got to Fort Baker, we did see a lot of clouds. So we were hopeful that it was going to be a great show in terms of the clouds getting lit up with beautiful colors.

We looked around to see where to setup our tripod and decided that setting it up at the edge of the pier would be the best bet. We were taking shot after shot while hoping for the colors to show up anytime now. Unfortunately, it never happened. Even though Escaype predicted that it would be good, it ended up being a bust. I still got some very good shots during the Sunset time frame that I’ll post soon.

After the lights came on, I decided to try a different vantage point. So, I moved to this location and started experimenting. My goal was to get a good starburst of the Golden Gate lights. It took a couple of failed attempts. I kept changing my settings to get the right exposure. I didn’t have my remote trigger so I wasn’t able to use Bulb mode. I had to stay within 30 seconds exposure so I bumped my ISO to 400. At f/11, I was surprised to see how well the starbursts came out.

Week 10 – Movement

The goal for Week 10 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Movement. Photography, is a all about capturing a moment, which essentially means you are stopping motion and freezing the frame. Even though we freeze the frame with our photos, we have multiple options when doing this. We can freeze a fast moving race car with a 1/1000 of a second or higher. Alternatively, we can keep our shutter open long (or even ultra-long) to let in more light; say to capture the night sky.

When talking about movement in Photography, there are multiple ways to do it – fast shutter speed, slow shutter speed, panning, motion blur, lens blur, etc. Shutter Speed is what determines how you capture the movement of your scene.

I love long-exposure shots. Every time I am near a waterbody, I try to show movement by going with long-exposure as I like the smooth water rather than fast shutter speed. Somehow, the though of elongated time makes the scene look ethereal.

For this challenge, I didn’t want to do a long exposure. Definitely, not an ultra-long exposure. I have seen some photos online where the waves are frozen. Not a fast shutter speed nor a very slow shutter speed. Something that just freezes the wave in the air. When I was in Garrapata State Park, I tried to do this. After a few failed attempts, I got a shot where I froze the wave crashing the sea stack. Since I was shooting at f/22, I was able to capture a starburst of the setting Sun as well.

I thought this was a good example of capturing movement.

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.

Glorious Morning!

Location: Capitola Wharf
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/11 | 122s | ISO 100

One of the first Photo trips of 2017. I woke up pretty early in the morning (around 5:00 AM) to get to Capitola for Sunrise. One of my Photography buddies wanted to carpool so he came around 5:30 and we hit the road right away. We had good conversation on the way to Capitola. Another Photography buddy was planning to meet us on location.

We weren’t sure how the weather was going to turn out. Obviously, we were hoping it would be good. We did hear from sources with ‘knowledge’ of the weather that it might be a good show. This was my 2nd trip to Capitola. The first time around was during the Christmas break. I made the trip alone. The weather was ‘ok’ that day. It was extremely cold and for a period of time, I was the only person on the beach. It was a good shoot. I came back with some good shots.

When we got there, it was pretty dark. We were a bit early. The other friend wasn’t going to show up for another 10 to 15 minutes. So, the two of us decided to go down to the beach. While waking on the stairs to the beach, we saw a spot half way down that we thought would make a good spot to setup our tripods and get a shot. We wanted to get the Capitola Wharf from a higher vantage point.

This is one of the first shots that I took that morning. It was still dark but I could see beautiful colors in the horizon. I decided to go with a ultra-long exposure (around 2 minutes) to capture all the light.

We spent some time shooting from this high vantage point and then I decided to head out to the beach. I moved around and used the Wharf as the main subject and shot from all angles. When I came to this location end of last year, there were lot of driftwood on the beach. I was able to use the driftwood as foreground elements. There weren’t any this time around.

Once back home, the processing was rather straight-forward. Didn’t have to do a whole lot to enhance the colors in this photo. I did my basic Lightroom processing and then took it over to Photoshop to do some cleanup.

A spectacular Sunrise! Enjoyed it quite a bit.