Neverland Sunset

Posted by Don Smith (California, United States) on 22 July 2009 in Landscape & Rural.

Recently my wife and I were visiting the Santa Barbara area and took a side trip to the Danish (tourist) community of Solvang. After an early dinner, Beri asked if we could take a drive to Los Olivos to look for Midland School (where her sister attended boarding school many years ago). We were also enjoying the early evening light on the landscape and were keeping our collective eyes open for a potential location to shoot a sunset.

To our amazement, we found not only the school, but directly across the road, the entrance to Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch! There were only a handful of cars and some security, but other than that, it was rather quiet. I walked to the entrance gates which were surrounded by flowers, wreaths, posters, pictures, and personalized notes. It was more interesting for me to see where someone of MJ's means would choose to live. This area looked very similar to the area just east of my home (a 3 hour drive to the north), but then many of the rural coastal valleys in California look this way. There were lots of rolling hills, oaks, and a semi-arid climate. It was quiet and somewhat isolated, but I felt rather out of place for the "king of pop," and perhaps more suited for a country-western star.

We decided to drive further along Figueroa Mountain Road as it began to climb up out of the valley. About 5 miles later, we pulled over at a flat parking area and were afforded this view. There was a marine layer sitting over the Pacific Ocean, so I simply waited for the sun to slip into the fog, and shot a sequence of 7 images bracketed at 1-stop shutter intervals. The images were later combined in Photomatix Pro v3.2 software (version 3.2 has just come out of beta, and in my opinion, has been vastly improved, especially in the highlight areas and in how the program handled the gradations of tones from highlight to shadow). It was with situations such as this that I had problems getting good results in the past, but more testing will be needed. If you would like to purchase this software and receive a 15% discount, please click the link below and enter my code at checkout.

I can't tell you definitively where the mansion is located, but a good bet is to draw a diagonal line from the sun to the top of the left foreground trees, and about the midway point of the ridgeline (between to two ridges) would be relatively close. I really liked the image and was hoping for some mystical apparition of the pop icon to show itself - but no such luck. Perhaps some of you can spot something - let me know!

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
F/16.0
ISO 100
80 mm

neverland
ranch
michael
jackson
sunset

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