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Sunset at Mendocino Headlands

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 16 June 2008 in Landscape & Rural.

This is one of those images that I envisioned in my mind's eye an hour before I made it. I had scouted this location earlier in the day and spotted these wildflowers (actually my friend did) in various stages of bloom (if anyone can help me identify these wildflowers I would appreciate it). I was not quite sure where the sun would be setting but knew it would be in some general line to the flowers. The wind had been gusting at over 30 miles-per-hour earlier in the day and had calmed to perhaps 15-20mph by sunset. I had not only the wind to deal with but because of the vertical framing, I needed as much depth-of-field as I could get. Knowing the illumination would be low at sunset, I opted to shoot two separate frames and combine them later in Photoshop. The first was shot 12 minutes prior to sunset at f/13 at 1/200th of a second at 1600 ISO with my Canon 1DsMKIII. I had to shade the top of the frame with my hand to eliminate flare, thus I had a silhoutte of my hand in the top 1/3 of the frame. The key concern with this frame was to get the proper depth-of-field for the flowers and to freeze them with the strong wind. The second shot was captured as the sun kissed the headlands using a combination of a +3 and +5 Singh Ray split neutral density filters stacked (and handheld) at f/5. At the time I was trying to pull the shot off in one frame (nearly impossible as I look back now), but the lack of depth-of-field yielded too much softness in the flowers. I combined the two images using 4 separate blends with masks in Photoshop to produce my original vision. I ran the finished image through Noise Ninja software, though there wasn't that much noise to filter. Canon's latest line of comaeras have a custom function which allows you to filter high ISO noise in-camera. For it to work in post processing, you must use their software. To see more of my landscape images and to learn how you can join me at a Mendocino woekshop next June, please visit my website at

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/320 second F/5.0 ISO 1600 31 mm

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