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Clearing Storm at Garrapata State Park, Big Sur

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 25 October 2009 in Landscape & Rural.


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If one is to become serious about landscape photography, weather watching must become part of one's repertoire. A definite "green light" situation to take advantage of is a clearing storm (especially on the west coast). Even though the weather maps indicated this storm would be moving off the coastline by sunset, I nonetheless doubted myself as I departed my house in a pouring rainstorm!

However, conditions can and do change rapidly along the the central coast of California, and by the time I arrived in Carmel with friends Scott Schilling and Mike Hall, there was more blue sky than clouds. We decided to scout a new area along the northern end of the Garrapata State Park and came across these very calm tide pools. When I am scouting an area, I am looking for usable foreground, midground, and background elements, to help create depth in my image. I also try to work into the direction of the light and color. This location offered me a look towards the setting sun, and also a view south along the coastline if the clouds were to light-up in that direction. A quick check of the tide chart revealed the second low tide of the day would peak exactly 6 minutes prior to sunset at -0.5 feet thus easing my concerns that the pools would be disrupted by a rising tide. It was simply going to be a matter of finding the composition, then waiting for the much anticipated light.

About 15 minutes prior to sunset, the sky began to warm in color. I did not have my split neutral density filters with me (I seem to be forgetting them a lot lately), but I knew I could bracket my images by changing my shutter speed one stop per exposure, and later blend the images in post using layers and masks.

This image was my second to last sequence (5 bracketed frames) captured approximately 6 1/2 minutes prior to sunset. As it turned out, it was the sequence with the most color. By masking in each exposure, I was able to optimized the color even further, and with the help of Nik Viveza, I was able to enhance it a bit more. Is this cheating? I don't believe it is as this is meant to be a fine art image. I draw the line at adding elements into the frame that were not present (including color), but enhancing what Mother Nature provides is all part of my creation of art.

This topic comes up quite often in my workshops and I answer it faithfully. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/15 second F/16.0 ISO 200 29 mm

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