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Winter Sunset at Sobranes Point, Big Sur

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 2 January 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
Kauai, Hawaii Photo Workshop - July 12-16, 2010 (space available)
Big Sur Photo Workshop Summer August, 2010 (Exciting details TBA soon)!
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 2010 (Details to be released soon)
New Article on my Website: Night Photography

Books Available for Purchase on my Website:
The Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)

Often times when I arrive on a scene, I am immediately taken by its beauty. But when I return to a familiar location, such as Sobranes Point along the Big Sur coast, even a beautiful scene can look ordinary to my eye because I have captured it before.

So how do we take something familiar and elevate it to something special? For me, it is a matter of listing in my mind the elements of the scene that are grabbing my attention. For this image, first and foremost, was the ruggedness of the location, and of course, the Sobranes Arch (which I have featured in other images). Also, there was the setting sun through some remaining storm clouds that served to warm the surrounding sky.

Yet, even after I composed the scene, I felt as if I was just reproducing what I had done before. I finally decided to sit down and calm my mind, empty it from all the technical left-brain thoughts about exposure, depth of field, composition, etc., and just allow my senses to dictate what was moving me.

Soon, a set of three swells delivered the message I was looking for. It was the painterly affect produced by the white-water waves. The solution became clear - I had to emphasize and demonstrate the power of these swells and see if I could reproduce this artistic brush-like quality I was experiencing. There really is no magic formula when it comes to photographing water, but I generally have good luck if I keep my shutter speed in a range of 1 second to 1/15th of a second. Anything shorter and the water begins to freeze; anything longer and the water turns to silk (not the affect I was looking for). I wanted the water to look as if someone had brushed some thick white paint.

It was just a matter of waiting for the next set of swells the appear, and begin my experimentation (thanks to my LCD I could see instantly what shutter speed worked best). For this image, I settled on 1 second just before another set of swells rapidly began pounding the shoreline. I also used a Singh-Ray 5-stop graduated neutral density filter to hold back the exposure on the sky, and I had my image!

The next time you are struggling with a scene, try slowing down and allow your surroundings to seep into your soul. Once the answer becomes clear, get back into your left brain and technically produce the result you are looking for.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1 second F/16.0 ISO 100 19 mm

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