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Dawn Moonset, Garrapata Beach, Big Sur

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 11 April 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


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A full moon sets amongst partly cloudy skies as seen from the headlands above Garrapata State Beach in Big Sur. When possible, I like to plan my workshops around full moons, as having them in the sky at either sunrise/sunset times adds a touch of excitement to images. Because of the north/south alignment of the Big Sur coast and the close proximity of the Santa Lucia Mountains, moonsets generally work best (assuming the sky to the west is not blanketed with clouds).

During my spring workshop (which concluded last week), we had three mornings in a row to photograph a sky with a moonset. This image was made on the second morning as I took the group to the headlands above the beach as a starting point. There had been some storms rolling through that had created some rather large swells making access to the beach somewhat dangerous, so most of the group opted to photograph from the bluffs.

Spring wildflowers were in abundance and finding a colorful foreground was rather easy. I started with a wild lilac, then spotted these bright red flowers (which I still haven't identified) and moved in close with a wide angle lens (16-35 mmL set at 17 mm). I used a Singh-Ray, 3-stop, hard-edged graduated neutral density filter to knock down the exposure of the sky (which was beginning to warm as sunrise approached), then did a bit of burning and dodging in Photoshop to "smooth-out" the transition line.

Grad filters are great to use when photographing moving subjects (such as the Pacific Ocean) as trying to blend various exposures with this scene would have resulted in a strange-looking blend for the water - not impossible - but it would take a lot of work.

BTW - if there are any flower experts reading this, could you please let me know what type of flower/bush this is?

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 16/5 second F/14.0 ISO 200 17 mm

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