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Nature's Art, Kelp and Dusk Sky, Big Sur Coast

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 16 December 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011
(Workshop Sold Out)
Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (space available)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 5 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 4 spots remaining).
New Articles on my Website: Combining Beauty With Beauty - Photographing An Athlete In Big Sur With The Help Of Smart Flashes And Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 Remotes and Behind the Scenes at NHL and NBA Media Days

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If one is seeking fiery sunset skies along the Big Sur coast, now is the time. The cooler temperatures bode well to keep the persistent warmer-temperature fog from taking hold. Such was the case recently at Pfeiffer Beach. Mike Hall and I were on our way towards the southern portion of this idyllic coastline when I received a call from another professional photographer friend, Fred Mertz. He was driving towards Pfeiffer Beach in search of the magical shaft of light that appears through the two arches at this time of year. The day was offering such perfect conditions - clear skies and a low tide - that Mike and I decided to make Pfeiffer our sunset location also.

I had photographed both arches ad nauseam over the past six years but nonetheless experimented with some brackets for a potential HDR. As soon as the sun set, I made a quick exit to the right of the main arch as I kept my eye on this saturated shoreline and hoped that the reflected light would make for an interesting image.

To say the least, the dusk color was what one generally sees in the mountains. Not wanting to waste this gift opportunity I frantically searched out something that I could use as a foreground element. Fortunately this lone strand of kelp caught my eye and it was simply a matter of positioning and timing. Occasionally a larger wave would wash over the kelp and redeposit it to another location.

For this particular image, I did use a combination of a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard and 2-stop soft graduated neutral density filters to allow enough exposure on the kelp against the vibrant sky. By combining hard and soft-edge grads I was able to allow for a gradual transition from sky to foreground. I sharpened just the kelp by using the color range option found in Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0. This is my go-to software for all my sharpening needs.

As incredible as this sky was, I really feel it would have been a waste to simply have photographed the color. By incorporating a foreground element into the image takes the scene to the next level and adds a sense of scale and depth. Foreground elements can be simple in nature (such as this piece of kelp) and should be a natural part of the surroundings. The only other thing I did was to lower my positioning to the kelp. Yes I did get wet from the waves rolling in but the resulting image was more than worth my cold feet.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 4 seconds F/20.0 ISO 100 21 mm

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