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Trade Winds - Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Near Cancun) | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Trade Winds - Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Near Cancun)

The amazing quality of the light is what impressed me first when I witnessed this scene. It was so intense that I had to slightly desaturate the reddest part of the sky to retain detail! See the big version. No HDR!


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Settings etc.:



1/4-second exposure @F11

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm 0.9 + 0.6

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

Canon 5D

Canon 17-40L @ 18

ISO 50

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop


On this stretch of coastline on Isla Mujeres, the trade winds blow constantly, sending clouds and storms from Africa and keeping temperatures moderate. These rocks were under the sand until hurricane Wilma scored a direct hit on this area with wind gusts exceeding 200 mph. The newly exposed rocks were sharpened by the winds, so my legs got rather badly scratched up by the time I arrived at this spot. In this photo, a tropical

storm warning had just been issued and the winds were kicking up increasingly large surf, but the storm turned and headed out to sea later that day.


I used the light to show the reflectivity and color of the water. Also, the light filtering through the cloud deck shows its layers. A colorful sunrise is nice but this is more about the warm breeze blowing along the water and through the clouds. Fortunately the sky opened up for just a minute. Most of the time, it was either overcast or too bright. Good even filtered light is usually best when shooting towards the sun. Bright light and blues skies might be good for tourist brochures, but low warm light enhances the mood of an image.


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Taken on June 8, 2006