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Light Source - Pigeon Point Lighthouse, San Mateo County, California

Portfolio & Services


The Shot

The lighthouse at Pigeon Point is one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States at 115 feet tall and is approximately 50 miles south of San Francisco along a rugged stretch of coast in San Mateo County. Saturday night was the 138th anniversary lighting of its first-order Fresnel lens which is comprised of 1,008 prisms. This lens is massive, standing 16 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter while weighing 8,000 lbs.


Last year, due to budget cuts to California's State Park system and insufficient funding from donations, the lighthouse lighting did not occur in 2009. I almost missed this year's event, but several fellow photographers made sure I didn't. Ultimately, I headed up for the event with none other than JaveFoto, Diego Tabango, Joshua Cripps, and the lovely Miss Kendra Karr. While there we ran into none other than Miles Morgan from the PNW. I made sure to sabotage his camera so we'll see if he ever posts any images from this night. ;) Many other flickr folk were there I'm sure, some of whom I met. In fact hundreds of photographers from all over attend this unique event. As Aaron Reed would probably say, "this is the largest frame bang along the California coast!". Indeed it was!


The Gear

Nikon D300

Nikkor 12-24mm @ 15mm

30 sec @ f5.6, ISO 800

Markins M20 ballhead, Really Right Stuff clamps & plates

Gitzo GT3531 carbon fiber tripod


Software & Editing

RAW file imported with ACR as 16-bit file: main adjustments included clarity and recovery increase. The RAW file was processed 3 times total for multiple distortion problems then layered, and blended together. Being close to architecture like this and shooting with a wide angle zoom lens creates all sorts of wonky distortion. I spent a lot of time correcting it.

In Photoshop CS5, layers included noise reduction, a Basic Mid-Tones luminosity mask for contrast, a Vibrance mask to increase saturation, a Saturation mask to reduce saturation (great tools by Tony Kuyper), and some color balance for some harsh green light in the doorway. Dodging through a Burn/Dodge layer with a Light Lights luminosity mask to enhance the beams a little more. I did extensive cloning for the "artistic" sake of removing the ugly chain link fence at the bottom of the image. I chose aesthetics over 100% reality. Nik Sharpener Pro with Local Contrast only as a layer with selective masking to define stars and beams more. Another Nik Sharpener Pro layer mask to selectively sharpen parts of the lighthouse only. Resize for web with custom action to downscale, sharpen, downscale again, convert to sRGB, reduce to 8-bit, and embed basic file info (my copyright, name, web, email, etc).

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Taken on November 13, 2010