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Shores of Time - Big Sur, California | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Shores of Time - Big Sur, California

Last weekend, I saw this at Garrapata State Park in Big Sur, Central California. This timeless place was begging for the long exposure treatment. No HDR!


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Settings etc.:



Canon 5D Mk II

Canon 17-40L @22

60-second exposure @F11

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.75

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

ISO 50

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop

Low Tide at sunset.


This little cove is one of many dozens of lesser-known and hard to reach places along the Bug Sur coast. It is heavily guarded by steep cliffs, and lots of poison oak, which produces a bad skin rash to those that are allergic to the oils in the leaves and stems. So I make sure to wash off with lots of soap and water when I get back. Especially since I wear shorts and water shoes and the leaves can directly touch the skin. Still it is well worth the dangers to get here.


For me, long exposures work best when you have visually striking features that you wish to isolate and show off. So when I saw these colorful boulders and how they contrast with the sand and the different rock behind them, I knew to wait for the light to drop off so I could do a long exposure. The trick is to wait for a time when the water level is just high enough for the water to be between the rocks but not be completely covering them for very long. If the water is over the rocks for more than 10 second in a 60-second exposure the rocks get too soft. Also, I wait for periods in between big sets of waves. Smoother water (compared to 10 ft. waves) look better on long exposures.


So, even on a 1+ minute exposure, timing is still important. Also, wait for the clouds to be streaking across the sky for that surreal effect.


The map shows EXACTLY where this is. If you go there, DO NOT take the direct route from the road unless you like to bushwhack through poison oak! Park in the turnout to the north and scramble down the cliffs there and head south. Sometimes there are people fishing there.


Also, there are many other dramatic compositions here, but the light was not right for them on this evening. I'll just have to return!


See my thoughts on the new Canon 5D mk II here:


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Taken on March 14, 2009