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Rodeo Beach Reflections - Marin County, California | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Rodeo Beach Reflections - Marin County, California

What do you do when you forget your tripod? Read on!



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Settings etc.:



Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 17-40L @32

1/6-second exposure @F14

LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.75 (5 1/2 stops total)

Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring

No polarizer.

ISO 50

** A 3-foot long 2x4 as a monopod!

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop

Water shoes and shorts for the ineviable drenching






Last week, I headed out to have dinner with my mother in Marin County, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Of course I scheduled it for an hour after sunset so I could stop by Rodeo Beach for some shooting. It is perfect beach for me right now (with my injury) because it is very easy to get to. Just park and walk on the beach. But as I pulled into the parking lot I got this sinking feeling as I realized that I left my tripod in the other car.


Usually I have it in my backpack but I did not clean it so I left it in the car. The other

car! It is also a perfect beach because it has beautiful black-red sand and for a moment in between waves, it can glisten with the sunset.


The light was looking good and it is a 45 minute drive from my house, so rather than give up I decided to look around for something to use as a tripod, or a monopod. I had no rope to tie up the camera to a branch, so I looked around for a piece of driftwood. Fortunately I eventually found a nice 3-foot long (1m) 2x4. The standard size used in building houses.


It has a good straight flat edge, perfect for balancing a camera on the end. So I headed to the edge of the water, rolled up my pants and looked around for the place with the best glistening sand to use as a foregroujnd. As I was walking around, I ran into Jim Patterson again who was leading a workshop. His version (and dramatic novel) is here:


He thinks I should come out with a eco-friendly bamboo version, but I'm thinking of a wheat-based version (like those forks and spoons) that you can use and then just toss into the sea when you are finished!


We talked for a bit but he was working and had to get back to his group, so I dug my 2x4 into the sand and started to experiment with different ways to balance the camera on the wood, while making sure that the rather large waves did not knock me and the camera into the water. It was difficult to get it dug in between waves, set up the camera, and get the shot before the next wave would strike. Many attempts were blurry from a bit of motion but a few were sharp and crisp, just as it would have been with the tripod!


People were laughing (with me I'm sure..hehe..) for using the 2x4 but later someone on

Flickr (who will remain anonymous but there is a hint on page 2 of the comments..) realized it was me after I recognized his shot from this evening. He mentioned something to the effect of "Oh, YOU'RE the 2x4 guy! I was wondering if he managed to get a good shot!"


So now I guess I'm 'the 2x4 guy.' I'll have to change my Flickr Name!




The map shows exactly where this is.


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Google Earth


Simply the best way to scout out locations that there is. You can see sun angles and pre-visualize light under lots of different conditions. Sometimes you can actually pre-compose your shots! This has saved me many thousands of vertical feet of climbing by avoiding spots with blocked views etc.


Satellite imagery (choose 'National' for a local US region or use your fave website)


Tide charting and preditions: (chose your area in US, other countries have similar websites)

Wave Heights (I choose 'North Pacific from Global')

Or Here:


Photos of every inch of the California coastline from a small plane. Excellent for close in detailed views.


I get my cameras, filters, etc. here:






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Taken on January 23, 2010