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Grey Whale Cove Surf - San Mateo County, California | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Grey Whale Cove Surf - San Mateo County, California

Here is another view of Grey Whale cove at sunset during low tide at sunset. I was almost completely trapped in here but the granite is so beautiful that it is hard to resist. No HDR.


Free wallpaper for over 100 of my images in 6 different screen sizes is now available!


See the 1600 pixel version!!



Details about this image:



Canon 5D mark II

Canon 17-40L lens @19mm

1/4-sec. exposure @F10

ISO 100

ND Grads 0.9 + 0.9

No polarizer.

RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF file processed with Photoshop cs4

Small Slik Sprint mini II tripod

Manfrotto 322RC2 pistol-grip ball head



The Story



I made this photo just a few minutes before the last one I uploaded to my photostream. The colors in the high thin clouds were just starting to change. 5 minutes earlier there was no color but blue in the sky. 5 minutes later, the reds were so vivid that I had to desaturate the colors in Photoshop to get them under control!


This little area is only accessable during low tide and my back was right up against a big cliff. It is a little nervewracking being in here watching the next set of big waves moving in as you can see. This is a wide angle shot so the waves do not look too big, but about 20 seconds later, I was more than waist deep in the water and it stayed high for another 30 seconds. I had on swimming trunks so it was 'no big deal' and I just put my tripod over my head and waited. (For you tropical people out there, the air was warm but the water is cold (56f-13c) so many things were 'no big deal' if you know what I mean!) However, another photographer with a very big tripod had moved in next to me. I had not noticed him because I was concentrating on getting this tricky composition right. He had on long pants and tennis shoes and he got drenched! I felt bad that I did not warn him about the way the waves break here. A place can be dry for a few minutes and then. bam, it is submerged by 3 waves coming together at once. In most places, these sneaker waves happen every 30 minutes or so but for some reason they come every few minutes (every 15-30 wave cycles) here. It is like a normal set of bigger waves that you see on any beach combine and for a kind of surge. It is very odd. I warned a couple where were standing next to me just a few minutes earlier and they got out when the previous sneaker surge struck.


I got into this spot because I wanted to shoot the granite with the sun striking it as it can only do in the winter. It is almost like a magic cave or something. However, be very careful if you come here. It seemed like a harmless beautiful place, but the sea can 'reach out and touch you', if you know what I mean!


In the notes, I explain what I was doing with the composition. It was not easy to do.


The map shows the exact location.



Other stuff



My pictures are featured on the front page of the

state Government. of California website and the new Governor, Jerry Brown's website too. Have a look! It is Flash with my pics cut into layers for a 3-d slideshow. If you are into building apps, the State has opened up lots of data to the public, so check it out!






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.


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Taken on February 5, 2011