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Faultlines - Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, California | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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Faultlines - Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, California

The sun sets over the Pacific Ocean just north of San Francisco, illuminating ridges formed by the San Andreas fault, which slipped 16 feet at the surface in 1906. The japan quake moved the surface by 15-20ft in the tsunami area and 9 inches in Tokyo, with bigger slippage far offshore. This fault slipped right through the city in 1906! No HDR, though this high contrast situation is perfect for HDR.


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


I left the saturation slider on zero despite the vivid colors! I was tempted to desaturate but the greens did not look blown out so I left it alone.


See the 1400 pixel version!!






Canon 5D mark II

Canon 24-105L @ 58 with some cropped of the edges

Live preview

1/6-second exposure @F8

ISO 200

1 Lee soft grad filter (4x6 inch, 100x150mm, 0.9, 3-stop)

1 Singh-Ray 3-stop reverse ND grad filter (4x6 inch)

(Lee filters is having trouble with production,

so I also just got a regular 3-stop ND grad and it looks just like the Lee!)

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



Mt. Tamalpais is the ultimate place to watch the sun set over the Pacific. It is over 2,000 feet (700m) almost straight down to the shoreline and there is commonly low fog drifting though. The San Andreas fault (and erosion) have created lots of undulations and photo opps! It runs left to right just in front of the darker (forested) Bolinas Ridge in the distance and has rippled the surface on either side.


In the summer, there is fog that drifts under this location creating surreal scenes of impressive beauty. In about a month (by the end of May) the green grass dries up and turns a golden brown making this place look completely different. It will be brown until December. It can be very dangerous to shoot here in the summer because the dry grass becomes slippery and as you can see in the foreground, the slope is about 45 degrees with nothing to stop you from sliding 1000 feet into a gully or a tree at the bottom.


I will do this exact composition in the summer to shot how different it is.


The contrast was extreme on this evening so I had to be careful to get the grads into the right place to keep it looking natural. The sky turned an unusual color which I would not believe if I had not seen it myself. When shooting, look closely at the sky and then at your viewfinder to see how accurate the photo is to reality. Remember it so that you can accurately process it later.


In this case, the grass in the viewfinder after the shot had a bluish tint to it that I did not see with my eye, so I desaturated the blue channel in the grassy areas to get it back to a natural green color.


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!






A great weather mashup map of the world with local temperatures, weather and nice popups. See where it is hot and not!


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 April 27, 2011