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Photon Worshippers  **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space ** | by Steven Christenson
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Photon Worshippers **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space **

For more information, see my Blog.


A few weeks out of the year the setting sun is in the correct position to shine directly through this portal in a large rock formation at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California. It has become very popular with photographers - but not many are brave enough (foolish enough?) to climb the tall cliffs behind the formation to see this marvelous sight. The opportunity occurs when the sun approaches it's southern most point for the year and the weather also cooperates.


In the large image a serendipitous lens flare lies right over the opening of the Pfeiffer Portal. It was NOT surprising to find 25 photographers here (18 visible in this picture)... it's a popular place. So I went for a different shot. I considered NOT exhibiting this image since I'm sure someone will copy it. There are safe ways to get to this location - but starting from the beach is NOT one of them. Please don't try that!


Also serendipitously, the red in the cliffs in front of me really lit up in the setting sun. I didn't crank up the saturation - it just worked out this way. Now that I've been back I understand how the illuminated rusty orange cliffs became so intensely colored. The glowing cliff is not lit by direct sunlight - you are seeing the shadowed side - but by sunlight reflected from the portion of the cliff below where this image is. Take yellow/orange light from the setting sun bounce it off a rusty colored cliff and illuminate another rust looking surface and that is what you get.


Looks much better larger. You might also want a closer look at the Solar Keyhole or a close up shot of the enormous rock. Heck, you might also be interested in seeing one of the three star trails: west view, low west view, or view to the south from this location on the same night. Or maybe just a single night shot or a shot with this rock and the moon.


By the way, I completely forgot to photograph the purple sand that can be found here. Yep, purple! You can see it in the bottom foreground behind all of the onlookers.


07/20/2010: This image was short listed by the Royal Observatory for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Crossing my fingers, hoping to win!


09/02/2010: This image was featured in the UK Times article about the Astronomy Photographer of the Year.


09/09/2010: This image won in the category "People and Space" in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 competition. A team from Buzz Films, Ltd. put together an interview with me that you might find interesting.


11/29/2010: This image and an interview of me was shown on ABC7, San Francisco, California.

05/18/2011: KQED featured me on a segment of QUEST (Your Photos on Quest)


About this image: This is an HDR image - that is, it is a composite of 3 separate photos taken at different settings. One specifically for the sky/sun. One for the middle ground, and one for the foreground. The range of f/stops was about 7. Images were combined in Photoshop using HDR Techniques described in The Photoshop Darkroom book by Harold Davis


© Copyright 2009, Steven Christenson

Most Rights Reserved. Non Commercial Use permitted.


NOTE: These photos were taken at an event of the Night Photography group.

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Taken on December 23, 2009