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Photon Worshippers **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space **

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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
All Rights Reserved.

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

Damon Vincent, Cheng2000, tricia <><, and 187 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 19 more comments

  1. michaelmill 71 months ago | reply

    A well deserved win, congrats! Wonderful shot!

  2. Gordan Postertime 71 months ago | reply

    Great Shot !!!
    Awesome !!!

  3.  Hubrouz 70 months ago | reply

    great capture !

  4. Karen Kaner Photography 70 months ago | reply

    Wow--Awesome images! Looks incredible, have to go see this sometime

  5. RichGreenePhotography.com 69 months ago | reply

    It looks so massive and ominous from the beach with all its distinctive markings, yet so tiny from your vantage point. I'd love to get up there during the prime sun time. This is a well deserving honor. You took the time to do the hard work no one else wanted to.

    Found in a search. (?)

  6. tanngrisnir3 67 months ago | reply

    Wow. Having grown up in/around Big Sur, and then having become a photographer much later in life, it strikes me that I've never thought just to walk up the slope just a touch to get that different perspective.

    Now that you've done it perfectly, I won't have to!

  7. HENRY1290 66 months ago | reply

    amazing shot.

  8. edhiker 64 months ago | reply

    Great, well timed picture. I've been there, but not at such an auspicious time.

  9. E.Mill 63 months ago | reply

    great job! so beautiful

  10. sunset_man 62 months ago | reply

    Gorgeous example of outside-the-box pov!

  11. Marc Briggs 61 months ago | reply

    Great perspective shot, Steven!

  12. Corinne Fudge Photography [deleted] 59 months ago | reply

    beyond fabulous..

  13. misterken 58 months ago | reply

    absolutely outstanding!

  14. shauradip 55 months ago | reply

    wow! this is stunning!

  15. Neticola 53 months ago | reply

    Very nice work, very well deserved. ah! Congratulations with Explore!

    Via the past week's most Interesting uploads at #23 on Fluidr

  16. StephAnna :-) 37 months ago | reply

    As one of the admins for Flickr’s 100 Best, I'd like to invite this superlative image to join the fun and compete for a place in our group pool. Please read the group’s rules and submit your photograph to challenge one of our Best100. Good luck with your challenge!

  17. Majorimi 15 months ago | reply

    Great picture!

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