Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Chasing the Sun

Canon 6D with Rokinon 24mm, f-stop unknown but probably f/11

Pescadero State Beach
is a pretty little place, especially around sunset and when I made the switch from ASP-C to a full frame DSLR it was one of my first visits. The photo above is from that visit. The rest of the pictures below are from a more recent visit after nearly a year of practice. Hobbies are all about improving skills so when I compare old and new pictures from the same location I like to see a difference in quality.

If you enjoy sunsets and sunrises for photography or even just watching, a mobile app like The Photographer's Ephemeris can put you in the right place at the right time. This is a screen shot of Pescadero beach with a pin placed on what looks like a good place to stand. You can see the direction of sunset, denoted by an orange line pointing southwest (down and to the left) should be touching a rocky outcropping that's quite striking to see.

So finding myself with a free afternoon, I made a plan to be there for sunset with my trusty full frame Canon 6D and two lenses: a 17-40mm wide angle zoom for the sunset and a 70-200mm telephoto "just in case."

I arrived early so I could take a walk on the marsh first. It has some nice trails and lots of birds in the late afternoon sun. I enjoyed it a little too long, and by the time I got back to the beach the sun was starting to set. I was still a little ways from my spot near the rocky cliff but it looked so good I stopped and carefully changed to the 70-200mm tele for this shot, compressing the cliff and offshore rocks in front of the sun.
70mm f/13, 1/4sec at ISO 100
I walked to the rocky sea cliff I just photographed and though the "tunnel" to the other side, facing the ocean, for the wide angle shots I had planned. You can do this at low tide or if you don't mind getting your feet wet. A 6-stop ND filter lengthened exposure time to 5 seconds, and that's how you get that dreamy sea foam look. I pressed the tripod legs firmly into the wet sand hoping to prevent any sinking or movement as the waves came it. With the shutter open, an inch or two of water surrounded me and the tripod. I did not move.

5 second exposure at 26mm f/11

I got a little brave at one point and climbed up on that large rock to get even closer, timing the waves and carefully watching for rogues. This is not recommended. Didn't even get a better picture to show for my foolhardiness.

Trying to capture a constantly changing sunset makes you appreciate the rotation of the Earth. Hurrying to get in position as the light and colors changed really I felt like I was chasing the sun. After a few minutes the sun got away, dipping below the horizon and leaving this nice red reflection in the clouds and the sand.

15 seconds at f/8, the classic 35mm focal length

As the sun moves west so does the light, and day fades into twilight. Warm reds give way to cool blues and before long it was dark enough I didn't need the ND filter anymore.
1.6 seconds is slow enough for a sea foam effect, fast enough to catch a breaking wave
I wasn't the only one with this idea of a fun evening, either. Another person showed up with camera and tripod about the same time I did and we wound up chatting and shooting together for the most part. And so we go, until the colors fade, the show's over and it's time to go home.

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