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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 20

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 20 - Rocks on Ilford Delta 100 filmWave-Polished Rock - San Onofre State Park, CA
Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:45pm
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For Day 20 of my Photo a Day Challenge, I had plans to go out shooting with a photographer friend of mine at sunset. Finally, I'd get to take some photos outside of Irvine! The original plan was to visit a pier in Oceanside, but we quickly realized our mistake in timing once we arrived. On account of the Labor Day weekend, the beach, streets, and pier were packed with beach goers - way too crowded for the type of photographs we were after. Plus, we looked ridiculously out of place with our big backpacks full of gear and tripods slung over our shoulders.

So scrapping Plan A, we ventured back to familiar territory at San Onofre State Beach. The nice thing about San Onofre is that it's pretty much empty year-round. The rock-lined beaches aren't ideal for sunbathing but they make for great photography. This was one of the few nights where I broke my rule of "only shoot black and white film" during this challenge. I finished off one roll of color film at sunset, but I'm still deciding whether or not I like the results.

Before the sunset, though, I exposed a roll of black and white Ilford Delta 100 film in 6x17 format. My subject of choice was the rocks at my feet. Polished and smoothed by the constant pounding of waves, the mosaic of stones creates some gorgeous textures and tones. With my Nikkor M 300mm f/9, I framed up a shot towards the wet rocks below. I chose the wet rocks over the dry rocks because I knew the reflections created by the wet surfaces would add even more interest in B&W. The contrast was very low here on account of the soft-ish light and the fact that the rocks didn't vary widely in tonality. So to help introduce some contrast and, thus, enhance the varying tonalities and textures, I utilized N+2 developing which is a technique wherein I underexpose the film a bit to darken the shadows and then develop the film longer than normal to lighten the highlights. I was pleased to see this technique worked perfectly here. My exposure was 1 second at f/64.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

New Landscape Photography: San Onofre Beach at Sunset


Sunset at San Onofre Beach

Sunset at San Onofre Beach
4" at f/25, Fuji Velvia 50, Lee 3-stop grad ND + Lee 1-stop grad ND
Click Image for Larger View

Last month a friend of mine and I went for a sunset shoot at San Onofre Beach in Southern CA. I'm generally a "lone wolf" when it comes to doing landscape photography because I enjoy the solitude, but Eric and I are very much simpatico when it comes to style, methodology, and philosophy (check out Eric Bryan's amazing photography at ericbryan.net).

San Onofre Beach is unlike any other in Southern California. You won't find long stretches of white sandy beaches here. Much of the beach is riddled with smooth, round boulders the size of...uh, I dunno, like a volleyball but a little smaller. I clearly know nothing about sports...

But anyway, this beach is gorgeous and generally empty. Not exactly easy to navigate this rocky shore, but the views are unbeatable. And looking inland, the shore is flanked by some stately red-sand cliffs that are quite breathtaking under sunset light.

On this shoot, I opted for the wide 6x17 format using Fuji Velvia 50 film. Now I gotta be honest...the photos are a little too dark for my liking. It's partly that I just overestimated how dark I wanted it to be, but here's the thing about Velvia 50 film: it's rated at ISO 50, but it really isn't 50. Based on my experiments and analyzation, I need to rate it more like ISO 33 or 25 in order to get accurate metering. I did ISO 33 here. I should have done 25.

And here's the other thing: my Nikkor SW 90mm f/4.5 lens exhibits some serious light falloff at the edges. Every wide angle lens on 6x17 format does. And I didn't have a center ND filter for this evening's shoot. That meant the edges came out much darker than I anticipated. The center of the frame looks spot on in regards to exposure, but the edges came out too dark. And since Velvia 50 is so contrasty, that 1 to 1-1/3 stops of light falloff at the edges looks major.

Sunset at San Onofre Beach

Post-Sunset at San Onofre Beach
20" at f/22, Fuji Velvia 50, Lee 3-stop grad ND
Click Image for Larger View

I overestimated on my metering, I used a little too much split ND, I should have rated the film at ISO 25, I needed a center ND filter. Excuses excuses. Oh well. I'll do better next time. And I just picked myself up a sweet center ND filter off eBay to remedy the light falloff issue. It was a steal at $275. Center ND filters are ridiculously expensive. They usually run about $400-$500 used.

The composition could use some improvement, too. But it's time to stop flogging myself. The photos are actually pretty solid. I'm happy with them. It's just that inner photography teacher coming out of me.

The shot at top was made right as the sun dipped to the horizon. The second image was a little after sunset. Please click the images for larger views. These images are pointless unless you can see all the details.