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Great Laguna Beach Sunset

Last night was one hell of a sunset here in So Cal. Luckily, I was scheduled to take a student to Laguna Beach for a lesson/shoot. We picked a beautiful beach just below the Montage Resort where it was low tide and plenty of rocks abound for good foregrounds. It had been a really long time since I've visited this beach for some photos, and when I returned, I kind of remembered why it had been so long.

Although this area at low tide is really interesting, it is a little bit tougher to get a good shot than in some of the other places I've visited. It's actually quite deceiving because the rocks look great, the tide pools look great, the reflections look great, but the problem is just how dark the rocks are and how little variation in color there is. The rocks are really dark brown and the sea life covering it is really dark green. As a result, the subtle textures and colors can be difficult for your camera to capture. Without some practice, careful composition and spot-on exposure, the details get lost and the foreground ends up looking like just a big, boring mass of ugly rock.

Thankfully, that stunning sunset made for some great reflections.

Horseshoe Bend

Well, I just got back from a vacation/photo trip to Lake Powell and Page, AZ with my beautiful girlfriend. It was a blast and, I'm not going to lie, I wish we were still there. But life and business must go on - as much as I'd like to go on vacation for a living.

On the day we arrived, there was a gorgeous double rainbow over the lake. It was so intense, all the way. I snapped some casual shots of it from the balcony of our hotel room. What a great way to start the trip...

Most of the trip was relaxation, jet skis, swimming and food, but I did manage to get out at sunset to Horseshoe Bend for some pictures. Fortunately, I picked the best sunset of the whole trip to get out there, so the clouds and light were fantastic. Lightning was flashing off in the distance on 3 sides of us, the clouds were dramatic, the hike was gorgeous and the company was even better. The only thing from the shoot that was a little weird was the European tourist who asked me to put his memory card in my camera, take a picture and give it back to him so he could have a copy. I hesitated at first, but then I thought, "Eh, what's he going to do? If he finds out some way to sell it, I'll just ask him for tips." His gasp upon reviewing the shot was reward enough.

I was a little worried about shooting Horseshoe Bend because the absolute best shot (right down the center to highlight the curve and symmetry) has been done a thousand times before. I thought it'd be difficult to get a unique shot. I did my best to switch it up a bit, but the classic shot is still the best I think. Here are my results. This first one is my favorite - I just can't get enough of those clouds and their reflections in the Colorado River!

I wish I could say I planned this, but I was lucky to find out this time of year places the sun exactly down the center of frame when it sets. That nice little starburst at the perfect spot made the shot, in my opinion:

After shooting the hell out of Horseshoe Bend, I turned my camera the other way for a different landscape. I used a slow shutter speed to blur the the clouds just a bit in order to highlight their motion:

And lastly, I tried my best to capture the lightning, but man is that hard! I think I'm getting a little better at it, but I really only get one chance a year to attempt it. That makes the learning curve quite slow. Here's all I got (click for a larger version):

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed the shots!

Surprise Sunset at Crystal Cove

I went out to Crystal Cove on July 1st with a very talented student of mine for a lesson. The weather was overcast thanks to the typical marine layer we get here in June-July. I wasn't going to hold my breath for a great sunset, but then I saw a little break in the clouds above us. That break grew larger until the marine layer burned off to a perfect balance of clouds and sky, resulting in some seriously awesome colors as the sun dropped.

For this first picture (which was taken later in my set), I wanted to highlight the reflections of these beautiful clouds in the wet sand. My intention was simplicity - make the picture all about the clouds and water without any rocks to distract.

I'm a little bit obsessed with wet sand reflections. I try to capture them just about every time I go to the beach for a shoot.

These next pictures are from earlier in the evening. Both are the same composition, but I felt the different wave patterns created such vastly different emotional responses in each that it was worth sharing both.

I felt this first one communicated the power and movement of the waves. Looking at it, you can almost hear the roar of the water as it comes crashing towards you. Gives a feeling of chaos and excitement.

This next one, however, is much calmer. Although the waves are choppy, the lack of whitewater and more prominent reflections creates a more serene feeling for the viewer . Also, the lack of ground in this picture makes it seem like you are further out in the water - as if you are looking at this scene while floating calmly on a boat. Personally, this one is my favorite. I like the emotional response it elicits in me.

Thanks for stopping by!