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New Work: Crescent Bay Sunset

Sunset at Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, CASunset at Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, CA
Shen-Hao HZX 4x5-IIa with Nikkor SW 90mm f/4.5
Fuji Provia 100F, 30" at f/29 - 81C Warming Filter and 3-Stop Split ND
Click Image for Larger Version

Shooting large format at the beach is tough. The camera is slow, unwieldy, and once you lock down the shot, it's a royal pain to adjust anything. This makes using a tripod in the surf essentially impossible. As soon as the water rushes in around the legs, they start sinking, which messes up everything. Plus, it's not uncommon for exposures to be 10" or longer, which makes it really impossible to set up in sinking sand.

I tried to make some "snow shoes" for use at the beach to remedy this problem, but they don't work well enough. So instead, I either set up in the dry sand or if I want to be close to the water, I must find just the right cluster of rocks that will permit me to set up my tripod on them. And that's what I did here.

Shen-Hao HZX-45IIaFrom high up on my perch on some rocks at Crescent Beach in Laguna Beach, CA, I composed this image using my large format Shen-Hao HZX-45IIa 4x5 camera with a Nikkor SW 90mm f/4.5 lens.

On my way to the beach, I envisioned a photo of the Pacific Ocean smoothed out into a gentle fog with the water's surface and wet sand reflecting the vibrant colors of a fiery sunset. I wanted some dark, nearly black rocks in the foreground to break up the reflection and, luckily for me, the sand level was low at the beach that day and the perfect rocks were perfectly exposed in the perfect location under a stable platform for my tripod. And the sky was nice enough to serve up the colors that night.

I metered the scene using my handheld spot meter, calculating an exposure of 15 seconds at f/29 on Fuji Provia 100F film. A 3-stop split neutral density filter allowed me to hold color in the sky and water surface and an 81C warming filter brought out the warm tones of the sunset exactly as I hoped. The 30-second exposure smoothed out the water and the wet sand picked up the reflections just as I envisioned.

I also tilted the lens forward a little bit while keeping the film vertical. Sounds weird, but on this type of camera, I can tilt the lens and film independently of each other so that they are no longer parallel as on a standard SLR camera. Why would I want to do this? Well when you tilt the lens forward but leave the film plane vertical, you basically tilt the entire plane of focus forward so that it better aligns with the earth stretching out in front of me.

So if you imagine on a traditional SLR camera, the plane of focus is always parallel to the lens and camera back, like photographing a wall straight on. But when I tilt the lens forward on this camera, the plane of focus starts to "lay down" in front of me, like a wall tipping away from me. This gives me a huge depth of field so that everything is tack sharp from foreground to background. This phenomenon is called the Scheimpflug principle and is a very valuable tool for controlling depth of field.

It doesn't happen often, but I love when all the elements come together perfectly like they did on this evening.

Crystal Cove Sunset

Well, I've been delivering private photography lessons across Orange County like a madman the past couple weeks. This week is showing no signs of letting up either. It's good to be busy!

Sunset in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

For one of the private lessons last week, I took a student (Sheldon of www.aroundthebendphotos.com) down to Crystal Cove State Park to photograph the sunset. This was after a couple previous lessons in which we covered how to shoot in manual mode, how to use filters for landscape photography and more.

Thankfully, nature was kind enough to serve up a fantastic sky with just the right cloud cover to create some color in our sunset. It turned out to be a beautiful evening.

Sunset in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

Sunset in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

For more information on my private photography lessons in Orange County, click here. Or if you're outside Orange County, check out my online photography courses here.

Wood’s Cove Waves

Sunset at Wood's Cove in Laguna Beach, CA

We've been getting some decent skies here in Southern California lately. As I've said before, the transitions between summer to fall and winter to spring typically serve up the best skies around these parts. I was lucky enough to have some spare time last Friday to head down to the beach and get some photos.

I decided to switch things up a bit and try a beach I'd never photographed before. That's always a gamble because, being unfamiliar with the area, it can be hard to judge how crowded the beach will be, where exactly the sun will set in relation to the foreground subjects and whether or not the angle I want will be possible.

But the good news is that I'm a student of my own teachings...and I like to teach the importance of scouting a location beforehand in order to get comfortable with it before committing to a sunset. This reduces unknowns and misjudgments when it comes time to get down to business. Having scouted this beach several days earlier, I was pretty confident where to point my camera once the sun worked its magic.

I played a lot with a slow shutter speed on the waves to catch different patterns. All in all, I took about 2 dozen shots of this same exact composition. Each had a slightly or drastically different shape and texture to the waves. I thought I'd share 3 of them with you here. The pictures aren't hugely different since they are the same composition, but I think the different look of the waves create very different moods in each shot. I still can't make up my mind as to which one I like best.

 Sunset at Wood's Cove in Laguna Beach, CA

Sunset at Wood's Cove in Laguna Beach, CA