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Awesome Sunset

I figured out years ago that the most beautiful sunsets in Southern California happen during the season change from summer to fall - a nice relief from the drab sunsets of summer. Well, this year is no exception and we had a breathtaking sunset last Thursday that I was lucky enough to shoot.

The spot I chose in Crystal Cove State Park had wet sand so smooth and glassy it was practically a mirror for the sky. And since the sky was really what I wanted to capture, I figured these reflections would be a perfect way to double my subject for double the impact.

These first 2 compositions are practically the same, but I couldn't decide what I liked better: the untainted reflections dominating the foreground or the water line coming in from the left.

This sunset truly was stunning and the colors represented in the above pictures are very accurate. It was actually that colorful.

After the color faded, I got this shot of an interesting little rock formation in the surf. I heightened the blue colors with a false white balance to help add to the cool and empty feeling. I really like the calmness in this shot.

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!