August 2015 – Ocean’s Boundary
Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California
I had never been to the San Diego coast before. I was visiting a friend en route to a mission trip in Tijuana, Mexico, and since we both enjoy photography, he would take off work early so we could go on photo excursions together. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park was the first place we went, and I was amazed at type of scenery that could be so close to a city! Literally, there were roads and housing developments right up to the brink of most of the fliccs in the area, but as soon as the land dropped off, it became a very picturesque place.
We started out searching for a natural arch that I had seen on the Internet that was supposed to be in the area, but we couldn’t find it so we just found a parking spot and hiked down to the shore. When I am shooting at the beach, I always head for the most deserted areas: the areas with the most seaweed, or rocks, or anything that offers something more attractive than the boring, people-populated sand beaches. Rocks make great foreground subjects, especially when they are wet or when the tide water runs up, over or through them regularly.
The view before the descent to the beach looked like this, so I figured heading out in the direction of the protruding rock formation would be a great place to discover a sunset composition.
On the way down, I was amazed just how orange the cliffs were. Sunset was not far away and the idea of golden hour took on a whole new meaning. It was prime shooting time and I was taking my time moving forward.
Moving toward the protrusion, I started looking for interesting rock formations to include in my foreground. Just because the rock protrusion was what caught my eye as the most interesting thing around doesn’t mean it should be the only thing in my picture. In fact, using it as a counter point in relationship with another subject is what I was really looking for. A secondary subject that is properly balanced with the main subject produces a place for the eye to stay in the frame when it’s not looking at the main subject any more; it’s a sort of “rise and fall” that keeps the eye moving inside the frame all the time. Keeping the viewers eye in the frame is my number one objective as a photographer. This one rock caught my eye:
But what is the problem with it? It’s on dry land. Notice all the disruptions in the sand? This would be hard to cover up. And the tide wasn’t coming in fast enough to “naturalize” the foreground. So I kept looking.
I got pretty close to the large rock formation at the end of the beach, and wasn’t impressed with anything in the foreground vicinity. I decided to go back to the rocks. Pretty soon I came across some interesting rocks that seemed to fill the frame in a sort of pattern, evenly spaced and not extremely cluttered.
The sun was setting fast, so I decided to work with these rocks. As I always do, I worked with some vertical shots and some horizontal shots. The horizontal shot turned out to be “the one” that made the cut for the 2015 calendar!
The sun was not visible in this particular composition, so I spent some time trying to get a cool shot of the waves splashing on the rocks with the sun highlighting the spray. Notice the counterpoint again? Does your eye keep going between the rocks and the blob of sun? It also helps that there’s a leading line that channels the eye between the two points of focus too. It was just a lot of fun to be shooting sunset on the coast again.
The next time I was in San Diego, I made sure to get accurate directions to the arch. I did find it, but I arrived too late to shoot it at sunset. I guess you’ll know where I’ll be next time I’m in San Diego!
You can buy one, two or just a few 2015 Lenspiration calendars by going to the Staddonfamily Store. For 9 or more calendars, you can get free shipping plus quantity discounts as low as $5 each on the Lenspiration Store. Thank you for promoting a Christ-centered, creationist worldview in the realm of photography!
There’s not much difference in the before-and-after post-processing of this shot. Beyond adding the typical contrast process for popping the colors, I played with the luminosity to get the proper brightness values in the unearthly orange rock cliff.