Taken at the ‘Super Secret Sunset Site’, this is a touch of one of the less spectacular Big Sur sunsets. The sun didn’t set on the true horizon; it set on a fog bank well offshore that was so thick it acted as solid as mountain. Obviously, fog isn’t flat so instead of getting a relatively level horizon, I got a weird blend of level and humpy, solid and semi-transparent. But the thrill was in the chase…
This location is one of the most photographed sites in Big Sur, tho not as easily recognizable in this framing. The beach is pristine, the rock formations stunning and dramatic, and the sunsets… Well, for a few weeks of the year, the sun sets in a way that creates an extremely artistic vision that one MUST see to truly appreciate. The trick is to know when and how to find this place. It’s clearly unmarked. LOL! For it being as fantastic as it is and not to have even the hint of a sign telling you where it is has to be indicative of very protective residents and a tourist industry that doesn’t need this site’s exact location well known. And the season for seeing the visual miracle is short and rare on a foggy coastline. If you get it all to come together just once tho, you will know exactly what Henry Miller meant when he commented that this was what God intended for a coastline to be.
About the shot – There were numerous photographer in this spot because they all knew what was possibly coming and not the sound of a casual tourist to be found. (My guide knew; I didn’t). The area closes at sunset so your window of opportunity is a bit slim to say the least. So getting set up for one of four events is the hard part and getting set up for ALL four possible events is a challenge for the serious photographers only. You need to be able to aim four ways in seconds, know the timing of the waves, know how to get your camera’s ISO adjusted to catch what you want four different ways, deal with sand so thick that the vital tripod will ruin your composition so subtly you won’t know it was lost, and juggle noise reduction (on the digital cameras). In other words, catching all four events is a task for a Master Photographer because luck won’t cut it.
I gave up after about 30 minutes of flicking back and forth between shots, copying what the experts did who were standing next to me but hopelessly outgunned with gear and technique. I was missing the two shots I had a chance for and fouling up the timing on the third. The forth wasn’t gonna happen and the pros knew that but didn’t let on. The sunset was the only “easy” shot and it required ISO changes, shutter speed changes, and a great eye for colour. I knew how to do the first with the D80, I bracketed exposures for the second, and I had my guide for the third so I got the sunset and waves fairly well a number of times. The tide rushing in over the huge rocks and thru the tunnels and caves took timing I couldn’t figure out so I just shot a couple hundred shots and hoped for the best, using changes in shutter speed to capture the waves or blend them into cream. Unfortunately, the slower the shot, the brighter it gets so one must work with aperture quickly or get burned out shots between completely black ones as you over-adjust both ways since bracketing doesn’t give enough options.
If you’re a professional photographer, this is your location. If you’re an amature wanting to try your hand at the really hard stuff, this is your location. If you love seeing God’s Glory exploding at you in three directions at once, enough to make you gasp from sensory overload, this is your location. If you’re a guy like me who wants it all, this location is where you will see what you’ve got to capture what the REAL MASTER laid out before you.
Let it be a challenge to you.