A while back I had traveled to San Francisco for one of my Lightroom seminars. And just about every time I travel to San Francisco, I can’t resist the urge to head to the Big Sur coast. Now, I love just about any trip to Big Sur. But this particular trip was big for me because it was the first time (out of about 5 trips there), that it wasn’t totally fogged in. I’d had the worst luck in the past (no matter what time of year I went), but this trip worked out really well.

Anyway, I’m posting this in the “Latest Work” section because it’s a photo that I really just got around to processing. It’s from a place called McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It was one of the top spots on my list that I’d always wanted to visit.

Getting There

Getting there was pretty easy. It’s right off the main road. I passed it the first time, but then I realized it’s right near a park sign so it wasn’t too bad. And it’s an easy walk too. It’s basically a paved path that runs along the rocks above. I’d give it a 1 out of 10 on the strenuous factor because it’s really close to where you park too.

Picking My Spot and Composition

McWay falls is really a sunset shooting spot. As you can see the sun sets off to the right of where you’re standing. At sunrise, you’d lose all of that nice golden light on the rocks. As for shooting and composition, I’ve seen a lot of different views. You’re behind a fence on the walkway and you’re not supposed to go over the fence. So you’re kinda limited in picking the right spot. Those fences are there for a reason and that’s so you don’t plummet to the beach below. There is a rocky/sandy area between the walkway and the edge, but it didn’t look very stable. Now, I was alone and there wasn’t anyone else out there. Had I been with some one, I may have hopped the fence (shhhh). But I figured since I was alone, if I did indeed plummet to the beach below, then absolutely nobody would know I was there. I realize I say that now, but after my experience on the rocks in Oregon last month (read about it here), I may rethink my fence jumping in the future as well 🙂

Anyway, I chose a spot closer to the falls (you can walk further away for difference vantage points). But I wanted to make the falls fairly large in the photo or else they get lost. Also, I wanted to include the beach as well as the water, so I chose my spot based on that. You also have the option to include the foreground rocky/sandy/gravely area, or not. I took a few photos both ways, but my favorite was a tighter shot on just the falls, beach, and water. While I’ve seen photos of some nice wildflowers in the foreground, I must not have been there at the right time of year because it was just dirt, ugly brush, and rocks.

[tw-divider]Click To See the Photo Larger[/tw-divider]


Photo Details:

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm
Aperture: f/11
Shutter Speed: 1 sec.
ISO: 100
Really Right Stuff TVC-33 and BH-55 Ballhead
Tiffen 3-stop ND Filter

Post Processing

This one took a bit of work which is probably why I never got around to processing it right away. There’s a lot going on with the exposure in the sky, trees, rocks, etc… Mostly I used Lightroom to open up the shadows on the rocks. I deliberately left the trees darker because they don’t add much to the scene. I warmed the photo a bit to bring out those warm colors on the ocean on the right. I also added some of onOne Perfect Effects with the Dynamic Contrast preset. I’m a total fanatic over that preset, so it gets used a lot.

Finally, I replaced the sky with a better one. Sorry for all of you purists out there, but I couldn’t resist. I originally thought I’d leave it as is (it’s just a clear sky), but then I found a sky from another photo that fit perfectly. In fact, I’m going to call it now and say this was probably my best sky replacement ever. I’m the one who did it and I’d swear it looks real. The only way most people would know it was replaced is because there’s absolutely no way in the world I’d have enough luck to get there on a day it wasn’t foggy AND get a great looking sunset as well 😉

What Would I Do Different?

If I were to go back there, I’d probably try to time it so there were wildflowers around and try to get them in the foreground. I’m a BIG foreground person, so it’s rare for me not to include something up front. Also, I let time get the best of me at the end of this shoot. I knew I had to drive back to San Francisco for a very early flight the next day. So as soon as the sun went down, I grabbed my gear and took off. But I love shooting at twilight. I often like the results of the blues and magentas more than the golden colors I got here. So I’d probably stick around longer and get the photo at twilight instead. That said, I do love the golden color that washes over the water on the right side so I’m not sure I’d like the twilight photo version any better.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one!


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