Another place that I found courtesy of Flickr was Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. It's about an hour and forty minutes south of Berkeley, a really beautiful drive that wound through mountains and gorgeous fir tree forests. At one point there was a dazzling lake vista - but alas, I was the driver, and I was alone. (Next time I'm pulling over)
When I got to West Cliff Drive, I hung a left and drove along the cliffs for a bit before parking. It was absolutely wonderful to be in the warm sun and the light wind and have this ridiculously amazing vista in both directions. Though I came ultimately for the natural bridge, I took some time (as it was still a few hours before sunset) to just soak it all in.
There were surfers! AWESOME.
The birds even like taking in the view.
There were lots of birds, as you'll see. It was the coolest thing to hear the waves - they really do "crash" against the shore, and when they hit the rocks they really do "thunder." I'd be walking along, unable to see the shoreline at certain points, and then the gigantic spray would be flung up almost near the top of the cliffs. Really, an amazing thing to see.
Okay, so funny story. When it was time for me to scope out the scene I'd come for (the natural bridge), I asked a pleasant-looking couple passing me if they knew which direction it was. The woman said they'd found it further west, but that it sadly had already crumbled into the sea.
I mean, this was, after all, the reason I drove all the way to Santa Cruz, right? I kept a brave face. I asked if they were sure, since I'd just seen a picture from about a month ago and it was standing tall and strong. She said yup, there were some people taking photos of it but it's days of glory were behind it now. So I said, 'Well, that sucks!' and thanked them for the info and headed despondently further west to see the death of the bridge. This is what I found:
Pretty pathetic. So I took a few photos, gamely, and then decided to just make sure that they were right after all. I walked maybe fifty more yards - and there it was in all it's splendor, right past the big sign none of us saw pointed toward Natural Bridges State Beach. It was literally the right turn I should have taken.
It. Is. AWESOME.
However, there used to be three bridges; the outer and innermost ones really have crumbled, the first at the turn of the twentieth century, and the second in the early eighties after a bad storm. All the erosion from the constant pounding of the surf means that this remaining bridge is, too, in danger of crumbling and likely within our lifetime. That will be a very sad day. So I'm glad I got to see it now. =)
And here we have arrived at the photo that I had in mind the entire time. Yes, I'm simply imitating the one I found on Flickr, and with inferior equipment it is probably a pale imitation indeed. But for me, it kind of represents a new high for my craft. It involved travel, new accessories, shooting in manual mode, and even learning a new post-processing technique. Everything had to come together the right way, and in the end I came away with this one single shot that worked.
Hope you like it. =)
How I got the water to look that way is I went into manual mode, set the aperture to f/25, and then experimented with long shutter speeds. In the end, this three-second exposure took the cake. (It's possible to do thirty-second exposures and longer, which results in the water looking as smooth as the surface of a mirror) When you leave the shutter open so long a lot of light gets collected, which can blow out the scene, so I bought a 2-stop neutral density filter a couple of weeks ago just for this purpose. The filter darkens the scene somewhat so that more light can be collected during the longer exposure. Then, in order to capture the flow of the water, I waited for it to recede from the shore, which captured the lines you see. (It did take me a while to figure that out; I thought I was supposed to get the water coming toward me - but no!)
I did, however, get a few sand particles inside the camera while changing lenses sooooo they were visible on the photo, about five of them. So I learned how to clone stamp in post-processing. Basically you take a part of the photo very near what you want to erase and clone it, and it is then stamped onto the area you're erasing. So, voila! No sand particles in the picture. Yay!
All in all, a very rewarding day, a great new experience, and lots of nice photos to commemorate it all.