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"Nightscape" , Rodeo Beach, Marin County, California

30 Minutes of nighttime bliss and angst as the moon rises from behind!
(Expand post for details, and click to see the big version!)

Details

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 17-40L @ 21
30-minute exposure @F5
LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9
Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring
ISO 160
No polarizer
RAW file processed with Capture One by Phase One
TIFF file processed with Photoshop
Small Slik Sprint mini II tripod
Manfrotto 322RC2 pistol-grip ball head

The Story


Most people who enjoy doing photography at night usually do it without the moon being so bright. However, I like doing it with at least a quarter moon so that the landscape and seascape are illuminated as though it is daytime.

This creates a surreal landscape reminiscent of paintings by Salvador Dali. I have always admired his work so on this evening I walked around on the very dark beach and composed the view so that it would look like one of his paintings. Unfortunately I didn't bring any melting watches with me!

The moon was rising about 90° to the left of this viewpoint. You can see the shadow of the far right large rock. Even though the moon was out you can still see a few star trails in the sky.

One problem with night photography at the ocean is that you must set up the camera so that the largest wave during the entire exposure does not touch the camera. So I sat on a nearby rock and watched for a long time to see where the highest waves were breaking because I wanted to get as close as I could. For some reason at night the waves seem much larger than they do during the day. They were large, but seemed enormous at night.

I did no measurements of the light. Instead, I took a guess about how long the exposure time should be based on experience. Keep a log or memorize your settings so that you get a good understanding of exposure times at night. Then you won't have to waste 30 minutes under or over exposing a photo.

I used the in camera noise reduction which took another 30 minute photo with the shutter closed. Then the camera can calculate the noise and subtract it from the first photo to reduce noise overall.

Also watch out for coyotes, they don't call it coyote beach for no reason! I was not alone...
Other stuff

My pictures are featured on the front page of California Governor, Jerry Brown's website http://gov.ca.gov

Resources

I wrote a 325 eBook that describes exactly how I went about learning photography starting in 2006. I did not learn the usual way. I have studied the great masters of painting and hope to find that light in the real world.

http://www.patricksmithphotography.com/Photography_Book.html


A great weather mashup map of the world with local temperatures, weather and nice popups. See where it is hot and not! (Must wait for slow commercials first, but worth it!)
http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/
Google Earth
http://earth.google.com/

Simply the best way to scout out locations that there is. You can see sun angles and pre-visualize light under lots of different conditions. Sometimes you can actually pre-compose your shots! This has saved me many thousands of vertical feet of climbing by avoiding spots with blocked views etc.

Satellite imagery (choose 'National' for a local US region or use your fave website)
http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/satellite/?wfo=mtr

Tide charting and preditions: (chose your area in US, other countries have similar websites)
http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/tide_predictions.shtml?gid=235

Wave Heights (I choose 'North Pacific from Global')
http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/waves/index2.shtml

Or Here:
http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/shtml/RP1bw.gif

Photos of every inch of the California coastline from a small plane. Excellent for close in detailed views.

http://www.californiacoastline.org/

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68 comments
Ke Zeng
 
Absolutely brilliant!
 
Fantastic and great tips as usual provided in your post :)
 
This is amazing and truly inspiring!
 
Great shot but it looks like a day shot not a night shot.
 
Good eye for detail because it looks like a Salvador Dali painting.
 
A-W-E-S-O-M-E! The WB is simply perfect, and the compo is more than stunning!!
 
Nice, well worth the exposure time. :-)
 
I think it best to take pictures with a good machine, not skill, a skill that can take the bad with the machine.
 
beeeeeeeeeeeeautiful!!!!!!!!!
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Patrick,
How did you get the multi-plane (3d) effect on the pics on Gov. Brown's site?
 
Really really cool! Congratz.
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Thanks for your comments!

+David Starr The programmers at the state offices used flash to do that effect. I have not tried it myself. But I like the effect.
 
On any level this is spectacular!
 
This is wonderful +Patrick Smith . I have found a love for nightscapes and am yet to do a longer exposure than 30 seconds. Am I right in saying anything over 15 minutes creates star trails?
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Well +Todd Suttle, small trails are visible after a minute or two. 15 minutes will create long star trails.
 
Really great Patrick...and thanks for the info! I (we all) appreciate your knowledge and insights!
 
When i saw it, my first word was "Whoaaaaa!!!!"
 
At a casual glance, the light might say "day" but after a moment you realize it is an entirely different quality of light. It is that difference between direct sun and using a reflector as a main source. And so it would be. This has a wonderfully surreal alien quality and I swear the rocks are floating. Very unusual and very compelling.
 
Stunning and so unusual view +Patrick Smith! Everything is so otherworldly, A totally different light and feeling from what the eyes are used to.! Great image!! :)
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