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"Tidal Surge" Gray Whale Cove, San Mateo County, California

A small cove suddenly becomes even smaller!
(Expand post for details, and click to see the big version!)


Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 17-40L @ 19
0.2 -second exposure @F13
LEE soft ND grad (100x150mm) 0.9 + 0.9
Lee foundation kit filter holder with Lee 77mm adapter ring
ISO 100
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

Gray Whale Cove is a hidden gem on the San Matteo Coast. It is just 15 miles south of San Francisco yet it feels like 100 miles away.

The sand is a golden brown from the granite cliffs that are behind this beach. The rocks have a multitude of golden flakes of iron pyrite and other minerals making them as interesting to look at as the ocean itself.

In order to get this photo, I had to arrive at low tide at sunset. This small cove is located at the far left side of the beach. It is easy to get trapped in here even at low tide, so be careful.

For this photo, I wanted to show the water just as it began to come into the cove and run over the sand and rock. The last rays of sun light where striking the rock and the cliff in the distance. For just a fraction of a moment, everything came together!

Other stuff

My pictures are featured on the front page of California Governor, Jerry Brown's website


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.

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!)
Google Earth

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)

Tide charting and preditions: (chose your area in US, other countries have similar websites)

Wave Heights (I choose 'North Pacific from Global')

Or Here:

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

Սաթո Թագուհին's profile photo竹本純一's profile photoBasilio Ginzalez's profile photoRosa Yanes's profile photo
What a stunning shot with great leading lines!
Ke Zeng
What a beautiful shot!
Ooooooh superb shot +Patrick Smith! Btw, I'm starting to plan my visit in California, but after this summer..I really hope we have a chance to catch some light together!
Beautiful image! Well done.
wonderful shot Patrick - really love the detail in the sand and the great feeling of motion in the water
beautiful...great layers and depth
Lovely photo - great movement in the water, which I'm never successful in catching. I've grabbed it for a desktop wallpaper, shout out if you'd prefer not.
Love the coastline and the colours in the sky. Great image.
can you help me I have cam it is name canon350d but I have no idea about it
That is beautiful! I want to go there and paint it.
did you use two ND grad filter? What do you mean by (0.9+0.9)?
Really nice image, Patrick! Perfect exposure and lighting.
Thanks for your comments!

+Mahshid Fardadi I needed to stack two filters because one did not darken the sky enough. a 0.9 means 3 stops of darkening on the sky
amaging photo yyaar.....
Love it. Been there many years ago.
gou yi
It's so exciting!
hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii yi..................
A star for this image ☆
omg~! Awesome~! n__________________n
hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii rupaliiiiiiiiiiiii how r u.....................
awesome love the tight composition different take on landscapes which gets boring after a while...
"Aumento de marea Ballena Gris Condado San Mateo California". Definitivamente me atrae el mar lindo imagen ;)
Beautiful photo... This is now my desktop wallpaper. I hope that it is kosher for me to use it in that manner. Thank you for sharing it.
Again fantastic picture by Patrick.. LIKE :-)
What a great shot Patrick. Awesome!
How do you +Patrick Smith bring the smoothness in water and yet manage to keep the picture in its natural colors?
Patrick Smith, your images are just stunning! Awesome artworks.
Beautiful photo. Like it :)
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