"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!)


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


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.


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