Sunday, February 27, 2011
Yesterday I woke up to a light dusting of snow and thought I should make a jaunt to the south in hopes of getting some rare photos of Big Sur covered in white. Unfortunately the little snow that did fall in the Santa Lucia mountains had mostly melted by the time I arrived. But never to waste a trip, I took the opportunity for an early morning hike into Soberanes Canyon at Garrapata State Park.
I've heard a few Monterey area locals say that to see the best of Big Sur there's no need to go further than Garrapata State Park, just a short drive south of Carmel on Highway 1. Its a small area but the park has everything Big Sur is famous for, from its rugged and craggy coastline with soaring barren highlands to secluded and mystical groves of old growth redwoods. Essentially its an outdoor photographer's paradise. But on most days of the year its difficult to shoot here because of harsh, rapidly changing lighting conditions that often give photos a washed out appearance, or result in a scene with too much contrast.
The time I chose for this shot was almost ideal. It was early and the canyon was still in the mountains' shadow. The sky was mostly overcast, providing lingering periods of evenly diffused light. In my first couple of exposures of this scene the bright spots on the water actually looked a little too hot on my LCD. And sure enough, when I checked the histogram I could see that some of the ripples and eddies in the water were completely burned out. I corrected the problem by underexposing just one stop, but this meant that much of the photo would now be too dark with too little detail. Without a second correction I would lose the details of the redwood cones and needles on the ground, and the bright fresh fern growth would appear dim and dull... A pale image compared to the magical reality of what I was seeing. This is where some of my basic post-processing skills proved useful. With sparing use of the dodge tool in Photoshop I lightened the ground around the trees on the far side of the creek and brightened the cluster of ferns in the background.
And this is where I diverge from the purists who insist that the only good photography is made completely in-camera, or even completely refuse to accept digital as a valid form of photography. I see digital as a form of progress, and with it come numerous tools to better represent the world around us.
Canon EOS 5D
Focal Length: 18mm
Exposure: 15 seconds