Tabletop Reef at night

It didn’t take long after New Year’s Day until I felt the itch to use the camera again (surprise!). I wanted to try something new and different (well, for me). My recently added archive post from the “Red Tide” event in October 2011 brought back the idea to make night photos at the beach.

My friend Joe joined me once more and after having dinner together we drove to Cardiff State Beach. Here are the photos. (more information, some of technical nature, follows below the gallery.)

I chose that location because I like the spot, Joe wanted to see it, and because I’ve been there so many times that I knew being there in relative darkness wouldn’t be a problem.

My initial idea was to make photos of the reef (or what’s visible of it) in moonlight, letting the exposure time be wherever it wanted to be, knowing that the almost full moon would provide enough light to keep things reasonable.

What I didn’t think of was the fact that the moon of course rises to the east, and that its light would be blocked by the cliffs behind the reef, leaving the rocks and beach much darker than I had hoped for. So instead of using the moonlight, I resorted to light painting.

Because I like the night sky to appear as a cold blue, I used an orange gel with the flash – I knew I’d be able to use a nice and cool color temperature that way which would render the sky and ocean blue while making the rocks appear warm and more neutral. After some initial attempts to get the exposure times right we tried different compositions as good as we could in the darkness and had a blast!

All photos above are long exposures with 30 seconds exposure time. We illuminated the foreground rocks with the flash, running and jumping through the frame, trying to get everything lit up. One interesting side-effect of that is that the short bursts of light from the flash froze the water in motion in some areas of the photo, while the rest has the soft and blurred effect of a long exposure. I quite like these results and I hope you do, too!


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