La Jolla at Sunset
My wife and I had dinner in La Jolla and I had planned a shoot at sunset afterwards, but as we were finishing dinner I could tell that the marine layer was coming in and there was no chance that I was going to get a dramatic sunset shot. In fact, chances were that I would not get anything too interesting at all. However, the chance of getting a shot goes to zero if you don’t even make the attempt to go out.
How to get this type of shot
I have photographed La Jolla on several occasions, but never explored the coast south of the Cove (where I typically shoot). For the first shot I tried to achieve three things. 1) Get the tide as it recessed back into the ocean as it moved passed the foreground rock 2) Make sure I captured a cresting wave in the ocean and 3) In order to make the foreground rock stand out, get a photo where there was the white of a crashing wave behind it. To get all three elements in a single photo, I had to time my shots, and make multiple attempts at getting the exposure. My aperture was set to f/11 since the foreground rock was a good 5 feet away. I tried to get closer, but the tide was making its way in causing the tripod I was using to sink into the sand and cause vibrations. IMO no shot is worth risking your gear over, so I stepped back and recomposed. The aperture of f/11, gave a shutter speed of 0.5s, which was perfect for me to be able to capture the motion in the recessing tide, but still fast enough to not blur the cresting wave into mush.
The second shot was made with a rock formation in the foreground and I chose to add the homes in the background. This shot was taken at f/16 to maximize depth of field and to get a long shutter speed. I find that you need a shutter speed over 30 seconds to really smooth out the choppy water in the ocean. Any shorter and it just does not look right. Shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds are recommended with every second added to the exposure giving an even smoother ocean. For this image, I used a 120s exposure which resulted in a nice smoothing out the water in the ocean and also added some interest in the sky from the movement in the clouds.