Coronado Bridge at Sunset

Coronado Bridge at Sunset with Boats in the foreground San DiegoCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 24mm, f/22 for 5s at ISO 100


The Coronado Bridge is a massive structure at 2.1 miles long and 200 feet tall and connects the Island of Coronado to the city of San Diego. The height is required so that Naval ships can pass under the bridge and it makes for a dramatic drive up and down the bridge.

How to get this type of shot

I wanted to get more than just the bridge itself in this shot and from my many times to Coronado I knew there would be some small boats on the beach that I could use as foreground objects. These small boats are used to get to the larger boats moored out on the waters of the bay.

I used a focal length of 24mm to get the composition I wanted and an f-stop of f/22 to maximize depth-of-field since the nearest boat was only about 5 feet from me with the bridge around 1/4 mile away. During my morning pack out of my gear, I wanted to travel light so I only took my Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM. Normally, for focal lengths under 28mm, I like to use my 17-40mm f/4 USM since it is much stronger in that range compared to the 24-105mm. If I were to attempt this shot again, I would definitely use the 17-40mm.

Getting a clean composition was a bit of a challenge since there are literally dozens of these boats on the beach. I arrived around 40 minutes prior to sunset and was able to experiment with different compositions with varying number of boats in the foreground. As with most cases, a simple composition worked best. I walked to the very end of the line of boats and shot so that only two boats were in the frame.

The shot was made right at sunset, and since the sun was setting directly behind me, the light remaining in the sky was already fading in color and intensity. However, since the foreground was in shade I had to use a 3-stop graduated ND filter to compress the dynamic range in this shot. I also made a shot where the lights on the bridge were illuminated, however this caused two problems. The first was since the lights did not turn on until about 30 minutes after sunset, the light in the sky was all but gone. Secondly, a street lamp around 10-feet behind me started causing light contamination on the beach and boats.


Coronado Bridge shot from a beach on Coronado Island (Coordinates: 32.689503,-117.164168)


26 thoughts on “Coronado Bridge at Sunset

  1. I like the way you compose your pictures and plan the lighting (and tell us about it :-)). The colors of this picture are amazing … like an pastel painting … wonderful picture!

  2. Very striking photo Mark…I learn a great deal just by looking at your photos…the composition and lighting are visually obvious, I see what you’ve done , but your explanations are the icing on the cake…always helpful!

  3. Great shot and I love the position of the boats. I can tell you worked the scene and appreciate the explanation of trying different shots and boat positions. I watched a KelbyTraining class recently on composition and Scott Kelby was talking about how he will take multiple shots of a particular scene from differing angles – horizontal, vertical, etc… – until he gets it right. He went through ‘outtakes’ of his bad shots and it makes you realize most people can’t just walk up the scene and know immediately where the best shot is. It takes some work.

    • Thanks for your insightful comment. I will usually stay in the same location for around an hour trying different compositions under different lighting.

      I have watched some YouTube videos where Scott Kelby is lecturing and he is not shy about showing his out takes. So you are very right that even the pros can’t simply go up to a scene, make a single shot and call it a day.

  4. It’s a beautiful image Mark and a great composition. I also have a 3 stop ND grad filter, mine is from Singh-Ray, and I think it’s a must have in our bag :)

    • Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. I agree that a grad ND filter is definitely a must have for landscape photographers. The 3-stop is just about perfect. I had initially bought a 2-stop, but found that I would still need to apply around 1-stop in LR. I recently used the 3-stop ND grad on another shot I am going to post tomorrow morning. Please stop by if you get a chance.

  5. Great composition…and I very much like the logic of brining the boats into the foreground. Sometimes the first reaction is just to capture the sunset & details in the distance without looking around for something that could really make a shot magical. Nice.

      • Took me a while to really get that part of photography…and when I see a scene that is particularly amazing, sometimes I have to just stop and take it in (breathe) and then as you say, focus on capturing the essence of the what it is you see.

  6. Nice reading about you

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Be in touch. Browse through the category sections, I feel you may find something of your interest.

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