Stormy Night – Windansea – La Jolla

Windansea La Jolla California Seascape Landscape PhotoCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 35mm, f/16 for 2s at ISO 100


I was after some surfer/surfboard shots this weekend and headed down to a popular local surf spot, Windansea in La Jolla. Although I did not come back with any of the shots I was originally after, I was able to get some decent seascape shots of the rocky coastline.

How to get this type of shot

One of the many challenges that photographers face is how to convey a sense of depth in a flat 2-dimensional image displayed either as a print or on screen. There are several techniques available to us including composing for a strong foreground, middle and background, the use of leading lines and layering an image just to name a few. I chose to use the layering technique by carefully composing my image so that the rocks formed layers between the incoming tide and ocean. Can you imagine the above image without the rocky ledge in the bottom of the image? Not including this would have resulted in less apparent depth in the image.

The image itself was taken around sunset, but even though the marine layer had already come in some light was still able to penetrate the clouds giving this image a dark stormy look. Despite the overcast conditions, I still needed a 3-stop graduated ND filter to balance the exposure of the sky and foreground rocks.

I used an f-stop of f/16 to get everything from the foreground rock to the horizon in focus. I wanted a relatively fast shutter speed to capture the motion in the ocean and retain most of the shapes of the incoming waves and not turn the ocean into a uniform mass which would have happened if I used a long shutter speed such as 15s. I also paid particular attention to the incoming and outgoing tide waters in the two foreground channels and wanted a photo showing the swirling pattern they created. It took around 15 minutes for me to get the combination of wave motion and swirl patterns which I feel make this photo successful.

Oh and those black spots you see in the ocean near the horizon line, those aren’t dust spots but surfers.


Rock formations at Windansea Beach in La Jolla California (Coordinates: 32.827924,-117.280261)


29 thoughts on “Stormy Night – Windansea – La Jolla

  1. Mark, you have outdone yourself again. This is a fantastic shot. The sky, the green on the rocks, this silky flow of water, and the contrast between the sea and the shore. You’re a great instructor too…giving us just the information we need to try these shots on our own. You continue to inspire me!

    • Thanks for the complement Kongo. Just FYI, if you do attempt this shot for yourself the coordinates are approximate (should be this location or one of the two adjacent rock formations) it is difficult to judge considering how different the maps can look depending on the tide.

    • Thanks for continuing to show interest in my work Vincent. I am currently working on a project for a client that may see this printed as large as 6 feet tall. Things are still in the early stages, but plan to post more info on my blog when everything is completed!

  2. Can’t get enough of your shots – the rock on the left looks like a whale stranded- – – always looking forward to receiving shots from you.

    Your fans from Berlin – Germany :-)

  3. this is so beautiful, it looks soft, I can feel the movement of the swirling water…the moody sky is perfect with the water and rocks! this is a favorite of mine…

  4. Absolutely beautiful shot! I think many people (myself included) would have shot this at a longer exposure creating motion in the clouds as well as the water…and doing so would have messed with the great contrast and texture of the clouds. Super shot, and as always thanks for the backstory of the shot!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: