November La Jolla Coastal Shoot

La Jolla San Diego Ocean Sunset landscape seascapeCanon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 24mm, f/16 for 1.6s at ISO 100, circular polarizer, 3-stop graduated ND filter + 4-stop graduated ND filter


After finding this gem of a spot after my last trip to La Jolla, I knew it would not be long before I returned. Unlike the previous trip however, conditions were better with high clouds in the sky which I knew would light up near sunset.

How to get this type of shot

I arrived around 45 minutes prior to sunset to give myself plenty of time to set up and stake out my spot. The conditions were great and since it was a weekend, I figured that many photographers would be out taking photos. As it turned out, only a hand full of shooters were out that day.

Although the skies were mostly clear with a nice set of high clouds, the horizon towards the ocean was starting to show the signs of a marine layer coming in. On my last several trips out, due to weather conditions, I was unable to get a nice sunset shot, and the marine layer was looking to spoil it for me during this trip. Luckily there was a break in the clouds and just for a few minutes, the sun peeked through to give the rocks a golden glow.

With the sun still around 25 minutes from setting it was still quite intense since the light did not have to make its way through as much atmosphere as would be the case if it were lower on the horizon. Therefore, the foreground exposed around 6-stops lower than the sky which also had the sun in the frame. I would normally either live with a slightly underexposed foreground or overexposed sky, shoot the scene as a composite of sky and horizon each at their proper exposures or more rarely, shoot an HDR image. However, since I had just purchased a 4-stop graduated neutral density (ND) filter and had another 3-stop graduated ND filter with me, I decided to stack the two filter, something I had never done before. I liked how it turned out and therefore I may use this technique more often.


La Jolla Coast (Coordinates: 32.840505,-117.281947)

32 thoughts on “November La Jolla Coastal Shoot

  1. Gorgeous scene Mark. The light spreading its golden colors across the water and glazing the rocks is awesome. The rock structures are beautiful with wear and tear from the water, as well as the wet marks.

  2. I remember this location…at least something similar. It is a wonderful spot for photos…of course the sun setting and bathing everything in light is so beautiful! I really like the angle of this photo…long and low. I learn something new every time you post a photo…thank you!

  3. That’s a bewdy! Love the composition too, Mark. I’ve stacked filters in the past as well and really enjoyed the intensity it added to the images. I might have to go find mine now…

    • Thanks Cardinal. I have a Lee holder with one filter slot and a 105mm ring in front. I placed 1 filter in the holder and the polarizer fixed to the ring. I had to hand hold the second grad ND in front of the polarizer. This is not an ideal setup with many far spaced air filter interfaces that caused some flare in this shot. I am going to reconfigure my holder to accept two filters and a polarizer for my next trip out.

  4. Hi Mark! I really liked your photos last time around, and even more this time – what a difference the sun and sky make! I really admire your patience and dedication in getting the photo just right – balancing the brightness when looking into the sun is always tricky, and your image captures the emotion of a seaside sunset perfectly. I can almost hear the crashing waves :-)

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