My July 2019 Photo of the Month is WND3, a photograph made at San Diego’s Windansea Beach during a very low tide.
WND3 Background – Windansea Beach
This time of year in San Diego can be a real challenge. The weather has warmed up, but the monsoon season hasn’t quite started. The prevailing weather can be a bit of a doldrum before the “cloud season” really kicks in.
That being said, there was at least one epic sunset I missed this month, and I went after my Photo Club Meeting not feeling too well, and Mt. Laguna got two inches of rain. Sometimes, when those opportunities arise, you have to be ready to drop everything.
Of course, I have more sunsets and monsoon images than I know what to do with (or finish processing). Ever since I began making a particular type of image, which started at Hospitals Reef in La Jolla a few years ago, I have been trying to zig to everybody’s zag. All of San Diego’s famous “sunset” spots are saturated with people every evening. The mornings are quiet and pleasant. I enjoy the peace. Because the Coast still experiences some onshore flow in the early morning, it’s been a great opportunity to get out and make some images without feeling claustrophobic.
I have a particular way I like to edit these images. The clouds: I like to make them moody. It doesn’t matter much to me what they “look like in real life,” a popular internet commenter refrain that doesn’t impede the art I wish to create. The foregrounds: I like to make them warm and inviting. To me, this is what completes the image, as it feels inviting to the viewer, and they are viewing at the same eye-level I created the image.
This is where I think people get hung up on what photography is and isn’t. If your photographs are intended to simply “mirror reality,” then making a photography isn’t any different than using a hammer. That isn’t art.
There is an inverse, and trying to artistically process can go way too far. Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom can let you do that and more. It’s important to be gentle with your filters or adjustments. In this image, with a clearly defined horizon, I set up separate graduated filters. I used Dehaze for the clouds, using the pendulum effect to see the effect (it’s important to max out your RAM for this). I think very gently warmed the foreground.
Finally, to complete the look, I used my 10-stop neutral density filter to expose the image for 30 seconds. The surf was perfect for this, as waves would crash, linger, and then slowly drain back to the sea. I had to work a few images to time this just as I wanted, and I didn’t want the wave touching the bottom corner of the image. After a few tries, I made something I enjoyed sharing with you.
Windansea Beach is a wonderful place. Busy, but not as busy as La Jolla Cove. The locals seem to treat it well, and I didn’t have the issues I had last month when I took my daughter to Sunset Cliffs. Depending on the tide, you have all kinds of different compositions to experiment with. And in the morning, you can enjoy Windansea Beach, even the surf shack, with just a few other like-minded people searching for peace, quiet, and the steady rhythm of waves coming ashore.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the image.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.