Image of the Week

China Beach view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA

Image of the Week

China Beach San Francisco, CA

Image Considerations

The view from China Beach of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has an amazing number of viewpoints from where you can see it around the bay. China Beach in San Francisco is a somewhat protected area that can be a bit challenging to get to. The parking lot is not huge, and you have to go through a residential area to get there. The payoff though, is a wonderful beach with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I wanted to emphasize the waves breaking over the rocks in this image, but not in a traditional way. Long exposure images with ocean waves flatten out the waves, and can provide some interesting looks. This long exposure at China Beach also gave the rocks a misty look as the waves crashed into them for a two second exposure.

This was a very hazy day in the Bay Area, and all of northern California. It was taken during a period where there were many wildfires throughout the state, and the resulting smoke covered most of the state.

Image Lighting

Although this image was taken mid-day, with the haze from the smoke, the light was a bit odd. It was still bright enough that some work was needed to capture a long exposure. There were also considerations related to the angle of the sun, and how it reflected off the water. A few sparkles off the surface can enhance an image, but too many can simply be too many.

Camera and Settings

I shot this with my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 28-135 IS USM lens mounted on a tripod. The image was taken mid day, so I had to use a variable ND filter to help slow my shutter speed.

When using a variable ND filter for this type of image, I may approach it in a somewhat non-traditional way. My variable ND filter is 2-8 stops, so provides a wide range of options. I do not think about it in terms of how many stops I may want. I focus on how how much do I need to slow my shutter speed.

With this approach, I start without the variable ND filter attached. I setup the shot and determine what a good exposure is, while keeping an eye on my shutter speed. Once I have the scene I want without the filter, I attach the variable ND filter and work to determine how much I want to slow the shutter speed.

This is done with a series of test frames, where I am looking at how much blur each long exposure provides. Another aspect of this evaluation is how the waves wash over the sand, and crash into the rocks. Does the exposure provide the right look? With each test exposure, I adjust the ND filter to allow for a longer or shorter exposure time. Once I find an exposure that gives the right appearance for the image, I take several frames. My goal with these frames, is to try to catch the waves breaking just right on the rocks, and washing over the sand.

  • 38mm focal length
  • f/29 aperture
  • 2 second exposure
  • +0.7 exposure bias
  • 50 ISO

Editing Inspiration

Because the day was so hazy, there was very little color to work with. Even as close as China Beach is to the Golden Gate Bridge, it was difficult to really see the color of the bridge. I decided that a monochrome image would be the only way to go.

My real goal with the post processing was to get the right look and feel in the waves approaching the beach, as they wash across the sand, and the mist from the waves around the rock. I accomplished these areas with selective adjustments in each of the areas, primarily with highlights, contrasts, and clarity. A surprising issue was that the far side of the Golden Gate was not easily visible. The LightRoom dehaze tool did a very reasonable job of helping to bring it back.

It was an amazing time at China Beach that day, and I am happy that I was able to capture this image to have as one of my ways to remember it.

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