Portal to the Sun

The picture with this post is of a sea arch at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, aptly called Portal to the Sun. Brothers Chris and Frank drove down California’s central coast highway on Saturday. They had lunch at Nepenthe, home of the Ambrosia Burger and also particularly bold Stellar Jays that will swoop down and snap a French fry off your plate if you are not vigilant. Chris’s photograph, at the bottom of this post evokes the sense that one is looking through a doorway into another world. The combination of low tide and sunset conspire to perfection, to create this feeling of other worldliness.

Pfeiffer Beach should not to be confused with Pfeiffer State Park, even though they are named after the same woman and are located nearby each other. Pfeiffer Beach is located on the north end of Big Sur and is on National Forest land. The Portal to the Sun is a favorite with photographers and last Saturday was no exception. By sunset, when Chris setup his camera’s tripod, a dozen photographers had gathered to try their hand at capturing the moment. The coincidence of low tide made this opportunity especially precious.

Chris used the technique of high dynamic range or HDR photography to create his image. With this technique, he combined ten separate photos into one. He programmed his camera to automatically slide through a spectrum of different exposure levels and then in post-processing combined them together, to bring out all of the different lighting levels of the scene. This is how the details of the dark side of the rock are visible along with the bright sunlit wispy clouds.

HDR photography is a technique that attempts to mimic what the human eye does naturally. The eye naturally has a much higher dynamic range than even the best of modern camera equipment can aspire to. HDR post-processing techniques go a long way to alleviate this disparity.  

I mentioned that there were a dozen photographers present at this sunset. Chris spoke with a British Columbian who could only heaped scorn on HDR photography. In his defense, it does sometimes lead to photos with an unnatural palette of color tones. Chris’s Portal to the Sun photograph aspires to an other worldliness. The product of the digital process that he employed could not be duplicated with film. HDR is a complicated technique; it requires specialized equipment and is not for everybody. The proof is in the pudding.

2 thoughts on “Portal to the Sun

  1. An old friend of mine, whom some of y’all also know, plays with this kind of photography and dragged me off the beach into his basement last spring for a lengthy explanation and demonstration. I figured it was better than proselytizing and feel fortunate that he seems to know better than to do that to me…

  2. As with the Cannery Row photo (more recent), I am spectacularly impressed with the technique. I guess it can take on the appearance of a well-executed acrylic BECAUSE of the use of the lighting, but the definition is what I find particularly striking… seeing every fold and crevice in the rocks… darn-near every grain of sand … just WOW!

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