McWay Creek Falls can be viewed from the observation trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur. The short trail is neat: it follows the creek, then pierces a tunnel beneath Highway 1 before ending in dramatic cliffs over the Pacific. The spot is obviously photogenic: one of those places like Tunnel View in Yosemite where there are always photographers in any half decent light. These places may be visited at night to experience them as a solitary photographer, but that’s a different story.
My interest when I photograph one of these photo mecca spots is to try to come up with something different. I’m bored with the notion of repeating someone else’s great shot, however great it was the first time.
On this winter time visit to Big Sur, the surf was higher up the beach at Julia Pfeiffer than I’d seen it before. So my idea was to make as long an exposure as I possibly could so that the surf coming up the beach would become like soft lace and the waterfall would, in contrast, seem to solidify.
I took this photo a little after 4PM, and it was still bright. Clearly, I couldn’t tax the kids and their patience by waiting around to sunset when there would be less light (and a consequently longer exposure). Between us, I would have dearly loved to do so.
So I stopped the lens down as far as I could (to f/36), and added a polarizer (really, I would have prefered a neutral density filter if I’d had one with me!) to cut down the light a bit more, and managed to eke out a 1/2 second exposure.
[Nikon D300, 18-200 VR Zoom lens at 90mm (135mm in 35mm terms), circular polarizer, image stabilization turned off, 1/2 of a second at f/36, ISO 100, tripod mounted.]