Marshall’s Beach Sunset, San Francisco

Saturday night San Francisco had a pretty colorful sunset and great rich blue skies afterwards. I however was on my way to a concert (Rodrigo y Gabriela, they’re amazing btw) and not out shooting. Hoping for a similarly picturesque night tonight I decided to try my luck along the beaches of San Francisco’s northwest shores.

It turned out to be a pretty nice evening again so I’m glad I went down to shoot. I’ve shot along this beach before and find it to be a really picturesque spot. To the left of where this was taken there are some great rocks to watch the waves roll over and around, and to the right there’s the always-picturesque Golden Gate Bridge.

This shot was taken within about 10 minutes of sunset. Even though the sun is no longer directly in the view the light at the horizon is still very bright, so I had to pull out the filters. I used two graduated neutral density filters here: a 2-stop hard edge along the horizon and a 3 stop soft edge from the top down. It’s actually a little much to have 5 stops here, but it was the best solution from what I have in my ‘kit’.

In post processing I didn’t have to do much, and it’s probably the opposite of what you’d expect from looking at it. The raw shot (using daylight white balance still) was very magenta/purple in the sky and really richly saturated – great, just the kind of qualities that gets people to say ‘that’s totally photoshopped’. So I actually desaturated the colors and made a small hue shift to get the sky closer to blue than purple. It’s still pretty saturated and the colors are kind of crazy.

For those who are interested, I’ve been using ND grad filters from a company called HiTech and I’m very happy with them. The Cokin ND Grads, which I also have, are really far from neutral. They’ll give a crazy purple cast to anything, they’d have made this shot look completely unrealistic.

Other things to point out.
1) Setting up a tripod in wet sand immediately after a wave comes in results in sinking tripods so be careful. Most of my shots are horribly off-level from my tripod sinking.
2) Shooting directly into a bright light both creates a formula for horrible flare and ghosting in any lens, but even worse lights up any tiny droplets of water/mist that are on your lens or filters.
3) The trails down to this beach have recently been greatly improved including new signposting. That’s the only way I finally learned the name of this beach. It is Marshall’s Beach (not an extension of Baker Beach)

That’s it. I really wanted to get some color back into my photostream, and to get back out there doing some night shooting.

Nikon D40 | Sigma 10-20@18mm | ƒ/16 | 3s | ISO200 | Tripod

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