Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach is my kind of place. I spent a lot of my formative pre-college days listening to the pounding waves against the cliffs and enjoying the distance from the hippies and crowds of OB proper. Usually out on the cliffs you have the company of a few joggers, a few more seagulls, and a lot of wind. It’s just a nice place to be.
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If you’re a property owner, however, I’d be a little more worried. The cliffs are always eroding, sometimes in a spectacular way, and I wouldn’t want my house right across the street. They put up these little fences around areas of particular danger, and I thought the sharp man-made lines just seemed so out of place in all the rounded nature around it. I like the lines in this picture, and it’s one of the few that makes me feel ok breaking the rule of thirds. Maybe even more than in this one. I think that because there is one man-made object in the whole frame, it makes sense to sort of hide it in plain sight. It lets nature stay balanced all around. I think it would have looked sort of funny anywhere else.
Oh yeah… one more thing I didn’t mention above. I threw a little vignette on this picture. I don’t use this a ton and when I do, it’s mostly for portraiture. I tried to keep it pretty subtle too, but I think it works well here for the same reason it does in portraiture – you’re bringing all the eyes into the middle and you don’t want people drifting out the sides. Just thought I’d mention it!
Panoramic photography is a lot of fun. There is nothing like the viewpoint you can get by stitching together a bunch of shots into a broad sweeping view. I first posted instructions on how to shoot a panorama back here. We then had a couple posts in a row alternately described as Panoramania and Panorama-orama. Lots of fun. All the instructions for how to actually capture the pictures are still fairly valid but I want to tell you there is a better way. Behold!
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See that shot? Not too bad, right? The real magic however, is twofold. First off, I shot that hand-held. Yes, it was in fairly bright sun so the exposure was easy, but it includes a beach scene and rolling waves are just about the hardest thing to put in a panorama. The real beauty behind it all is Adobe Photoshop CS4. Whereas before I told you to use Panorama Factory or Autostitch, which are still fine, I just need to spread the word that the built-in panorama creation tool in CS4 beats them all. In fully auto mode, it stitched together 6 individual shots to create this without any manual intervention. Without much if any moire, and without totally barfing when it came to the water. The original shot is 10,000 and some pixels wide and I think it’s beautiful. If anyone is really interested, I can post a larger version too.
The moral of the story is this: go shoot some panoramas. Certainly a tripod and level will help and for night shots it might be the only way, but don’t limit yourself! Software is constantly improving and even if you don’t have Photoshop CS4 right now, you might get it down the road (or you might get this feature in something free or low cost in 6 months). Things change! The only thing you can’t change is the fact that you might not take pictures today. I’ve certainly regretted the things I’ve not captured. Do yourself a favor. Digital is cheap. Go take pictures.