Getting the most out a situation

A few weeks ago I drove out to Santa Cruz to bring my son home for a weekend visit from college. I got there about 45 minutes before he got out of his last class of the day at 5:00 p.m., so I decided to kill a little time. I drove down to the West Cliff Drive area of town. It’s a picturesque 3-mile drive along the bluffs that overlook the ocean, starting from the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and ending at Natural Bridges State Park.

I stopped about halfway to get some shots. What drew me to the spot was that I could see the spray from some waves flew high enough to be seen above the cliffs which rose some 30 to 40 feet above the water’s surface.

A walking/biking path paralleled the road along the coast and as I watched the waves, some passersby would stop for a few minutes to get a shot or two and then continue on their way. I’ve seen this happen before. People would go to a scene, take a few pictures then move on not knowing if they just spent a little more time looking around, there may be more to photograph.

I figured I had about a half hour to shoot before I had to leave to pick up my son. Even though I was time-limited I managed to take photos of several different things. 

Of course, there was the obvious shots were of the waves pounding the shore which I, along with everyone else got pictures of, but there other things to shoot if one would only take a little time and do a little visual exploration.

A trio of people moved out onto a rocky outcrop that was lower than the bluff and closer to the waves. One of the group edged even closer, and while he was well out of harm’s way, he was able to feel the spray from waves rain down upon him. A shot of him against the waves helped to give a sense of scale. 

The crashing waves exemplified the ocean’s power and majesty but the sea can also be calm a peaceful. The lull between the waves perfectly showed that serenity. A woman sat on a rock on the bluff as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. She appeared to be in a contemplative state as quietly soaked in her surroundings. I got a shot of her silhouetted by the setting sun as a seagull flew into the tranquil scene.

Ice plants covered the hillsides up and down the bluffs. Purple blossoms bloomed every so often. I was able to get to a spot where I could get a shot of one of them with the ocean in the background.  Using a fill-flash technique where I used my flash during the daylight to fill in the shadows and balance the foreground and background exposures. It was then just a matter of waiting to time my shot to coincide with the waves buffeting the shore.

I got several different photos in a span of just a few minutes and all within five yards of each other.

Too often people will walk away from a scene without fully exploring its potential. Don’t be satisfy with what may the most obvious subject. Take a little time, look around and get the most out of a situation.

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