La Jolla at Dusk

Within the San Diego area, La Jolla holds many of the best seascape shooting locations. For the past few years in particular, I have been concentrating my efforts with one small stretch of beach located just off Coast Blvd.

While running errands earlier in the day, I noticed a bank of high clouds to the west. So long as the low clouds did not fill in, it might make for a great sunset. I haven’t had many opportunities to shoot seascapes lately, so I was excited.

I checked the tide charts, and it would be a very low tide, which was ideal. The extreme fluctuations between high and low tide means that my favorite little pools of water would be full, but the pounding surf would be far away. It’s nice being able to shoot seascapes without fear of rogue waves, and driving home with soggy boots.

I still have a good supply of 4×5 quickloads (now discontinued), so I decided to spare a few. I shot a total of 5 shots, 2 on Velvia 50, and 3 on Provia 100. Near the end of the shoot — just as the color was fading — I decided to start an experimental long exposure on Provia 100.

I set the aperture to f/22, and clicked open the shutter. When I started the exposure, my meter told me to use 7 minutes. After the first minute of my exposure, my meter now told me to use 10 minutes. Soon, it read 15 minutes, and finally topped out at 30 minutes. I was chasing the diminishing light levels. My final exposure time was 18 minutes.

Fuji Provia 100 4x5 | 18 minutes @ f/22 | 2 stop hard edge grad

This is one of the reasons why I prefer to shoot sunrise. With building light levels, your exposure times will decrease during the course of the exposure. I average the starting time with the current time, and stop the exposure once I reach the average. Of the 5 photos I shot, the last one turned out the best. It’s tough to tell from this scan, but I have some decent detail in the foreground, and the highlights in sky are holding quite well. This is what the evolution of a sunset looks like, from saturated pink and purple clouds, to the dark of night.

Am I 100% satisfied with this shot? No, but it’s a good start. I now know how provia will deal with the long exposure. The color is natural, and the exposure is very good.

6 Responses to “La Jolla at Dusk”

  1. Nicolas Belokurov Says:

    Well, I think it turned out great Ben and the exposure is right on spot for a night shot. The foreground must, IMO, look as dark and moody as it looks on your capture. I think the magenta cast is a bit aggressive but it’s really easy to balance in PS.
    The light levels falloff is an issue indeed, it’s not scientific but just based on personal observation, I guess it’s right to say that the light remains pretty stable and lineal during the first 20 minutes after the sunset and then just goes exponential, a pretty narrow safe zone.
    Mind if I ask what tripod are you using, I guess it’s a Gitzo, but what model? I’m looking for a tripod that can keep a 4×5 field camera stable on windy weather.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      I think you’re right about the dark foreground on this one. If it was drum scanned, it would likely pull out all the detail that I need. However, I’m tempted to use a reflector next time I shoot to give the foreground a bit of relief. I could just rig up a medium sized reflector with a stand and arm for the duration of the exposure.

      The magenta cast is definitely strong here, but I’m mixed on it. Maybe I can transition it a more blueish cast. I’ve used velvia 50 and 100 for long exposures, and it goes VERY magenta. This looks very neutral by comparison. I was quite impressed at how well the Provia held up to these tough conditions. Between that and the impressive reciprocity properties, I think I will be using provia more often for this type of work.

      For this shot, I used a Gitzo GT5541LS. This tripod is overkill for the 4×5, but it’s good for seascapes because it’s rock solid. My main tripod for the 4×5 is a GT2531. It’s light, and plenty sturdy enough.

      I use to have just the 2 series, but I purchased the 5 series for my 8×10 camera. For a workhorse 4×5 tripod, you should consider the 3 series. The GT3530LS is darn near perfect.

  2. Dan Cross Says:

    Very nice work Ben. I like that you continue to shoot the same spot, with multiple results. I’m still shooting the 6×7 and want to move to the 4×5 for lots of reasons. The only draw back for me is the scanner that I have, Nikon CS 9000 will not handle the 4×5. The results that the CS produces for me at home, can not be reproduces with a flatbed. Also, I don’t want another scanner on my desk. Someday, I will purchase the Toyo AWII, because how else will I burn the two boxes of Quick Loads in the frezer…


    • Ben Horne Says:


      That Nikon CS 9000 is an awesome unit. I sure wish they made one that was 4×5 capable. I use my Epson Flatbed as a “digital loupe” more than anything. It allows me to view all the details, and make sure the image is technically polished. It’s not a very good tool for capturing all the tonality though.

      I really like the Toyo 45AII. It’s a pretty sweet setup, but I am definitely getting some rust on mine from all the seascape shooting.

      Now I’m really curious why you have two boxes of quickloads in the freezer, but no camera to shoot them with.

  3. Nicolas Belokurov Says:

    Thank you Ben for the reply!

  4. Eric Says:

    I love Provia for the beach. The slight magenta cast gives the beach a nice ambiance, and coupled with an 81A filter, the film takes on just enough warmth to compensate for the magentas and purples that come through.

    I have a Toyo 45a as well, and I hadn’t thought about the beach weather causing rust….I’ll keep an eye out for that!

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