Pfeiffer Beach, Keyhole Rock, Photographers, Long Exposure

ISO100, 19mm, f/6.3, 121 sec
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

It was inevitable the atmospherics would not cooperate with me if I intentionally drove 3 hours each way for the primary purpose of shooting both “keyhole” rocks at Pfeiffer Beach.  In fact, I had hoped for one or both of the following to occur, fog for the morning (for shots along Hwy 1) and clear skies at the horizon at sunset (for Pfeiffer Beach).  Neither happened.  So what do you do instead?  Have a little fun and take a photograph of the photographers taking photographs…all in one condensed location!

(Click through the photo for the usual 700px view)

At least I have “shots in the can” from last year.  After seeing the clouds on the horizon, I remarked to another photog that the phenomenon was not going to happen today, so there was no use waiting at that exact spot for it to happen.  There were other interesting things to shoot and it would be best 2 days later.  He said he and his group were here from Michigan and the next day was their last in Big Sur.  Unfortunately, I let him know the forecast called for rain by late afternoon and it ended up raining by mid-day, if not sooner, the next day.  Poor guy.

I had previously shot the keyholes at Pfeiffer Beach on December 30th, 2011.  It was the last location I planned to shoot on a slow, but beautiful, drive up Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).  Conditions were nearly perfect.  I just had no idea how much so until this year.  The purpose was not to just photograph the sunset through one of the keyholes, but to improve upon last year’s photos.  What I did not take into account was how the tide would affect one of the shots.

In “Rock, Keyhole, Sunshaft“, it was just expected that the layers of light would just happen.  Not so!  The distinct rays of light are HIGHLY dependent on the amount of sea spray (or mist) and probably the direction of the wind.  This year I was there 2-3 hours after low tide, with very little mist and thus the rays of light were not very sharp.  Last year, I was there about 2-3 hours after high tide.  Each high/low tide cycle is approximately 6.5 hours.

Tide comparison (using the Carmel station location):

  • 2011 – H @ 2:03pm (3.66 ft) and L @ 8:31pm (0.99 ft)
  • 2012 – L @ 2:40pm (-0.1 ft) and H @ 9:26pm (3.43 ft)

As for the sun setting through the main keyhole rock, the tide is less of a factor.  With lower tide, there is less wave action pounding through the keyhole AND slightly more time the sun is within the keyhole and above the horizon.

More of this year’s Big Sur-area photographs:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, patterned metering mode, 19mm, ISO 100, 121 sec, f/6.3

Pfeiffer Beach, Keyhole Rock, Photographers, Long Exposure.  Big Sur, California. December 24, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Pfeiffer Beach, Keyhole Rock, Photographers, Long Exposure

  1. I like it too. I think you made the most of the situation, and did a great job of documenting a bit of a feeding/shooting frenzy that is usually unseen by those not in attendance.


    1. Thanks! It was a strange feeling documenting the scene. Normally, I would be in the midst of it all, everyone trying to be courteous in the slow dance of getting to a spot (and then moving slightly to a new spot) to take their money shot in that 10-15 window.

      In this instance, it was completely relaxing to stand back, trip the shutter, watch for 2 minutes, check the result, adjust settings, shoot, and watch.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.