Q: What do you get when you combine sun, sand, waves, and wildlife with eager nature photographers?
A: A great Point Reyes National Seashore photo workshop and lots of cool photos!
Organized by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association Field Institute and sponsored by Sigma, the “Seascape and Wildlife Photography Weekend” proved to be a great success. Beginning Friday afternoon (10/19) through Sunday (10/21), the three-day photo workshop was based at the historic Lifeboat Station at the extreme tip of the Point Reyes peninsula.
The weekend started with dense fog Friday afternoon, providing a soft backdrop for close-at-hand mule deer near the Point Reyes lighthouse. On Saturday morning the fog gave way to beautiful partly cloudy skies. The photographers, the two Field Institute facilitators—Bill Helsel and Grace Bourke—and the West Coast Sigma rep, Jared Ivy, joined me for in-the-field shoots interspersed with classroom sessions on landscape and seascape photography, sunrise and sunset techniques, macro imaging, and specialized computer programs for nature photographers, including Helicon Focus stacking and Photomatix HDR software.
McClures Beach is a special place at sunset, so we headed that direction mid-afternoon, stopping to photograph tule elk along the way. We hiked down to McClures beach, where we saw an elephant seal on shore getting ready to molt. Half the group remained on the long, open stretch of McClures Beach for the golden hours; others of us squeezed through the narrow rock passage to gain access the isolated, rocky beach just to the south.
Not only did we get a beautiful sunset with golden rays hitting the rocky cliffs and monoliths just off shore but we also were treated to a waxing moon rising into the midnight blue sky.
As if Saturday’s sunset weren’t special enough, Sunday’s sunrise was perhaps even more inspiring. Optimal conditions for a photogenic sunrise include low to mid-level clouds moving east with a break near the horizon, where the sun can shine through to illuminate the undersides of the clouds. This recipe for dramatic color came together, with spectacular results for our workshop group.
Throughout sunsets and sunrises, I encourage photographers to move around, to get low to the ground for unusual perspectives, and to add polarizer and neutral density filters to slow shutter speeds in order to create painterly-blurred waves.
By the end of the weekend, we had photographed all kinds of conditions, from softening fog to bright sunny skies, from a beautiful sunrise to a memorable combination sunset/moonrise, and our wildlife sightings included all kinds of birds—such as pelicans, cormorants, Western gulls, Heermann’s gulls, herons, and a pair of great-horned owls—as well as Tule elk, mule deer, elephant seals, and a juvenile bobcat.
If you missed out on the fun this year…stay tuned! Sigma, the PRNSA Field Institute, and I are planning more workshops for 2013 and beyond! New Point Reyes events will be posted here as they are added. You may also request to be added to the FitzSimmons Photography email newsletter at contact page on www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.
Want to see more of David’s work? Check out his award winning children’s picture book, CURIOUS CRITTERS, which features images exclusively photographed with Sigma lenses. Visit www.curious-critters.com.