Sutro Baths New Year's Eve Sunset Behind the Scenes - Doc Miles Photography

January 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This image looks quite and serene. In reality, it was anything but quiet.

Sutro Baths - Doc Miles Photography

It looked like it was going to be a pretty good sunset with high wispy clouds. Sunset was at 5:01 PM, so I went out to Sutro Baths  at Point Lobos near the Cliff House. The water in the ruins is spring fed, so it tends to be fairly calm compared to the raging sea just on the other side of the wall.

To my surprise, there were hundreds of people there. They were all over the walls, cliffs and tunnels. How was I supposed to get a clear shot of the sunset and the pools with this crowd?  I made my way down to the pools anyway to see what I could do. To get this angle, you have to walk out on one of these walls (like in the photo above) and hope you don't fall in.  I opened up my tripod in an attempt to establish a small space and send the message that I was there to take a serious photograph. That strategy made little difference to the crowd.

A giant, and I mean giant, chocolate labrador came close to knocking me in a couple of times. A crowd of people were camped along the bank cheering a guy, fully dressed up in a white sport coat and hat, who was going to dive in the water right next to me. Sure enough, he did. Apparently a ritual for him and his buddies every New year's Eve. So much for the calm water to reflect the sky. Then a duck had to land and swim by, a river otter bobbing up and down didn't help either; along with kids throwing stones. (By the way, that water is not very healthy to be in)

Add to all the mayhem, all the people who wanted to stand on the wall and have their picture taken by friends. To add to the frustration, a thick grey cloud came in and blocked any opportunity for a pink sunset. Time to give up and try another day I thought to myself. But then I remembered a wise tip from Louie Loupe. Wait for a while until after sunset. So, I stayed. 

About 45 minutes after sunset, the crowd thinned out and a small sliver of gold was still visible  on the horizon. I set up and took a few shots.

I needed to have a fairly long exposure to smooth out the water and still get what little light was available. I shot this at ƒ22 with a polarizer and -1/3 compensation for 8 seconds. Just to the right and left there were still people along the wall, but I was able to carve out a small opening that kept them out of frame.

All in all, it was worth the wait. And that is somewhat metaphoric. It is a great deal like 2012 starting with high expectations followed by frustration, confusion and resignation. The will to stick it out and wait resulted in calm and reward. The last sunset of the year offered a glimmer of hope that  subsequent sunsets may be brighter and better in the new year. As well may be our fortunes.

Technical notes:

Nikon D800 camera

Nikkor 24mm-70mm lens at 26mm

ƒ22 , -1/3 compensation with polarizer filter - 8 seconds

Gitzo Mountaineer tripod

Lexar 32gb 1000mb film

Pocket Wizard III remote triggers

Location - 37°46'49" N 122°30'50" W

Post Processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 with Nik Color Efex 4


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