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Big Sur - Heaven's Gate

Posted by
Scott F. Schilling (San Martin, United States) on 6 January 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

Each winter along the Big Sur Coast - a month before and after Winter Solstice - the sun makes it far enough south to shine through the arches at Pfeiffer Beach Park.

The weather has to cooperate with mostly clear skies - but this week the weather was perfect and the evening sunset provided a great light show. This is a location where you have to be patient and wait for the waves to approach and then adjust your settings for your desired shutter speed and use your camera as a tool to portray your feeling of the scene.

This is my view of the scene, and I used the settings on my camera to express what I envisioned.

I think all photographers get to walk through this arch on their way to Heaven!

NIKON D3 2/5 seconds F/22.0 ISO 100 32 mm
big | sur

Doug from South Jordan, United States

I Love it Scott ! I look forward to all your great shots.

6 Jan 2010 5:25am

Mike from California, United States

Great shot Scott...I'm glad you were able to make it there at last.

6 Jan 2010 5:36am

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

Magnificent. unbelievable light that reminds me of the light rays often shot within the vatican.

6 Jan 2010 7:19am

kate from lincolnshire, United Kingdom

~`stunningly beautiful ~~~~~:)

6 Jan 2010 7:22am

larans from Lund, Sweden

Impressed- catching that light so great with the camera.

6 Jan 2010 8:25am

jeanclaude from saint-mande, France

whaouuuu.. it is beautiful 5 stars

6 Jan 2010 8:34am

jeanclaude from saint-mande, France

5 stars

6 Jan 2010 8:35am

Nigel from Avening, United Kingdom

Super x 10

6 Jan 2010 8:56am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

It's a scene that I already saw a couple of times on photo sites, but this particular shot has something "special". You managed to capture the perfect moment Scott ! Brilliant :)

6 Jan 2010 9:50am

Theys from Charleroi, Belgium

Very good shot, beautiful light, beautiful, good day.

6 Jan 2010 10:35am

tede from Aubenas 07, France

Hello Scott, It is really the paradise that you offer us, this is a wonderful shot, bravo! Good day, friendships.

6 Jan 2010 10:40am

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

BREATHTAKING, Scott ... I love how you settings allows the rocks and algae in the foreground as well as the large rock outcropping to be in focus, and of course the light through the arch. BEAUTIFUL and now it resides on my desktop as a screensaver shot! *****

6 Jan 2010 12:32pm

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

PS: I forgot to add that I look forward to my pass through that arch some day!

6 Jan 2010 12:33pm

xavier cardell from menorca-barcelona, Spain

Amazing. Congratulations. I just love it.

6 Jan 2010 12:39pm

Eric Cousineau from Sherwood Park, Canada

Beautifully captured Scott! ;-)

6 Jan 2010 1:03pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

A wonderful vision of this magical place Scott! I love the clarity in the foreground water, and the little "firework" splash! And of course the light shining through the arch.... I hope we get to go there on our way to heaven !! I have not gotten a chance to get there this year, But hopefully I do!

6 Jan 2010 2:11pm

Julie from Easton, United States

Outstanding! The colors are perfect, and what timing! And if that is what the archway to heavens gate is like... then what a passage way!

6 Jan 2010 2:18pm

Fusao from Tokyo, Japan

it reminds me of The Birth of Venus.

6 Jan 2010 2:27pm

Don Smith from California, United States

Extremely well done Scott. I know you worked this scene for quite a while to get it the way you wanted. I'm glad the light came back for you. Three particular elements of this image really make it stand out above the multitude of images that have been done before. First, you paid special attention to the foreground both in terms of sharpness and where you placed your frame - very meticulous. Second (as Tracy mentioned) you timed the little pop of the wave to get a nice explosion as it hit the rock which served to add some visual motion to the shaft. Lastly, and this is perhaps the toughest to achieve, you perfectly blended the sky and water to the right of the arch to give a sense of depth and scale. Most photographers just show the arch and shaft of light, perhaps because they don't want to deal with the variance of light. You pulled it off perfectly.

6 Jan 2010 2:57pm

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

The water is magic without the sun but with it it's spectacular. What is really wonderful is the ripple of light in the background on the mist of the waves and that rock in the foreground and how the sunlight splashes over it. Great timing, great movement, yeah that is the 5 of the day :)

6 Jan 2010 3:58pm

Marie LC from Voiron, France

Wow !!!!!!!!!!!!

6 Jan 2010 4:56pm

Barbara Kile from Ft. Worth, United States

Striking and wonderfully composed. So many details came together in this image. Your patience rewarded!

6 Jan 2010 5:16pm

Evening Song Imagery from Springfield, WV, United States

Scott I think Don Smith said it perfectly. Every detail of this photograph is well done, from foreground to background, all the details and lighting. Bravo!

6 Jan 2010 5:36pm

PD from Overland Park, Kansas, United States

Wow, great light! I really like how the splashing water is illuminated by the warm light. Was this a composite shot? Must have taken great patience to wait for this scene - glad you did!

6 Jan 2010 5:42pm

@PD: Everything is one shot except the far upper right with the sky and rocks - I bracketed the same image for that section - I took a lot of images with the waves going through the archway and working on the exposure time - this was a large wave and it turned out to provide a good splash throughout the area - including the small splash on the rock.

Pomme from France

C'est féérique cette ambiance :)

6 Jan 2010 5:51pm

Hoshisato from Ealing, United Kingdom

Amazing, and thanks for giving the description of how you took the shot as an answer to a comment just above. This is how we all learn :-)

6 Jan 2010 6:45pm

Barbara from Oakland, United States

Wow! I have stood there, now I need to go back. Yes, I must do that! All the things that Don said - I second them!

6 Jan 2010 7:13pm

Val37 from Tours, France

Une luBonne soirée !mière époustouflante, une composition équilibrée avec la pose lente pour adoucir l'eau ! 5***** !

6 Jan 2010 8:25pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Superb image, magic light.

6 Jan 2010 8:33pm

Viewfinder from Bradenton, FL, United States

Beautiful. Beautiful. To think I have been there (in July) and saw (and photographed) this very spot - minus this fabulous sun. Pfeiffer Beach (since my one and only visit there in July) is one of my favorite in the world places.

6 Jan 2010 9:23pm

dabbler from Minneapolis, United States


6 Jan 2010 11:08pm

Steven from Chicagoland, United States

A beautiful crisp image that you have captured here. I can feel the wetness on the rocks with their shininess. Beautiful colors and texture as well. A very dreamy effect here. How many other photographers were waiting behind you for that right moment? :-)

6 Jan 2010 11:28pm

@Steven: Thanks for the comment - its interesting because there were no other photographers using this vantage point for the image, so I had this area to myself. There were about 10 - 15 taking another angle from the other side - maybe the more photographed side??

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Terrific POV. Exquisite light.

6 Jan 2010 11:28pm

MK from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I'm enjoying this, just like i enjoyed each of ur previous posts. The sun should be behind the arch so i imagine u didnt get much light to play around with, Its a wonder (to me at least) how u got the details to be so perfect

7 Jan 2010 1:14am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

amazing photo! great patience and awareness of the conditions was required on your behalf to take this shot! it just goes to show that good technique and knowledge of one's equipment is only the beginning to taking good shots... fantastic!

7 Jan 2010 2:39am

MontereyJohn from Salinas, California, United States

Scott, you poached my location! I'm shocked! Shocked! Didn't you see my copyright carved in the stone there? :)

Actually, one of our fellow AMS posters was a National Geographic finalist with this same scene:

Lovely iteration of this fabulous location. Well done.

7 Jan 2010 3:02am

Ravi from Bangalore, India

It is really dreamy. Very lively captured and it surely looks like a path to heaven. It would have taken lots of patience and wait into the shot to make it such a piece of art. Kudos!

7 Jan 2010 3:39am

Lambspun from Madison, Maine, United States

Wow nice angle Scott....watching this streaming sun come through the arch. What a capture you have here :)

7 Jan 2010 3:45am

Paco Díaz from Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Wonderful photo, Scott. The sun entering across the rocks, the sharp details, the colors... a great shot.

7 Jan 2010 5:30am

martie from Mojave Desert, United States

It really could be Heaven's gate! This is fantastic Scott!

7 Jan 2010 6:11am

Céline from New York City, United States

Very nice shot !

7 Jan 2010 7:32am

Taija from Turku, Finland

Wonderful shot, colors and atmosphere

7 Jan 2010 9:34am

Chris Giovannis from Sydney, Australia

A Magic Shot!

7 Jan 2010 10:59am

Elena Kotrotsou from Drossia, Greece

This picture is amazing! It has a great mystery and a fantatsic atmoshpere! I love the sharpness and the colors!

7 Jan 2010 12:00pm

Joan Felix from Jakarta, Indonesia

color magnificent, so sharp, so obvious. 7 stars from 5 stars

7 Jan 2010 1:15pm

Daniel from Kenmare, United States

pretty nice one.

7 Jan 2010 2:20pm

Shahryar from Isfahan, Iran

so beautiful capture :)

7 Jan 2010 2:32pm

dideban from mashhad, Iran

Wow, the best light, very beautiful shot

7 Jan 2010 4:46pm

DaveB from Exeter, United Kingdom

Man, I really should stop visiting your blog, it just makes me jealous! This is stunning, well done Scott!

7 Jan 2010 5:05pm

Will from Tokyo, Japan

The light shining through Heaven's Gate is amazing, natur really does provide the best light. I always enjoy your explantion of each photo as well. Everytime I come check out your photos I am blown away by your awesome landscapes.

7 Jan 2010 10:56pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Master of light...exellent my friend!

8 Jan 2010 7:32am

Xerophytes from London, United Kingdom

Wow. It looks like heavenly! I love it!!!

8 Jan 2010 10:04am

Pavan Kaul from Mumbai, India

This is pure magic Scott!! The color, depth and detail are superb and the golden light in the leaves me speechless!

8 Jan 2010 11:50am

dkc from Xanthi, Greece

I love this photo! Every detail is stunning...The light is just amazing, the capture of a little splash of the water on a little rock is incredible and wow I really like the glow of the rocks in the foreground...

8 Jan 2010 4:49pm

✿ Anina ✿ from Auckland, New Zealand

WOW!!! What an amazing shot! You have captured the light beautifully.

8 Jan 2010 11:20pm

digitalCG from Manchester, United Kingdom

One word - awesome!

10 Jan 2010 7:14pm