Fresnel Lighting of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Fresnel Lighting of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Tech Info: Nikon D300s; Tokina 12-24 @24mm, ISO 200, f/6.3 for 250s

On Saturday 13th Nov, 2010 – I had my shot at the famous annual lighting of Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It has been a long wait. I was away in India when I came to know that this year they are going to have the lighting and was thrilled. Luckily I was scheduled to return to the bay area on the way week. So I started thinking about the logistics of heading to this event.

This place is about 40 miles from where I stay and it would around 1/2 hour to reach there without hitting any traffic on the way. But that has never happened as there are bound to be some congestion points along the way. So I gave myself about 2hrs for commute.

Once the drive was addressed, then I had to worry about getting there early enough to find a spot. The place would be crowded with photogs and its really hard to find parking space (both for your tripod and the car). So I figured if I could reach the place between 1-2 pm in the afternoon, I should have a decent head start. The lighting would happen at 6 PM, so 4-5hr lead time was good enough. I had a composition in mind for so long that I didn’t want to make any stupid logistical mistake in getting it.

Bay Area Night Photography group also had planned an event for this. The group collected $4 from each participant and donated the amount for the state park. It is these little things that I like about this group. Whenever there is an opportunity to donate something to the location authorities, they do it. Also people are so friendly and fun to be with. So 4 of us got together for carpool and our designated time to leave for the event was around 2:30 PM. This got me little worried, but our driver (Illeana) did an awesome job of getting us there, taking care of the parking the car while we souted for spots. She deserves a BIG Thank You.

The shot I was going after was the one with the fence starting from the bottom right and leading upto the lighthouse, with enough space for the beams to be included. I was also hoping that there would be little fog which would have made the light beams stand out. So with this composition in mind, we reached near the fence and setup our tripods. After like an hour waiting there, I had a peek at another photog and was jealous of his composition which looked neat. But I was too late to grab that spot, so we stood in our initial locations.

The lighting of the Fresnel Lens starts at 6 PM and they keep lens stationary for the first 5 mins so that photogs can take pictures of enormous beams. So you have 5 mins to get the shot you have in mind for it. My initial shot went for about 2 mins and that was way underexposed. I even tried a portrait orientation and managed to get some “ok” kinda shots, but was very disappointed. I’ve been waiting for 2 years to attend this event and about an year and half to make a picture of it.

While taking a small break, one of the other member of Bay Area Night Photography group mentioned that they also keep the lens stationary for the last 5 mins before turning it off. So this got me thinking; the people at the lighthouse know that some of the photogs don’t get it the first time and are willing to give them a second chance. So I ran back and started scouting for location again. Wasn’t easy to find one, but I was running around frantically to find any kind of composition. After making onto a small nearby bridge, took a test shot and wasn’t happy at all. Thats when it stuck me to go back to the original composition that I had in mind and couldn’t get it right the first time.

So with all those things going on in the head, I went back to the orignal location and got this one. I was really happy by the preview on the LCD. So happy that I really forgot not to celebrate anything till I see the results on the big screen. Once I got back home, had a look at it and was reasonably happy with it. Why? Coz I can find so many mistakes in it. Its like my mind is never satistified. But this one comes very close to what I had and from that point of view its a huge success. Managed to even get a small star trail in it ๐Ÿ™‚

Again in post, used curves to darken the sky a little bit and it was all ready. The overall experience of the meetup with other folks and coming back with this one was really pleasant and had loads of fun. I’m already thinking of some angles for the next event of this one – which rumours has it that it won’t be happening in 2011. So whenever that happens, I got to repeat the whole set of steps again ๐Ÿ™‚

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