In Dawn at Morro Bay, I captured a fleeting moment in time of surreal light. The effect lasted five minutes or less and then it was gone.
I was with James Brandon and some friends and we’d been spectacularly unsuccessful in capturing clouds at sunset along the mid-California coast. Perhaps the California weather is back to normal now after the recent years of drought but the drought was still very much in play when we visited.
Successive cloudless early mornings and late evenings had left us hungry for something, anything.
It was dark when we headed out from The Inn at the Cove in Pismo Beach. The Embarcadero in Morro Bay on that November Sunday morning was eerily quiet. There wasn’t a jogger or dog walker in sight as we unpacked the van and headed down to the docks.
You know how some things seem obvious in retrospect but never occur to you at the time? I had one of those moments before taking this shot.
To try and remove the foreground clutter of not-so-nice looking watercraft, I had gone down to the floating dock. I had gone to all the trouble of setting out my tripod and fixing my gear, ready for the long exposures the pre-sunrise lighting would require.
It was only after several frames that it occurred to me that it wasn’t only the boats that were moving, the dock was moving also! Now why that didn’t trigger in my mind as I was walking along the dock I just don’t know.
For this shot, I was back on terra firma. The cloud was starting to lift and James brought to my attention the purple hues that were spreading through the clouds. That was another important photography lesson, it’s not just the subject in front of your camera that is important.
While the photographer’s choice of framing, deciding what to leave in and what to leave out of the shot, is crucial to the composition what is happening outside that frame impacts what is happening within the frame.
A few frames after this and the light had gone. The sun was no longer below the cloud but climbing above it and a flat, grey, light spread across the scene.
We packed up our gear, climbed back in the van and drove north a few blocks to have breakfast at The Coffee Pot Restaurant. When we left, I wanted a coffee to go and paid a dollar for the logoed mug that I’ve used regularly since then and that reminds me of this shot and how lucky I felt to have captured this fleeting moment.