This is a single image with no HDR. It won Nature's best and was a top 10 of the year in the North American Nature Photographer's Association portfolio. .......... The very dim last light of a fading winter sun sets through a portal on California's Central Coast.

This sea arch opening in a cliff face at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur allows large waves to come through at high tide before a big storm. The waves often fill the entire portal to the top, and the portal becomes a giant water shotgun! The Tafoni sandstone formations in the rock are incredible and should be seen in person. The sun was only like this for about 30 seconds so I had to work fast. Fortunately, the sunlight was dimmed by high clouds and low fog but there was still enough light to reflect onto the rock face from the cliff behind the camera. Usually, it is not possible to get this shot because the sun is WAY too bright!

Backlighting off the cliff face behind the camera is crucial here; otherwise you have an overexposed portal with no detail on the rock face. Once the light was right, I waited for the water flow to become dramatic. A short exposure time allowed a little movement while retaining detail of the sea spray.

I have been here many times trying and trying to get another version like this. Although I have made some nice photos here (which I will upload to 500px later), I have not been able to recreate this. Perhaps I never will!

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