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Pigeon Point Lighthouse lights up the sky as tens of thousands of stars break through the last light of sunset, sparkling through the still glowing clouds. It always seems that my best photos of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse come when I have all but given up on for the night and am about to walk away. I had been running from one side the lighthouse to the other and when I figured it was all done, I decided to take a walk around the lighthouse grounds just to enjoy the scene from the small bridge that leads to a popular viewing area atop a narrow rock which overlooks the cliffs below.

The light was fading fast and I hurried to point the camera at the last bit of golden light form the setting sun which was still visible on the distant horizon thinking it was probably a throw away shot. I was wrong. As the first shot appears on the back of the camera I knew the I had a chance at something special but the high contrast between the lighthouse, setting sun and deep blue star filled sky along with the speed of the moving clouds presented some real problems that would not be easily overcome. To make sure I got as much light as possible without blowing the bright objects totally out, I manually bracketed 5 shots using a fairly high ISO in order to take shots as quickly as was possible. Even so, the clouds moved a considerable distance between shots even with high ISO noise reduction turned off.

Back at home, I painstakingly hand blended the best from 5 different images taken in sequence. The fast moving clouds made the use of any HDR software completely impossible and frankly I've never much cared for the harsh results you tend to get with HDR. This is exactly how I remember the scene where my eyes could make out just a bit of detail in the rocks below and the thousands of stars that filled the clear skies along the coastline following a very cold December storm. The brightest of the images make up the rocks and the Pacific Ocean while the darker shots compose the top of the lighthouse and brightest areas of the horizon.

© Darvin Atkeson

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