A Great and Powerful Sea Serpent!

In the desert areas near Borrego Springs stand life-sized metal sculptures that depict the animals that roamed that area eons ago.  Mastodons, giant sloths, smilodon (saber-toothed cats), cameloids, etc. all now populate this part of the desert just as they had done long before humans arrived on the scene.

On open space land provided by Dennis Avery, son of the founder of the Avery Dennison label company, Sculptor Richard Becerra has created these wondrous creatures.  They truly are amazing to drive down the road and stumble upon them grazing and roaming through the Galetta Meadows.

But cool as ALL of them are, one of these amazing sculptures has always been my favorite: a magical, fantastical sea serpent.  If any subject begged for a fanciful approach this one certainly does.  Here is a daytime snapshot of me looking at it just so you can see what it really looks like.

A photo of David examining the incredible Sea Serpent sculpture in the Galleta Meadows near Borrego Springs, CA.

A photo of David examining the incredible Sea Serpent sculpture in the Galleta Meadows near Borrego Springs, CA.

But a Sea Serpent of such magnificent and auspicious appearance deserves a better representation than a quick snapshot. I had been talking about Painting with Light in my landscape class along with doing night sky photography.  So we arranged for a class evening “fieldtrip” out by the Sea Serpent.

So with gear in hand, an evening’s shoot was in order and we arranged a rendezvous at the sculpture.  This is more than a simple painting-with-light shot since it combines that technique with an HDR base shot (given a night time treatment) and a shot to capture the star-filled night sky over the creature, all layered in with the painting-with-light layers.  To add some sense of mystery to it, I brought out a fog machine to add atmosphere (and cover up the concrete base).  But the wind made it pointless since it would simply blow away the fog before I could shoot or destroy any sense of structure to it.

Although I took about 20 shots to make sure I had everything covered, the final shot used all but one of them.  The shooting process took a while.  A student had their camera set up close to mine so they graciously would fire theirs and mine together as I manned the Cree 6,000 lumen light.   The twilight HDR base shot was taken about 6 pm;  the painting-with-light layers taken from about 7 to 8 and then the starry sky shots were added.   So all in all the shot took well over 3 hours.  Editing took another 2+ hours to assemble

So was it worth it?  Here is the final image so you can be the judge…

The Great Anza-Borrego Sea Serpent.  This shot combines HDR, Painting with Light, and night sky photo techniques.

The Great Anza-Borrego Sea Serpent. This shot combines HDR, Painting with Light, and night sky photo techniques.

I have not yet figured out what there is about this process that makes the colors so much richer and the final image looking so much like an illustration.  There is nothing inherent in simply taking parts of various shots that would do that.  By being able to re-aim selective lighting and from various directions it does create shadow outlines that look a lot like drawings, but in the end it is simply assembled parts of various exposures.

But it sure looks very different…

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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One Response to A Great and Powerful Sea Serpent!

  1. Great Post! Thanks for sharing. I love those metal sculptures

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