If you've ever been to Morro Bay, you know that the salient feature is Morro Rock. It is an impressive dome of granite, sometimes called the Gibraltar of the Pacific. Morro Rock is one of a series of nine volcanic plugs in the area. The word Morro means "crown shaped hill". They were named by the Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. Morro Rock is the last of the series of rocks. It sits in the bay, forming part of a large natural estuary and bird sanctuary. It is a quiet part of the Central Coast, just North of San Luis Obispo and South of Hearst Castle and Big Sur. If you've never been there, you should consider getting in your car right now and exploring this section of California.
It's hard not to take a photo of Morro Rock.......
Morro Rock as seen from Baywood Park (to the South)
I normally don't like to put the subject in the exact enter of the frame but the leading lines were good and the scenery to the right and left weren't.
Morro Rock from the road through town
Morro Rock in the morning fog
Morro Rock and ice plant from North of town
Finally, Morro Bay without the rock!
This particular shot tells a story. We had paddled out to the strand from Los Osos but we could have come from anywhere to anywhere. The outrigger canoe suggests escape, whether it is inviting you to go or is pointing back (as was our case) to the life you have left behind. We happen to be on the sand spit that encloses Morro Bay. By the way, those hills in the distance include other Morro's, also known as "The Nine Sisters".
The town is touristy, but that can be fun. There is a nice park for little kids that features a pirate ship and octopus play structures. You can kayak on the bay, birdwatch or hike and there are a number of nice restaurants. There are also a lot of otters near the rock and it is a world class draw for birders.
Quintessential California - the other wildlife
So much for being your tour guide. It is a lovely place to get away and a good stop on your way to Big Sur and beyond.
I want to talk a little about cropping your image according to the rule of thirds or the Golden Proportion. I will use the following photos to demonstrate. First the Rule of Thirds.
As sunset approached, I drove down to the water and found a beautiful reflection in the glassy water. I loved the clouds below and above, and the bird to the left.
I thought, "What could I do to draw more attention to the bird?"
One thing would be to place it on a line formed by dividing the panel in thirds. This next image is an overlay of a Rule of Thirds grid. The last image is the crop without the overlay. What do you think? Better of worse?
Using the rule of thirds to highlight the bird
Without the overlay - Cropped according to Rule of Thirds
Cropping in certainly brings the bird closer and also gets rid of the muddy footprint foreground. Does it improve the composition?
As I hurried down the beach to catch the last of the light, I made a nice vertical composition of another catamaran at sunset. Could it be improved by using the Golden Ratio in the form of a Fibonacci spiral?
If you are not familiar with the Golden Proportion, I suggest you read one of the excellent articles on that topic on the web. It is the ratio that informed the work of Da Vinci and other Renaissance painters as well as the builders of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The ratio is 1.1618 and it is found throughout nature in everything from the nautilus shell to a beautiful human face.
Catamaran Sunset vertical original
Could it be improved by using the Golden Ratio in the form of a Fibonacci spiral? As you can see in the image below, the leading lines of the spiral work very well with this image. My only problem is that when I framed the photo, I cropped the left side of the image too tight to use the Golden Ratio.
Catamaran Sunset vertical with Golden Ratio overlay
So what I did was to first expand the canvas, then use the Transform tool to stretch the left side of the frame a little further to the left. This was not a problem because there was nothing of particular interest or known shape on that side of the frame, just water, sky and the sand spit. After stretching the image, I hid the overlay and made the crop below.
What do you think?
My feeling its that the image "breathes" a little in the expanded space. I think in this case the Golden Proportion works.
Catamaran Sunset vertical using Golden Ratio
Of course, I had to go out that night and try to get the Milky Way reflected in the water. I had been concerned that there would be too much moisture in the air and too much light pollution to get a good Milky Way shot but it turned out that the only real challenge was that the tide kept coming in and wetting my shoes.
I was lucky to catch a few Orionid meteors that night. I saw a couple of bright ones and later found a small one when developing the image below. If you've ever tried to catch a falling star in your camera, you know that they fall in some other part of the sky or some time when your shutter isn't open, but it is a magical feeling to see them with your own eyes.
Milky Way over Morro Bay
I printed the Milky Way image for a client. It looks great at 30 by 45 inches.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Using the Develop Mode in Adobe Lightroom, you can place overlays of various types over your image using the "O" (not zero) key and crop accordingly.