San Diego Sunset Cliffs Photo

Earlier this week I taught my Lightroom seminar in San Diego. I arrived fairly early in the afternoon (the day before) so I knew I’d have some time to kill during the day. Well, whenever I go to a city and have some extra time I always do some quick web searches on where to go shoot. I love the beach, so when it came to San Diego, I knew that I’d be looking for something along the coast to shoot. That helped narrow the search. After that I do what I always do. I head over to and do a search. This time I did a search for “San Diego Beach”. After looking through the photos I realized it was going to be a hard decision because there were so many cool places. I finally decided that one of my favorites was a place called Sunset Cliffs Beach.

Sunset was around 4:45pm so I headed out of my hotel around 3pm. I got there about an hour early and just walked around without my camera for about 30 minutes to scout where I wanted to shoot. It was a beautiful place. Lots of rocks that were both higher up and some that were down closer to the water. The weather was gorgeous and there were a ton of people out on this Sunday afternoon. I found what looked like a good location though – down on some rocks that were pretty easy to get to, but not too crowded. So I grabbed my camera gear and made my way down.

I shot a bunch of different compositions at a bunch of different times but my favorite is the one below. It was taken about 10 minutes after the sun went below the horizon. The sky wasn’t anything spectacular that evening, so I lowered my tripod close to the ground so the rocks became the focal point. I took a bunch of photos but was able to time one where a small wave came over the edge to give that feeling of movement.

(click to see it larger)

• Nikon D800
• Nikon 16-35mm lens
• Aperture: f/11
• Shutter Speed: 6 seconds
• ISO: 200

Oh and if you’re wondering whether or not I got wet, this photo should tell the story. It was the photo taken as a wave crashed over, and I had to get the tripod and bail in the middle of taking a photo. The good news is that the camera stayed dry (but I was soaked from the knees down) :)

Have a great weekend!

  • Jeff Charlot

    Great choice !
    I lived 6 years at SD and it was one of my favorite location (, along with La Jolla Cove and Wind&Sea beach.
    good week-end

  • Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt, I really like the sky in this photo! I also love your composition! Just a gorgeous photography! Now I know why you won’t come to Denver … your a Beach Dude! :-) Seriously, this is beauty photo! Like Jeff above, we lived in San Diego for about 10 years! Our favorite place was La Jolla Cove as well!

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Don Bromberg

    Great shot! As far as the one with the wave, I can empathize with you. A few days after Tropical Storm Sandy passed by Ft. Lauderdale I went down to the beach to shoot the surf, which was very high from the storm’s affects. As I was getting what I hoped would be a good click, I noticed a large wave coming in and started to move out of its way…I saved the camera, but my shoes, pants, socks, and shirt got hit with some extremely sandy sea water.

  • Jeff Cruz

    Hey Matt, I love the warm tones in this. It makes me feel like I’m actually there feeling the warmth when it’s actually below feezing here where I live. lol. How did you like the 16-35mm? Did you have to correct any distortion to keep the horizon straight?

  • Stephen Kapp


    See that you used a Nikon D800 and 16-35mm lens for this “great” shot…these are my next wish list items. Are all your portfolio shots with the D800? Did you not opt for the D800E cause of non-landscape shots as part of your use? Seeing this photo (and I live in San Diego) confirms the tack sharp results with your combo that I had been researching. Is the noted barrel distortion from 16-20mm range been a problem requiring post-processing correction?

    P.S. Saw your KelbyTV episode on Nik Software relative to Google acquisition, and relatively encouraged about the whole thing. Thanks for doing that show. Just got the Nik Complete Collection for my LR4 and am on my way…