El Matador Beach Rocks at Sunset (California)

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This is not a well-known or very popular travel photography destination when you drive along California’s Pacific Coast Highway in the vicinity of Malibu, which is not too far from Los Angeles. And if you are not looking for it, you are definitely going to miss it.

It was recommended to me by one of the local LA travel photographers, Mark Esguerra prior to my first trip to the West Coast. I had El Matador State Beach address loaded in my GPS with the hundred or so locations that I was planning to visit and photograph.

I landed in Los Angeles just a few hours earlier and after quickly visiting Santa Monica pier, this was my first planned stop of the trip. I arrived at the beach later than I was planning and the sunset was not spectacular with low and dark rainy clouds covering pretty much the entire horizon. But I was not complaining because I had the entire beach for myself with all of the people scared away by the rain.

California. El Matador State Beach
Loc: 34.038077, -118.8757487

I have a few interesting photos from El Matador Beach but this is my favorite one. I shot this photo from the top of the hill. Somebody pointed out to me that the rock in the middle of the composition looks like a mythical creature trying to crawl its way back to the ocean. I really like that metaphor.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots ( -1; 0; +1 )
  • Camera: Canon 60D
  • Lens:  Sigma 17-70mm
  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Aperture: F4
  • Bracketing: 3 shots ( -1, 0, +1 )
  • Tripod: hand-held

Processing: HDR Processed in Photomatix 

Lightroom: import, tagging, export to Photomatix
Photomatix: I only used 3 bracketed images ( -1, 0, +1 ) to tone map image, 16-bit tiff image was exported to Lightroom. (check my tutorial Before & After – HDR With Photomatix)
Lightroom: straightening, cropping, export as PSD image
Photoshop:  cleaning, contrast

Photoshop Plugins:

  • Topaz DeNoise was used to reduce digital noise (sky, water)
  • Topaz Detail was used to enhance details in foreground elements ( main rock )