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A Relentless Pursuit to
Turn Vision into Reality 


Natural Bridges State Beach.jpg
Natural Bridges State Beach | Santa Cruz, Ca | 2020


My favorite geological feature is Half Dome, but just a half step behind it is the last remaining arch in Natural Bridges State Beach. The size, orientation and sweep of this natural bridge make it fascinating. Like many other individuals, I enjoy having it within my view as I gaze out into the vastness of the ocean. 


Naturally, I wanted to photograph this natural bridge, but I initially struggled to create a captivating image. I wanted a sunset shot, but the lighting never seemed right, due to coastal fog blocking the setting sun. Other challenges I faced included high tide obscuring some of the rock, and wind-blown sand damaging my camera equipment. I felt disappointment after a few attempts, but I channeled that emotion into a relentless pursuit to turn my vision into reality.   


In early March 2020, COVID-19 was causing stress and uncertainty in my life, and I decided to visit Natural Bridges State Beach to ease my mind. When I got there, I quickly realized that the normal coastal fog had rearranged itself. Now the beach was in the clear, without even a trace of mist to block light from the setting sun. Instead, there was coastal fog from the other side of Monterey Bay, diffusing the light behind the arch. The tide was right, and the wind was calm so I wouldn’t have to worry about sand blowing into my camera. To top it off, there were some interesting clouds in the sky. I knew this was my chance. 


As I dialed-in the settings of my camera, I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Andy Wills about using long exposure to smooth out water.  I had been using long exposure for all of my shots that had water. I liked the silky smooth effect it produced, but Andy argued short shutter speeds should be used for photographing the ocean, because of the action they communicated. Since I already had soft diffused light behind the natural bridge, it seemed there was no need for silky smooth water. I set the shutter speed to 1/60 second to capture the action of the waves with soft diffused light. 


Watching the waves and staring at the natural arch, I realized how being at Natural Bridges State Beach took my mind off the anxious feeling I had about COVID-19. I was full of gratitude to be in such a beautiful location. I dialed in my camera settings while I watched the scattered clouds rush across the distant sky. I hoped one of them would move into my frame during sunset. I didn’t have to wait long. 


Just before sunset a small cloud began to enter my frame. I hoped the cloud would move faster into my frame before magic hour began. At first I thought the timing was going to be wrong.  But as the sunset progressed, that small cloud turned a pink hue which added just the right touch of drama against the blue sky. I quickly captured photographs, adjusted the aperture for each one, so I could later determine correct setting that maximized image sharpness without underexposing my shot.


As soon as the pink hue went away, I rushed home to evaluate my photographs. During the drive, I realized that not only did the get the shot I had been relentlessly pursuing, but I had also been able to take my mind off COVID-19 for brief amount of time. I hoped that my shot would have a chance of doing that for others.

Equipment Details

  • Full Frame DSLR  

  • 24mm f/1.8 Lens

  • Circular Polarizer

  • Aluminum Travel Tripod 


-Robel Fessehatzion 

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