Yesterday I checked the weather forecast and it looked like there were some nice clouds rolling in. I asked Willie if I should head home, grab my gear, and then hit the coast. Willie had been watching the weather satellite all day and it looked like the clouds disappeared as they hit Santa Cruz and he thought it wouldn’t be a good day to go shoot. Instead of grabbing my gear I went to the gym and when I walked out of the gym at 5:30pm and looked up at the sky it was *on fire* with some amazing/blazing color. I banged my head against my car for a couple minutes as I watched the beautiful sunset die out.

Today, determined not to make the same mistake again I packed up all my camera gear and threw it in the car … just in case the weather would hold out today and we’d get a nice sunset. Sure enough, at 2:30pm Willie tells me ”I’m meeting James Wang at 2:50. Come if you want!” Of course! So I ditch work, hop in my car, and the 3 of us drive down to Santa Cruz.

It was supposed to be high tide and James recommends we head on over to Cripps Beach (popular name because Joshua Cripps/Jim Patterson seem to be the first to photograph it). After parking, walking to the beach, and then climbing down the cliff (there was a rope attached to help out) we scouted around for a while. We walked along the beach for a while and Willie and I eventually found a nice little cove that had some interesting water currents rolling over the rocks. We setup and waited. Unfortunately the tide came in quicker than the sun set and our composition quickly became under water! Doh! Willie and I both left our spot and began to scout new locations. Willie stopped along a beach, and not wanting to take the same photo as Willie, I kept going.

I had seen this little inlet earlier and now that the tide had risen a bit the composition looked much nicer than 30 minutes earlier. I noticed that there were some clouds further to the west so I moved south to face them. Sure enough 10 minutes after the sun had set the sky lit up! I wished the clouds had been a little bit closer to give us more color but there was some beautiful stuff going on along the horizon and for a minute or two the sky above me lit up as well.

While snapping away I noticed a small plume of smoke rising out of the ocean. As I kept watching the sea I noticed that the plume was rising, and rising, and rising, until it eventually pitched and rolled and continued on an upward trajectory. A rocket!!! I just witnessed a rocket launch! I was pretty excited … especially since I work in a similar industry. When I got home I tried to look up what the launch was (I assumed it was from Vandenburg Airforce Base) but I couldn’t find any rocket launches scheduled. Must have been some kind of missile test? Who knows. You can see the rocket in the photo, about ⅔ of the way to the right in this image, just above the horizon.

Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S:
19mm, f/13, 3 sec, ISO 200
HiTech 0.9 Reverse ND Grad + HiTech 0.6 Soft Grad ND

Purchase at Aaron M Photography


Aaron M Written by:

Aaron Meyers is a landscape and wedding photographer living in Silicon Valley, CA. His love of the outdoors makes for frequent forays into the Californian wilds, where he delights in the stunning vistas of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and the Pacific Coast.