Issue 3 / Winter 2023

The Cover Photo

By: Frahan Zaidi 

Nestled along California’s majestic West Coast, Pfeiffer Beach boasts an extraordinary sea stack, crowned with an enchanting keyhole-shaped arch. Each year, from mid-December to mid-January, this arch transforms into a celestial stage, framing the sunset in a mesmerizing display. This natural spectacle, increasingly popular among photographers and nature enthusiasts, bathes the surroundings in a golden spotlight at night, creating a magical atmosphere.

Captivated by this wonder, I yearned to capture an even rarer sight: the moon setting through this arch. This pursuit presented a unique challenge, as the moon’s alignment with the arch occurs only a few times each month. Furthermore, the arch’s position also aligns with the Milky Way, only a handful times each year, offering a spectacular backdrop for night photography.

I employed a web-based astronomical tool to pinpoint the perfect moment for this ambitious endeavor, meticulously calculating the moon’s trajectory and celestial alignments. Concurrently, I refined my night photography skills, practicing on the Milky Way in less complex settings.

Driven by passion, I embarked on three long drives, each taking 2.5 hours, in pursuit of the perfect shot. My efforts culminated using a non-standard technique: capturing a 4×5 matrix of overlapping images, meticulously shot from the top left to the bottom right. Later, in the quiet of the studio, these fragments were woven together in a post-processing step, creating a high-resolution end product.

Finally, witnessing the outcome of this labor was nothing short of magical, a testament to the blend of nature’s wonders and human persistence in capturing fleeting celestial moments.

Santa Cruz Vibes Winter 2023 cover with nighttime image of the keyhole-shaped arch at Pfeiffer Beach along California coast