When Mistakes Go Right

Lions Lighthouse for Sight

ShoreLine Aquatic Park in Long Beach, California.

"Light and Shadow" [Lions Lighthouse for Sight in Long Beach, California]

I had arrived in Long Beach by rail the night before I shot this photo back in 2007. On the way from San Luis Obispo, I had changed trains at Los Angeles Union Station and took some interior shots while waiting for the Metro to take me the rest of the way to Long Beach. Interior lighting is very different from daylight. If not compensated for, the artificial light will cause a golden color cast to photos. An easy fix – I simply set my camera’s white balance for incandescent light and shot away at the station interior.

When I got up the next morning in my motel in Long Beach, I headed to the harbor bright and early. I photographed the fountain at the Aquarium of the Pacific and then made about half dozen photos from different angles of this lighthouse when I realized that I had forgotten to switch the camera’s white balance back to normal. I kicked myself for my stupidity, set my camera up correctly, and continued on my way.

When I got home after my weekend I reviewed the photos on my computer. All of the shots from that morning were blue because of the camera’s compensation for golden incandescent lighting. I hadn’t had my DSLR long and was still shooting jpegs which made it impossible to do a proper color correction in post processing. Try as I might, they all came out looking wrong. I thought all of the photos from that morning would be a lost cause, and most of them were. But when I saw this one I realized that I had something special. The intense blue of the sky with the dark green in the grass looked fantastic against the starburst in the lighthouse. I couldn’t – and wouldn’t have even tried – to get this effect in post processing.

A morning that I thought would end up in disaster ended up giving me one of my most dramatic images.

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