Casey Mac: Lost Coast, California

The Image

Casey Mac

Lost Coast, California, United States

Time / Date:
6:45PM January 11, 2014

The Technical

Camera Body: Canon 1DX
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4L

Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed: .6 seconds
Aperture: f/18
ISO: 50
Focal Length: 65mm

The Story


Having never been to Lost Coast, this weekend trip from San Francisco was more of a scouting trip to plan for future adventures. The extremely foggy day offered few opportunities for dramatic light, so, most of my time was spent exploring the coves with my iPhone in hand while the DLSR stayed in the pack. The waves became intensely powerful in the late evening, and I couldn’t resist an opportunity to capture a moody scene as the tide rolled in.

The Scene: 

I believe that contrast plays an essential part in the making of an image and it doesn’t get any more contrasting than black and white. The black sand beach with white surf crashing in gave a real chance to make sure the surfer didn’t get lost in the landscape and, instead, become the hero portion in the photograph. This photo represents the search for solitary waves in an area of California that doesn’t get the traffic of the waves to the south.


I’m a believer that it is not the latest and greatest gear that captures a photograph, but rather plenty of thought and research into things like composition and lighting. Capturing emotion can turn a good photograph into a great one. This shot is no exception and could have been made with most camera setups. With no surfer to model on-site, my self-timer and Induro tripod became essential allowing me to walk into the frame myself.

Making the Shot:

My intention with this photograph was to capture the drama of the incoming waves and the surfer’s expression of watching it take place right in front of him. This photo is actually a “selfie” as I had no model to work with this day. I enjoy these types of photographs because I know exactly what I’m looking for in the photograph and need no instruction to capture what I feel. To capture this photograph, I set my self timer to capture one photograph every 3 seconds until my CF card was full. This would allow plenty of time to walk around the scene giving multiple poses and water scenarios to choose from in post. The one thing I made sure to capture was having my gaze on the incoming waves. After that, the creativity of the scene was up to mother nature and where the crashing waves would appear..

Editing & Processing:

I edited this photo using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Overall, I made minimal edits to brightness, contrast, and white balance to correctly portray the mood and temperature of the day. Since I had many photographs to choose from and my composition never changed, I added additional waves from other photographs in the series back in Photoshop to really convey the ocean’s emotion on this day.

Looking Back:

This image means a lot to me because of the effort that went into capturing it. It encompasses the feeling of serenity of being out in the wild with no one else around but nature to feed on.


My advice for this photo and all photos is to always capture emotion. Without emotion, a photograph is just a scene in time. How it’s done is up to the individual photographer, but when you capture true emotion, the viewer can put themselves in that location and relate to how it might feel being there when the shot was captured.


I’m inspired by everything I see. The landscape of northern California, the mountains of Colorado, traveling to new places and seeing them with fresh eyes. I’m inspired by the experiences and photographs captured by Jimmy Chin, Galen Rowell, and Chris Burkard.



About the Photographer

Casey McCallister is a self-taught outdoor lifestyle photographer and adventurer based in San Francisco. His photography is both documentary and artistic. He captures adventures as they happen, the stages on which them play out and the moments in between.

Twitter: @caseymac
Instagram: @caseymac

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