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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Erik Valind
Driving along Highway 1 in Big Sur is one of the top activities that visitors to central California like to do: just jump in the car with some lunch and a camera, and you'll take in breathtaking cliffs, coastline, and ocean views. Erik Valind recently did just that, heading out for a 48-hour trip to the West Coast for a dual-purpose adventure with his Tamron 28-300mm VC lens.
"We were working with a new startup called Silvercar: They rent you Audi A4s for really cheap prices, all with gas and insurance included in that cost," he says. "I went out there with a few of the company's social media influencers—and also to scout out future locations for my own work—and I knew that I wasn't going to have a ton of space in this small luxury car, either to store gear in or to work. That's why the 28-300 was so important on this trip, because it allowed me to work without having to cart along lots of equipment or change lenses if I saw something on the fly as we were driving. This lens proved to be an all-in-one companion that could get my wide shots, my telephoto shots, my closeups, and even a portrait or two."
The 28-300 allowed Erik to take pictures right from his Audi, like one he grabbed of a barbed-wire fence overlooking a perilous cliff. "The obvious shot here is the sweeping landscape, but the tighter detail shot helped flesh out the story of what Highway 1 is up here," Erik explains. "Here's this small, rickety barbed-wire fence blocking you from falling to a certain death, which is why I zoomed in on this shot. You can see the rocks and white surf in the distance, and that's when you realize it's a long way down. It's not like a big theme park where you have these giant safety barriers. You're driving on the edge of a cliff the whole time, and this image really drives that home."
The versatility of the 28-300 allowed Erik to capture a series of images from a fairly well-known location along Highway 1, all from the same spot. "The view of the Bixby Creek Bridge, a 714-foot bridge that's been featured in movies and on TV, is a pretty iconic one, and a common picture you'll see taken in this area," he says. "I was able to capture a photo at 28mm, as wide as the lens could go, so I could get the bridge itself, plus some of the coastline, into the photo. You can get a sense of scale if you look closely at the bridge and see all of those tiny dots that are cars. Then, by zooming in to about 40mm, I was able to get another photo that let me just focus on the coastline itself."
Having the 28-300 on hand also allowed Erik to capture a shot of McWay Falls, a usually hard-to-access part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. "The image I show here is an off-limits beach area with no easy way to get down," he explains. "We saw some people rock-climbing down there, but the rest of the public doesn't have that option."
It wasn't a calm day, causing the water in the lagoon to be choppy. "The waves were distracting," Erik says. "I put my camera on a tripod and did a 3-second exposure at F/13 so I could get the same fluidity in the lagoon as I did in the waterfall. I also used a neutral-density filter here to allow me to go with a slower shutter speed. I shot this at 42mm so I could get the lagoon and the foreground elements, like the palm trees, which I wanted to anchor the image."
Using the lens at 28mm and wide open at F/13 helped Erik capture an image of another slope down to the waterside. "It's terrific to have a lens that allows me to open up to F/13 or F/16 and still have such a sharp image," he says. "There are no gradations in the quality. At F/13, it was also able to give me a large depth-of-field—I was able to get detail in all of the blowing grass in the foreground, in the pullback of that barbed-wire fence again, as well as in some of the beach and mountains in the background. Nothing is lost."
As the group stopped for lunch on one of their travel days, Erik tapped into the 28-300 in a slightly different way: as a portrait lens. "We were sitting there eating, and I had the 28-300 on my camera," he says. "It was high noon and extremely sunny, but there was some haze from the smoke in the air, and we were also under an overhead canopy, so the light filtering through was soft. I brought the lens in to about 90mm, which is a great portrait focal length, and grabbed a quick, natural-light portrait of one of the influencers who was on the trip with me."
What made the lens ideal in this situation is that Erik didn't have to head back to his car and swap out a wide-angle lens for a portrait lens to capture the image. "We were just sitting there eating lunch, and I could simply zoom in and get the shot," he says. "And even though it's not at F/2.8, I was still able to achieve a shallow depth-of-field at F/5.3 at 90mm. It's impressive how it renders a soft, beautiful, out-of-focus background."
To see more of Erik Valind's work, go to http://erikvalind.com/.