Evolution of an Image- San Pablo Bay

Benicia has a number of these tiny, hidden little beaches that look out over San Pablo Bay.  I work for a lot of clients around here, and have slowly discovered them over the years.  I went out early one bmorning, and painted for a few hours, as the tide slowly went out.  I loved the scene, took a few pics, and had a fun time painting, but was generally dissatisfied with my plein air images.

I was getting lost in the details, working too hard to replicate.  I needed to synthesize, think in shapes, reduce the image to the core of what I wanted to express.  I thought about all the advice I'd been getting- What was the focal point of the image?  What was the reason I was painting this?  I was painting mood and light. I thought about that, and decided the focus was a) the light streaking across the sand, and b) the silhouette of that rock against the sharp light of the bay.  Then everything else should help us aim towards that.

So I took out the pylons for now-- I may try them again later.  I think they were competing too much with that stone.  I reduced the sloping cliff side of tangled ivy to a silhouette, and I opened up the composition to the right, to allow a sweeping curve for that slivery of light to fall across.  I made the background hills paler and softer.  I might try it again later with the pylons, instead of the stone, or with a stronger contrast for the streak of light.  For now though, what I got was this--