2012 Big Sur Safaris

There were two safaris to the Highway 1 coast early this year – one from January 13-15 and the other from March 15-17.  After doing two safaris in November and December to the coast I thought maybe I had seen about as much as I could, but these two safaris were great photo opportunities.  The first day of both these safaris were to Pinnacles National Monument, and since I’ve shot there a number of times since, I’m going to combine those images into a separate blog.

Sea Stacks at the Soberanes Headlands.

The coastline was alternating between clear blue skies and incoming storms.  The waves were high and pounding the coastline, giving us opportunities to photograph the energy that is hidden in calm waters.

Sunset from near the Bixby Bridge.

As I write this in April it seems we are having rainstorms every week, but a couple of months ago the coast was still dry from lack of rainwater.  We spent time at Point Lobos, as well as many of the usual locations along Highway 1, including Pfeiffer Beach, Julia Pfeiffer State Park, and other unnamed locations just off the highway.  It seems each trip shows me a different set of images, different possibilities, and an amazing array of locations.

Pools and Redwoods along McWay Creek, Julie Pfeiffer State Park.

As usual, we encountered wildlife along the roads and beaches, and had a number of close encounters.  These moments are like salt, adding flavor and a bit of distraction to what is mostly a landscape shoot along the coastline.

This mousing coyote was photographed a few miles north of the lighthouse at Piedras Blancas.

These past half dozen safaris to the coastline have really been educational in terms of the animals and birds we have encountered.  After the amazing number of bobcats we encountered in November and December, the emphasis switched to the coyotes and birds along the coast so far this year.

Townsend's Warbler in Big Sur.

At Point Lobos there were opportunities to work the area a bit, moving around the grove of Cypress trees and shooting the cliffs and small bays.  What fascinated me was the Pelagic Cormorants nesting in the cliffs before the trail.  There was a small area along the trail that provided a bit of a vantage point into those nests, and the image below of one cormorant diving off the cliffs was one of my favorites.

Pelagic Cormorant leaping from its nesting area along cliffs of Point Lobos.

Along Cypress Cove, on the opposite side of the Allan Memorial Cypress Grove, the waterfalls and tides of the incoming waves as they rose and then ran-off the cliffs was a challenge to photograph.  A polarizing filter mixed with ND filters, small f-stops and low ISO settings allowed for long exposures to capture the ebb-and-flow.

Cypress Cove

I want to shoot the Cypress Grove on a foggy morning where the trees are semi-hidden in the mist.  On these trips I didn’t get lucky (at least in regards to the fog in the trees) and so I settled for a black-and-white conversion of one of the images.

Allan Memorial Cypress Grove at Point Lobos State Park.

Sometimes the rain just beats you down, and it did in March, driving us back towards Monterey from Big Sur earlier in the day than we would have liked.  Instead of heading for the hotel we crossed the peninsula to Pacific Grove just as some clearing happened.   The storm was whipping up large waves and we happened upon a couple of surfers taking advantage of the large waves, amid large rocks I might add.

A surfer re-thinking his decision to take this wave.

We had only a few minutes before sprinkles turned to raindrops, which turned to a heavy rain – but we finished with some amazing shots.

Pacific Grove

About brentrpaull

Professional Photographer
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