This city-sponsored half day safari was full of great subjects to photograph. The fog had crept over the mountains from the coast during the night and had settled into the many rolling hills and little valleys that make up the west side of Paso Robles. We headed west on Highway 46 and turned north when we hit Vineyard Drive. This stretch of road meanders through the hills, rising and falling, twisting in the little valleys like a snake. It was just made for photography in a foggy day.
We hadn’t traveled very far when our first opportunity to shoot the road and the fog presented itself. We pulled over safely and got started shooting.
On top of a small hill, the road drops away below us and curves off into the fog. The oak trees, and their over-reaching branches, and the ever present hanging moss created an interesting landscape that looked mysterious. My processing was very careful to not add too much contrast that cuts down on the look of the fog, and shadows out the branches. I used a number of masks to add color, contrast, and sharpness to just the area around the road, but not to the road itself.
We crossed through a portion of downed fence and were able to shoot the fog as it drifted through the oaks on the hillside just beyond a small field. This safari, primarily, was to teach the participants to see, to find subjects, and use their cameras to control the exposure.
We moved a few miles farther down Vineyard Drive and found a gorgeous vineyard that not only had not been picked, but had a dramatic house rising just above the vineyard on a small hill. We talked to a person we thought was the owner and he gladly allowed us to shoot not only the vineyard and the house, but to drive up his driveway, through a gate, and photograph the vineyard on the backside of the property. The vineyard was called the “Hammersky Vineyard”. The fog was slowly moving back across the property and beginning to thin a little as we began shooting. It was a very cool subject and we worked it for over an hour and came away with some amazing images. The owner said the grapes were due to be picked the next day – so we were just in time.
After shooting the fog for several hours we moved back onto Highway 101 and traveled north a few miles to the San Miguel Mission. We suddenly changed our shooting tactics from nature and agriculture to architecture. The fog had burned off to an amazingly blue, clear sky. We paid the $2 fee to walk through some of the internal rooms used by the Catholic fathers back in the day when the mission was a functioning unit in the chain of missions stretching north through California on the Camino Real. We were able to shoot in some of the internal courtyards still used by resident mission employees and church ecclesiastical leaders.
There were more tourists at the mission than I would have thought, and some flea market or bazaar-type sale going on in one of the parking lots. We had to be patient as we moved throughout the mission photographing key pieces of architecture, such as the entrance, the bell tower, gates, building damage (from an earthquake), windows, etc. I had worn a long-sleeve undershirt with one of my normal long-sleeve shooting shirts, and now, with the sun out, I was beginning to heat up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get access to the inside of the church and I’m sure, amazing stained glass and vaulted ceilings.
Overall it was a half-day full of amazing subjects. You can’t photograph what you can’t see, or what you don’t identify as a photographic subject. Everyone got to work out the kinks in both their equipment and in their vision – and we got to take some wonderful images.