Big Sur, California thumbnails only

McWay Falls, Big Sur McWay Falls, Big Sur
 

McWay Falls is easily my favorite location in Big Sur, California. Unfortunately, access to this area is limited - primarily to a path around the edge of the cliffs leading to the Pacific Ocean.
 
After an earlier scouting visit, I came back late in the afternoon for the better lighting. Even with restricted access, there are still plenty of great compositions available through a wide range of focal lengths - and timing of the waves.
 
Though I had a somewhat boring clear sky on this day (and chose to frame it out of the picture), many find much worse conditions at McWay Falls - thick fog that completely obscures this view.


 
300mm  f/8.0  1/60s  ISO 100
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
 

Pfeiffer Beach is my second favorite location in Big Sur. Finding this beach is the first challenge as locals "reportedly" take down the beach signs as well as Sycamore Canyon Road signs as soon as they are installed - to keep the beach as private as possible.
 
To get to Pfeiffer Beach, find Sycamore Canyon Road - the only paved and un-gated road west of Highway 1 between the Big Sur post office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The narrow, windy road is about 2 miles long and ends at the Pfeiffer Beach parking area. And your reward is a beach surrounded by cliffs and rocks - along with an arch in the water.
 
I timed my visit to this beach for a sunset shoot. I was unfortunately greeted by a fierce wind - so strong that using a tripod was not optional. Sand dunes were forming right in front of me. I eventually found a bit of shelter near the bottom of the cliffs toward the south end of the beach.
 
In this shot, I was timing the waves so they would create a diagonal line parallel to the top edge of the glowing clouds.


 
104mm  f/8.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Pacific Coast Trees Pacific Coast Trees
 

I was looking for a composition that would capture the unique horizontal cloud bank that was hanging over the Pacific Ocean just south of the Point Sur Lighthouse in Big Sur when I discovered this row of evergreens. I composed this shot for strong horizontal lines and features running through the frame opposed by the contrasting vertical tree trunks.


 
192mm  f/8.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Waves Crashing on Rocks at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur Waves Crashing on Rocks at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
 

Light from a setting sun casts a warm glow on the Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur cliffs while waves crash against them. Timing can be everything when shooting the surf. Impacting waves often create the most drama.


 
176mm  f/8.0  1/160s  ISO 100
California Wildflowers, Big Sur California Wildflowers, Big Sur
 

Big Sur abounds with wildflowers (at the right times of the year) and they make great foreground subjects for your Big Sur landscape photography. Move in close to them.


 
24mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur
 

I've said before that McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur is a favorite of place mine. And I also said that access limits the photographic compositions able to be made here.
 
For this shot, I put my tripod through/over the fence to align the tree's branches to with the voids in the rocks below. Then I timed the show with a wave crashing onto the beach.


 
24mm  f/16.0  1/13s  ISO 100
Carmel Beach, California Carmel Beach, California
 

Did you see the dog? I'm always looking for additional elements of interest for my compositions. So when this dog walked into the frame, I made use of it. I like how it is there, but being in the shadows, is a more subtle element in the compsition.


 
24mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
California Coast, Big Sur California Coast, Big Sur
 

The colors of Big Sur are quite evident in this California Coast picture. Scenes such as this one are readily available on the drive down the Pacific Coast Highway 1. The low-hanging cloud bank over the ocean was the extent of the excitement in the sky - so I framed only this portion of the sky in the picture.
 
When the ocean (or similarly large body of water) is in your frame, a level camera (or rotating to level in post processing) is especially important.
 
Also important is a distortion-free image - water near the frame edge will make lens distortion painfully obvious. Best is to use a distortion free lens and/or focal length as distortion correction in software is a destructive process.


 
28mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 125
Large Purple Flowers, Big Sur Large Purple Flowers, Big Sur
 

As I explored Pacific Cost Highway 1 in Big Sur, these large purple flowers caught my attention. Moving in close with a wide angle lens gives the viewer a sense of presence in the scene.


 
24mm  f/16.0  1/20s  ISO 100
California Condor Number 4, Big Sur California Condor Number 4, Big Sur
 

Having a lens with the correct focal length lens mounted can make the difference between getting a shot and getting nothing. In this case, I was shooting landscape with a wide angle lens when this California Condor flew over. I quickly pulled out my second camera with the 70-300 L mounted and was able to get the shot. In this case, I could have used much more focal length as the shown image is cropped. I could have used a slightly faster shutter speed as well. Hindsight is always perfect. Experience brings foresight closer to perfection.


 
300mm  f/8.0  1/400s  ISO 400
Waves of Color, Big Sur Waves of Color, Big Sur
 

Fields of flowers make beautiful waves of colors in Big Sur. A problem with photographing these flowers is the high wind speed typically present.


 
84mm  f/16.0  1/50s  ISO 250
Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
 

The Bixby Bridge in Big Sur is a landmark. I did not have time of day or dramatic sky in my favor, so I opted for a circular polarizer and a unique perspective. I drove back into the mountains east of the bridge and sat on a cliff to capture this view of the bridge - centering the big rock under it.


 
40mm  f/9.0  1/50s  ISO 125
Jade Cove, Big Sur Jade Cove, Big Sur
 

Red Ice Plant rims the green jade stone at Jade Cover, Big Sur. The deep blue background is courtesy of a circular polarizer filter. Jade Cove is south of Gorda - off of Pacific Highway 1 of course.


 
24mm  f/8.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Waterfall, Big Sur Waterfall, Big Sur
 

I discovered this small waterfall after descending into a little canyon (big ditch) just north of Bixby Bridge to setup for a sunset shoot. I liked the colors in the stone.


 
50mm  f/11.0  .4s  ISO 100
McWay Falls Picture McWay Falls Picture
 

In this McWay Falls picture, I show the big picture with a plain foreground. Amazing place.


 
24mm  f/8.0  1/50s  ISO 100
Big Creek Bridge, Big Sur Big Creek Bridge, Big Sur
 

The landscape around the Big Creek Bridge is very typical for Big Sur - a positive characteristic of course.


 
24mm  f/11.0  1/100s  ISO 100
Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur
 

The Big Sur Sand Dollar Beach is near the tiny town of Gorda. Expect rough, cold water in this location.


 
300mm  f/11.0  1/125s  ISO 250
Ice Plant, Big Sur Ice Plant, Big Sur
 

While Ice Plant is said to be an invasive species in Big Sur, it is sure beautiful - adding large matts of red color to the Big Sur hillsides.


 
32mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 160
Wind-Swept Tree, Carmel, California Wind-Swept Tree, Carmel, California
 

For this composition, I aligned the tree so that it did not intersect any of the near-background trees and so that it swept out of the frame. Sand provides an even base for the composition. The small patch of sunlight lights the little girl carrying her shoes and the tree.


 
58mm  f/16.0  1/60s  ISO 100
McWay Falls Paradise McWay Falls Paradise
 

The idealic-appearing McWay Falls is extremely inviting - until you see the fliff that leads down to it. The tropical-looking tree hanging over the cliff adds to this paradise.


 
24mm  f/9.0  1/60s  ISO 160
Paso Robles Oats and Pasture Paso Robles Oats and Pasture
 

Leaving Paso Robles, California and heading east presents a much different landscape than the coastal Big Sur area. Bright golden oats and rolling hills covered in purple flowers have a beauty of its own.


 
45mm  f/11.0  1/50s  ISO 100
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