Storm clouds over the Big Sur coastline.
Well I have to say the last few months have been very eye opening to me. I use to think the Central Coast was just one long (although scenic) drive. The long drive seemed to kill the scenic beauty because by the second hour you just wanted to be out of the car already. Morro Bay was about as far north as I would go because I really did not want to get into the winding Highway 1. As I started to get into my photography more and more I really wanted to photograph the rugged coastline from San Simeon to Monterey. This area has always intrigued me. It is such an inaccessible place to shoot or so I thought. My friend Brent and I decided we were going to really research this area and photograph it. We planned to start from Monterey and head south to San Simeon over a three day span. We met in Coalinga to pass through Pinnacles National Monument. Pinnacles is a really unique place, it has an abundance of wildlife and some spectacular remains of an ancient volcanic field. Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. While there we photographed California Condors, numerous song birds, raptors, and we even had an up close encounter with a coyote. I have returned to Pinnacles many times since that first trip and have had some great shots of the resident bobcat. I highly recommend you give this place a visit.
Acorn Woodpecker cleaning out a nesting hole.
After shooting Pinnacles we headed to Monterey to photograph the sunset but there was an approaching storm coming in and we were met with drizzle and light rain. The next morning we were up at dawn to work the Big Sur coastline. It was raining pretty hard so it made for challenging lighting conditions, but when you only come here for a few days you have to make the most out of it. We stopped along some of the turnouts to shoot the coastline and the many sea stacks. At a pullout near Point Sur Lighthouse we saw an amazing display of huge waves crashing down below us. These waves looked more like the pipeline in Hawaii. Twenty to thirty foot rollers with emerald green water and wind driven spray coming off the top made for a very dramatic show. I pulled out my 500mm lens and started firing away. We shot the waves for a while and then the rain started to really come down so we drove on.
Crashing waves near Point Sur Lighthouse
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was our next stop. Giant Redwood trees in a thick coastal forest with little waterfalls made up many interesting subjects to photograph. We ended up finding this great dirt road that lead us up into the mountains. The road went up and over the front coastal range and dropped into a beautiful lush rain forest valley that had a pristine river running through it. I felt like we were in a different part of the country. This looked more like the northern part of our state or even Oregon. We found a few waterfalls to shoot but unfortunately the already dark forest was made even darker with the heavy cloud cover. I was able to get in a few shots here and there.
Waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer State Park.
For the remainder of the trip we tried to get as much of the area covered as we could to scout out future photography trips. I really am amazed by all of the beauty that the central coast has to offer. Being a photographer the subject matter is endless. So if you ever find yourself having to drive Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey set a day aside so you can really explore beyond the road, because you will never get this experience from looking out the window of your car.