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IanLiptonPhoto@gmail.com
Pacific Grove, California, USA
  • ipl0970

Big Sur: First Time Through


As a photographer, one of the most amazing things about living on the Monterey Peninsula is the proximity to Big Sur. People literally fly from all around the world to see and experience the coastline here and I happen to live 15 minutes away (when those people aren’t causing traffic jams). A little while back I wrote about the keyhole arch at Pfeiffer State Beach. While that is a part of Big Sur, it is also more of a special event kind of deal. What makes Big Sur so wonderful is that I can literally just pop down there any day of the week and find something spectacular to shoot. So, that’s what you’re going to get here today. This is a collection of shots from random wanderings around on random days when I felt like shooting.

The coast is not something that I had a lot of opportunity to shoot a lot when I was living in Colorado. Along with being just generally beautiful, Big Sur has also given me the opportunity to practice shooting a new subject that is has its own set of challenges. In the mountains, your background and main subject are generally taken care of. As long as your foregrounds aren’t too busy you can pretty much rely on the mountains doing most of the heavy lifting. At the coast that is obviously not the case and the foreground becomes extremely important. With no major features typically on the horizon, if you include too much sky or too much ocean in your shots, they tend to be fairly boring. Then, if your foregrounds are boring why even bother shooting at all? One of the ways that I have chosen to try and make my foregrounds more interesting is by using long exposures, a technique that I had dabbled with but hadn’t used much in Colorado. For those of you who are more technically minded, I typically use either a 5 or 10-stop neutral density filter. Recently I’ve been pairing that with a 2-stop graduated ND filter for the sky, but I don’t think I used that for any of the shots you’ll see here today.

The first spot I ever stopped on my own was Soberanes Point in Garrapata State Park. Mostly I stopped there first because it is one of the first places to stop but also because in a short little loop you get a taste of all that Big Sur has to offer. From crashing waves, to interesting nooks, to gorgeous succulent foliage, what else do you want? I also appreciate Soberanes because it provides abundant opportunity to practice my long exposures.

Normal Exposure

Long-ish Exposure

Long Exposure

Have you ever been to one of those places where when you look left and there is some awesome scenery to shoot, then you look right and same thing, and you look behind you…? Well, I took all of these shots from about the exact same spot:

Soberanes is definitely a known entity in Big Sur but maybe not as internationally known as our next spot, McWay Falls. If you search for Big Sur on any social media outlet you will invariably find about a million photos of McWay, and for good reason. The trick here is to find an angle that hasn’t been done over and over again. I, personally, have not made that effort yet but there have been discussions, trust me! Either way, the “standard” view is still totally worth it.

The final spot on our journey this evening is also, shocker, near Soberanes Point. There is a secret-not-so-secret sea arch set just before the hill that marks the point. The arch itself is a great subject but I also just love the rugged, wave-carved coastal rocks. To me, this coastline is a constant reminder of the power and persistence of mother nature. I also love that it seems different every time I go. Somehow the rocks, and wind, and water do their thing together and provide an ever-evolving pallet to play with.

If I had to pick one thing I love about Big Sur it would be the never-ending opportunity to shoot. Every day, at any time of day, you can show up and find something new. Or, you can go to the same spots over and over and find another shot just as spectacular as the last.

One last shot from Soberanes nearly a year after the first

Well, that’s it for now. I hop you enjoyed my first little foray into the rugged central California coast. Be sure to subscribe below and follow along. I’m doing this thing where I’m trying to work through my last two years of photos and share them with you so there should be plenty stories and pretty pictures to share. You can also follow along on Instagram or Facebook where I post more recent work. And, as always, almost all these shots are for sale so if you see something you like just reach out and we can talk about it.

Until the next time,

Ian

Gear:

Camera - Nikon D850, Nikon D3

Tripod - Manfroto 190X Pro 3 with 804 Mark 2 head

Lenses: Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8

Filters: Hoya 5 stop ND, Hoya 10 stop ND

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