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.

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

Normal Exposure

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

Long-ish Exposure

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

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 Point, Big Sur

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

Soberanes Point, Big Sur

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.

McWay Falls, Big Sur

McWay Falls, Big Sur