By Don Smith
A trip to the Monterey Peninsula would not be complete without a day spent touring one of the world’s most idyllic coastlines – Big Sur!
The Big Sur coastline is generally defined as a magnificent 98-mile stretch of land and sea from Carmel to the north, to Cambria at the southern end.
One can only journey the route from either one end or the other (although there is one connecting road near Lucia).
Morning Hues - Garrapata State Beach
Big Sur is an amalgamation of the Spanish El Sur Grande and its English translation the Big South.
The name Big Sur refers to the spectacular cliffs, beaches and forests found along this magical route. Author Henry Miller perhaps summed it up best when he described Big Sur as, “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
Though there are many “inland” trails, much of what one can see and photograph along this seductive coastline can be viewed form numerous pullouts along Highway 1.
I personally feel that the most dramatic portion of the coastline begins at Carmel River Beach (to the north), and continues to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (27 miles south of the Carmel Mission Inn).
Though this is less than one-third of the entire coastline – I feel strongly that for photographers (and sightseers) that this happens to offer the most dramatic views!
The image above was captured at dawn in December at one of my favorite beaches – Garrapata. I love winter mornings to photograph because the air is usually cold, which in turn, prevents the formation of fog so common to the area.
I recommend tripods as low light levels make hand-holding your camera difficult due to slow shutter speeds. A good sturdy tripod ensures sharp images!
Morning Hues – Point Sur
Another favorite early morning location is located along a pullout off Highway 1 about 1 mile south of Hurricane Point.
What I love about this location is that it allows a composition looking down the coastline towards the iconic Point Sur and the Point Sur Lighthouse.
It is also located near a low spot in the bordering Santa Lucia Range, allowing for warm dawn light to paint the sky behind the Point. My advice is to arrive just at the start of civil twilight.
My other piece of advice is to time the light on the lighthouse (it will spin around every 12 seconds). If you shoot with an aperture of f/16 or f/22, you will actually get a starburst off the light. Timing the light is key, have a cable release and be ready!
Don Smith teaches two photo workshops along the Big Sur coast each year and they are headquartered at the beautiful Carmel Mission Inn. There are a limited number of spots available for April 2014. Please go to Don Smith Photography website for more information.