My eyes aren’t always turned downwards, finding tiny details to show to the rest of the world. No, sometimes I pretend I’m a landscape photographer. Here are a sunrise at the coast and a sunset at a lake. Unfortunately there were no clouds in the sky for the sunrise, but when I saw the clouds yesterday afternoon, I knew they’d light up well.
Isn’t it funny how time gets away from us when we’re in the zone? Most of the time it’s when you think you’ve been crouched down photographing for just a few minutes, but really it’s been an hour and your companions have deserted you in search of warmth, shelter or just something more interesting than watching you. A bit of a mind flip and you’re into the time slip!
Sometimes though, it can go the other way. What seemed like at least 1/2 hour the other day, I realize now was barely 10 minutes. The sounds of nearby dogs and owners playing faded away and even the sound of the ocean, just a few feet away, slipped out of my consciousness and I tried to remember what it was like to play.
While I didn’t shoot a ton of frames, I experimented with a lot of angles and compositions. I at first didn’t like the complexity of the backgrounds, but then decided I did and included the old military fort next to this playground.
My husband stood politely aside, exiting from shots as I moved around. Noticing his shadow in the way even before I did. Patiently watching me. Even brushing me off when I got up from the sand. I felt bad about taking so much time on what was a beautiful, but windy and cold day. Then when I got home and looked at the time stamps I realized only 10 minutes had passed from first to last. He got off lucky, really. I’ve been known to really lose track of time when we’re out. Hikes take at least 1/3 longer than estimated because I stop so much. Vacations always include lots of time exploring weird things or areas. He doesn’t mind though. I think in some way he enjoys it. Like when I go watch him run 5ks or other races. Sure, I’m standing around doing nothing. Sometimes freezing. But it’s part of togetherness and I don’t mind at all.
Back to California we go.
This time Big Sur. I’ve been through Big Sur before on the famous US1 highway that hugs the Pacific coastline. We even stayed at the impossibly posh Post Ranch Inn a few years ago and got to take one of the hotel Lexus convertibles out. Very cool. But it was March and clearly May is the best time to visit. I think California must have about 1,000,000 wildflowers per square foot or something and almost all of them bloom in May. It’s an explosion; a riot of color that really has to be seen to be believed. I tried my best to capture it, but in person is so much better. Highly recommended.
This first shot is heading toward the ocean on a little road that shoots off of the 46 and connects with US1…I forget what it’s called, but we had to stop and gawk. The water in the middle ground is Whale Rock Reservoir. The water in the background is the Pacific. You can see the dam holding the water in the distance, too. Spectacular.
On the day we drove by the reservoir we were heading to the beach for a bit, but we planned to hike in Big Sur in the next couple of days. Originally we wanted to hit Garrapata State Park, but due to miles and miles of construction on US1 the access was off limits unless we wanted to walk miles through construction zones to get there. We were bummed, but went to the Andrew Molera State Park instead.
Our first stop was a quick walk to the beach where the Big Sur River meets the ocean –
The view from up on the headland is spectacular. I love how there’s one guy on the beach in that second shot – it shows the scale really well. Later on tons of people arrived and the shots would have been ruined, so I’m glad we went here before heading up to the hills.
If you take a look at the 1st black and white river photo up there, you can see a pointed hill almost exactly in the middle of the background. Not the highest one, but the one just to the right of it. We decided to climb that – it’s the East Molera Trail.
It takes a few miles to get to the 1600 foot summit or so and the trails are pretty steep and covered in large loose rocks so going down was sort of nightmarish for me with my wonky ankles. You can see the trail zig-zagging up the hill. But oh the view. It was worth it.
As we neared the top, I looked back the way we had come. Way down was the ocean and the jutting headland where I took the pictures of the Big Sur river emptying into the Pacific (it’s there on the left). Pretty cool. Below us, hawks and vultures danced and soared in the thermals.
And even the moon seemed to dip low and appreciate the view –
Mid-coast California is one of our favorite vacation spots. My husband and I have been there a half-dozen times or so over the last 15 years. Ever since our first week in Monterey, we’ve felt the pull of this spectacular part of the country.
Monterey itself is a neat little town with lots of great restaurants and of course, the aquarium. Whenever I’m there I think I spend most of my time in front of the octopus tanks. They fascinate me. Lately we’ve been staying at the new Intercontinental Hotel right on Cannery Row and I think that will become our new Monterey address. From there we can walk to the Whaling Station or the Sardine Factory and there’s a good little breakfast spot not far away either.
And we can get in our 5-6 miles straight down to Pacific Grove and back. At night the sea lions hang out on the pier and blast you with sleepy snorts if you get too close. Oh and it’s just as gorgeous a view at night as during the day –
Usually we head to some of our favorite wineries for some tasting. This means heading down Salinas valley all the way to Soledad. 101 runs straight through miles and miles of farmland, but River Road is where the wineries are.
From here we drove down to Paso Robles to see more of our favorite wine makers and do some tasting. Paso Robles is a really beautiful region full of hills, grape vines, oak trees and flowers. The name means Oak Pass and it’s not called that for nothing. If you’re into Rhone varietals you really need to go there. Denner, Linne Calodo, Booker, Terry Hoage, Four Vines are some of the best.
Typically in May the rain has stopped in both Salinas valley and Paso Robles, but a freak storm system blew in while we were there, making for some unusual scenery. It didn’t last though and the next day blue skies returned, but with some cool puffy clouds just to make things interesting.
On the second morning of our stay in P.R., we drove down the 46 to US1 on the coast. The explosion of wildflowers was amazing as were the seascapes and beaches….but that’s for another post.
As we head into spring it gets harder and harder to find things that I find photographically pleasing. So I went to the beach.
The way the light hits the sand and lights up these rivulets is really something. Nothing like an empty beach –
Black and white wasn’t a bad choice either for highlighting the shapes created by the water –
I’m told all waterways lead to the sea –
Lately I’ve been out shooting with other people and it’s helped me define my style. When one is alone, there isn’t anything to compare with, so in a group I observe how others approach the same subject. It’s fascinating and has led me to think about how I want to convey what it was like to be where I took my pictures. Both macro and micro pictures are necessary for this, but which speaks more clearly?
Details v. Vistas. For me, it takes both types of photos to really tell the story; to make the viewer feel like they know what it’s like to be there. Too many times have I just told ½ the story by concentrating on the Big Picture. A wide angle lens is a forgiving tool. It’s easy to get decent or even good photos when using such an encompassing lens.
For me though, I find I like crafting detail shots even more. They’re more intimate and somehow more personal. When I see some small element in a photo, it puts me in closer proximity to the photographer. Now I can try to find what caught her attention in the first place. What fixed it on this tiny part of the giant landscape? Is it as magical to me as it was to him? Can I convey that feeling of a special discovery when I make detailed photos? It’s more challenging and I really like working the details of a given scene. Anyone can show me the whole thing, but who can show me the secrets?
The size of the detail varies, too. Sometimes you need focus, but not so tiny. A medium-shot if you will. Something with perspective to help illustrate why being at that place at that time was worth photographing. There was a big storm this past October on Cape Cod and the surf was high…unusually high. But my big pictures just didn’t convey any scale. They were impressive of the totality, but so what…oh look – waves. Aren’t there always waves? And tilted horizons?
I kept on the look out for something that would convey just how high the surf was coming. Then I found it.