Road Tripping Through Big Sur

Geographically Big Sur is just a wilder, more pristine extension of the Monterey Coast. But Big Sur is unique, one-of-a-kind, one of the great road trips in America. Yes, it can be a pain to drive, especially on summer weekends. But get past the quick pull-off and click mentality of most drivers, treat the different spots as the kick-ass photo locations they are, the trip becomes a feast for the photo enthusiast.

From the start of my Carmel photo tour, I had been planning to finish the time off by heading home down Highway 1 through Big Sur and the Central Coast instead of going the fast way, the 5 Freeway. So I spent two days driving the coast route, digging into locations I’ve shot before, but never fully experienced. My guess is I will be back soon for a longer stay. Big Sur is a visual feast.

Monterey Peninsula, Below Garrapata

This location, just a bit below Garrapata State Park, has the ecosystem of the Monterey Peninsula but the same cliffs you see further down in Big Sur.

The richness of the ecosystem has a lot to do with the tidal pool landscape. A spot like this one (below) is a perfect micro-system for plant, fish and animal life. I tried to capture that feeling visually by attending to the wave action as I timed my shots.

Monterey Peninsula, Below Garrapata

I noticed this spot (below) while driving down to Bixby Bridge with Mark Common and other folks on my Creative Academy photo tour. Mark pointed out a large field that slopes down to the sea just north of the bridge. He mentioned that this field of native grasses is used for car commercials that are going for the mythic California coast look. So I stopped on my way home for further exploration. (Thanks Mark.)

Below Garrapata, Above Bixby

Car Commercial Time… I used local adjustments in Lightroom to give a softer texture to the grassland and more Clarity to the harsh cliffs.

You can see Bixby Bridge in the distance. Here’s a variation on that theme.

Below Garrapata, Above Bixby

Both images are f/22. I wanted the whole DOF to be sharp. But this portrait mode image is at 300mm and uses the window in the sea cliff to anchor the image. I shot several of this view but went with the one that has the seagulls riding the ocean breeze.

Bixby Bridge and Old Coast Road

Bixby Bridge from Old Coast Road

One of the classic Big Sur photo locations. This location is a left turn of Hwy 1 (when going south) onto Old Coast Road just before crossing the bridge. Another location choice is just to use the pull-off just right of the bridge. But this location gives a nice mix of foreground and background.

Next Installment: Entering the Wilds of Big Sur

Just below Bixby

Just south of Bixby Bridge, the Big Sur cliffs begin to dominate. And when the fog gets thick and cold, you feel you’ve entered the wild again.

2 Comments on “Road Tripping Through Big Sur

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