Photographing the California Big Sur Coast

May 2021

Soberanes Point, Garrapata State Park, Monterey 17 mile Drive, McWay Falls and other areas on the Big Sur coast are just some of the reasons to be on the California Coast for landscape photography.

It had been a few years since I had photographed on the California Coast and I knew that I had not accomplished what I had wanted to in the past. My good friend, Jess Lee (www.jessleephotos.com) and I decided to hit the road and spend some time both on the coast and in Yosemite. Our goal was to add to our portfolios of Fine Art Landscape Photography.

We met up in Fresno and headed for Monterey to see just how much trouble we could get in. I had spent time there once before and it’s amazing how much better it seems you can do on a second trip. I seem to always be able to find new and better compositions than I do on a first attempt. I need to get better at the first time visits.

We struggled with the clouds being a little scarce, which is probably common there in May. The first afternoon was for some serious scouting and reacquainting with the area. I forget if we managed any images that day.

"California Coast" - Prints Available


One of the first nice areas south of Monterey is Soberanes Point which is part of Garrapata State Park. In the morning, the sun lights up the orange rocky shoreline while facing to the north. In the afternoon, it’s the other way around with the shots generally to the south.

Big Sur Colors
"Big Sur Colors" - Prints Available


Our timing was pretty good as the flowers were blooming in quite a few locations. It was a little late for the bloom at Calla Lily Valley, so that one will have to wait for another year.

We headed out in the dark every morning to get to where our best guess was for sunrise and early light. One of my favorite locations for early light was at the Castle Rock Viewpoint looking north.

Big Sur Morning
"Big Sur Morning" - Prints Available


Soberanes Morning
"Soberanes Morning" - Prints Available


We made the drive down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to get a late afternoon shot at McWay Falls. We arrived to find out that only part of the trail to the viewpoint was open due to storm damage and there really wasn’t a shot to be had. It is another one that will have to wait for another time.

The beach at Garrapata State Park is a great place for sunsets. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it. The flowers made for some nice foregounds.

Garrapata Sunset
"Garrapata Sunset" - Prints Available


Big Sur Sunset
"Big Sur Sunset" - Prints Available


I love the aqua color of the water and I just had to take the time to do a little abstract photography of the waves that were almost straight down below a cliff I was on. With a long exposure, the waves became like wispy clouds.

Ocean Wisps
"Ocean Wisps" - Prints Available


There is an overlook down by the Bixby Bridge that looks south along the coast. The wind was up resulting in some nice waves and it was just a matter of getting the timing right. It made for a nice vertical image of the coast.

Big Sur Afternoon
"Big Sur Afternoon" - Prints Available


Perhaps my favorite photo from the time we spent there was from an area north of Soberanes Point looking south late in the afternoon. I could have done this a little better if I had crawled down an eroded embankment, but I was either lazy or afraid of being able to get back up. Just another one for the next trip.

Big Sur Splendor
"Big Sur Splendor" - Prints Available


We called it a successful four days and headed to Yosemite National Park.

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