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Art By The California Coast
Coastlines are always stunning, but the California Coast takes it to another level. Fine Art Prints almost create themselves from the scenes at Big Sur with colorful cliffs, wildflowers, and big storm waves. Any of these will make a beautiful fine art print for your home or office.
Visiting and Photographing The California Coast
Let’s talk about why the California Coast is such a great place to visit and photograph. It all begins with 840 miles of stunning coastline views.
The far south end of the state at La Jolla, California is known for the views at Windansea Beach, the Scripps Pier, and a variety of unusual circular rock formations visible at low tide. I have not been there, as of yet, but it is on my list.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to the iconic McWay Falls. Spring and early summer is a great time to be there as the setting sun enters the cove from the best direction to light up the falls. The trail to the falls was closed and under repair in 2021, so it's best to check to see if its open before going.
The Big Sur Area
I absolutely love the Big Sur area. There are colorful cliffs and flowers and beautiful aqua-colored ocean waters.
It begins on the south end with views of the Little Sur River as it feeds into the Pacific Ocean. The Castle Rock Viewpoint has a great view of the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.
The view even without the bridge is just as good.
A favorite morning photography location is the pullout adjacent to the Rocky Creek bridge. Looking north, you have the high, orange, rocky coast descending into the Ocean.
Garrapata State Beach has so many possibilities. If you’re not photographing, it is a wonderful place jus to be at the beach. Sunsets with Spring flowers are a definite attraction here. Just to the north is the Calla Lily Valley, where you can shoot large white flowers in the foreground. Early April is the time to be there.
I’m always drawn back to Soberanes Point when I’m in the area. The winter storms result in some fantastic scenes of waves exploding on the sea stacks offshore. Flowers are everywhere in the Spring.
The 17 Mile Drive on the coast at Monterey is a must-see. This drive includes views of the Lone Cypress tree, an iconic signature of the Pebble Beach Golf Course. It’s another great location to capture huge wintertime surf. Bring a long lens to capture those tight wave curls.
Up the coast at Santa Cruz brings you to Natural Bridges State Beach. I was fortunate to be able to capture a great image of Natural Bridge at sunset. If you can, try to be there at high tide to have an opportunity to work with long exposures with waves.
Shark Fin Cove and Davenport Beach with the Davenport Crack offer some additional photo opportunities at sunset. Just north of Davenport is the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which is one of my all-time favorite lighthouses to photograph at sunset.
The beautiful beaches and views along Highway 1 continue all the way to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marin Highlands is a fun place to be in the late afternoon and early evening with its incredible view of the bridge.
North of Golden Gate is Point Reyes National Seashore. There are stunning views of the Point Reyes Lighthouse and the coast from an elevated position. There is an iconic Cypress Tree Tunnel and, on the north end of the island, Tule Elk roam among the hills.
The California Coast just doesn’t quit providing amazing scenery. Salt Point State Park, Point Arena Lighthouse, Mendocino, Cabrillo Lighthouse, and Fort Bragg offer a wealth of things to do and photograph.
The far north end of California brings Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The best time to be there is when the Rhododendrons are in bloom, which is usually late May or early June.
I hope I have created some interest in the California coast. I love photographing any coastline scene, but California takes it to another level.
Fun Facts about the California Coast
Surf’s Up—when you hear the words “California Coast”, one thought that immediately comes to mind is the 1960s music of the Beach Boys. Their first single, Surfin’, was a regional success and led to their signing with Capitol Records as its first rock act. Many of their songs… California Girls, Catch a Wave, Little Surfer Girl, Surfin’ Safari….helped to create the mystique of the California sun, fun, and surfer beach life… walking along the beaches as the waves come crashing onto the shore.
One Awesome Road Trip—the Pacific Coast of California is known for the Big Sur Scenic Drive (Highway 1) which begins in Monterey Bay and goes to San Luis Obispo. This is a winding, narrow, mountainous coastal road with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. At times you are close to sea level and at times you are next to a thousand sheer drops to the water.
How many bedrooms do you need? William Randolph Hearst needed a lot at Hearst Castle. In 1919, Hearst inherited land from his father and soon after, construction began on a project that evolved over the years. The main residence at Hearst Castle has 115 rooms including 38 bedrooms and more than 40 bathrooms. Hearst died in 1951 and in 1958, the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument was established at which point the estate was opened to the public.
How many stacks of concrete does it take to build an iconic bridge? The Bixby Bridge, which is more than 250 feet tall and is one of the world’s highest single-span concrete arch bridges, was completed in 1932. It crossed over the bottom of a steep canyon created by Bixby Creek. 45,000 individual sacks of concrete had to be hauled up the framework—no easy task in those days. The Bixby Bridge is a favorite attraction for both road trip adventures and photographers.
Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco but we think you can find it again while watching either a sunrise or sunset at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. This iconic structure weighs 887,000 tons. Construction began in January 1933 and the bridge was opened on May 27, 1937. Today it is one of the area’s most popular landmarks.
To the east of the Golden Gate Bridge is Alcatraz Island, a designated National Historic Landmark. Alcatraz was the setting for the 1996 American action thriller film, The Rock, starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. Alcatraz is most famous for the 29 years it operated as a United States penitentiary (1934-1963).
What famous landmark used whale oil? The Point Sur lighthouse was established in 1889 and used various fuels (whale oil, lard oil, kerosene) until the 1950s when electricity was introduced.
And speaking of whales—what is the most massive animal to have lived? No, it is not Moby Dick. It is the Blue Whale (weighs approximately 150 tons). You can sign up for whale watching tours while visiting Morro Bay, California on your scenic drive. They also have tours during which you can spot Gray Whales and Humpback Whales.
The ultimate GPS challenge—your car GPS or Waze might struggle in Carmel-by-the-Sea as they do not use street addresses. Instead, properties are identified as being on the “west side of San Antonio Street, 3 houses south of 12th Avenue.” Some owners also give their property a name such as Odyssey or Whale’s Tail. The village is one square mile and does not have any stoplights.
The Northern California Coast is truly a photographer’s dream—whether you are taking pictures of the iconic bridges, sunrises or sunsets, or waves crashing on the beaches along the Big Sur coast, lighthouse, historic landmarks… there will be something to catch your imagination and make you glad you visited this area.