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Big Sur might be one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in the world. Rugged light colored rock, and the bluest ocean crashing around it…it's just spectacular to sit and watch. It's even more fun to head out and photograph it!
Alicia and I met a group of new and familiar faces on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Carmel for a fun day of photography and exploration on this beautiful bit of coastline. The group had a great, and varied level of experience, and we were both looking forward to a fun day teaching the class some of our tips and tricks.
Though the coastline is the jewel of the day, it would be a shame to be near one of the state's most historical missions and not pay it a visit too. We begin at the Carmel Mission, and for me, I love this location because it's filled with details. Many times photographers get swamped with the iconic, and have trouble finding the beauty and aesthetic of the simple and small. I love to show people all the rich details, patterns, light, and texture this place has to offer and how to make really nice images with what often takes a little more searching to find.
This mission has a beautiful collection of flowers as well, and it seems each month brings a different bed of blooms in different color and texture. There's never a shortage of color! I like the fountains too…I've found a few unique ways to capture both the fountains in this mission and enjoy showing them to the class and watching as they try to replicate the techniques.
The mission is pretty big and when it's time to go to the next spot it's a little like herding cats to try and get the class out of the halls, and gardens and back into the van to see more of what we've planned for them.
Once we've assembled our crew again it's time to drive south along historic highway 1 to Bixby Bridge. It's not a long stop, but not taking the time to grab a few images of this marvel of engineering would be wrong. Alicia and I work on some basic compositional techniques, encourage the use of polarizers to bring out the blues in the sky, and help the class get a couple post-card like shots of this pretty bridge.
McWay Falls is a little oasis set in an already picturesque location. This small cove, with its bright cerulean blue water, white sand beach, and waterfall make for shots that definitely provide an “OOOH” or “AHHH” but also provide us the first opportunity to discuss longer exposures, and dialing up the apertures all the way to get longer exposures, and using neutral density filters to help get even LONGER exposures, and blur the water in the falls and ocean.
One unexpected surprise of this stop was the California Condors! I've seen them every time, but typically they are far off on a ridge, high in the trees. I'm not sure if it was the beautiful weather or what but this time they were VERY close to us! One landed so close to me on a branch the noise made me think the tree was falling on me, and I ran. These beautiful birds soared all around us for the duration of our visit and a few of the students got some nice shots of these big guys as they landed and took off from the trees.
This class was super excited for sunset, and working on capturing some memorable sunset images…there's no place better than Pfeiffer Beach. This beach has great rocks, a cool sea arch, and plenty of space for our class to set up. Once the class was set up within the right proximity to get the waves and reflection in the sand and avoid the messy footprints it was time to start shooting. Alicia and I brought out the graduated filters here to show how they can help hold back light in an exposure and really balance out the contrast between light sky, and dark foreground. We continued to use the polarizers here as well to bring out the reflected color in the sand, or remove it if the students' preference was to have less. We push our apertures up here not strictly for the depth of field, although that is important, we want those smaller aperture holes to allow us the maximum length exposures and get some nice blur in the water to make a dreamy, and more interesting shot. After capturing some of the dreaming, silky water some students wanted to stop action with the waves so we worked with increasing the ISO to make the camera sensor more receptive to light and allow the camera to get faster shutter speeds. Whatever your mind wants creatively, there's a way to capture it…and that's our job, to help you do just that!
It was a long and lovely day in Big Sur…Alicia and I had so much fun swapping stories, and laughing with the group along the way. The weather was great, and the images we saw on the cameras were downright lovely as well. We hope you all enjoyed the day as much as we did.
Until Next Time,
Brian, Alicia and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.