The Big Sur coastline is one of the prettiest in the planet. Rugged stone cliffs, bright blue water, it really doesn't feel like it belongs. Other than the curvy nauseating roads, Big Sur is really an ideal spot. There's so much to see, and explore that people come from all over the world to visit the area. I heard 4 different languages in our small hotel breakfast lounge prior meeting our group for our monthly photography workshop.
Joining me on the photography workshop were Jean Day, and Paul Porter two of our other excellent photography instructors at the Aperture Academy. We met our group of 8 fantastically enthusiastic photographers at 11:30 for a full day of exploration in Carmel, and the Big Sur Coastline.
Our first stop of the day is the Carmel Mission. I think this building might be one of my favorite locations in California. Not only is it historically fascinating, it' also rich with little details that beg to be photographed. Jean, Paul, and I walk around while the group shoots the facilities. Our goals are to check in often and help students with any technical issues they might be having with the aperture or shutter speed settings. One of my favorite things to work on here is helping the students to SEE. There's so much to see here I find students often get sidetracked by the big stone steeple or the bells, or find they focus on only a small portion of the grounds. I like to find little things like reflections, repetitive patterns, curves, details, and such that they may walk right by. I like to show them new ways to see, and explain why I saw that, and how I first stumbled upon it. Granted, I've been to the Mission over 20 times in the past 4 years, and I've learned to see it differently...but each visit brings new conditions and I ultimately find something new I've never seen before...and I love to share it with the class.
After a curvy ride down highway 1...we make a brief stop at the lovely Bixby Bridge....this iconic stone bridge is a must see location, and it's a lot of fun to make a post-card type image of the curves and ingenuity that comprise Highway 1.
Our next location is the tropical feeling McWay Falls. A waterfall, falling on to a white sand beach, and palm trees and other plants surround it and the idyllic cove it sits in...it really looks like something out of an add for the Caribbean more than the California coastline. We make the long walk out the trail for the best vantage points...we worked with the class here on longer exposures using the neutral density filters to help...as well as upping the aperture and lowering our ISO as far as it would go. In addition to the wonderful waterfall there is also a beautiful vantage point looking up the coastline at the different layers, jutting out into the cerulean blue sea. This shot was awesome today...the white clouds wisped through the sky, and the color of the water and position of the light was perfect to create something that looked like the cover of a Via magazine....everyone got some nice work done here...
From here it was another curvy ride down to Pieffer Beach. This little beach has no signs, but yet is one of the most popular spots with photographers. A wonderful arch sits just off shore and during this time of year the sun sets and shines right through the arch lighting up the waves like a solar laser. It's really something to see...although no evening on the coast is a guarantee of getting the right conditions...the sky had clouded considerably from when we began our day, and it seemed like the chances of getting that wonderful light was fleeting. We set up (along with 15 other photographers) and waited. Paul, Jean and I made sure everyone was dialed in with the challenges and techniques needed to properly capture this scene. There is a lot of contrast, so unless you are shooting JUST the hole in the rock, you may need to bracket the images to get both the dark rock and bright sky exposed properly. We offered GND filters and help working with the cameras so everyone could get both kinds of exposure.
Despite our best efforts, and Paul's primal light chanting we never got too much of that golden light ray...a little to wet our appetite, but not the huge beam everyone was hoping for...but that didn't mean the class didn't get some nice images anyway! We stayed late, and luckily there were some backlogged color rays waiting as the sun dipped behind the horizon, and we were treated to some nice pink glow after the sun had gone....everyone got some nice shots of the soft light and silky moving ocean waves...one student even got the shot she wanted for her wedding invitations! Heck if we can help people do that, we can do anything right!
We drove back to Carmel cameras filled with images, and heads focused on getting home to process those images...when you're focused on your photos it makes all those curves less bothersome!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Jean, Paul and the rest of the Aperture Academy.
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.