Its often been written that the Big Sur coastline is one of the greatest meetings between land and sea in the world. On a sunny Sunday day in April, our group of 15 enthusiastic photographers found this statement to hold little in the way of writer's hyperbole. For this first Big Sur workshop of the year, we were greeted with unseasonably warm, sunny weather with not a fog bank to be seen. Meeting in Carmel, everyone gathered for a round of introductions (although we recognized many familiar faces from previous workshops), detailing experience levels as well as what they would like to get most out of the workshop. In addition to allowing us to get to know our people a bit better on an individual level which is always nice, this information allows our instructors to tailor fit their tips and techniques to each individual throughout the day. Picking up a few snacks and drinks to keep our bodily energy reserves at full potential, we first headed off to the Carmel Mission
Built in the 1790's, the mission is a classic example of vintage Spanish Adobe architecture. Throughout its various courtyards, darkened corridors, church abbeys, lovely gardens, main cathedral, and even a small cemetery, numerous subject matter can be found at almost every turn. We encourage everyone to work in full manual mode and for many, this is their first exposure (no pun intended...ok, maybe just a little bit) with working and determining proper exposure on their own. For others well versed in determining exposure and figuring tricky lighting scenarios, attention can be focused towards improving composition, "seeing" an image before it is taken and experimenting a bit with more advanced techniques.
Although it would be easy to spend a full afternoon at the mission, the crashing monster waves of the Big Sur coastline beckoned us so we hopped into our van and vehicles and made our way to the first of many ocean vistas we would see during the day. Our next stop was a rocky granite outcrop nestled within a wide expansive sandy beach with Pt Lobos as a backdrop. Since not a cloud in the sky was around to soften the high sun, we took the time to introduce filter stacking techniques to slow our exposures and create a softer texture among the crashing waves on rocks. Many attendees had never worked with filters before and were amazed at the results they were seeing on their LCD's. I think many in the group were ready to put down their orders with Singh Ray Filters or B&H Photo right there once they saw what they could achieve, even under less than ideal lighting conditions. The waves were exceptionally big on this day so we also got to experiment with shutter speed settings thus creating very dynamic wave abstracts images. From certain angles and since we were right on the front lines of the pounding surf, some of us captured some amazing shots looking straight down the tubes of some 10-15 foot breakers. Pretty impressive displays of mother nature I must say.
Next stop, Pt Lobos. What can one say about Pt. Lobos that will truly do it scenic justice. It's pretty difficult the relay the harsh beauty of the place but one can certainly see why master photographers such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams spent a good deal of time and created some of their greatest photographs in this area. A maze of trails criss-cross through a variety of micro-ecosystems so we chose a trail that gave a fantastic mix of craggy, knarled cypress scenics, detailed macro photo options of wildflowers, richly colored lichen growths and the always impressive expansive ocean/land vistas. Needless to say, it's also a great place to sit and eat our picnic lunches. Refueled we prepared for our next stop.
Like most places along Big Sur, one could spend days photographing only the rich environments of Pt Lobos however we had one more stop down the coast planned for the final captures of the day. Once again, we loaded up our crack team of photo commandos and headed for Rocky Point. From this vantage, one can look in either direction and see some of the classic coastal scenes that Big Sur is famous for. In one direction is the famed Bixby Bridge and the other miles of bare rugged rock. As the sun sank beneath the waves of the Pacific, the last rays of light provided the lovely golden light we had hoped for and a few wispy clouds on the horizon gave us some greatly appreciated pastel colors. A bit chilled by the breezy night winds, we grouped into the van one final time and made our way back to Carmel with camera cards full, batteries drained, and hopefully some newfound knowledge and experience.
It was a full day of shooting at a wide variety of locations, in some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in world coupled with a great group of individuals. In our opinion, that's not too shabby of a way to spend the day. On behalf of the two Scott's and the rest of the Aperture Academy staff, thanks so much for joining us and giving us yet another wonderful outing. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Until next time...Scott, the other Scott, 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.