Central CA coast July 26-27

We will be attending a wedding in Carmel July 25 and plant to spend a couple of days afterwards making a run down Hwy 1, probably only as far as about Morro Bay. I haven’t been down that way in a few years and thought I’d see if anyone has any timely advice on photo ops, beyond the obvious.

I was hoping to shoot a few days at Pt Lobos a couple of weeks ago and arrived on a Saturday. The parking lots were full and there were cars parked along highway 1 about 1/4 mile on both sides from the entrance for people who wanted to walk to the entrance. I don’t know how common that is but I suspect that it might be during the summer months.

Further south I was impressed by the scenery at Garrapata Beach and thought there were great opportunities for surf and beach compositions there. There were much fewer people there but still quite a lot. I suspect things get better with respect to crowds as you get further from Monterey.

I have shot at Garrapata, Pfeiffer and Andrew Molera parks and all of them have their special aspects. Garrapata has impressive hillsides of lupine and lily although I’ve never been there at the right time. Also has a waterfall if you hike all the way in. I think it’s on Soberanes creek which flows through the park. Pfeiffer has a density of redwoods and is quite tranquil. At Molera you’ll find the spot where the Big Sur River meets the Pacific. On the ocean side of any of these are the gorgeous cliffs, hidden creeks and loads of wildflowers. Lots of yellow lupine. Cayucos State Beach has a fairly big tidal change so depending on the time of day, you can find all sorts of interesting creatures in tide pools. It’s pretty cool. Oh and on the beach at San Simeon you can watch the elephant seals. When I first went you could walk right out on the beach with them here, but now there is a high viewing platform. Still worth stopping for though. And of course there are other beaches where you can still get right out among them, but with bulls present I wouldn’t risk it. If you go to my flickr page and look at my Big Sur & California album, you’ll get the idea. Also if you search elephant seal you’ll get those. I don’t think I’ve scanned the film shots I have when I got out on the beach with some cows though.

Hi Diane,

First, and I’m sure you know this… two comments about the “timely advice…” End of July… Crowds and summer marine layer… that’s the bad news. The good news… The CA Coast, especially the stretch below Carmel, well you know, is unsurpassed beauty.

I LOVE Morro Bay - but that’s a LONG drive for just a couple of days; that’s half-way to Santa Barbara. It might be quicker, either coming or going, to take the 101 route, cutting over either on 46 or 41.

Given the time of year, I don’t believe the Elephant seals are present.

My wife and I visit the area at least twice year. The drive around the coast of Pacific Grove on Sunset Dr. is just about my favorite drive - except, well, maybe the valley loop in Yosemite… :slight_smile: There are many opportunities to photograph the rugged surf at all times of the day and all seasons. Given the crowds… my recommendation, go early, find a place to park near the southern end at Asilomar St. Beach (surfer haven) - this is a great beach to walk. But rather than get frustrated with the crowds - just park and get out and walk the coast. they’ve done a great job with a boardwalk for most of the access and you can walk, ignoring the people and traffic.

I would agree the further south you go, the fewer the people… but even mid-week in July Pt. Lobos and other popular spots will fill up fast as Igor mentions. It’s not pretty, nor fun. Julia Pfeiffer is further south and probably your closest, best choice. At least there are redwoods/hiking options besides the ocean, beach and surf.

Also, not sure if you’re looking for general photo-ops, or if you’re looking more specifically. Do you have a place to stay at the southern end, or are you basing your travels from Carmel each day? IMHO, this limits how far south you can go in a day - realistically. For sure though, many access points to stop and check out as you drive south. Many lodging options in Cambria and Morro Bay if you make it that far south.

The good news also, there’s no shortage of options. Hope you have a great trip!

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Thanks everyone! Yeah — we know the marine layer fog! We’re thinking to do the first night in Morro Bay or vicinity, depending on how long we linger getting out of Carmel. It’s a “3-hour” drive, so with a few stops for photography and scouting, it could be a very full day. Probably no time for hikes. Everything will depend on crowds. (We’re allergic to them.) Good sense would probably dictate the first night somewhere short of Morro Bay.

More stops planned on the way back up, of course, and will probably stretch it to an extra day or two out of the Morro Bay area, depending on weather and crowds. But karma always seems to dictate that we need to get back home for something sooner than I want.

We’ll hit Pacific Grove on the way down to Carmel. Maybe the price of gas out here will deter some people — it’s $6/gallon up here in Santa Rosa, and probably a lot more in tourist areas. The 5-6 times I’ve been down that stretch focused on photography, as I remember, the fog was often thin enough to provide some good light and for whatever strange reason, crowds were light. I’m probably not remembering right, though.

I do have advice at Pt Lobos if you decide to go there. I work in two areas over there: (1) Weston Beach and (2) the north face.

As far as I’m concerned there is no better place on earth to shoot close intimate landscapes than Weston Beach. Located at the south end of the preserve it’s best shot in the morning hours before the marine layers lifts entirely. A low tide adds a lot more subject matter.

The north side is where all the gnarly cypress hanging off cliffs are made. This area is shaded later in the day. It’s best to shoot here under flat light conditions or in the shade. The wood is so bright that you don’t need sunlight to have good contrast. The unfortunate thing is that due to the amount of people you are restricted to shoot from a trail bounded by wire (smooth). That greatly limits the compositions available here. For that reason a long lens is a must here. Aside from the trees there are some wonderful opportunities to shoot cliffs, surf, and succulents that grow on these cliffs. It’s a haunting place. Watch out for the poison oak.