• Explore the California Coast

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California Coast Photography Workshop

Central California boasts some of the finest coastline in the world. This intersection of rock and water contains an endless array of fascinating rocky points, arches, sea-stacks, and sandy shores. From the dramatic beauty of the Santa Cruz coast, to the incredibly glassy reflections of San Gregorio State Beach, it’s heaven on earth for seascape photographers. Explore and photograph this world-class coastal environment. This multi-day California coast photography workshop will help photographers create entrancing photos of the breathtaking central California coast. The workshop focuses on understanding your camera’s settings in order to break into new creative realms. There is a strong emphasis on producing striking and powerful compositions, as well as telling a story with your photos. The workshop will cover shoot planning and how to be in the right place at the right time.

Workshop Dates

Jan 13-17, 2021


California Coast Highlights

Workshop attendee doing photography along the California Coast

Small Group Size

Our small group size insures quality, professional instruction on par with your level as a photographer.

California coastal landscape glows with a fiery red and orange sunset

Learn to Manage Light

Whether you want to use filters for the “all-in-one” approach or bracket for HDR, we’ll help you master dynamic light.

Workshop attendee doing photography along the California Coast


Photography should be an enjoyable experience. Our workshops feature a fun, positive, interactive learning environment.

California Coast Photo Workshop Info

Our California Coast Photography Workshop topics include:

• Transforming your artistic vision into memorable photographs
• Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO – their relationship to one another and how to change them for exposure control
• Metering and getting a correct exposure
• Histograms, how to read them, and how to fine-tune exposure
• Creative depth-of-field effects using aperture control
• Capturing motion within your photos using different shutter speeds
• Timing waves to capture crashing spray, water streaks, and sandy reflections
• White balance and creative coloration
• Creating perspective, depth, and a sense of “being there” in your photos
• Creating powerful compositions with impact
• Composing to control your viewer’s attention in your photos
• Composition: balance, tension, and visual flow
• How to use filters to capture dramatic light or create long-exposure effects
• Shoot planning and how to be at the right place at the right time

Getting to the workshop

This workshop is based out of Santa Cruz and Monterey, California. Santa Cruz is located at the Northern end of the beautiful Monterey Bay at the intersection of the 17 and 1 highways. Just 30 minutes south of San Jose, 1.5 hours south of San Francisco, or 5 hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Cruz is easy to get to from all parts of California. We will spend our first two nights here. On Friday, we will head to Monterey for the final two nights.

Day 1: Wednesday
Participants arrive in Santa Cruz and are free to explore the area on their own. A few hours before sunset we will meet to introduce the group, talk a bit about the workshop, and go out to shoot our first sunset. Then we turn you loose to get a good night’s sleep.

Day 2-3: Thursday & Friday
An early wake up call ensures we’ll be at our first beach and shooting when the sun rises. Then it’ll be a beach-blitz day: from sunrise to sunset we’ll be covering the absolute best and most beautiful beaches in Santa Cruz county. Some of our absolute favorite beaches, such as Four Mile Beach and Hole in the Wall Beach, live in this section of coast. Of course there will be breaks scheduled so we can rest, get something to eat, and recharge our batteries. On Friday, we will head down to Monterey, check-in, and head out for sunset.

Day 4-5: Saturday & Sunday
On Saturday, we will spend time at Point Lobos on short hikes to explore this beautiful section of coast. Point Lobos is often referred to as the greatest meeting of land and sea. It’s a highlight! We will head down into Big Sur for our sunset before wrapping up with one final sunrise in Monterey on Sunday.

This workshop is organized to take advantage of the best and most interesting locations the central California coast has to offer. However, the exact itinerary and places we visit may change depending on the group and weather conditions.


The central California coast enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with mild temperatures all year round. In December nights are typically chilly and days are cool, with temperatures ranging anywhere from 32°F to 70°F. Winter also brings relief from the fog that often blankets the coast in the summer. Moreover, the central coast receives the vast bulk of its annual precipitation during the months from November to March. Along with rain, those winter storms bring dramatic light to the coast, making winter the best time for coastal photography in this area.


A $600 deposit is required to reserve your spot with the balance due 60 days prior to the start of the workshop.

What’s Included

• Quality, professional, 1-on-1 photography instruction on par with your level as a photographer
• 8 – 10 hours per day of in-field shooting and instruction
• 4 nights lodging: 2 in Santa Cruz and 2 in Monterey
• Snacks throughout the workshop
• A fun, positive, interactive learning environment
• Small class size of 5 participants maximum

What’s Not Included

• Transportation. While participants need to provide their own transportation during the workshop we will be carpooling as much as possible
• Meals, though the group often eats together throughout the workshop

Cancellation Policy

Please view our cancellation policy here.

Camera Gear

• Interchangeable lens camera: either mirror less or DSLR
• Lenses: Wide and ultra-wide angle lenses are highly recommended as are mid-range, medium telephoto, and possibly macro
• A sturdy tripod
• Circular polarizer and neutral density filters
• Rain fly
• Remote shutter release

Recommended clothing

Due to the cool days and chance of getting wet (either from the ocean or a rainstorm), we HIGHLY recommend bringing multiple layers of non-cotton clothing, a sturdy rain jacket and rain pants, a warm hat, gloves, lots of changes of socks, some dry shoes, and waterproof or rubber boots to wear while shooting. A wide-brim hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, and a large water bottle will also be indispensable.

Fitness level

This California coast photography workshop is appropriate for photographers of average fitness levels. We will walk approximately 5 miles over the course of each day of the workshop. This includes walking on sandy, uneven, and slippery terrain. All participants are expected to be able to carry their own camera, personal gear, and water during the workshop.

Spectacular Locations
Our workshops combine the very best scenery we can find along with in-depth knowledge of the areas we’re visiting. From the coast to the mountains to the desert, our workshops visit some of the most breathtaking landscapes you can imagine. And with hundreds of hours spent scouting and shooting in each location, we know the best times to visit, the best things to see, and the best shots to get. Plus we’re constantly adding new and cool locations to our line-up so you can keep expanding your photographic horizons.

1-on-1 Instruction at Your Level
We take a three-tiered approach to our photography instruction: Philosophy. Theory. Technique. This means that no matter what level of photographer you are, you can expect to walk away from a workshop with your head bursting with ideas about how to refine your vision and find your own style, an understanding of camera techniques and composition concepts that will springboard your photography, and the actual “How-To” of nailing a shot in the field. And with our relaxed, casual, 1-on-1 approach, you can soak up just the information YOU need to become a better shooter.

Small Class Size
Our multi-day workshops insure you get ample one-on-one time with the instructors. Our small groups also help us build camaraderie, plus we can go places big photography tours can’t.

A “Go Happy or Go Home” Attitude
We believe that photography is as much about enjoyment as it is about scoring a keeper for your portfolio. We create a fun and dynamic environment where you can meet other photographers, learn at your own pace, enjoy the beauty of nature, and have a great time while doing it.

We Never Stop Scouting
Before and after every workshop we are scouting, scouting, scouting. Whether it’s to find new and exciting locations to shoot or to provide a different view of the old icons, we strive to show you the absolute best places for photography.

Fully Insured and Permitted, Leave-No-Trace Advocates
We ensure our activities are 100% above board. We obtain all the necessary permissions and insurances required in order conduct our workshops.

We are also strong advocates of Leave No Trace (LNT) wilderness ethics. We teach responsible photography practices and never sacrifice the environment for the sake of a photo. Our goal is to leave our photography workshop locations in better shape than the way we found them.


I just wanted to thank you two for an awesome workshop. I thought you guys were terrific. You’re both incredibly knowledgeable about seascape photography and the area – and better yet – awesome instructors. I’d consider taking another workshop just to hangout and see more locations. I especially appreciated that you guys were always available for questions both during the workshop and afterwards. Dinner and lunches were great too. I learned a ton and got all my questions answered. I loved that we were out all day! Best workshop I’ve taken.

Thank you for a great class. Both of you were so good at explaining things and so willing to help. Not only are you both good at explaining things, but you are both polite, knowledgeable, and helpful. My favorite part of the workshop was the one-on-one attention. It was so much better than a previous class I had taken. Thanks. A+ from this teacher.

Your Instructor

Jim Patterson

Jim Patterson lived in Santa Cruz for over 17 years and practically put the area “on the map” with his spectacular seascape photography. From Half Moon Bay south all the way through Big Sur, Jim knows the area’s beaches like no one else due to countless hours spent scouting and photographing the central California coast.