Winter 2014 California Coast Photography Workshop Recap

photographers on cliff overlooking ocean with sun rising

Our most recent session of the California Coast Photography Workshop was great fun: full of escapades up and down the central California coast. One of the great things about it was that we were faced with completely clear, sunny skies nearly the entire time. “Sunny skies? Great??” you say. Yes! Sometimes it can be too easy to rely on those gorgeous skies to make our pictures pop. And while incredible skies certainly add magic to a photo, too often they are used as a crutch to make a photo seem better than it really is. Well we had no crutches the weekend of March 15-16. Nay! We stood on our own two feet the entire time and managed to create some really compelling images.

We looked for the huge, sweeping views at sunrise and sunset, and sought out more intimate views during the daylight hours when the light was harsher. We found the shelter of a thick marine layer and used it as an opportunity to create surreal long exposure images. We chased the full moon and found the right place and time to capture it in dramatic and beautiful ways. We saw dolphins and whales, spooked sea gulls, and ate too many donuts. But most importantly we were out doing photography and having fun.

The weekend started early Saturday morning at a bluff overlooking Hole in the Wall beach and its rugged seastacks and rock formations. For me there is nothing quite like the sound of the ocean at sunrise;  it always makes those early morning wake ups worthwhile. As the sun climbed higher into the eastern sky we moved on the Four Mile Beach with its long, graceful curve, and prominent seastack. Soon the light was particularly harsh so we disbanded for a midday break.

That afternoon we headed further north to explore the beaches of San Mateo county. We started at Pebble Beach (not the golf course, but somewhere even cooler), where the tafoni formations are endless and mind-bending. A thick fog layer swept in and gave us a perfect opportunity to work with 30+ second exposures. After the sun and blue skies of the morning the thick mist and wind made it seem like we’d suddenly been plunged into an alternate (and much colder) dimension, so we took a short break to warm up and grab some quick dinner. Then we spent another fun hour out in the fog at Pescadero State Beach capturing the ocean surf in novel and beautiful ways before the light dimmed and we drove back to Santa Cruz for the night.

Sunday sunrise found us at Davenport Main Beach watching an enormous full moon set slowly over the bluffs and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The varied terrain at Davenport let the group really spread out and shoot all kinds of photos, from long exposures to wave panning abstracts to wide-angle grand landscapes and more. Before the sun rose too high we visited Bean Hollow State Beach, where the pounding surf, high tide, and intricate formations and channels formed a perfect combination of seascape fodder.

After lunch we headed toward Hole in the Wall beach, where Jim and I both remarked how we’d never seen as many cars at the beach as on that day. Unfortunately for solitude seekers, Hole in the Wall is a popular party beach, and that warm Sunday afternoon brought revelers out of the woodwork. Undaunted, we skirted the crowds and walked down to the far south end of the beach where the rocks and waves are incredibly dramatic, and few other people visit. Thankfully we more or less had this part of the beach all to ourselves. A few of our group sat down to just soak up the view for awhile, while others concentrated on capturing the rocky forms poking up out of the ground. Sunset came quickly as always and everyone had their cameras out, shooting the last warm rays of the sun, and capturing the beautiful flow of the ocean waves as it wrapped around the rocks.

Of course, we couldn’t even have a workshop to talk about without our wonderful participants, so a huge thank you to Elisabeth, Denyse, Jim, Jennifer, Anita, Cynthia, and Daniel for joining us. It was a great weekend on the coast with you all. Be sure to see more photos from the workshop in the gallery below.

Take care and hope to see you on another workshop soon. In the meantime, happy shooting!

Participants Gallery

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