The Big South, or Big Sur, is electrified beauty. The collision of mesmerizing turquoise ocean and the live green Santa Lucia mountains are wrapped into one delightfully charming landscape. With miles of seemingly endless highway hugging the craggy escarpment over the Pacific Ocean, it is no question that this is one of the most gorgeous locations to photograph in the world.
Ellie Stone and I met up with our students in the heart of Carmel. The weather report predicted an unseasonably warm afternoon and it was definitely right! When we met our class around noon, it was already in the high eighties.
Everyone was eager to learn and ready to spend the day capturing light. We headed to our first stop - Carmel's wonderful historic Catholic Mission San Carlos. Erected in 1771, the mission is a step back in time. Intricate statues and flowing fountains line the outer walls of the steeple while soothing hymns pour out of the open doorways. We spent about an hour walking around it grounds practicing different techniques for macro photography of the local flora and trying some wide angle shots of the impressive structures.
Next on the itinerary was the impressive 714-foot Bixby Bridge – a must-see when traveling the famous Highway One. Rising over 280 feet, the bridge connects two giant pieces of natural coastline and sits next to a large cove where the ocean waves roll across the beach.
After getting our "pixel fill” with Bixby, we hopped in the Aperture Van and continued our trek south toward Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This gem is home to the fantastic McWay Falls, a freshwater stream that dives 80 feet off of a cliff before spilling into the ocean. This waterfall is a favorite for landscape photographers and we quickly set up our tripods and experimented with some slow shutter speeds. The goal was to capture the "soft water” effect, and the students were faced with several lighting challenges, including how to overcome harsh lighting and how to tame the constant movement of the crashing waves. Using our ND grads and polarizers, we were able to achieve a soft water effect that exemplified the moving scene while also knocking down some of the blinding highlights.
For the finale of the "Big Sur and the Carmel Mission” workshop, we ventured back up north on Highway One to a local favorite: "Rocky Point.” True to its name, the point is surrounded by big sea stacks. This was the perfect location to watch the evening hour light – the time of year marks the beginning of the big swell season and the waves colliding with the rocks created large fanning sprays that were spectacular to watch. With a complete north-to-south view, it was hard to decide what to shoot! As students searched for the perfect spot to use their newly-learned skills to catch the last light of the day, the sun sank low into the horizon and the rippling tide took on an orange glow.
As we drove back to Carmel, students had time to review their best shots, compare notes with the others, and recap their favorite moments. As Ellie stopped the van, we got a very unexpected applause from 13 very happy new friends. Until next time, Big Sur!
Until Next Time,
Ellie, Phil 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.
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