Big Sur photo class

Big Sur Coastal Photography Workshop: “Adundant Sunshine”

As a landscape photographer, I check the weather…a lot. I have my favorite webcams and radar websites to track storms and cloud movement; many of these sites are on our Resources Page. As a workshop instructor, of course I wish the weather would cooperate and would be optimal for students to experience great light and dramatic conditions. But this isn’t always the case; thus is the nature of landscape photography. One must go out and take whatever nature offers. Learning to make images in a variety of conditions is an important asset to have as is knowing where to go where the conditions are less than optimal.

This October brought an extended period of summer like conditions, and the forecast for our Saturday Big Sur workshop called for “abundant sunshine”.  And abundant sunshine it was. Ah, the bane of clear blue skies. Normally, we start the day at Pfeiffer Beach and move to Garrapata State Park. But knowing we would encounter clear skies and “abundant sunshine”, we switched it up. Garrapata was beautiful as always with its mix of sand and rocks to accompany the emerald green waves curling in to shore. But the harsh light made for less than stellar conditions for image making. Instead, we focused on individual students’ needs including how to use camera settings for creative control and improving compositions. Heading south to Pfeiffer Beach, we made a quick pit stop at Hurricane Point to photograph the Big Sur coast and the iconic Bixby Bridge.

As we arrived on the beach at Pfeiffer, we could see the light was already softening into a nice warm glow, and a beam began to appear through the famous sea caves found here. The abundant sunshine was a welcome sight for this location. The students gathered around and made images of this striking phenomenon that only happens in Fall and Winter. As the sun got lower to the horizon, the beam faded and we wandered the sandy shore for alternate compositions. The low tide allowed for great reflections in the wet sand and a crescent moon grew brighter at the onset of twilight.

While Josh and a few students worked the reflections and post-sunset glow, I gave a quick lesson on creative use of in-camera settings. While Josh and I both shoot in RAW format, I realize some students don’t. Whether it be software constraints or hard drive space, we always encounter students who simply don’t have the means or the desire to commit to image editing the way we do. As the sunset glow mixed with the deep blue of twilight, I fired off three frames with various white balance and camera settings for color and contrast. There is no one “correct” way in photography. Yes, there are rules, but they can be bent…and certainly can be broken.

Thanks once more to all in attendance: Macey, Gary, Cynthia R. and Cynthia K., Andrew, Kelly, and Lynn. It was a pleasure!

Jim Patterson



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