How quickly you forget the roar of a crashing wave and the salty tang of ocean air. Now that I’m living in the mountains it’s been easy for me to push aside my sense memories of the coast in favor of building new connections with the pine trees and granite of the Sierra. But a visit to Santa Cruz on October 12th for a coastal photography workshop brought those oceanic sensations and perceptions back to me in full force, and I’m hearing the sea as I type this.
Jim and I met our group under the gray blanket of fog that so often covers the Santa Cruz coast. Fog actually creates fairly decent conditions for seascape photography due to the soft, uniform light it creates, and I was excited to work with our group under these conditions. But one of the pecularities of coastal fog is that it almost always clears in the afternoon. And sure enough, by the time we had packed our gear in the cars, hit the road, and parked at Four Mile beach the fog had vamoosed, leaving behind bright sunlight and a brisk wind, which while not ideal for seascape photography, made for a beautiful -if invigorating- day outside. At Four Mile Jim and I hiked the group to a prominent shelf on the south end, noting on the walk down that the famous Four Mile seastack seemed to have crumbled a little bit, leaving it looking 10 pounds lighter and 10 years younger.
One of the great things about our workshops is the wide range of experience levels we get, and this ‘shop was no exception. It was great fun to bounce around from photographer to photographer and see what each was working on, and to talk about wide-angle composition one minute, and the creative and technical considerations of one’s f-stop the next. I also love how every photographer sees the world in a different way, and working with everyone 1-on-1 was a great way for me to peek into their minds. After a few hours the wind had us feeling like the three little pigs (er, eight little pigs I should say), and we headed back to the cars to get a break from the huffing and puffing.
We then decided to hit up Hole in the Wall Beach for sunset. Hole in the Wall has somewhat more rough access than the typical beach, but when Natalya, our group’s oldest and wisest member, told us about all the thousands of meters of vertical ascent she’d recently done on hikes in British Columbia we figured this little mountain goat trail wouldn’t pose a problem, and we were right. Hole in the Wall is a spectacular beach with an enormous rock arch and fascinating rock formations near its southern end. When the tide is right (which it was that afternoon), crashing waves will cascade over many of these rocks, creating beautiful oceanic waterfalls.
This was something that very few of our photographers had ever seen and we took the opportunity to discuss using longer shutter speeds and filters in order to capture this falling water in a beautiful and dreamy way. Victoria also took advantage of her rubber boots to dash in and out of the crashing waves for a dramatic perspective. Even though the fog had burned away to leave an utterly clear sky, the ambient humidity and haze of the sea caused the afternoon sunlight to take on a rich, warm hue. This glow only intensified as the sun hit the horizon and our crew got busy snapping away at the beautiful scene.
As always on the central California coast, as soon as the sun disappeared darkness and cold quickly set in, so we packed it up and headed out to Thai food to celebrate. A great end to a great workshop.
From Jim and myself, a huge thanks to Lorenzo, Tibi, Shree, Victoria, Natalya, and Barbara for the wonderful day at the coast. Check out some photos from the day below, and the student gallery at the bottom of the page.