Salt Point State Park

Wind and water sculpted sandstone creates an alien landscape along the headlands of Salt Point State Park, California

Last week I spent a few days at Salt Point State Park, along the California coast just north of Jenner. The state park encompasses over six miles of shoreline, as well as miles of interior trails through coastal forest. This portion of the coast is one of the most dynamic in the state, made so by acres of sandstone, shaped over time by the strong waves and stronger wind, creating an alien landscape of stone and water.

Although the sky was clear and the sun was out, the temperature never topped 60 degrees. Windy conditions persuaded most people to stay away, entrusting the entire length of coastline to me alone. By early evening, the wind really picked up with gusts between 30 – 40 mph. I had a hard enough time just staying on my feet much less keeping my tripod steady. The wind was only outdone by the strength of the massive waves breaking against the rocky shore.

Waves crash against sandstone headlands, Salt Point State Park, California
A wave blasts a sandstone point as the ocean's energy turns water into a milky froth, Salt Point State Park, California

In the mornings, the wind from the night before had subsided, but the ten to fifteen foot waves were no less fierce.

Huge waves crash over offshore sea stacks, Salt Point State Park, California

The variety of the landscape was impressive. I found myself walking through fields of recently bloomed wildflowers, back-dropped by sheer cliffs plunging to an azure ocean. At low tide, pools appeared among newly uncovered rock, offering a glimpse into the lives of the sea dwellers who live there.

Wildflowers adorn the coastline of Salt Point State Park
Tidepools adorn sculpted sandstone headlands, Salt Point State Park, California

The park was home to a variety of wildlife, from song and shore birds to seals, lizards, and an abundance of healthy looking deer. Ultimately it was a brief few days, but a welcome respite from the bustle of the Bay Area. There was much more to see at Salt Point than time allowed, and I know I’ll be going back there in the future.

A harbor seal clings to an offshore rock as waves splash around it, Salt Point State Park, California
A white-crowned sparrow perches in morning light, Salt Point State Park, California
A white-crowned sparrow forages through fields of wildflowers, Salt Point State Park, California

Sunrise at Pescadero State Beach

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to Pescadero State Beach for sunrise. I picked a weekday to make sure I had the place to myself. I arived about a half hour before sunrise to catch some of the early light peaking over the eastern horizon, and get some long exposures of the surf before the sun actually hit them.

Pescadero has three separate parking areas off of Highway 1. For photography, my favorite is the middle one because of the interesting rock formations just off the coast. For wide sandy beaches, either the northern or southern lots would be the best bet.

The following two images were taken of the surf swirling around some off-shore rock formations. Because of the very low ambient light, a long exposure was needed, which gives the water that misty smoke look.

Ambient light casts the scene in shades of blue, Pescadero State Beach, California
The movement of the tidal flow is captured by a long exposure in pre-dawn light along the California coast

At this time of the morning, the sun hadn’t yet risen above the horizon, but the eastern sky was reflecting some vibrant oranges and yellows. The image below was taken facing east, in the opposite direction of the previous two photos.

Morning light crests the horizon and is reflected in a shallow tidal estuary, Pescadero State Beach, California

Once the sun had peaked the horizon, the western sky finally was lit up in the reds and oranges of sunrise. The following image was taken just after sunrise, looking west. The light was dim enough to still require a long exposure (though not as long as the first two images), but now the sky and water were a completely different color.

A high tide moves in over off shore rocks at dawn, Pescadero State Beach, California

And looking south, the morning light was even more spectacular.

Pastel oranges and aquas emerge at sunrise, Pescadero State Beach, California

About 20 minutes after sunrise, the entire landscape was well lit. The truly special light of “magic hour” had gone, but with the sun still so low on the horizon, everything was bathed in soft warm light, with no harsh shadows. The following images was one of the last I took before I packed up my gear and headed home.

Morning light touches the orange sandstone cliffs at Pescadero State Beach, California

Back to Muir Woods (Photo of the week)

Soft light filtered by the forest canopy partially silhouettes this moss covered tree, Muir Woods National Monument

Early this year, I made a very brief stop to Muir Woods National Monument as my wife and I were touring around with an out-of-town guest. I knew that I wanted to come back soon to do some more in-depth photography, and last week I was able to do just that. Armed with a lightweight tripod, a polarized filter, and my 24-70mm zoom lens, I worked my way through the heart of the canyon in which Muir Woods is situated. The day was overcast and slightly drizzling – perfect conditions for forest photography.

The photo above was created from five photos stitched together. I love the tree’s long, gangly branches and the bright green of the moss-covered bark. The way in which the filtered light penetrates the thick canopy above gives the grass and green foliage an almost translucent glow.

Scroll down to see more photos from that day, or click here to see the entire gallery.

A fern grows at the base of a massive redwood tree, flourishing in the light of a rare clearing, Muir Woods National Monument
Redwood Creek flows through the forest, bringing nourishment to the many ferns and redwood behemoths that flourish along its length, Muir Woods National Monument
The white and black bark of these redwood trees are tied together by the ubiquitous green of forest life, Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument