I was starting to exhibit symptoms of "cabin fever". It had been several months since the adventurous Patagonia trip and, even though I had been playing around with some local beach and night-sky photography, I was ready for a real photo trip. So it was that Bruce and I ventured to Big Sur to attempt some landscape photography along the rocky central coast. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know who Bruce is.
We stayed at the Big Sur River Inn (www.bigsurriverinn.com) that is conveniently situated about midway along the picturesque coast and various State Parks where we planned to photograph. The Inn lacked some essential amenities, such as a fridge, that required us to purchase a Styrofoam cooler to store our breakfast and lunch supplies. The remoteness of the Inn meant there was no cell service and that required a 55 mile round trip to Carmel to make calls home. The weather, although a bit cooler, was much like San Diego with a morning marine layer and an afternoon fog bank out over the Pacific.
We explored Big Sur from Point Lobos to the North and McWay Cove to the South. We photographed the rocky shore line of Soberanes Cove, Garapata Beach, Bixby Creek bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, and McWay falls.
I had conceived a couple of special photographic experiments to try on this trip. The first failed miserably. I wanted to photograph a moonset over the Pacific ocean. That special experiment failed because we failed to select a suitable location to photograph from. The moon set behind a hill before it approached the horizon over the ocean. The second experiment had better, although not fantastic, results. We were in Big Sur during the April 14/15 lunar eclipse and I wanted to create a "stacked" image of the moon as it was swallowed by the earth's shadow. My timing and location were accurate. We got an unobstructed view of the moon disappearing into the earth's shadow. Unfortunately, as the eclipse evolved, thin high clouds started to float in front of the moon making it extremely difficult to focus properly.
California condors have been reintroduced into the remote back country of Big Sur. My pre-trip research led us to a turnout along Highway 1 were the birds have frequently been spotted. The area has steep cliffs that rise abruptly from the ocean and provide the dynamic uplift the large condors need to soar and search for food. We started our vigil with extreme optimism but after an hour or so that optimism started to wane. We had no idea if the birds would appear. But then, just as we contemplated returning the the Inn, two condors came soaring by. By that time we were so distracted and inattentive that we missed our opportunity to photograph these large vultures. We watched dejectedly as the condors landed in a pine tree too far away to photograph. Much to our delight, the condors left their tree and came soaring back by us and this time we were ready. Bruce and I let them have it with our eight-frames per second motor drives.
Before and during the Big Sur trip, I had been checking to see if the late February and March rains might have resulted in an unexpected wildflower bloom. I typically check the desert wildflower web site (www.desertusa.com) and the California Poppy Reserve (www.parks.ca.gov) . Much to my surprise the reserve web site indicated that there was a late poppy bloom and that the peak was anticipated to occur during the Big Sur trip. To take advantage of this surprise development, we decided to leave Big Sur a day sooner than planned and spend the time in the Antelope Valley photographing poppies instead. That turned out to be a very wise decision. The fields and hills around the poppy reserve were carpeted with bright orange poppies. We spent hours meandering along the unpaved roads of the Antelope Valley exploring and photographing various fields of poppies.
PS: For those of you who may be interested in the condor reintroduction program, you might want to check out www.condorspotter.com. I identified the condor I photographed by the Number 4 on his radio transmitter. Turned out it was a male named Amigo born at the San Diego Safari Park. You can learn more about him on the referenced web site. He has rather an interesting history.