Big Sur, that is! Big Sur … known for its beautiful scenery along the rugged
Northern California coast just south of San Francisco about 2 hours. I have a friend who lives down this way and knows many of the best photo spots and opportune times – he specializes in landscape photography. Since being back from Shanghai, there seems to be many meet up groups that focus on landscapes. I like to do them myself mainly because it gets you out and about to places that give you a sense of being. Experiencing beautiful spots while recording and bringing them home with you; usually unabated by hoards and
hoards of people.
We get to our intended spot near Pfeiffer Beach, I think, and make the 1/8mi or so trek towards the Pacific Ocean. Setting up just before sunset, I found the reason for him picking this particular point. There’s this hunk of earth sticking up out of the earth not far from the shoreline that has a hole at the bottom of it. What’s cool is when the sun sets you get these light shafts that beam
through it … the locals call it the Keyhole because it looks like an open doorway – you get the idea. Anyhow, it wasn’t all that spectacular – wrong time of year to get the most out of it, but got enough to see what it does. There were only a couple other folks making photographs there, but they left shortly after nightfall.
We, however, brought folding chairs as we were going attempt to do a little bit of star trail shooting along the beach. This genre of photography, I love mainly
because the outcome is so different. But, unlike most landscape photography where you hurry up, wait for the moment (which is just that – moments, then it’s over in a couple of minutes, doing star trails is show up at a particular time that’s early enough to get a idea of the best direction to shoot to a particular shape of the stars, set the camera on tripod, wait for nightfall, begin exposing hundreds and hundreds of 30 second frames, and wait … and wait … and wait. That’s why the need for folding chairs – why stand for 2+ hours if you can help it, right?
Finishing up after a couple hours on the beach, we head back to the parking lot in complete darkness with only little headlamps – these are your lifeline BTW and are a must if you do any night photography; they’re basically a torchlight strapped to your head leaving
your hands free to hold your gear. Reaching the car after to pitch black lot, gear loaded and I wander off to the Restroom in the darkness (it’s a couple drive ya’ know), do my thing, just in the car and begin down the 1/4mi trail way back to PCH 1. Just as I start off, something (all I saw was a shadow) darted from my left side and quickly disappeared. Ever get that feeling of thinking that you saw something only to actually see nothing? It was like that. Then seconds later “it” jumped out in front of the car and hit the brakes … eeerrtt! … what stood before us was a large ‘cat’ … I grew up calling them Mountain Lion’s, other call them Pumas – call ’em what you will, it was very healthy and very large. Stunned (us, not the cat), we follow it down the paved path. Creeping ever so slowly matching the cats playful gait, it almost
seemed like it was toying with us as it kept looking back us as if to be saying “… hey look at me, ain’t I beautiful?” It finally paused, we stop, then in one graceful movement, it leaped over a 6′ fence like it was just another step. Our jaws drop. It looks back at us through the fence. Still stopped, my friend Stanley twists on his long lens and says, “… I’ve got to get out and get closer” and begins to pull on the door lever. I grab his arm and say, “Oh no you’re not … that thing will be on you in a couple of leaps … and when it’s on top of you, I don’t feel like having to call 911 reporting a disappearance …”. After a second or two, it didn’t take long for him to listen the voice of reason and stayed the car.
Still reeling from this experience, it was a spirited conversation for the 30 mins or so before I realized and said, “.. wait a sec., I was wandering the dark (Restroom) on the same side as when it first appeared … I could’ve been dinner!” Lucky thing this beautiful cat looked well fed otherwise … well … who knows. I guess, I just wasn’t ready to go just yet … I also wasn’t ready for the 2+ hour drive back up the coast at 11pm either! I barely made it back with half an eye open, but worth the journey for sure!