Location Scout for Field Trip Spot Part 1

Don’t get me wrong, I love Yosemite and Death Valley, etc. as places to go shoot with a Landscape Class field trip… but I just wanted something new and different. I mentioned that to my friend and colleague Lee Peterson and he suggested the Morrow Bay area. He and I had been there a couple of times visiting at his house in Cayucos and I do love the area. So we arranged to go up for 4 day, the length of my long fieldtrips, to scout out the area, places to stay, eat, shoot, etc. to see if it would make a good destination for the Fall’s class. And besides that, it is always fun to go shooting with him even if the locale turned out not to be a good one.

I’ve been trying to decide how to break up the narrative and photos to avoid having a blog entry that reads like “War and Peace” and takes as long to plow through. I think I’ll do it chronologically with a couple of exceptions for things we shot several times on different days as we drove and circled around. So here, for part one, is the first day’s log.

On Tuesday, 8/11/2015 I was up at 1:45 am so I could get things loaded and be at Lee’s house by 3:30.  I like mornings but this is ridiculous! However we did sail right through L.A. with almost no traffic but I confess I slept through most of it. Too much time “team driving” long distances has formed a rude habit of sitting in the passenger seat and falling right to sleep. Sorry, Lee…

North of L.A. we turned west and headed through Maricopa, Taft, and on toward the Corizzo Plains. Some of you may recall a couple of years ago I posted pictures from the great Soda Lake in that area. The road is really beautiful, winding through hills and forests; but it was all bone dry and brown. It is clear the drought has really hit this part of the state too.

As we went through the Corizzo Valley (also sometimes spelled “Carissa”) we came upon a wonderful old barn. The tumbleweed was piled high along the fence row and made for an interesting shot. On the return trip we went by the barn later in the day and the light was even better so this shot is from that second pass.

Barn and tumbleweed near the Carizzo Valley.

Barn and tumbleweed near the Carizzo Valley.

We then continued on through Atascadero, to Morro Bay, then turned north the few miles to Cayucos where we unloaded duffle into the house and immediately headed north again toward San Simeon where we had lunch. This was our “turn around” spot so we headed back south stopping to photograph at several locations.

Our first stop was at San Simeon State Beach. It was packed with people but it had a wonderful old wooden pier that begged to be photographed.

The pier at SanSimeon Beach

The pier at SanSimeon Beach

From there we were going to go to the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, but the road into it was locked. The top of the structure was off although the light itself was still on and rotating. We drove a little further south to the beach where Elephant Seals congregate and where we could hike along a trail to the cliffs and look back toward the lighthouse. Here is that shot…

Piedras Blancas llighthouse

Piedras Blancas llighthouse

Now Piedras Blancas means “White Rocks” and sure enough, just offshore is a group of very white rocks. But a closer inspection, as in the next shot, shows they are not made of any white rock material, like granite or quartz, but instead have been vandalized by many generations of tagger birds.

One of the

One of the “White Rocks” the area is named for… except it is not really a white rock… it has been painted by untold generations of sea birds.

In addition to the lighthouse on the point, the beach below the cliffs had a few molting Elephant Seals. Later in the year this beach will be solidly lined with them during the mating and then pupping season. Here is one bull in the water being territorial with a gutter al sound that is like a cross between a big rig’s “Jake” break and a flatulent buffalo.

Elephant seal bellowing a territorial challenge

Elephant seal bellowing a territorial challenge

That evening there was a very nice sunset, seen here from the deck of Lee’s house.

Sunset over Cayucos bay from Lee's house

Sunset over Cayucos bay from Lee’s house

We intended to go do some Milkyway shots but the clouds came in and by prime viewing hours we were totally socked in. The next night proved to be better but that story will have to wait for Part 2… coming soon…


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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