Welcome back to travel again!
Big Sur reminded me that travel has a new-found value after the Covid-19 pandemic. We all have a new appreciation for it. Just like anything we take for granted. As soon as it’s taken away from us, we want it even more than before.
For that reason I consider myself very fortunate to have travelled so much during the pandemic. However, my travel as a hotel photographer was out of necessity to work. Travel was necessary to be able to get through it and not for leisure. Furthermore, travel is now opening up for leisure and there is a pent-up demand, so I’m hoping you will be getting back out there again.
Know your history
Finding myself in a new place for work, I always look online for some snippets of history of the place and I try to get out and see things, if time allows. On occasions I may finish a job early if weather has been on my side during my photo shoot. I always find it so much more fulfilling if I know some of the history of the place.
One such place where that happened to me was when I was shooting a hotel in Santa Cruz, California last month.
I had heard of Big Sur, most recently the name is the same as the latest operating system on the Mac computer.
Recently I remember seeing the mesmerizing opening credits to the recent popular HBO series “Big Little Lies” . What made this so powerful was the haunting sound of Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” song (See embedded link at the bottom of this page).
The combination of great cinematography and appropriately powerful music always pulls me in.
Music and travel
When I travel and have free time I always try and link music or a song with each trip I do. From my experience, music can be like smells, a reminder of a place and time.
One day in the future I will hear a song or piece of music and I will remember a place, time and experience. Which songs remind you of trips and far off places in your life?
For example when I’m in Detroit I always listen to Motown Music. Also, in Philadelphia a couple of months ago I had the sound of Philadelphia on my ear pods when I was walking around the city. I know it’s a cliché, but there’s also nothing like listening to some easy reggae when sitting on a beach in the Caribbean.
On another occasion I remember when I was on a photo shoot in Tulsa driving my stylist mad by singing “Only 24 hours from Tulsa” by Gene Pitney . The curious thing I found out is that most Americans don’t even know that song.
Needless to say, I had Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold little heart” album playing on repeat the whole journey.
I chose Bixby Creek Bridge as a destination and calculated my time from Santa Cruz driving south. It was an hour and a half drive. I wanted to get there early enough to get some photographs before sunset.
Unfortunately, that’s what professional photographers do; we take photographs in our spare time. Before I left I did a bit of research on the best places to take photographs of Bixby Creek Bridge. The most useful information I found was from a vlogger named “Flying Dawn Marie”.
Although I had no intention of standing on the concrete pillars of the bridge high above the gorge like she did, I found a couple of useful tips and one fabulous spot from which to take my signature shot.
The perfect location for a Big Sur sniper
Thanks to my research, I found a location just to the south of the bridge with a place to park one car.
Just as I had researched it above. It is such a small area just the other side of a hill. Most people would drive past and not notice it until it’s too late to stop.
With a short climb to the top of a small hill through some bushes I was at my location. I felt more like a sniper than a photographer while I was setting up the tripod on top of that hill.
I took a few shots and even pulled out the 10 stop ND filter for some daytime long exposures. The results were good, but I wanted to return at Sunset. I still had just over an hour to wait, so I decided to drive south and get some more shots and experiences.
Just south of Bixby Creek Bridge was an amazing high viewpoint called Hurricane Point. It was spectacular! The views were amazing in both directions, but the wind was way too strong for long exposures even with a tripod, so I decided to go handheld for a few single exposure shots and continue my drive south.
Timing is everything
There are lots of man made, gravel areas specifically for cars to pull over, to allow visitors to enjoy the view. That’s exactly what everybody was doing. The farthest I got was appropriately named Point Sur. Then I decided it was time to turn back in order to get in position for my sunset shots. I was hoping that nobody else was in the parking spot. I was in luck! The number of people who were parked on the parking area at the other side of the bridge had dwindled over the last hour. By sunset there was only one car I could see there.
I was in position for my shots, my ND filter was in place and the Big Sur wind was cold. I was glad to have my wind breaker jacket on, but it was still cold and I was loving every minute of it. It was just me and the cliff swallows going in and out of their nests on the sheer cliff directly below my set up point. What a time to be alone in a vast majestic natural scene, with the power of the wind and waves below.
Big Sur opportunity
The day I arrived at my Santa Cruz hotel, I arrived early. I had the idea in my head to go to Big Sur, but I remember feeling a bit tired from jet-lag. I had doubts as to whether or not to go or to rest at the hotel. I remember mentioning it to my wife on the phone when we were chatting just after I got there. Suzanne told me to go. I’m glad she did. It was all I needed to justify it. This also reminds me of another photo trip in Borrego Springs in Southern California where I took photos of sculptures in the desert and by chance after leaving the desert, met the Sculptor in person. You can see the blog here; Dragons and Drones in the California desert
Uselful links and research
When doing my research on Big Sur, another great resource I came across was a blog from Big Sur Kate. It has a lot of current information about Big Sur which can make or break your visit. For example there are wild fires burning along that coast right now and the Bixby Creek Bridge is now closed for maintenance.