Something about dunes fascinates me. I was surprised to discover this park one day. Rancho Guadalupe Dunes lie just south of Oceano Dunes Park, a vehicular recreation area where people tear up the landscape with their ATV, Bikes and Dune Buggies. Fortunately, this small piece of a much larger dunes area is not accessible to the onslaught of metal, gasoline and rubber.
The park lies off the beaten track near the depressing town of Guadalupe. Most tourists who accidentally took the detour through Guadelupe hurry on and do not dare to veer off Highway 1. That is why not many people come here which means you can find many un-trampled dunes at any time of the day.
How to get there
From Highway 1 take W Main Street out of Guadalupe at the intersection of 166 and 1. Follow the road about 4.5 miles to the parking lot.
How to photograph Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Park
Find an interesting foreground element and get low on your knees or stomach to give some depth to the scene. In the picture above, I am using the driftwood left and right and the brighter sand in between as a big arrow pulling the viewer into the distance where he/she will discover the ocean. Try to find interesting patterns in the sand or something that adds some interest into the vast yellow nothingness of the dunes.
If you use a circular polarizing filter, do not use it at full strength. The Dunes will look flat until you boost contrast somewhat, creating a funny dark black look on the sky if you filter too much here.
Best Time of the Day and Best Season
One to two hours after sunrise or one to two hours before sunset give you a good angle of light that will bring out the ripples in the sand. I prefer to have a bit more definition in the sky, but in California we usually have blue sky anyways.
From Guadalupe it takes you just 10 minutes to get here. You can explore the Dunes in one to three hours.
- A Polarizer is your best friend
- A wide-angle lens to get a large depth of field
- A Tilt and Shift Lens if you can afford one to get even more depth of field
- A tripod to use a small aperture
I believe there was a drop box at the park entrance (about 4.1 m from Highway 1). I think the fee was voluntary, but I am not sure. In any case it wasn’t much.
- Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
- Point Sal State Park
- Santa Maria
- Shell Beach
- Pismo Beach
- Avila Beach
- San Luis Obispo Mission
- La Purisima Mission
- Montana de Oro State Beach
- Morro Bay
- Sounthern California Wildflower Routes
- Santa Ines Mission
- Solvang Danish Town
- Santa Barbara Courthouse
- Santa Barbara Wharf
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