Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is the thirteenth California Mission. This very small mission does not receive the attention of its more famous sisters. It lies within the Salinas Valley Farmlands that once were dry and inhospitable.
Once a larger mission, the adobe buildings crumbled after its abandonment for over a century, leaving only small piles of rubble and remnants of walls. Some of the original remains are still visible behind the museum, but they are not very photogenic.
Although Soledad Mission is not as attractive as others are, it is only a small detour from Highway 101 and therefore always worth a quick stop. If you are weary of traveling and happen to be in the Salinas area, Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad is the perfect stop.
How to get there
Take the Arroyo Seco Road exit from Highway 101, just south of Soledad. Drive west for 1.2 miles and then turn right onto Co Road G17/Fort Romie Road. Follow this road for about 1.5 miles. The mission will be on your left.
How to photograph Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
At the Soledad Mission, you have to work harder for your images, but that also means there will not be as many competing photographs available from other photographers.
For the picture in the introduction, I chose to put the small statue in the foreground. The statue is only a few inches tall, but it appears to be much larger in the picture. I achieved this effect by using a wide-angle lens. Wide-angle lenses emphasize foreground subjects and de-emphasize background subjects. Try different focal lengths and change your point of view often, as these subtle changes sometimes have a large impact. Using different lenses, you can keep the size of the statue the same while changing the relative size of the background, or vice versa.
The statue appears to look down at an angle. I chose a point of view that makes it appear as if the monk looks toward the mission. The lighting was difficult for my position, but the resulting composition was good and worth the tradeoff. By following the line of sight of the statue, we discover the mission peeking through the brushes.
A strong sense of perspective and depth enhances the viewers feeling of being there. A colonnade (shown above) is one of my favorite subjects for perspective photography. Converging parallel lines of the roof and patio, as well as the diminishing apparent size of subjects of equal actual size from the near to the far end of the picture help to accomplish this effect. Viewers know that all the benches, windows, and flowerpots each have the same respective size. Yet they diminish in size in the distance, thus reinforcing the sense of perspective.
Placing the convergence point off-center, toward the left of the frame further creates tension through asymmetry.
To protect the artwork, the museum and church are off-limits for flash photography. The dark atmosphere makes photography more difficult, but with modern image stabilization and high ISO cameras, this is not an issue anymore. Using the available light creates a warmer atmosphere. I photographed the image above at a slightly upward angle, which results in a small amount of perspective distortion (walls leaning in). You can easily correct this effect if you strive for representations that are more accurate.
The original mission bell survived the deterioration of the mission nearly unharmed. The mission ruins on the other hand are too far-gone to be worthy subjects.
The surrounding fields with colorful dotted farmworkers can make very good subjects. Using a long focal length, you can pull the distant mountains closer while showing the farmworkers in a green field at work. Align yourself with the rows of plants, so that they lead directly to the workers or any other focal point that you choose. Place the workers high in your frame and leave enough space around them to show the vastness of these fields.
Best Time of the Day and Best Season
Since the mission faces south, you can create good photographs throughout most of the day. The late afternoon sun looks best.
The fields look best around harvest time (late summer and fall) and the roses at the mission look best in late spring.
About one hour is sufficient for a quick visit to this small mission.
- Wide-angle lens
- Image stabilized lens
- CP Filter
- Telephoto Lens
Although there is no “entrance fee”, the mission relies on your kind donations to continue operating.
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