Category Archives: scenic drive

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

One of California’s most iconic and most photographed locations is McWay Falls, part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Less than ten years ago, I was alone on the overlook trail. Today, tourists step on each other’s toes.

It is no surprise. The serene beauty of this place will blow you away. A secret cove, a waterfall that plunges into the ocean, and turquoise waters seem to stem from the imagination of a painter, yet the unspoiled nature of this park is real. The solitude is all but gone these days, but you can still capture the essence of this place, thanks to the non-existent access to the beach below.

Understandably, most people come to see McWay Cove and leave in a rush to see even more of Big Sur’s beautiful coastline. However, if you have time, you should consider the canyon hike opposite to the overlook trail that leads you through a coastal forest to yet another waterfall. Not nearly as spectacular, the refreshing hike offers a pleasant diversion from the day’s driving and from the crowds.

Do not miss California’s most spectacular beach cove!

McWay Cove, McWay Falls overlook trail

Old Coast Road – Bixby Bridge to Andrew Molera

The stretch of California Highway 1 that hugs the coastline between Carmel and San Simeon is among the most iconic drives in world. Featured in countless movies, commercials, and print advertisements, this section of highway symbolizes the freedom of the open road. Countless drivers from around the world come here each year to enjoy this spectacular scenic detour.

Although driving without stopping is one of the greatest joys, we will take a detour from the detour and explore a backcountry road that leads us through the nearby mountains, where we will find tranquility from Highway 1, which does tend to get too busy occasionally. The green meadows, hills, and creeks offer a glimpse of another California, where time paces itself.

Overlooks with spectacular views, wildflowers, and Bixby Creek Bridge itself abundantly provide us with photo subjects that make this also a worthy detour for photography.

Bixby Bridge from Viewpoint

Point Loma Peninsula Neighborhoods

The hilly peninsula of Point Loma defines the western limit of San Diego Bay, the cities natural harbor. It is the perfect place to soak in the sun. Surrounded by ocean, it never gets too hot or too cold here and the air is always fresh.

On the surface, Point Loma seems to be a good place to hang out, but photographically it does not appear as interesting as other, more publicized areas. However, if you dare to look deeper, you will find this to be one of the best places to capture the essence of Southern California, a mixture of laid-back beach atmosphere and glitzy high tech.

Rugged cliffs, unique views of downtown San Diego, a yacht harbor, a sandy beach, and typical California surfers are among the sights you can expect on Point Loma. Cabrillo National Monument, the peninsula’s most famous landmark, is the subject of a separate article.

San Diego Skyline from Shelter Island

How to photograph La Jolla

La Jolla is an upscale beach community within the city limits of San Diego. Although development has mostly tamed its rugged landscape, the charming and tasteful integration of man and nature somehow seems to work well in La Jolla. Officials have reserved some of the beaches for seals and others for people and they seem to stick to the arrangement; seals keep their distance and people stay behind fences and lines.

Tasteful Spanish style buildings nestle along the cliffs and manmade parks complement nature’s beautiful work. La Jolla is a pleasant community but it shares the fate of overcrowding with most other beautiful beach communities in Southern California. People pack into the small town like sardines into a can, making your job as a travel photographer challenging. At the same time, people often present interesting opportunities.

La Jolla

How to photograph the Getty Villa

In California’s most exclusive, affluent, and narcissistic community lays a villa modeled after ancient Roman and Greek villas complete with lavish gardens, reflecting pools, and countless statues. This most exclusive retreat easily outshines other villas in this high priced neighborhood, yet it is a not a playground for the rich and famous, but for everyone with a desire for culture and beauty.

A testament to the greatest ancient empires that ever existed, the Getty Villa sits on a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Countless guards protect the valuable collections from hordes of blaring schoolchildren who invade the property on a regular basis and shortly disrupt the silence and tranquility of this wonderful palace.

Getty Villa Reflecting Pool

How to photograph Mt. Diablo State Park

Mount Diablo is the highest mountain of the San Francisco Bay Area, a sacred Indian shrine and a Mecca for outdoor lovers. The mountain towers high above the flat surrounding landscape, resulting in a geographic oddity. From the summit, you can see more of the earth’s surface than from any other location in the world, despite its relatively low elevation of “just” 3849ft. Only Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa offers even more viewable land from its summit.

The park also provides a fantastic diversity of picnic areas, secluded or with a view, and no less than three separate campgrounds. The park is a favorite weekend destination for Bay Area Residents. A few easy trails and many strenuous trails reach the farthest corners of the park, offering a fantastic diversity of sights to hard working photographers.
Mt Diablo

How to photograph the Lost Burro Mine in Death Valley

Lost Burro Gold Mine is a remote mining camp in Death Valley’s backcountry. Extremely well preserved due to the dry winds and a curse that keeps people from stealing items, the mine is an exceptional destination for photographers. The mining camp is located in a narrow side canyon that provides good shooting opportunities.

The roughnecks who braved the hard conditions of Death Valley didn’t get rich, but left an account of their lives behind that still fascinates visitors 100 years later.

Due to the remote location, you will most likely have the mine to yourself. Nobody will get in your way but nobody will help you if you get into trouble either. Take your time and discover the fascination of the old mining camps spread throughout the mountains of Death Valley.
Thieves will be prosecuted: Lost Burro Mine

How to photograph the Death Valley Racetrack

The Racetrack Playa is a uniquely fascinating feature of Death Valley. A mysterious force moves the rocks across the lakebed, leaving intriguing tracks in the dry lakebed. Nobody can back up any theory with conclusive evidence, since no one has been able to observe the rocks actually moving, yet.

The tracks are a favorite subject for photographers and for visitors who muse over the mystery. Those who take the long and harsh drive to this remote valley reap plentiful rewards. No picture can prepare you for the fascination that will grip you once you walk on the playa and see the tracks. No other photo subject is like this.

The Racetrack is also one of the best places in California for celestial photography. Mountains surround the Racetrack Playa on all sides, eliminating light pollution. I witnessed the clearest night of my life, with the stars appearing closer than ever before.

Visit the Racetrack for a once in a lifetime experience!
Death Valley Racetrack

California Poppy Reserve – Antelope Valley

California Poppies are the official state flower of California. Early explorers who saw fields of poppies mistook them for gold. California became the golden state, foreboding the Gold Rush that followed later. The Gold Rush days are long gone, but poppies still color the hills and attract people from all over.

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve has the highest concentration of poppies. Meadows and rolling hills burst with color when the orange poppies and a wide variety of yellow flowers mix to create dazzling splashes of color. The sight attracts many landscape photographers. It is one of California’s most impressive natural miracles, lasting only a few weeks.

Come visit this natural wonder and see how California got its name.
California Poppies

Wildflower Routes through Southern California

Spectacular wildflower meadows and colorfully dotted rolling hills turn the Southern California landscape from burned brown into vivid scenery, all courtesy of the wet El Nino rains. As if a landscape painter slipped with his color palette and threw all colors onto his painting at once, the brilliant colors compete for your and the bees’ attention. I am not sure about the bees, but humans swarm all over, humming while enjoying the colors.

If you travel in California, you can easily plan a detour that takes you past a wildflower viewing area. Even if you have no immediate travel plans, the wildflowers are a worthy travel destination in their own right. The bright colors will lift your mood and reinvigorate you after the long rainy or snowy winter.
Wildflower Meadow on Highway 58

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