A Fresh View: Big Sur

@ Ann Purcell 2003

A merry burst of laughter in the quiet B & B dining room wrenched my attention from the fragrant breakfast quiche and fresh-baked muffins.

"Oh, do look!" "He is lying on his back eating the fish he caught!" The young woman was using the binoculars provided by the Martine Inn at each table and was focused on the Pacific Grove shoreline just across the street.

I snatched up the binoculars waiting near our table. Sure enough, there was a sleek otter lying on his back in the water and eating the last of a fish with relish. Then with a graceful flip, he disappeared under the waves to find his next breakfast victim. Nearby, a seal rested on a rock, absorbing the early morning sun. Our hostess informed us that just a few yards down the street, there was a quiet bit of water where newborn pups and their mothers were gathered.


View from cliff above Garrapata Beach

San Francisco is a grand place to see and Monterey is not far behind. But if you have done both, and want a special weekend away, this is the place to go between business meetings!

California’s glorious sunny days are perfect for a drive down to some of America’s most famous beaches near Big Sur State Park. Try preparing a picnic lunch, grab a light jacket, put on the sun protection and head south!!

Although every mile offers good shots of the violent blue waves dashing against black rocks and pure white sandy beaches, our goal was Garrapata Beach. While walking along the cliffs over the beach, a wide angle zoom lens (18-35mm) gave us a breathtaking view of sky, cliffs, beach and water. Climbing down to the level of the beach itself, our cameras captured the lush flowers and greenery in the riparian environment where flowing fresh water streams make their way to the ocean. After climbing all over the cliffs, this is the perfect place for a lunch stop. Icy water, or wine, boiled eggs and a hearty cheese sandwich with crispy sliced apples really hits the spot. A few crunchy baby carrots and you’ll feel like taking up your camera again with renewed energy!


Riparian environment near Garrapata Beach

Going further south on Highway #1, you’ll go right past the California Sea Otter Game Refuge. To actually take close-up portraits of otters in the wild, you would have to have an extremely long lens (400 or 500 mm) with a tripod for the camera, a unipod to support the heavy lens and eons of time and patience. Time of day is essential because the otters only perform publicly during their feeding hours.

Going still further south, our last stop for the day was the Pfeiffer Beach. Here the ocean has worn natural holes in the massive black rocks and the waves tumble through the openings with each wave, leaving froth and miniscule ocean creatures to quickly dissipate before the next onslaught.


Hole in rock of Pfeiffer Beach

Lighting can be a problem here because of the darkness of the rock and the sharp whiteness of the light coming through the holes. If you focus on the blue waves outside the hole, your camera will usually give you a good auto exposure setting. Focusing on the opening in the black rock will throw your camera off and give you an over-exposed picture.

It was time to head back. A few miles north of the Point Sur State Historic Park but still south of Garrapata is an engineering marvel, the Bixby Bridge, stubbornly hanging high over the water like a frozen abbreviated spider web. While there is a pull-off just north of Bixby Bridge from which you can take photos of the Bridge and the beach far below it, the best shot you will get is from the South, in the curve of the road when you first catch a glimpse of the Bridge. At that curve, in the late afternoon, looking North, the awesome Big Sur coastline sweeps away from you in the foreground of your shot and in the background is the Bixby Bridge golden lit by the afternoon sun.


Famous Bixby Bridge and Big Sur beach

Tired and exhilarated with the photos we had captured, we started the drive north. It was time for the Martine Inn’s hearty afternoon tea and another visit with Pacific Grove’s playful sea otters.

Copyright: Ann F. Purcell

5913 Skyline Heights Court

Alexandria, VA, 22311

Tele: 703-786-7898

FAX: 703-786-7898

e-mail: ann@annpurcelltravel.com