Saturday, June 14, 2014

McWay Falls -- Big Sur's Stellar Achievement

How many waterfalls empty into an ocean?  Not many.  But one of the most attractive is McWay Falls located in California's Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

This is rugged Big Sur territory -- a nearly three-hour drive south of San Francisco best made in the pre-dawn hours so that you can be in place to capture the waterfall just after sunrise. 

There aren't many available viewpoints.  You park your vehicle after paying the $10 daily admission fee (save your receipt in case you go to another California state park that day) and make a short hike under California 1 to an overlook trail.  What you see is a beautiful waterfall on McWay Creek that empties onto a short beach abutting the Pacific Ocean.  Although this can be shot wide I find a tighter composition works well.

I worked this with both the Fujifilm X-E2 with the 18-55mm lens (top) and the X-E1 with a 55-200mm lens (above), both with circular polarizers.  Originally the waterfall cascaded directly into the ocean but after a 1983 fire and 1985 landslides, the topography of McWay Cove was altered, forming an inaccessible beach. The 80-foot waterfall now meets the ocean when the tide is in.

Unless you hit this location on an overcast day it won't be long before the sun pops out and makes photography less manageable.  I left just before this happened but going back up the highway I saw the sun creating some fog on the ocean.

The drive back up California 1 takes you into the scenic towns of Carmel and Monterey.  In the evening, the trip back from an unproductive sunset attempt at Half Moon Bay found this scene off the highway which yielded an almost monochromatic image.

On a sunny day there will be a lot of "dead time" between sunrise and sunset.  Not a bad time to explore the area. 

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