Traveling Photographer: Coastal California

Drama and nature on California’s coastline



Ron Niebrugge found this weathered tree at Pismo Beach and captured it with a Canon EOS-1Ds and 17–35mm f/2.8 Canon EF lens (at 17mm), exposing for 1/3 sec at f/18, ISO 100. ** Photo: Ron Niebrugge**© Ron Niebrugge/

My favorite place along California’s Highway 1 is McWay Creek Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park,” says photographer Ron Niebrugge, who splits his time between Seward, Alaska, in summers and California and the Southwest in winters. “A wonderful waterfall drops 80 feet straight onto a pristine beach.”

The Pacific Coast Highway (officially, “California State Route 1”) between Monterey and Pismo Beach is among his favorite drives in the U.S. Some of the best stops:

Pfeiffer Beach, not far from Big Sur, is an isolated slice of coastline with fascinating off-shore rock formations. "This is one of the few places where you can easily drive or walk to the shoreline," Niebrugge says.

The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery below Big Sur is home to more than 17,000 northern elephant seals. "A telephoto zoom in the 100mm to 400mm range is a useful focal length," he says.

Limekiln State Park, 56 miles south of Carmel, is a choice place to camp and shoot. "The beach is rocky, but the rocks are full of interesting colors and patterns, making for a great foreground," says Niebrugge. The 100-foot Limekiln Falls is a must.

Bixby Creek Bridge crosses Route 1 over a steep canyon—postcard-pretty. "There is a nice pull-out on the North side of the bridge which offers a good vantage point," he says.

Pismo Beach offers weather-twisted trees and sand dunes, California classics.