Photographing the Big Sur Coast

Big Sur coast is one of the most scenic drives in California and starts at Carmel. I tried to capture the beauty of this coast over Thanksgiving 2019 and shot both regular and infrared pictures. The weather did not cooperate and it was rainy and very cold but I was thankful that I was able to get some decent pictures in-between the rain.

For camera equipment and software, I used the following

Camera: Nikon Z6 converted for infrared from 
Lenses: NIKKOR Z 24–70mm f/4 S Z-mount
Filters (infrared photography):
Filters (normal / non-infrared photography):
Other:Tripod & cable release
Software: Nikon Capture NX-D v1.6 (for white balance adjustments) and Adobe Photoshop v21.0.1

Do’s

  • Start the trip in Carmel, there are many quaint places to eat and stay here. If you are looking for a boutique place to stay, recommend La Playa Carmel
  • Check for sunrise / sunset times and make sure you get at the photo shoot location atleast a half hour prior
  • Visit these photogenic locations: Carmel Mission, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls

Don’t

  • Assume you will have phone reception through your scenic drives and walks, so download driving directions and maps in advance

McWay Falls

is an 80-foot-tall waterfall in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and one of the most photographed spots along the Big Sur coast. It is one of the few waterfalls that empties directly in the ocean. It was cloudy in the late afternoon with a slight drizzle when I got there. Best and safest way to get into a good spot for pictures is to drive into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, pay an entrance fee and for a few minutes in the tunnel beneath the road

NIKON Z6 f/4.5 Focal length:26.5mm ISO100 Exposure time:1/1000 with HDR. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/10 Focal length:44mm ISO100 1/500s with with Super Color IR filter (590 nm). Nov 27, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/4.5 Focal length:26.5mm ISO100 1/640s with HDR. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by

Pfeiffer Beach

This beach is famous for its purple sand which is a result of the manganese that washes down the hillside. It also has some magnificent rock formations including the famous Keyhole Arch (see below). It‘s not easy to find this beach based on road signs (there are none); use Google Maps and it will navigate you to Sycamore Canyon Road off Highway 1

I was unable to capture the sun’s rays pouring through the arch since it was not the right time of the year

NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:34mm ISO100 1/30s with HDR. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:70mm ISO100 1/25s with HDR. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/4 Focal length:25.5mm ISO100 1/640s with Super Color IR filter (590 nm). Nov 27, 2019. Photo by

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

This is a very short drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea. One of my favorite places to take pictures is China Cove. It is very serene with azure waters and it is not unusual to see seals on the beach.

NIKON Z6 f/4.5 Focal length:26.5mm ISO160 1/640s with Panorama. Nov 28, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:24mm ISO100 1/40s with HDR. Nov 28, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:70mm ISO100 1/6s. Nov 28, 2019. Photo by

For infrared processing, I used Nikon Capture NX-D to adjust the white balance then I opened it in Photoshop to process (swapped red and blue channels, adjusted levels/curves)

NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:26.5mm ISO100 1/50s with Super Color IR filter (590 nm). Nov 28, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:24mm ISO100 1/60s with with Super Color IR filter (590 nm). Nov 28, 2019. Photo by

Cypress Grove is another famous trail in Point Lobos which winds through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth.

NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:29mm ISO100 with Panorama. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by
NIKON Z6 f/20 Focal length:47mm ISO100 1/8s with HDR. Nov 27, 2019. Photo by

Hope to catch some better weather next time I come here

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Prakash Hariramani

Interested in landscape photography, payments, education & meditation