After dinner one night in Yachats, I decided to go out and see what I could make of the waves crashing on the shore at night. A number of lights were trained on the shoreline from the local properties so it wasn’t too dark out there. Even so, it certainly wasn’t very light. Time to test the low light capabilities of the cameras. The fact I was going to get slow shutter speeds didn’t bother me particularly as I was interested to see the effects that I could get showing the motion of the waves.
Light levels were indeed better than I had anticipated and I was able to get a lot of shots that came out okay. There was a good element of luck involved too. Waves are horribly unpredictable. If you see something good, you can almost guarantee it won’t do it again and, even if it does, it will be ages before the next set of waves comes in and, even then, the big wave will break differently. Also, some of the shapes they make turn out to look good in the shot and others are just indistinct messes. Nothing to do but hang around for a long time and try and lot of different shots and see which ones work. This randomness is a little frustrating as you feel you should be able to do something to improve but, in this case, it is a case of being there.
Being lucky is so cool. I don’t know how many excellent opportunities I have missed without realizing it (that’s the benefit of not realizing it), but I have been fortunate to stumble into some good stuff. We were driving down towards Hilo when we came to an overlook above a bay. We pulled over and walked up to the edge to see a great view down into a lovely looking bay. The waves were crashing in from the ocean and the place looked cool. We were so close to moving on after a few minutes.
Just before we turned to go, we saw a couple of people down on a headland in the bay. We weren’t in a hurry so we figured we would head down the trail and see what was there. The area was butted up against a botanic garden which we weren’t planning on visiting so we knew we wouldn’t go far. As we got to the bottom of the trail, we came to an entrance to the garden with a security guard sitting watch over who came through. Then we saw a small side track alongside the fence heading to the water. A short excursion brought us to a beach. The waves were crashing up on the shore by our feet and everything was covered over with a dense canopy of trees. A little climb took me out onto a spur of rock with the waves crashing either side. A rocky cliff face was on one side and the waves were striking it violently.
There was a small blowhole in the rock near where I stood. As the waves came in just right, the water would fire out of the hole. Other times nothing would happen or there would be a small gurgle. I talked to a couple of guys out there who obviously knew the place well. They pointed out how far out you could go without getting completely drenched by the waves. More importantly, it looked like the sort of place that you could get caught out by a wave easily. If you went into the water, I suspect it could have ended badly.
Forget that though. The place was gorgeous. When the guys left, we were the only ones there. The waves were pounding the shore, the scenery was stunning and you felt like you were the only person in the world who knew it was there. It was hard to break away. We stood there for ages. Sometimes the waves would come that bit further up the beach than normal and they would wash over my feet. No point in objecting. Just stand there and enjoy it. Of course, we had to leave eventually. Those visiting the botanic garden had a promontory a short distance away but they were really not in a good position to enjoy the experience because they were on one of the nicer parts. We met a couple coming down the trail as we left. They looked ready to turn back and had not seen where we had gone. We made sure to explain where they needed to go. I hope they liked it.
While watching the waves come rushing in to the Santa Cruz shore, I saw something floating on the surface just a little way out. It appeared to be seaweed but that wasn’t all that was there. A look through the longer lens confirmed that a sea otter was sitting out there enjoying the ride. The clump of weed was drifting closer in so, when the waves started to break over the top, the otter would dive underneath and pop back up once the turmoil had passed. The current was taking him along the shoreline over time so we lost track of where he ended up but he seemed to be enjoying the ride quite a lot!
Do you ever see an advertising image of someone doing something artistic outdoors and you think to yourself, “No-one ever does anything like that. It’s so contrived.” How about a guy standing on a rocky outcrop above the pounding surf playing the trumpet? That is exactly what we came across on the shore in Santa Cruz. This guy was just standing out there playing his trumpet. What a strange thing to see. It did sound pretty good though. He was a pretty decent player!
Surfing off the headland at Santa Cruz involves getting into the water a distance away and then paddling across. If that seems like too much hard work, you can climb the fence and walk out onto the headland with your board before jumping off the cliff. We saw a couple of guys doing that while we were there. There was little hesitation so I guess they had done this before.
They weren’t alone! I saw one guy jump off quite a high area. He was followed by a friend of his and I was ready when she jumped. A burst of shots means I can animate the jumps! I did two versions of this. One that doesn’t move the background and results in some white space moving around. The other tracks the subject. Not sure which I prefer.
It’s not like we have a ton of bad weather here but, with a forecast for a nice weekend, we decided a trip to Point Reyes would be a good plan. An early start combined with a stop for breakfast in Larkspur and we were on our way. Even the drive to Point Reyes is nice so you really feel like you are having a good day out in the prettiest of countryside. This time of year is a popular one because of the wildlife. A previous trip was one during whale migration season. The lighthouse is a good spot for watching the whales but the parking lot is not up to the task. At times like this, they close off the road and run a bus shuttle from Drake’s Bay.
This was not whale time. However, the shuttle was in operation again. This time it was because the elephant seals were on the beaches and lots of people were coming to see them. We were less bothered about going to the normal places and, instead, wanted to enjoy the shoreline. On previous trips to the lighthouse, I have looked down on the beaches to the north and thought how great they look. Not only are the picturesque but the ocean swell results in some great waves running ashore. This time it was time to see them up close.
The beaches were surprisingly quiet. There were quite a few people there but a combination of the large expanse of beach and the desire of many people to not stray too far from the parking lot meant that a short stroll got you a stretch of beach to yourself. Indeed as we walked up we were creating the first footprints in some areas. (When we left, the trails of prints had multiplied!)
Walking along the water’s edge is the easiest thing to do since the sand is firmest where it is wettest. Of course, that does require paying attention to the larger waves which occasionally run a lot further up the sand than you expect. As long as you don’t mind a little embarrassment, a quick sprint out of the way usually takes care of things!
We found a particularly quiet ridge just above the water line and sat down for a while. The waves were very soothing despite their strength and sitting on the sand, under the sun as the surf rolled in was as close to perfect as you could wish for. I have no idea how long we stayed there. It was quite a long time but I could have stayed forever. We did have to go eventually of course but it was a wonderful way to spend a day. I did shoot a little video of some of the waves just to remind myself. Here is a little of the wave action if you want to have your own beachside moment.
I am fascinated by waves. I can easily spend hours at the shore watching the waves come rolling in. They are always changing and that is, in itself, interesting to me. Another thing I love is seeing the color in the water as the wave grows and breaks. As the wave gets close to breaking, the light shines through the water as it thins creating a green color that I love. However, on the visit to Santa Cruz, there was something new to see.
There is a lot of seaweed along the shore and it floats just below the surface. As the waves roll in, the weed floats along with them. The front of the wave rises up and the weed is just below the surface. As the light starts to come through the wave, the shadow of the seaweed shows itself. Strange patterns appear. They appear to move as if they are creatures lurking just below the surface. This is the area where a lot of the surfers are and it is almost as if some sea creature is hiding from them just out of sight. Then again, I might allow my imagination to get away from me some times!
Our run up the Pacific Coast Highway included a brief stop at one of the beaches as we passed by. We had a dinner reservation in Half Moon Bay and had some time in hand so standing on the shore for a little while watching the ocean was going to fit. One of the beaches had a few people kiteboarding just offshore. There was a strong breeze so they were able to get some speed up.
There was some surf rolling in but they weren’t getting the big airs you sometime see when the boarders can combine the wind angles with the direction of the surf. Even so, they seemed to be having some fun.
Continuing my theme of return visits to take Mum to places, Fort Point was on the itinerary. Always a cool place to visit on a nice day and it benefited from the swell resulting in some great waves crashing up against the fort. Also, we saw some guys taking advantage of the swell to do some surfing alongside the fort. Very cool although they had to know what they were doing since, if you rode all the way in, a rocky wall awaited you! (This also meant that choosing your parking space was a big deal unless you wanted the car to be covered in salt water!)
Mum’s visit meant quite a few trips to places we have scoped out before. We headed to Point Bonita on one day to visit the lighthouse there. This time we knew about the timing so were there in plenty of time. I won’t repeat what I wrote about the place this time so will share the shots from this visit. The one thing that was significantly different this time was that there was a strong swell coming in from the ocean so watching the waves crash up on the shoreline was a lot of fun. I can watch the sea crash ashore for hours at a time so this was great for me!