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David J Grenier Fine Art Photography

Big Sur, California: A Journey in Black & White, April 2015

Next to Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, on the Central Coast of California holds a very special place in my heart. I have been fortunate to visit this area many times over the last 30 plus years and it never disappoints me with its magnificence and rugged beauty. Recently I was invited to visit the area again by a very special person in my life, three days before my 70th birthday, a journey that allowed me to share with her some of the places that I like to photograph and simply enjoy its breathtaking beauty. I would like to take this opportunity to publish a few of the images shot during this special time, a journey as it turns out that led to a renewed affinity for black and white photography, that goes all the way back to my first introduction into photography by my father in the early 50's in the land of my birth, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. According to Wikipedia: "Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. Although it has no specific boundaries, many definitions of the area include the 90 miles (140 km) of coastline from the Carmel River in Monterey County south to the San Carpoforo Creek in San Luis Obispo County. The name 'Big Sur' is derived from the original Spanish-language 'el sur grande', meaning 'the big south', or from 'el país grande del sur', 'the big country of the south'. This name refers to its location south of the city of Monterey."

It is interesting to note here that I had a hard time getting excited about any of my images that I captured while in Big Sur this time, and felt very uninspired when I got back home and began the process of reviewing and developing various images. That is until I saw a black and white post on a fellow photographers Facebook page and it gave me an idea to look at what an image I had shot in color may look like in black and white, and there it was! It changed the dynamic of everything instantly and I continued to develop these images with my new found inspiration until I was finally excited about what I had captured!

'Maybe black and white is the best medium for landscapes, I don't know.' ~ Fay Godwin (17 February 1931 – 27 May 2005) was a British photographer known for her black and white landscapes of the British countryside and coast.

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My Big Sur journey on this day began by stopping off at a spot that is named Soberanes Point, which is a great place to view both the ruggedness and beauty of this coastline. On this particular day we were fortunate to have fairly heavy seas and a cloudy sky to add some drama photographically to these landscapes.

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The next stop was a little place that I like to go to just below the parking lot at Rocky Point. Again from here you are able to see the beauty of this coastline and the dramatic Santa Lucia Mountains that rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.

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Further south along the journey was a stop at Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Bridge, a magnificent engineering structure that was first opened in 1932, built under budget for $199,861, and is still one of the tallest single span concrete bridges in the world.

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Pfeiffer Beach is a hard to find beach at the end of unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road, which is the only paved, ungated road on the west side of Highway One between the Big Sur Post Office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This a favorite place for photographers in the month of December and early January when they congregate at this huge rock structure to capture the sunset light that shines through Keyhole Archway.

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Just north of the structure above is this beach that is always an interesting photographic opportunity, particularly on any day with a cloudy sky and a significant swell running in the ocean.

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Continuing the drive south on Highway 1 for about 12 miles you arrive at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a respected resident and rancher in the Big Sur region in the early 20th century, who lived in the area for much of her life until her death in 1928. The 3,762-acre (1,522 ha) park was established in 1962.

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A main feature of the park is McWay Falls, which drops over a cliff of 80 feet (24 m) into the Pacific Ocean. This waterfall is one of only two in the region that are close enough to the ocean to be referred to as "tidefalls". The source of the waterfall is McWay Creek and is one of the few waterfalls that empties directly into the ocean.

Typically, as a photographer, this is as as far as I go along Highway 1 and the Big Sur coastline. These are just a few of the places that I stop to photograph along the way. I chose 7 images for this blog for several reasons - 7 has always been my 'lucky number', I was born on the 7th of April, and I just turned 70 this year!

Enjoy!

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