Jay Sousa: Many photo opportunities along the California coast

November 8, 2013 

Jay Sousa

I recently made a weekend RV trip to Half Moon Bay with my wife. Years ago we sailed into the harbor at Princeton, just a couple miles north of Half Moon Bay, but not having a car we were never able to do much exploration.

This trip was not necessarily a photo expedition, though I never leave home without camera equipment, but more of a hang out at the beach and cruise around on our bicycles trip. What I discovered was an area ripe with photo opportunities.

There are at least four distinct areas that you can spend hours photographing: the coast and beach areas, the harbor, the town of Half Moon Bay and the nurseries.

Let’s start with the coastal areas. One of the big attractions in the Half Moon Bay area is the coastside trail, which runs along the coast from the harbor at Princeton on the north end of the Bay all the way south to the Ritz Carlton. This six-mile walking/biking trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific and access to many great, unspoiled beaches.

My favorite area was from Half Moon Bay State Park, which is off Highway 1 on Kelly Road south to the Ritz Carlton resort. If you go to photograph, plan on a nice walk along bluffs overlooking some beautiful and deserted beaches.

Two miles south of your starting point at the state park, the paved trail gives way to a series of dirt paths that wind through open grasslands and dense stands of oddly shaped trees. This section of trail also has many areas of beautiful wildflowers and brightly colored ice plant. Several side trails, some steep, make their way to spectacular beaches. Since there are no roads that lead to these numerous beaches, you will often be the only soul there to photograph the beauty.

If photographing old ships is of interest to you, you will be in photo heaven in the area around the harbor, which is home to a large fishing fleet and numerous pleasure craft. There are many old, weathered vessels nearby along the quiet streets near the harbor. These old ships make for great photo subjects. The rotted wood and rusted fittings have a lot of character.

Wander these streets early in the morning or late in the day near sunset and the soft light will bring out all of the amazing detail in these old ships. As an added bonus, the sound of the nearby foghorn for the entrance into the harbor is nice to listen to while photographing these antique vessels.

The town of Half Moon Bay offers some great photo opportunities, as well. The main street has an eclectic mix of weathered buildings that house a variety of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Wandering the quaint streets with your camera will yield some interesting architectural images.

The area is also home to many large nurseries, including one that raises orchids. These nurseries are mostly together on San Mateo Road, aka Highway 92, which is a pretty pastoral area that leads into Half Moon Bay over the hills from the San Francisco Peninsula.

The largest of these nurseries is the Half Moon Bay Nursery. This facility, at 11691 San Mateo Road, has more than three acres of flowers, succulents, native plants and much more.

The manager, Brad, welcomes photographers and allows them to wander the many greenhouses with their cameras and record the beautiful plants and flowers.

I was so taken with the variety of things to photograph in this section of the California coast that I am thinking of offering a photo workshop there next year.

Jay Sousa, a former Sun-Star photographer, has his own photography business in Merced, conducts private classes and teaches photography at Merced College.

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