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Weston Beach at Point Lobos State Reserve Wednesday 5/3
Point Lobos State Reserve Monday 5/8

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 9

Weston Beach at Point Lobos State Reserve

Calm sunny weather was again forecast for Wednesday May 3 and then another longer period of breezy conditions. So with difficulty, I motivated myself to get out the door again. With an optimal low tide at mid day, I decided to drive the 70 miles south to Point Lobos State Reserve. I have been to this famous location where land meets sea, many times and early May with peaking greenery and wildflowers, it is most aesthetic. Arguably the most impressive small zone of Pacific shores on our North American coastline.

I always park along California Highway 1, walk in putting $1 into the donation box since walking distances to any areas are trivial. Note the driving in fee is $10. To reach my destination, a short distance beyond the entrance station, one takes the Mound Meadow Trail south that ends at the paved road beside Mound Meadow. The meadow itself is in excellent shape and as I passed through, checked a few Monterey mariposa, calochortus uniflorus, were still about. The most common species blooming during my visit at the park along inland trails were California hedgenettle, bush monkeyflower, blue-eyed grass, Indian paintbrush, brass buttons, and witches teeth, while along southern shore trails, coast Indian paintbrush, seaside daisy, and lizard tail. However the most common plant was poison oak.


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My favorite part of this small state park with 554 land acres is Weston Beach and on many of my visits, I go no further as would be the case this day, content to work close-ups and intimate landscapes of its incredible rock strata shore. Across the road fronting the meadow shore terrace, Weston Beach appears relatively boring. A small bedrock shore cove with small loose stones without any sand. Thus in many visitor's minds not a beach at all thus pass right on by. A mile length of southern shore here is 50 to 60 million year old Cenozoic Era Paleogene Period Carmelo Formation sedimentary strata with much conglomerate containing andesite cobbles and pebbles. The colorful volcanic rocks erode out of the conglomerate rock and become smooth loose shore pebbles and cobbles with many of the latter roundish. The mudstone and sandstone bedrock is what makes this place so special. Link to rocks in the park, world famous to geologists.

Soon after arriving, I framed up the above section of its landscape. The cove is to the left of the left frame edge as this is at low tide. As one moves deeper into the tidal zone, the bedrock surfaces becomes more greenish brown from algae while the higher bedrock areas are regularly scoured clean by the wave powered rolling action of stones and pebbles that tend to dominate the highest tidal areas. Tidepools here tend to be relatively safe to explore because the mouth of the cove is narrow that attenuates waves. However the algae covered rock surfaces are extremely slippery.

The best time to photograph close-ups at Weston Beach is mid morning through mid afternoon on sunny days that brings out better color saturation in the translucent rock surfaces and the above was captured at 10:10am. Rock surfaces are most aesthetic when either recently wet by wave action or are still at least slightly damp. As the spring sun rotates east to west from the south, the character of shading on and saturation of elements continually changes. Additionally over periods of weeks and months, the upper beach stones are always moving about burying and unburying middle bedrock elements and scattering stones atop bedrock in unique patterns. So I often find new ways to frame familiar subjects.


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In the above image, seawater still fills most of the cobble filled channel at the edge of the bedrock V. Notice the difference in saturation between cobbles at mid upper left above the water line and those bottom center still underwater. At left frame edge at the channel water line is a grainy pattern filling a crack of the bedrock. Those are anemone that as the tide goes out, grab onto pebbles and shell bits with their suctioning tentacles, in order to reduce drying out from the open air and sun. Note the rusty red ironstone nodules in the bedrock.


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This next image above features rusty red ironstone nodules, brown algae, and rough limpets. The light yellow green color on the foreground rock is algae.


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The above section of bedrock had been buried beneath stones for years until storms this last winter apparently moved them elsewhere.


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Under water in a shallow pool, colorful igneous geology andesite cobbles that dominate loose stones on Weston Beach. Their rounded form the result of wave action rolling about on the bedrock surfaces. Lower frame edge mid right, the brighter stone is granite that forms shores on significant shores of the park. Mid afternoon, I returned to my vehicle and drove a short distance north to Carmel River State Beach where I worked some stone and sand close-ups. Part of a body of work I will make public in the future.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Breezy weather kept me at home again until Monday May 8 when belatedly at mid morning I decided to return to Point Lobos and work other areas of the park I had not gotten to the week before. Although the forecast was for hazy sunshine with some stratus, upon reaching the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains everything west and south along the coast, across Monterey Bay and beyond was solid overcast though some was thin. That affected what I might photograph so with time to burn drove south checking conditions along the coast as far as Garapata Beach before returning north then walking into the park. Beyond the park entrance, dawdling working a couple mediocre landscapes, took the Carmelo Trail, Cabin Trail, North Point Trail, all the way to Cypress Cove. By noon was I on the north sections of the Cypress Grove Trail.

About all these trails given a very popular world class treasure, one must stay on the usually cable fenced trails thus not walk out into landscapes. The majority of visitors do in fact stay on trails, however there have always been obvious trampling and foot mark signs beyond cable barriers at scenic spots, predictable given selfish careless behaviors of some people, that a minor number ignore doing so if they think no one will see them. Unfortunately the trails were laid out decades ago with mediocre attention paid to obvious scenic viewpoints, much less places photographers would choose to place tripods down at. And subsequent park managements has for decades unfortunately been unreceptive to changing that. Accordingly some of the most scenic landscape features cannot be seriously photographed. I would hope some day a considerate person gains control of park decisions that after some reasonable input from photographers, in consensus adds a few short spur accesses to scenic view points.


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Given the moist marine air, reddish orange hued trentepohlia, algae, grows benignly on branches of Monterey cypress, cupressus macrocarpa, a rare tree originally found at just two small locations on our coast line though subsequently is considerably planted as an ornamental elsewhere. Few other tree species have evolved to colonize near coast environments because of salt in the air. The cypress not only live in a salt spray environment but also in the face of brutal winds and storms off the Pacific often spectacularly on harsh granite out crops where their roots grow into cracks. Diffuse light conditions were excellent for capturing this understory subject.


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Pinnacle Point and Pinnacle Cove are impossible for me to photograph using any focus stack or stitch blending processes because of considerable water movements. Thus on days I intend to work large seascapes with single shots, carry my 4x5 view camera with Provia 100F film. Well unless I just include a small amount of the sea as in the image above. Below on foreground slopes are coast Indian paintbrush, castilleja affinis, and yellow bush lupine, lupinus arboreus. Some spectacular Monterey cypress on the base of Pinnacle Point at middle ground with outer areas of Carmel Bay in the hazy overcast light beyond.

A couple images above is a modest single frame capture of Pinnacle Point. To capture the formation surrounded by beautiful aqua blue water, one should wait till a series of larger waves crash on its rocks and then wait further until most of the initial bright white surface foam subsides leaving large numbers of white bubbles still below the surface. Those bubbles through which sunlight reflects off and back out the surface as aqua blue, are however also rapidly disappearing so there is an optimal point to press one's shutter. Two reasons one does not see aqua blue like this along most shore areas is because here one is high above the sea surface looking down steeply while the sun at mid day is high above and slightly behind that provides strong reflected light back up to the viewer's position. Also many white foam bubbles here given the powerful wave against rock and subsequent currents are driven more deeply down beneath the surface where light through greater distance of water is filtered more.


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A short distance further found a familiar spot to work in both the flowery Pinnacle Cove slopes and Monterey cypress with trentepohlia algae covered branches. Don't recall ever seeing the slopes as green with as many flowers. The yellow flowers below the slanted trunk are brass buttons, cotula coronopifolia. Besides the algae, considerable lichen grow on the tree's extremely weathered bark. The image at page top from a tripod position a few feet right shows a wider 3x1 panorama that includes a bit of Pinnacle Cove and Pinnacle Point trees. In the background, as clouds were thinning, Carmel Bay now shows a more saturated blue. Look at the impressive wind shaped snag against the bay background on the left side of the enlarged vertical slice view.


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By 3:45pm had left the cypress and was along the south shore near The Slot. There over about 15 minutes had fun moving back and forth to and fro, up and down until finally satisfied geometrically framing the above iron banding in bluish gray banded sandstone.


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A bit weary, finally reaching Weston Beach at 4:30pm I took one token image above of bedrock patterns before heading back to my car for the drive home. I had considerable unfinished business not only at this beach but also the rest of the park so expect to return again soon when weather cooperates. In particular there is an incredibly colorful subject visible at lowest minus tides out at a spot on Sea Lion Point that is apt to get wave crash splash except during relatively calm conditions. After buying the A6000 during spring of 2014, my first field work was out to that point during which I almost captured the subject. Instead I nearly destroyed the expensive new camera when sea water splashed up on the position that had me carefully cleaning off the camera for hours. Next time will bring a spotter.

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   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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