Little Sur River, Pacific Ocean. Big Sur Coast, California. January 19, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
The Little Sur River meets the Pacific ocean along the Big Sur coastline of California in evening light
On this weekend near the middle of January, the local news and weather reports announced the arrival of very large winter surf along the central and northern California coast. This typically happens a few times every winter, when very distant storms far to the north in the Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands send huge swells south towards California. For those whose experience with the California coast has mainly been to experience the usually gentle surf on summer, these waves can be stunning. When I heard about these conditions I knew I had to make it over to the coast. The setup this weekend was special in another way – the period between large waves was rather long and the larger sets of waves were separated by many minutes. We saw this process in action when we first arrived to find what looked like surprisingly calm seas, with only rather normal looking waves. But within minutes a set of the larger waves began to come ashore and we were astounded at their size and power.
This weekend was doubly special. Not only was the monumental winter surf running, but we had a spell of that weather than can make people from other places envy Californians! We went south from Monterey and into the upper reaches of the Big Sur coastline, where it was beautifully sunny and close to 70 degrees! (For those who think this is actually typical… not quite! In the summer this area is often blanketed by thick fog for days on end.) The waves and the weather drew thousands to the shoreline, and I can’t recall the last time I saw so many people along the coast highway. We joined them and made quite a few photographs during the afternoon hours. At the same time I was scoping out possible locations for that final golden-hour photograph. As the end of the day approached we were very close to Big Sur itself, and I remembered stopping at this spot a bit earlier in the day and thinking about how to compose a photograph of the peninsula separating the curving Little Sur River from the steep cliffs and ocean beyond.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.