Category Archives: Photographs: Ocean

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks
Cormorants nesting on rugged coastal rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve, California

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks. Point Lobos State Reserve, California. May 3, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cormorants nesting on rugged coastal rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve, California

Following a significant bit of photography near the end of April and the beginning of May, I had hardly picked up my camera for nearly a month — and I was itching to get out and make new photographs. Time was still tight, but I found a free day and headed off to the coastal areas of the Monterey Peninsula and the northern reaches of the Big Sur coastline, ending up at Point Lobos. Frankly, as much as I wanted to make photographs, I also simply wanted to get outside for a bit, and a morning of hiking and photographing here fit the bill perfectly.

The rock in the distance on which some cormorants are nesting is actually an island — an island that at some times of year is covered with many hundreds of all kinds of shore birds. This time there were far fewer. It could have been a seasonal thing, or it might be related to the changes in ocean temperature that have caused harm to marine mammals this season. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the small group of black birds with a landscape of rugged rock, so I wandered a bit until I found this camera position that put nothing but rocks between me and the island.


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.

Whalers Cove

Whalers Cove
Whalers Cove

Whalers Cove. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Whalers Cove at the Point Lobos State Reserve

People who head straight toward the ocean at Point Lobos, driving west through the park and then south, probably miss this spot completely since it is off to the side and down a hill a bit. It is very popular with divers and recently I’ve seen kayakers working out of the cove. It is also a good place to find various sorts of birds — on more than one occasion I’ve photographed egrets standing on seaweed and hunting for meal.

This time I hiked up the trail that climbs away from the cove and towards the north shore of the park with its cypresses and steep cliffs dropping to the water. From the early part of the climb I could look back over the cove and see the small meadow at its head and the layers of forest and hills beyond as they rise toward the ring of the coastal hills across and beyond the Pacific Coast Highway.


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.

Coal Chute Point

Coal Chute Point
Coal Chute Point

Coal Chute Point. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A bench on the bluff at Coal Chute Point, with inlet and peninsulas leading toward green hills, Point Lobos

A few days ago I needed to go make photographs, following a period during which that has not been possible, so I headed off towards the Monterey Peninsula with a vague plan that might have ended up here at Point Lobos or could have taken me further down the coast highway. It was overcast further north and inland, so I figured that by going south a bit I could find better light. In fact, I did, though it was not without its challenges — though the challenges of thin clouds (with their softened light) and haze usually appeal to me.

Without thinking about it a lot I ended up at Point Lobos, a place I have visited regularly since my family first came to California when I was four years old. Needless to say, this is familiar territory for me! I arrived shortly after the park opened and I headed straight to Whalers Cove and soon saw the peninsulas across this bay fading into atmospheric haze and finally to the “impossibly green” hills of the coastal range — and I knew that this would be my first subject for the day.


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.

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs
Monterey Cypress, Cliffs

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monterey Cypress trees growing at the edge of a rocky cliff above the Pacific Ocean, Point Lobos

It has been a very busy few weeks, for reasons I won’t explain here in detail. In any case, it was important today for me to head out and make some photographs. I originally had planned to go yesterday, but California’s strange weather wasn’t looking too promising, so I delayed for a day, hoping that the cloudiness that has been around might move further north. I was up early today and on the road, and while there were some clouds it looked like things might be a bit more interesting to the south by the ocean, so I headed towards the upper end of the Big Sur coast. (Usually I like clouds, but some types of clouds make for particularly challenging light.)

I arrived at Point Lobos within a half hour of its opening, which turned out to be critical as the place quickly became busy enough that they closed the entrance gates a few hours later! I started out in the Whalers Cove area and decided that I would walk along the north shore trail since I had in mind some photographs looking back towards this cove from higher ground. The light remained challenging for a while, but them changed to what can be a special sort of light, where high and thing clouds mute the intensity of the light but still give it a clear directional quality. This kind of light also fills the shadows better than more harsh light, and that allowed me to photograph the shady side of this rocky prominence topped with Monterey cypress trees.


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.

Elephant Seals and Blue Water

Elephant Seals and Blue Water
Elephant Seals and Blue Water

Elephant Seals and Blue Water. Point Piedras Blancas, California. July 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Elephant seals resting on a Southern California beach at the edge of the water

This time of year, a lot of elephant seal photographs are likely to be “elephant seals napping/resting/sleeping on beach” photographs, since that seems to be how these critters spend the bulk of their time. If 100 of them are around the beach, perhaps two are out for a swim, and occasionally one or two might move around a bit or engage in some biting, butting battles with one another, but the rest pretty much must there, occasionally flipping some sand on their backs or scratching somewhere.

This large group was crowded together tightly right along the edge of the wave line. For the most part there was little or no action, though occasionally one would come or go, or one might jockey for a more favorable position in the pile. I realized that if I moved further away from their position that I could shoot back over them right along the beach, and once I got to this camera position I realized that the wet sand beautifully reflected the blue of the sky.

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.

Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas
Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals, Point Piedras Blancas. Big Sur Coast, California. July 24. 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Elephant seals massed along the edge of the beach at Point Piedras Blancas, California

Photographing elephant seals was not originally port of my (somewhat vague) plan when I set out for the Big Sur coast on this one day outing. I started out fairly early heading south, figuring that I would just stop at whatever seemed interesting along the way. It was quite foggy across the Salinas Valley near the outlet of the Salinas River, so I wasn’t sure what I would find on the coast. But when I got there the fog was thinning quickly, so I had a lot of opportunities for seascape/landscape photography along the periphery of the fog. Continuing south I eventually “ran out of fog” and as it became midday the light was less inspiring, so I set a new goal of looking for lunch! After lunch I continue south a bit more and crossed the lowlands south of Ragged Point.

As I drove past the elephant seal viewing area, which I had last visited in the winter when the newborn seals were still there, I was a little surprised to find a decent number of seals. Since the good light for photography on the return drive was still a ways off, I figured that photographing elephant seals was as good of a way to spend an hour as any so I stopped and made some photographs. The place is quite different without all of the newborn seals. There were far fewer seals and almost all were relatively large. Mostly they lay around, either up on the beach a ways or else lined up side to side right at the waterline as this group is doing.

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.

Point Sur Lighthouse Station

Point Sur Lighthouse Station
Point Sur Lighthouse Station

Point Sur Lighthouse Station. Big Sur Coast, California. July 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The historic lighthouse station atop Point Sur along the California Big Sur coastline

Point Sur, with its historic lighthouse station, is an iconic feature of the northern section of the Big Sur coastline along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. The distinctive “hill” (which I now know is known as a “morro”) is visible from far up the coast as you approach from the north, and once you get closer the tall, rounded hill at the far end of a sandy peninsula has a nearly unique appearance. (Not literally unique, as there are others, such as the eponymous Morro Rock further south at Morro Bay.)

Today the morro itself, with its lighthouse station structures, plus an old naval facility nearby, are part of the state park system. The surrounding land is still in private hands, but Californians and others can hope that it, too, may eventually expand the public land along the coast. The lighthouse station was constructed in the late 1800s, when this was a very remote section of the California coast, and the lighthouse staff and their families had to be nearly self-sufficient. The area is exposed to significant winds and surf, as it is exposed to the north. Today the lighthouse still works, though with a modern replacement for the original light. If you look closely you may be able to see the light along the descending ridge on the right side of the morro.

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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

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.