Redwood Fog and the Big Sur Experience (new band name?)
I race down the Pacific Coast Highway, hoping to arrive in Big Sur to shoot McWay falls by sunset. The timing is tight, and the usual problem presents itself. Namely that there are too many beautiful photo opportunities along the way, but if I stop to take them all there is no possible chance of punching the clock at the falls before the sun does. Ah, the travel photographer’s dilemna. Do I take the photos in front of me and eschew the original intention, or skip them in the hopes that the sun and clouds will, by chance, await me, or that the wind will stand by, bating its breath, and the Earth’s rotation slow in anticipating brilliance for my arrival? The answer is always circumstantial, and in this case I take the middle road (and don’t get to Scotland before anyone). Clouds are rolling in from all angles, and I can’t be sure it won’t be ugly and overcast at the falls, so I stop only at the most enticing locations, and as quickly as possible, to capture long double roll clouds extending towards the Bixby Creek Bridge. Among the most important photographic lessons I’ve learned over the years is to always take a shot precisely when I see it. Never to tell myself “I’ll get that one later when I come back this way,” or something of the like. Light changes, clouds race away, perceptions and focus are fleeting. Even more, I find surprisingly often that the shot I’ve come to take is unlikely to be my favorite from the excursion. Rather it is the violin busker in the alley on the way to the famous park, the unexpected dew-dropped spider-web just before the grand viewpoint, or the caterpillar inching its way across the handrail of the landmark bridge who steals the show. Always make a plan of course, but even more important is to keep one’s mind, eyes, and options open. Beauty is everywhere, but we miss it if our blinders are on. That night, the McWay falls were unshootable. But for my coastal respite, I might have had nothing to show for my evening at all.
The sun was still resting beneath its pillowy mountain quilt, and was bound to remain in a foggy state of fatigue for a couple hours hence, when I arose to navigate the Ewoldsen trail. The smell of steamy redwoods and dewdrops is as invigorating as a morning bath in an espresso tub, and all the more homely. They are ancient, looming, and bewitching, especially when enveloped in the dissipating obscurity of the mist. A winding 5 hour hike leads me up sky piercing mountains, over rivers, along ledges and across bridges built of recently fallen great giants themselves, freshly cut and still somehow exploding with life. A final circle back to the start finally reveals the falls and sprouted yucca in diffuse early light. Full circle indeed. These last fond memories of California will certainly be a comparison point for the natural parks of Spain. Hasta Luego. -Evan