Best Photograph of 2012 – Big Sur

April 19th, 2013
by doinlight

The next step in selecting the best photograph from among the photographs I captured in 2012 is completed.  And you have spoken in a loud and clear voice.

We are doing this one area at a time.  The first was the California Deserts.  Next came the Eastern Sierra. This round was magnificent Big Sur.  And since I was there three times in 2012 there were a host of photographs to choose from – ten in all.

How did it turn out you ask?  Let’s get right into the results and this time we’ll start with the most popular photograph.

In the number 1 position is Sunset, Pfeiffer Beach.


Everyone loves a beautiful sunset.  But Mother Nature doesn’t pass them out freely.  So you need to be patient and ready for them when they happen.

Sunset photographs have the best color when they’re underexposed a bit.  But they are so inspiring that too often not enough attention is paid to the foreground.  On this evening I sprinted 100 yards or so down the sandy beach to work the rock outcrop into the composition. And it worked well with the triangular shape of the rock mirroring the diagonal sweep of the clouds.

But that wasn’t enough for an strong foreground.  It was important to capture an interesting pattern in the surf which completed the composition.


The photograph that came in second is Pfeiffer Beach God Rays.


As the name makes clear, this too was captured at Pfeiffer Beach.  The tunnel in this photograph is a favorite with photographers because in winter, besides waves crashing through the opening with enormous power, the setting sun also shines through it.

It was the God rays that caught my attention, streaming down like beams of light in a Gothic cathedral.  I really had a sense of a sacred place when I saw this and that’s what I tried to capture.

The next photograph is Twilight, Mc Way Cove.


This is one of those fantastically popular photography locations along Big Sur.  It’s photographed so much that some may call it a cliché.  But it’s so beautiful I can never resist.

What makes this photograph more unique is the  fantastic light.  A half hour  earlier the sun was lighting up the waterfall with rich, warm light.  But for me the most beautiful time was ten or fifteen minutes after sunset when this incredible, soft light is found.  I really enjoy the way this one feels.

Moving from dusk to dawn brings us to number four – Dawn, San Simeon Pier.

San Simeon Pier

This is another photograph that works because of the great light.  The composition is very simple, consisting primarily of horizontal and vertical lines.  We normally avoid compositions like this because they tend to be static and lifeless.  But there are enough diagonal lines to give it some energy even without the great light.  But the finishing touch is the light which infuses the scene with warmth and anticipation.

Sometimes when powerful surf is crashing on the shore it is actually dangerous to be on the beach.  This was the case with number five – Surf, Rocky Point.


You need to be really carful on days like this, keeping an eye on the turbulent ocean at all times.  Rogue waves have been known to catch people off guard and sweep them out to sea.  But it’s a thrill to be in the presence of such power and energy.

A journey to Middle Earth was number six – Near Salmon Falls.


Salmon Falls is my favorite waterfall among the many  along the Big Sur coast.  It always evokes many feelings.  This is part of the trail we descend to get to the waterfall and feels very Middle Earth to me.  I enjoy this photograph so much that it is the wallpaper on the login screen on my  iPad.

In the seventh position is China Cove, Point Lobos.


Point Lobos has been a favorite among photographers for many decades.  And for me, China Cove is the most colorful with its crystal clear turquoise water and the beautiful textured cliffs.  This is another photograph that works because of the light – soft and caressing.  This image gives me a feeling of peace and calm.

Number eight is at the San Simeon pier again – Morning, San Simeon Pier.


I like the simplicity of this image – the wave about to break, glowing with the light of the morning sun, and the pier reaching out to the open ocean.  This arrested moment and the openness conveys a feeling of tranquility.

Number nine caught my eye, again, because of the light – Pfeiffer Beach Light.


We were wrapping up the morning shoot and about to head back to the cars when I looked over my shoulder. The water shimmered with soft golds and greens.  I couldn’t resist.  And we still made it to breakfast at the Big Sur Bakery – always a treat.

Finally we come to the Bixby Bridge.


This bridge is probably photographed even more than the falls at McWay Cove.  Early afternoon produced an interesting shadow that added to the image.  And, in the middle of the week it wasn’t hard to find a moment when there wasn’t a single car in sight.

Well, those are the results for Big Sur.  I really want to thank everyone who participated.  I appreciate the time you spend and the comments you leave.

And now it’s time to move on to the next – Zion National Park.  The survey is ready to go so let’s get started.  You can click the link below and be one of the first to log your opinion.

Choose the Best Zion National Park Photograph of 2012

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Posted in Journal | Comments (3)

  • Harold Hall says:

    Hey Ralph, sorry I did not vote in this series, but I agree with the results. The texture of the water in the sunset is great.

  • Kee Woo Rhee says:

    Ralph, what a fantastic set of the Big Sur photographs!

    Perfect timing of the posting, when I am in the area myself to enjoy the wonderful coast offers.

    Bravo and Cheers!


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