A Spontaneous Excursion Up Pacific Coast Highway - Part 2: Big Sur

So after the kayak melee in Morro Bay, it was time for Stephen Chiang, the photographer I was assisting, and I to drive up north to San Francisco for the job the next morning. Put two photographers in a car, give them the choice between A. a straight and direct, but boring route, and B. a windy, curvy, 2-hours-longer scenic route through Big Sur, and, well, you can guess which one they’re going to choose 11 times out of 10. So up the curvy Pacific Coast Highway we went, absolutely one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the country. As we made our way through Cayucos, then Cambria, we stopped for lunch before PCH opened up along the Pacific Ocean for good from the lowlands of San Simeon (best known for Hearst Castle), all the way up the jagged picture-perfect sparsely populated Central California coastline to and through the majesty that is Big Sur. We pulled over and admired for a while, excited at the fact that just 24 hours from now, we’ll be back here to spend the rest of the week making the tough decisions of frolicking around the grand vistas overlooking the Pacific, or splashing around in this, the largest of the world’s 5 oceans.

But first, we had the task of finding dinner and a place to rest our heads for the night in San Francisco for the job in the morning, so we crossed over the famous Bixby bridge, rolled past Monterey and Carmel, made a pit stop in San Jose for my first experience with Yakitori at Gaku Yakitori in San Jose (I ate sea urchin!!! Anthony Bourdain would be proud!). There we used Airbnb.com, found ourselves a place to stay for the night, so after dinner, rolled into San Francisco around midnight. We woke up the next morning to fresh coffee from our host, who just so happened to be the photo editor for Via Magazine, an edition of the Automobile Club publications covering the western states, so, well, naturally, we all immediately clicked. (BTW kind Airbnb host, if you’re reading this, I have a feeling you’ll be hearing from us…)

The work day went suspiciously smoothly. It was a corporate headshot job, and we were in by 10am, out by 3pm. We didn’t even bother to stay in the city, opting to immediately get out, back along the coast, stopped in Pacifica at a roadside fresh produce stand for some snacks and supplies, and proceeded on down to Big Sur, where we were to meet my cousin, my aunt, and the family for dinner at Andrew Molera State Beach campground, our home for the next few days.

Luck would so have it (yes, all luck, no planning or rushing to break down the equipment and get out of the city by a certain hour of course), that we made it back to the infamous Bixby Bridge in time to find a few vantage points to get some solid sunset shots. What are the chances?

We pulled along the side of the road at Rocky Point Restaurant, managed to get a few good shots and angles, not a difficult task in a location like this, but something still told us that we should continue on. So we did, and about a mile further down the PCH, we found a small turnout to park alongside what seemed to be a candidate for a perfect overlook. We took a trail along the bluff (extremely careful to avoid the poison oak that seemed to be in full bloom), which ended at the edge of an abandoned property that we didn’t realize until we were already on it. The boarded up house and remains of an old firepit gave it away. But when we turned around, there was no way we were backing off right away.





We spent the next 15 to 20 minutes capturing the last rays of sunlight over the Pacific and shining onto the coastline hugging the Bixby Bridge, turned towards each other with a knowing “that’s why we do this” smile, and walked back to the car.


We finally pulled up to Andrew Molera State Park, hiked through a 1/2 mile tree canopy into our campsite where the rest of the family was waiting, burgers already grilling, beers already poppin,’ and hence began our stay in Big Sur.

Check out the gallery of images from that day and evening below, taken on Samsung NX3000 and NX30 mirrorless cameras.

Click here for the next part, Part 3: More Big Sur

And if you missed it, here's Part 1: Morro Bay

And for more of my madness, including additional images and edits from this very trip:
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