Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

My camera on Point Lobos

with 37 comments


I’ve borrowed the title from Edward Weston but the November 3rd view from Point Lobos is my own. This trip was the first time since New Zealand, 21 months earlier, that I got to see the Pacific Ocean.

You can’t tell at this scale, but the rocks in the upper left played host to a colony of seals. We could hear them barking even if we didn’t see them at first.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2016 at 5:17 AM

37 Responses

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  1. A few weeks ago I asked someone at a brunch gathering, “Could you imitate the sound of a Choco Toucan vs the Chestnut-mandibled one?” With a smirk, he imitated the Choco one quite well, and we all chuckled. If you were at the brunch table, I would have then asked if you could imitate the sound of the seals. Inquiring minds want to know…..

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 26, 2016 at 6:03 AM

    • With no smirk at all I’ll add that my mandibles are good for eating but not letting out the sound of a seal. What I can do, though, is show you some seals next time.

      I see that the national seal of Ecuador shows not a Galápagos seal but an Andean condor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 8:00 AM

      • Ha! yes, the Andean condor is a majestic bird.. I wonder why some nations select raptors as their symbol? Guatemala’s quetzal serves as a lovely polar-opposite example…

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        November 26, 2016 at 9:28 AM

  2. You say that so casually — “the first time since New Zealand.” How lucky you are to be able to travel as you do. We certainly profit from your roaming around.

    This is another of those blue-and-brown combinations I find so appealing. Whether it’s drying plants against the sky or rocks meeting water, there’s something primal about it. And I enjoyed the linked article about Weston, particularly this: “[Photographic] plates are nothing to me unless I get what I want. I have used thirty of them at a sitting if I did not secure the effect to suit me.” Having spent most of yesterday tossing photos, it was cheering to hear that from a master.


    November 26, 2016 at 6:58 AM

    • Our frequency of trips over the last couple of years hasn’t been typical of the years leading up to it. Better to go those places (the Southwest twice, the Trans-Pecos, the Midwest, New Zealand) while we have the mobility to enjoy them. Your recent trip was a good and long one too.

      With regard to the Weston quotation, I wonder how, so many decades before the instant gratification of digital photography, he knew that he hadn’t gotten what he wanted before he developed his plates.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 8:11 AM

      • My problem is that I see photos, and think, “I want to go there! and there! and there! and…”


        November 26, 2016 at 8:12 AM

  3. Stunning! Seemingly not so pacific. I always wonder how to show horizon or whether I should. You have left just a slip of the sky and it works well.


    November 26, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    • You bring up something that I’ve thought about too: whether or not to include the horizon. Most of the nature photography that I do takes place in Austin, which doesn’t have grand scenery, so I usually concentrate on individual subjects or groups. That often means getting low, which by itself can obscure the horizon, in addition to which I often have to aim in a way that avoids telephone poles, wires, buildings, and other human artifacts.

      In today’s picture the sky wouldn’t have added much so I left only a sliver of it. In other instances on the trip I was happy to include skies filled with wispy clouds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 8:17 AM

  4. That’s a very nice view. We see nothing like it in Iowa even though we have shoreline on both east and west coasts thanks to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

    Jim Ruebush

    November 26, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    • There’s nothing like this in Austin, either. The closest coast is the Gulf of Mexico, some 4 hours away. It’s not as scenic as the Pacific, whose shoreline rocks and waves always make me happy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 8:47 AM

  5. I agree that the slip of horizon you show really works. It adds power. And oh, I adore this spot!


    November 26, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    • I was just reminded from the first linked article that during World War II Point Lobos was closed to the public and Edward Weston couldn’t go there for a few years. During our couple of hours there the place swarmed with visitors, something that was true at a bunch of the places we went to (Grand Canyon, Zion, Muir Woods, Joshua Tree…).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 9:41 AM

      • Loved to death.


        November 27, 2016 at 9:11 AM

        • We were surprised to encounter crowds so late in the year. A ranger at Joshua Tree National Park told us on November 5th that the prime tourist season there was just beginning. I assume that’s because the summer is so long and hot that would-be visitors wait for cooler weather.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 27, 2016 at 10:31 AM

          • right and I think people are hoping to avoid crowds by waiting until fall and winter.


            November 28, 2016 at 9:38 AM

            • Ah, but in this case the waiting till fall and winter means that those are the seasons when crowds pile in. We were at these places whenever we happened to be in the area, subject to whatever tourism prevailed at the time. In a few cases that meant visiting on a weekend, which of course is the worst time, but usually it was either that or miss the place.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 28, 2016 at 11:38 AM

              • I am spoiled here. I can be in nature utterly alone in some incredibly lovely places, as you know. Would you say that the crowds ruined it for you there?


                November 29, 2016 at 8:59 AM

                • We made the best of it, but some of the places (e.g. Zion, Grand Canyon, Muir Woods, Joshua Tree) would have been more enjoyable without the crowds. I remember waiting at Valley of Fire and Joshua Tree for people to get out of several pictures I wanted to take.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 29, 2016 at 9:30 AM

  6. Must be nigh on 24 months since I last saw the Pacific too – on Sydney’s shoreline. Time passes far too quickly. We didn’t visit the Point Lobos park, but drove by on the PCH and I have fond memories of the Carmel mission.


    November 26, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    • The Pacific Coast Highway is a great scenic road. We followed parts of it north of San Francisco and then a much longer stretch from around Carmel to Morro Bay and the next day down to Santa Barbara. A main purpose of this trip was to see things we hadn’t previously seen in various areas, and Point Lobos was one of those.

      You and we are similarly far removed in time from the Pacific Ocean. Our one and only trip to Australia was in 2005, when we visited Sydney and places an hour or two away. I remember my strong sense on the coast of Australia that I might well have been in California. (Unfortunately California has so many eucalyptus trees you could almost think you’re in Australia.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 2:25 PM

      • That might be why I quite like California 😉 Except for the traffic… but then the traffic is pretty horrendous around Sydney too.


        November 26, 2016 at 4:56 PM

  7. Magnificent shot of a fantastic vista, Steve.

    Jane Lurie

    November 26, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    • Thanks, Jane. The ebb and flow of the waves there fascinated me and I took a bunch of pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 2:26 PM

  8. If I’m not mistaken, the Point is named for the Spanish term for the local (California) sea lions. I’ve seen many of them in California too, but my closest personal encounter with the (closely-related) South American sea lions (lobos de mar) was in June 2004, in Argentina. I’ll use you for a springboard to post a photo of these magnificent creatures in the near future.


    November 26, 2016 at 7:13 PM

    • You’re probably right, because lobo marino is a Spanish term for a seal. Another word, the one I’m familiar with, is foca.

      I’ll be springboarding myself, a couple of posts from now, with a picture of the seals I saw farther down the California coast. I look forward to your photo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2016 at 8:17 PM

  9. […] A couple of posts back you caught a tiny glimpse of seals on the rocks at Point Lobos, California, on November 3. Late the next afternoon, having worked our way down scenic Highway 1, we pulled in at the parking area overlooking the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon. It was a popular place, both for the elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) on the beach and the onlookers lining the fence to watch them. Note that while most of the seals were drowsily minding their own business, two of them were going at it nose to nose. […]

  10. […] blogging buddy Steve Schwartzman did a post on California’s Point Lobos the other day, in which he mentioned a colony of seals on an island […]

  11. […] the distant rocks in the photograph that appeared here three days ago hosted seals, the rock at the left in today’s photograph attracted birds. Click the excerpt […]

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