A Week of Photography on the Central Coast of California

Last week was a great photo teaching adventure in and around Los Osos for the California Photo Festival. There were 170 individual sessions during a 5 day period—it was all photography, all the time, from 6 am to 7:30 pm, sunrise to sunset. I taught 9 sessions, roughly 2 sessions a day and had a chance to hang out with some real legends of photography like Parish Kohanim, Rick Sammon, Jennifer Wu, David Wells and many more – 16 instructors in all.

Moro Bay at Sunset

Sunset at Moro Bay was truly a magical experience for one of my workshops

The festival was organized by Light Photographic Workshops. Although some of the activities and workshops took place at Light’s facility in Los Osos, most of the many workshops were held at locations in the surrounding areas, San Luis Obispo, Moro Bay, Montana De Oro State Park, Cayucos Pier and the Elfin Forrest.

Pre Dawn at Cayucos Pier

Sometimes the most interesting photos can be had before light appears in the sky - this was captured at Cayucos Pier for a sunrise workshop.

Sunrise workshops were scheduled to start at 6:00 am, a good hour before light appeared in the sky. This provided an opportunity to practice some night time photography before being tempted by the pre-dawn glow. My workshop was held at Cayucos Pier and my students worked on capturing long exposures for motion blur of the waves around the pier, as well as HDR captures to get enhanced details. I typically don’t take too many photos because I try to be as available as possible to answer questions and provide technical guidance. Most of the time, I am in “snapshot mode” and simply grab quick shots hand held. I am often surprised with a few interesting images that can give a sense of the visual experience that was shared by the group during the course of the workshop.

Cayucos Beach, Pre-Dawn

Fog suppresses the sunrise over the beach town of Cayucos. The dim light allows for an interesting view with the reflections of city lights in the waves.

I also gave a sunset workshop—this one occurred at Tidelands Park in Moro Bay with exquisite views of Moro Rock and the marina. Again, some of the more interesting captures were to be had when one explored other than the obvious subjects.

Pelicans at Moro Bay

These birds were perfect models, patiently posing for a group of students in the warm late afternoon light

Not all images need to be rendered in color to achieve their full impact. I discovered many subjects to explore for a B&W workshop I am planning to gave at Light Photographic next year! I conducted several workshops at the festival based on my book “Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers” – although not specifically about B&W, the importance of tonal structure and proper exposure were explored at different locations in the area.


The Mission at San Luis Obispo was the subject of my Zone System workshop

The area surrounding the main festival site at the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo offers a tremendous variety of visually stunning locations. The workshop participants could not fail to capture beautiful images to build portfolios or gallery shows around.

Rocks at Montana de Oro State Park

The beach at Montana de Oro State Park offers many scenes with dramatic rocky coastal views.

I gave a lot of digital lab workshops while I was at the festival and was only able to see a small portion of the locations used for the various workshops but even that small sampling would offer a tremendous value for anyone planning on attending next year. At $500, or less than half what other photo workshops like Santa Fe and Maine charge, attendees had access to several great instructors and a huge variety of picturesque locations—you can’t come away from this festival without an abundance of beautiful images!

You can see a small sample of my images from the festival on my Flickr page here.