This past weekend I flew out to Los Angeles for a conference, and had a small amount of free time the night before so I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Leo Carillo State Beach. Having scouted this location on Google Maps weeks before flying out I had a very good idea of the shots I wanted to get, knowing that at sunset I only had a good hour of what I consider to be perfect light. I didn't know when I would be back out, so I had to make the most of my time.

On approach to LAX

One thing that Google Maps couldn't quite emphasize is how steep the cliffs leading down to the beach were. I thought it would be pretty easy to get around, so when I arrived I realized that it was actually incredibly steep and difficult to navigate. Despite the challenges I setup quickly and found a spot overlooking a rocky outcropping where a large number of Cormorants were drying off as the sun started to dip down to the horizon. I wanted to capture the motion of the waves breaking over the rocks which was rather challenging while maintaining a proper exposure. In this situation I really wish I had a graduated ND filter, but you do what you can with what you have.

Leo Carillo Beach

I also didn't want to spend my limited time in one spot so after getting a few exposures I was satisfied with I collapsed my tripod down and made my way to the north section of the beach. It was actually rather tricky getting down as the sun was setting making it difficult to tell what were actual paths and what was just erosion from water run off. Once down on the beach I started photographing the backside of the rocky formation I was shooting from above on the cliff. The cormorants had flown away, but one seagull was perched atop the rocks.

Leo Carillo Beach

Continuing north there were a few interesting rocks half buried in the sand like icebergs, poking out and breaking up the water as the waves quickly slid up the beach. I lowered my tripod all the way down and got almost on top of one, being extremely cautious of the incoming tide. Waves were making their way up the beach at a good rate, a few of which soaked my jeans that I had rolled up over my knees. I started opening up the shutter for 2 to 5 seconds a time smoothing out the water as it wrapped around the rocks and receded back.

Leo Carillo Beach
Leo Carillo Beach
Leo Carillo Beach

The sun had gone down completely at this point and light was disappearing fast, so I had to make my way back up to the road before I lost all light and it would be rather dangerous walking around. As I was trekking back to the car I walked past a life guard station silhouetted against the fading sunset, so I hurriedly made a few exposures. With an exposure of around 30 seconds you could still see hints of detail in the tower which I thought gave it a small sense of scale, but I like how its almost completely black.

Leo Carillo Beach

From my first shot to last I was only on the beach for an hour, so you can see how little time I actually had. I could probably spend each night for a week here and just start to get the shots I want - I didn't even get down to the small cave that was tucked away in the cliffs. On top of that, this is just one of hundreds of beaches surrounding Los Angeles. I'd love to come back out in the future and shoot some more here as well as drive up to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. I'm happy I got to come out to California even if just for a brief time and am looking forward to when I can return in the future.