Big Sur: Three Days From the Coast to the Canyons

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Big Sur, CA 19-APR-2012 Michael A. Mariant $930 $1030 Sold out

Discuss this workshop

Come with us to the Big Sur, place of legends, secrets and a mysterious allure that has drawn photographers for decades to its rich photographic locales.

And it hasn’t changed one bit.

The entire stretch of the Big Sur coastline and mountains are simply a photographic retreat … a calming location where the workshop participants fall into a relaxed state while exploring each locale. Even the seasoned, fast-paced urbanites from major metro cities quickly slow down, both in awe and from the natural, relaxed atmosphere this region projects. A sampling of some of the locations we will photograph during the workshop:


We’ll explore where the towering giants create a canopy of shade over the dense understory of ferns and clover. Coursing over boulders and around the redwood tree, we’ll begin our study in water motion on the first day in a stunning redwood gulch.


From wide sandy ones covered with river rock at the water’s edge, to vistas of waves crashing against cliffs and bluffs, the beaches of Big Sur are hidden and priceless treasures … including the purple sand beach!


With the mountains rising right up from the water’s edge, the waterfalls course down through the redwoods, over bluff-tops and into the ocean.


From the iconic bridges spanning wide canyons at the ocean’s edge to the famed Hearst Castle to bluff-top lighthouses, we’ll explore some of the Big Sur region’s architectural sights.

The Big Sur workshop is a study in water motion, where participants will learn the effects of timed exposures on varying water conditions, from babbling brooks to waterfalls to calm tidal changes in coves to crashing ocean breakers over jutting rocks.

Nearly every location over the four days has water as a main or primary element, enriching each scene while participants explore and discover their surroundings to capture scenes of wondrous beauty.

DAY 1. Starting from San Simeon, we travel up the coast to a rarely-visited unmarked and hidden grove of redwoods in a narrow, eroded gorge with chutes of cascading water amidst lush streamside vegetation under the imposing redwoods. Moving on, we journey up to hidden and tucked-away location along Willow Creek, an isolated stream-fed canyon under a canopy of redwoods and oaks where we take the “painter’s principle” even further in our landscape photography studies. The final stop, transitioning into evening photography, is at the iconic McWay Cove Waterfall, one of the few waterfalls in the world that pours off a cliff for 80 feet into the sandy breaks of the beach below.

DAY 2. The second day begins at a We travel further up Highway 1 to

The entire first half of the day is spent with a gentle hike down a canyon trail that takes us into a lush under story of ferns and moss along with breaking waves over rocks and wonderful tide pools. Photos abound from multiple vantage points as we apply the techniques from the previous day of instruction in the “painters principle” along with exposure modifications, HDR and timed exposures. Following lunch, we take a rare journey up the Old Coast Road, the original stagecoach route that ventures far inland from the coast. Along the way we stop to photograph spectacular forest scenes, saving the best for last — a stop in a section of old-growth redwood forest ripe with photo opportunities. We finish the day with macro and scene photography of the tide pools at Pfeiffer Beach, followed by sunset and timed exposures of the breaking waves and rushing tides.

DAY 3. The day begins with a photo trip to the Point Sur Lighthouse for excellent elevated views of the Big Sur coast with sighting opportunities of dolphins playing in the surf along with architectural photography of a landmark lighthouse. The workshop then moves the serene coastal landscape of Point Lobos, stomping grounds of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, where centuries of waves have created patterns of an exquisite nature that enthralled the photo legends along with today’s photographers. The evening — and workshop — ends with photography at the local photographer’s secret, unmarked bluff-top vista, for stunning sunset views over natural bridges, sheer cliffs and breaking waves.

  • You will learn

    • This workshop focuses not only on the ‘where’ to take the pictures, but also on the ‘how’ to take pictures, incorporating photographic education throughout the workshop at each location. By building on the previous location’s techniques and lessons, this allows for culmination in comprehensive lessons in:
  • What to bring

  • Required

    • Water bottles, at least two of at least 32oz capacity. (Not bottled water but bottles that can be filled with water, such as Nalgene.)
    • Sturdy hiking boots, light-weight long-sleeved shirts, light-weight pants, hat (ideally a wide-brimmed, no visors or ballcaps), rain or all-weather jacket. Layered clothing is ideal as the temperature changes drastically from cold winds to hot sun.
    • Camera equipment should include the full range of lens from ultra-wide to telephoto zoom, sturdy tripod and cable release. A 6-stop Neutral Density (ND) or a Fader ND/Vario-ND filter is required for this workshop, along with a polarizer filter. While not required, a Gradated ND filter is highly recommended.
  • Optional

    • Laptop computer/download device or hard drive for downloading cards/editing images. (This workshop will be an intensive shooting workshop with no time spent indoors at the hotels.)
    • MORE DETAILS AND ANSWERS are already covered by your instructor at the Nikonians community forum here
  • What is provided

    • Guidance by our professional photography instructor
    • Training materials from the workshop
    • Amazing photo opportunities
    • This is to be a three-day workshop, starting in the southern end of the Big Sur region at San Simeon (home of Hearst Castle) and ending at Point Lobos (Weston's stomping grounds) 75 miles up the coast at Carmel. Since 90% of the Big Sur coastline is rugged cliffs and inaccessible ranges, the services are spotty and are clustered together into three primary areas: San Simeon in the south, Monterey/Carmel in the north and Big Sur Village Central which is pretty much midway.
    • The workshop pricing includes the training and resources, but does not include food and lodging, or entrance fees into some of the shooting locations (California State Parks). You will need to book a room at a hotel or motel for the first night in San Simeon and the for the second and third night in Big Sur Village. A list of recommended accommodations are found below. We will be carpooling to our shooting locations each day. The airport of arrival will be San Luis Obispo & departure will be Monterey or San Jose (1.5 hours away from Monterey). (Option for San Luis Obispo arrival and departure: driving time via Highway 101 from Monterey to San Luis Obispo is 3 hours.)
    • We will be ending the workshop late on Day 3, after sunset. Plan your departing flights accordingly or plan for an additional night of lodging in Monterey.
    • In San Simeon:
    • * Motel 6: San Simeon - - (805) 927-5341
    • * The Orchid Inn at San Simeon - - (805) 927-3878 [$99 + breakfast basket]
    • * Courtesy Inn - - (805) 927-4691
    • * San Simeon Lodge - - (805) 927-4601 [$60]
    • * Silver Surf Motel - - (805) 927-4661 [$59 + wifi]
    • * Quality Inn - - (805) 927-3998 [$139]
    • * Inns of California San Simeon - - (805) 927-8659 [n/a]
    • * Sea Breeze Inn - - (805) 927-3284
    • * Sands Motel - - (805) 927-3243 [wifi]
    • In Big Sur Village:
    • * Big Sur River Inn - - (831) 667-2700 [$125]
    • * Big Sur Campground & Cabins - - (831) 667-2322 [$115 - limited]
    • * Riverside Campgrounds & Cabins - - (831) 667-2414
    • * Ripplewood Resort - - (831) 667-2242 [n/a]
    • * Glen Oaks Motel - - (831) 667-2105 [$155]
    • * Fernwood Resort - - (831) 667-2422 [n/a - limited]
    • * Big Sur Lodge - - (831) 667-3100 [$150 - large quantity, away from Village]
    • * Ventana Inn & Spa - - (831) 667-2331 [n/a - fancy!]
    • * Post Ranch Inn - - (831) 667-2200 [$600]
  • Venue Information

      A venue for this workshop has yet not been locked down.


Spring waterfalls, flowers and majestic cliffs over the Pacific Ocean. Don't miss it!
DEADLINE for booking is March 31st

Cancellation policy: If you cancel more than 30 days before the workshop, we will refund your tuition except for a $125 fee. If you cancel less than 30 days before the workshop, we will refund 50% of the tuition. If you cancel less than 7 days before the workshop, we offer no refund.


Following Big Sur: Three Days From the Coast to the Canyons workshops are organized in Big Sur, CA:

Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
14-APR-2011 Michael A. Mariant $930 $960 Sold out
19-APR-2012 Michael A. Mariant $930 $1030 Sold out

Member prices are only applicable to Nikonians Silver, Gold and Platinum Members. Non-members can register as Nikonians members here. Nikonians Basic members can upgrade the membership level here. Membership payments help sustain the growth of the Nikonians community and its services such as the Nikonians Academy.