Big Sur: From the Coast to the Canyons

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Join us for a photo adventure along California's most rugged and beautiful coastline.

Workshop Dates: April 11 - 14, 2013

DEADLINE TO SIGN-UP: March 11, 2013

Featuring four-days of discovery along tide-pool dotted wide sandy beaches, strategic vista points where pinnacles of rock jut out of the crashing waves, through fern-covered gulches teeming with towering stands of redwood trees and up fertile canyons to hidden waterfalls cascading among moss-covered rocks. Big Sur is a place of legends, secrets and a mysterious allure that has drawn photographers for decades for its rich photographic locales.

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 a comprehensive lesson in composition, modified exposure, light controls, Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), and Infrared (IR) photography.

This truly is a collaboration of extensive, comprehensive landscape photography education coupled with a dynamic location.


Day 1 - Starting from San Simeon, we travel up the coast for our first stop to photograph some unique marine wildlife, working on composition and where we translate the "painter's principle" to our photography before getting to unmarked Salmon Creek Falls. A short 1/4 mile level walk among boulders takes us to a two-step waterfall dropping from three chutes into a large pool. Moving on, we journey up to Redwood Gulch, a lesser-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. The final stop, transitioning into evening photography, is at Sand Dollar Beach where we review techniques in exposure adjustments to capture the setting sun over the shoreline with waves crashing on the rocks just off the coastline in a preliminary study in timed exposures. Then after the sun has set, we begin an exercise in Painting with Light and Nikon CLS, illuminating the landscape with our Speedlights, while balanced to the darkening sky.

Day 2 - The second day begins at a hidden and tucked-away location along the South Fork of the 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. Next stop is the Limekiln Waterfall, a stunning fall with it's 25-foot wide fan of water as it drops down 100-feet into a lush river framed by redwoods in a narrow box canyon. Moving on, we stop briefly 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, before arriving at Partington Cove. A gentle hike down the canyon trail takes us into a lush under story of ferns and moss along with breaking waves over rocks and wonderful tide pools. We finish the day with macro and scene photography of the tide pools at Pfeiffer Beach, followed by sunset and a study HDR as well as time exposures of the breaking waves and rushing tides.

Day 3 - The entire first half of the day is spent with a trip through the lush, dark and richly hued canopy of redwoods lining trails back to the secluded and serene Pfeiffer Falls. Photos abound from multiple vantage points as we apply the techniques from the previous two days of instruction in the "painters principle" along with exposure modifications, HDR and timed exposures. The early afternoon after lunch is set aside for image review, edit and critique of the previous days work as we prepare for the climatic ending of the workshop. The late afternoon and early evening is blocked out for 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 along with old settler's cabins and original log bridges dating back to the early 1900s, saving the best for last — a stop in a section of old-growth redwood forest ripe with photo opportunities. The evening ends with photography at the photographer's secret, unmarked Sobranes Point, for stunning sunset views over natural bridges, sheer cliffs and breaking waves.

Day 4 - 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. Following the lighthouse, we head on to the iconic Bixby Bridge for some breathtaking views for additional architectural photography. The workshop culminates in 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 workshop ends with the setting sun over Point Lobos.

  • You will learn

    • Landscape photography
    • In the diverse California Coastal Range
    • Evaluative composition
    • Previsualization of final image
    • From exposure
    • Through post-production
    • To presentation
    • Alternative digital processes/approaches
  • 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 four-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 4, after sunset.
    • We will be ending the workshop late on Day 4, 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

      Please check your venue by specific city area location.


Spring waterfalls, flowers and majestic cliffs over the Pacific Ocean. Don't miss it!
DEADLINE for booking is March 31, 2011

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.


Big Sur: From the Coast to the Canyons workshops are provided in the following locations:

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Big Sur 16-APR-2009 Michael A. Mariant $895 $925 Sold out
Big Sur 15-APR-2010 Michael A. Mariant $895 $925 Sold out
Big Sur, CA 14-APR-2011 Michael A. Mariant $930 $960 Sold out
Big Sur, CA 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.