Finally, a (brief) trip to blog about

Please note: The image above is a postcard quality screenshot borrowed from Ritz Carlton’s website and shows a southern facing view of much of their Half Moon Bay hotel property (the weather depicted is mostly unusual).


It has been a long while since I posted to this blog (January, 2021). Primarily, I think , because it has been a while since I’ve done much, photographically speaking. I’ve blamed the pandemic for my failure to push myself beyond the boundaries of our home but truthfully, it has been some sort of mental or emotional inertia in me that has kept me focused more on keeping busy doing less meaningful things.

But then, as Covid-19 vaccines became more and more available and the pandemic seemed to be waning (then waxing, then waning, repeat) we started to believe we could begin to travel relatively safely again and so we planned various trips — and then, as their dates approached, cancelled them when the time or the place for travel seemed to us to be a lot more premature than expected. And, perhaps naively, we certainly did not anticipate the (ridiculous) political football the need for widespread vaccination would become.

We planned a trip for May to Maui which we subsequently cancelled because of what we perceived to be Hawaii’s somewhat draconian Covid requirements (since reduced somewhat). Then we looked forward to a trip to Lake Tahoe in late August but cancelled that because of the EXTREMELY smoky air caused by all the seriously huge wildfires that were destroying so many forests, homes, and other structures throughout California. As it turned out, cancelling that trip because of ‘just’ bad air, as disappointing as it was, helped us dodge a more serious bullet as one of those fires began to seriously threaten the southern Tahoe environment itself causing mandatory evacuation orders to be established for large segments of that area (we would have been part of it).

At that point, I felt that I needed to assert myself against what had begun to feel like fate constantly intervening in our plans and so I setup a quick getaway (just a three night stay at a hotel about a 40 minute drive away). We scheduled time at the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay (HMB) — no wildfires anywhere in the near vicinity and fresh seaside breeze helped to assure mostly smoke-free air. There is no question this is a very high quality, extremely customer-oriented, hotel. We enjoyed our stay immensely.

We drove over on a Sunday (weekends in HMB are very busy and traffic filled — it must be awful for residents if they need to get around on a weekend). When we got there (the two-lane highway over the coastal mountains comes right into the center of town), we turned north (away from the hotel) and headed up to Pillar Point Harbor, the northernmost section of the bay (and also location of Mavericks Beach, the home of the famous annual Mavericks surfboard competition). Our goal was to have lunch at the Ketch Joanne Restaurant & Harbor Bar. Since it was Sunday it did involve a bit of standing in line to order and then grabbing a table to wait for lunch to arrive. It was as good as I remembered from a photo walk event (and no-host lunch) there a couple of years ago (see blog post at https://cedbennett.blog/2019/10/17/kelbys-worldwide-photowalk/).

After lunch we got back into traffic for the drive south of the highway intersection to the hotel. For me, of course, this brief trip was an opportunity to get my camera out of the bag and start using it. The weather was interesting. The Sunday we drove to HMB the Bay Area was ending a several day heat wave and the sky did look much like the hotel image above. On Monday, and for the rest of our stay, the more typical grey, high fog or low cloud, overcast (what the weather people out here call “the marine layer”) was with us most of each day.

As a result, I’ve got a few photos to share; below is a Google hybrid satellite image of the slightly more than half a mile stretch of Half Moon Bay coastline from which the images in the remainder of this post were captured.

As I mentioned, the weather, particularly in the early morning, was quite grey. The general rule (more guideline, really) in this sort of situation, is to try to avoid compositions which include lots of that sort of boring sky. Another guideline (maybe just a kind of tip, particularly for landscape images) is to think about focusing on smaller, tighter images (rather than wide, sweeping landscapes). So, I started out with that in mind to produce the following two shots taken from the stone staircase leading down to the beach next to Cañada Verde. I think the first image quite clearly conveys the moody, slightly misty, fairly colorless sense of the cliffs and beach at that early hour. The second picture shows more of the same but also includes a bit of the restless ocean (some very grey sky) and a part of the hotel looming over the edge of the cliff at Miramontes Point.

Watching the water for a while made me think about how photography, by stopping or slowing down motion, can show us things that we cannot see with the naked eye. So I moved closer to the surf and started shooting images of waves but using relatively slower shutter speeds to allow the camera to capture some of the motion in the water. I also converted these images to black and white, particularly since there was very little natural color in the images.

The first image (my favorite from this trip) was shot at 4/10ths of a second — a more normal shutter speed designed to freeze the motion of the water would have been at least 125th or 250th of a second). You can see how the wave is just beginning to break and little rivulets of water are streaming off some of the rocks. You can also see that the water has several different levels and is moving (but not as fast as the cresting wave).

The second image is similar to the first except that is was shot at 1/8th of a second (a bit faster than the first one) and is catching a wave already breaking over a rock. Because of the slightly faster shutter speed we can see more detail and texture in the fast moving water and the spray, which we can see as streaks of water rather than tiny droplets (since they are moving much faster than the camera’s shutter speed).

Before I left this part of the beach I turned around to see if I could see the trailing edge of the marine layer but it was still pretty thick and as far as I could see was grey sky. I did notice that the cliff just behind me, at the mouth of the Cañada Verde Creek was showing a bit more color in the cliff and the trees, partly due to the brightening (but grey) sky as the sun above the marine layer rose higher. So I grabbed a shot just to have something more colorful to show. That wooden structure is part of a bridge over the creek for golfers and their carts to reach different parts of the course.

After a while, I walked down to the other end of the beach below Miramontes Point to Three Rocks Beach (named for those rocks just off the coast) all the while keeping an eye on the ocean to make sure the tide didn’t come in and trap me. I have two images from that beach, one of interesting patterns in the sand and the other of four pelicans, resting after fishing? having a meeting? I’m not sure and they didn’t tell me.

Seeing that the incoming tide was advancing, I quickly walked back to Manhattan Beach, climbed the stairs, packed up my gear, and headed back to meet Billie for some breakfast. I didn’t take the camera out again until later that afternoon when the marine layer had mostly burned off directly overhead with some of it lingering a mile or so offshore.

The hotel has a tradition of a bagpipe player sort of saluting the end of the day outside the hotel. I took several photos of the bagpiper while he played and settled on the simple silhouette image in the photo set below. I also captured a colorful image of the setting sun, shining through some of the offshore marine layer (and some wildfire smoke) and lighting up the surf nicely; another image of the sun just before it set below the horizon, and finally, a picturesque post-sunset image of a tiny bay at the northern end of the hotel property.

It felt good to get away and to get out and start looking for interesting things to shoot. Billie and I are headed out for more substantial travel very soon, this time with our wonderful traveling friends, Lew & Louise. Hopefully, I’ll come back from that with some photos to share.


Thank you for looking and reading this far. If you’ve any comments, please leave them below or send them directly to me at Ced@CedBennett.Photography.

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