California Coast Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.
If beautiful sunsets, giant redwoods and stunning beaches excite you, then California is the place you want to be. This state truly captures a variety of landscapes, from rugged coastlines, all the way to breath taking national parks. It offers diversity even if you just travel 80 miles up the coast. It is as if California is begging for you to capture it’s glory. Places like Santa Barbara, Monterey and Big Sur are just not found anywhere else in the world; and California offers them with easy access and plenty of turnouts to stop along the way.
This adventure has been designed so it will be remembered for a lifetime. You will come across seals frolicking in the ocean and walk amongst trees that are more majestic than you have ever seen. Our ambition is to get you to see this state through the eye of a lens; to focus in on what really stands out and capture it in a way of permanence. We will not only put you in destinations that you have fantasized about, but we will show you how to photograph it with a creative edge. We will use long exposures to create movement, take panoramic images to showcase the entire landscape and learn about the perfect composition – with depth of field to design the key interest in our photographs.
Throughout this expedition we will come across quaint towns that offer real California culture and that beach lifestyle that we all dream about from our office desks. During our week together we will engage in group discussions, inspire one another and have a great time doing what we love. By the end of the trip you will be viewing a scene in a way like never before, as if there is a camera lens inside your mind’s eye.
We will guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.
In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. If you love photographing landscapes, seascapes and nature, California’s Pacific coast is about as beautiful as it gets!
Please note: Our photography guide will always be on the look-out for interesting images during our photo adventure and for this reason, our itineraries are always subject to change. Weather plays a major role in capturing the best images possible. Changing light and weather conditions will always be assessed and changes in the schedule will be made accordingly. Flexibility, patience, and a sense of adventure are key to having a great time and capturing stellar photographs.
CALIFORNIA COAST 7 DAYS
Day 1 Los Angeles – Santa Barbara
We meet in the morning at the Malibu Beach Inn. At around 10 AM we will head off towards Santa Barbara, where we will check into the Biltmore Hotel and discuss PWA’s “10 Guiding Principles of Photography” as well as our “THE ART OF SEEING” photographic technique. During a group lunch we will have a discussion on what our guests would like to achieve through their photography style, technique and subject matters throughout this trip. After lunch, we will set out on our photographic journey and make our first stop up in the Santa Barbara Mountains where we will shoot the town from above. Once we are back down the mountain we will catch a ride on the Land Shark for a mid to late afternoon tour around the town. While on the Land Shark you will enjoy exquisite views of the Santa Barbara coastline, the American Riviera, and the Santa Ynez mountains. We will then celebrate the end of our day with our “Welcome Dinner” at the beautiful Harbor Restaurant on the pier sitting above the Pacific Ocean. (D)
Day 2 Santa Barbara – Pismo Beach – Avila Beach
After breakfast we checkout and begin our journey north along the California coast, stopping first at Pismo Beach Dunes to experience and capture the beautiful formations the sand has created. We will then move further north to the Pismo Pier and take a walk underneath, noticing the way the light hits the slats and capture it with a high key essence. At this point we will stop for lunch at Steamers of Pismo, enjoying fresh and local seafood. After lunch we will continue our journey to our final destination of the day at Avila Beach. We will set up accommodations at the Avila La Fonda Hotel and conclude our day by shooting the sunset on Avial Beach. (B)
Note: Each night during your adventure we will asses the weather conditions and for those interested there may be a late night or very early morning wake up call to head out to do some night sky photography. Timing will be determined by the position of the Milky Way.
Day 3 Morro Bay – San Simeon – Big Sur (Mcway Falls)
On day three we get an early start, as we will head to Morro Bay to capture the gorgeous morning light on the famous Morro Rock. The rock is a 581-foot volcanic plug that is located just off shore of Morro bay. At this point we will have lunch to refuel. We then set on our way to San Simeon where we will find hundreds of Elephant Seals laid out across a small portion of beach. This will allow us to focus in on how to capture wildlife. We will hopefully get to witness some animal behavior of the seals while we are there. To end our day we will keep driving North, stopping at various turn-outs along the way and eventually arriving at McWay Falls in Big Sur for a glorious sunset shoot focusing on long exposures. Our accommodations for the night will be at the breathtaking Ventana Inn and Spa. (B)
Day 4 Big Sur River – Bixby Bridge – Monterey
After breakfast we will look through our images and discuss the trip to date. We will also have a Q & A about editing techniques. From there, we head over to the Big Sur River to capture the motion of the water against the beautiful green trees surrounding the area. As we move on we will drive past the Historic Bixby Bridge where we will stop for a short period of time to capture this iconic location. The Bridge was completed in 1932 and crosses the gap between the mountains. We keep heading North until we reach Monterey were we will eat lunch and rest up for our sunset shoot. We will have a stunning end to the day as we will journey through the renowned 17 Mile Drive where we will see a mix of environments from golfing, surfing, wildlife and beautiful ocean views. For our nightly rest we will set up in the beautiful Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. (B)
Day 5 Monterey – Santa Cruz – Marshall Beach
On day five we will begin our day by jumping on a boat and setting off to go Whale Watching in Monterey. At this time of year the Killer Whales are all around these shores hunting after Gray Whales. This is truly an experience one will never forget. Once our exciting morning is complete we will head a little further north and eat lunch out on the Santa Cruz Pier, but bring your camera, as we will see another gathering of seals underneath the pier, lying down across the slats fighting for territory. After lunch we will stop at Hole in the Wall Beach as well as the Natural Bridges to capture breath taking rock formations over the ocean. Here we will experiment with long exposures and creating dynamic compositions. To finish up an already amazing day, we will head up to Marshall Beach to capture the Golden Gate Bridge from below. At this spot we will be using our tripods to focus in on long exposures of the tides coming in and even try out a few Panoramic photographs. For the night we will set up accommodations in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel enjoying spectacular city views. (B)
Day 6 San Francisco – Muir Woods – Hawk Hill – Rodeo Beach
On our sixth day we will have breakfast and go over the images of the week, where we will have a discussion on workflow and editing techniques. Then we will head over to the Marina Headlands to arrive at the Muir Woods where we will embark on a gentle hike through the giant Red Woods and explore it’s glory. The tallest redwood in this section scales to an incredible 258 feet. At this point we will stop for lunch and rest our necks from the redwoods. We then march to Hawk Hill where we will experience grand vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge from above at a unique angle. Here we will once again work on our Panoramic shots as there is such a vast landscape to take in. For our final location we will photograph the sunset at Rodeo Beach. This beach is exhilarating, and covered with unique red and green pebbles. It is sheltered by cliffs and bounded by a lagoon. We then return to our hotel for our final night together, sharing photographs and stories at our “Farewell Dinner” at Rich Table, a new and upcoming local restaurant. (B) (D)
Day 7 San Francisco
For our last day together we will have our final discussion about the amazing journey we have just embarked on. We will review our favorite images, trade contact information and prepare for our journeys home.
Experience | Difficulty
Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers
DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras
Travel by car or minibus
Moderate elevation changes and lots of walking and some hiking
(non-photographers also welcome)
Travel, landscape, seascape and nature photography
Professional photographer | guide
Photo walks, hikes & discussions
Small group size (4-8 guests)
4 or 5 star hotels
National park permits
Santa Barbara – Biltmore Hotel or similar
Avila Beach – Avila La Fonda Hotel or similar
Big Sur – Ventana Inn and Spa or similar
Monterey – Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa or similar
San Francisco – Palace Hotel or similar
Arrival Airport: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – Transfer time to hotel 60min
Departure Airport: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – Transfer time to hotel 45min
Note: Both Los Angeles and San Francisco offer several other area airports to choose from.
Our adventure begins at 10 AM on the first day and ends at noon on the last day.
Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality.
Single Supplement: $800 (7-Day)
(Optional) Early Arrival Hotel Room: $350
(Optional) Late Departure Hotel Room: $350
Options and Benefits
Private Guided Tours & Adventures
We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine.
We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating.
Landscape, Seascape, Street, Wildlife, and People Photographer
Michael was born and raised in the Boston area and still lives there…some of the time. His camera has taken him to some of the most photogenic spots on the globe and he is as likely to be found in an airport lounge as his living room. Michael’s early photographic experience was through the lens of a Minolta SRT-101where he learned photography as a journalist and a darkroom rat. That early work of capturing a moment influences his style today. His images have won numerous awards, are shown in galleries and hang in homes across the country.
Michael enjoys imparting what he’s learned to others. He has conducted workshops and seminars in photographic technique and has been told he can make the exposure triangle actually understandable! Be sure to ask him anything that you want an opinion on, or just want to understand a little better. He’ll help you make sure you bring home images that you’ll be proud of. He enjoys photographing with others as the creative energies strengthen through shared experiences.
He says, “The bottom line is, I love to shoot. Whether it’s around the corner or around the world there are photographs to be made everywhere. The camera is a great introduction to the people I meet and it breaks down any language barrier almost instantly. Beautiful scenes of nature can be captured; precious moments frozen in time. We all move through our space in the world so fast that we miss some of the most miraculous moments around us. The camera slows me down. It encourages observation. And when I’m lucky, I get to be in the right place at the right time to capture that sliver of a moment through the lens. For me, photography is the never ending search for those slivers.”