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Visiting Iceland – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series I talked about our first day in Iceland and how we got to plan our trip. On the second part I want to tell you about our experiences during day two of our trip.

We had a great breakfast at our hotel in Reykjavík then we began our journey to the northwest side of Iceland, we drove through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula following road 54 all the way to Stykkishólmur where we spent the night.

Day 2 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Mt Kirkjufell

While driving through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula the sun started to come out, the morning colors were stunning so we decided to make a stop to take some photos of the mountains being warmed by the sun light.

Hvalfjarðarsveit

Hvalfjarðarsveit

As you can see there were not a lot of houses around this area or too much traffic. The road was a bit icy due to the snow being blown away by the strong winds so we had to drive slow and very carefuly. On the way we spotted a few horses next to the side of the road, so we decided to make another stop as we really wanted to see the famous beautiful Icelandic Horses.

Icelandic Horse


Icelandic Horse

After enjoying the company of these beautiful animals, we continued our journey. The sky was clear and the morning sun was giving a golden glow to the mountains.

Eyja-Og-Miklaholtshreppur

Búðakirkja

Our first official stop on our itinerary for the day was Búðakirkja, we wanted to visit the Black Church of Búðir which is a tiny wooden church dating back to the 19th century. With the snowy mountains in the background, the white floor due to the snow and the blue sky, this black church is a photographic gem, imagine this with the northern lights!⠀

The Black Church of Búðir

Gatklettur

Our second stop was in Gatklettur, a beautiful Arch Rock in the area of Arnarstapi, it was cold and windy but the view was spectacular.

Gatklettur

We had several more stops on the map that we wanted to make but it was getting late, due to the strong winds and the icy roads driving took longer than estimated, so after Gatklettur we decided to go directly to Kirkjufell to try to get there before sunset. Fortunately we made it on time, there were a lot of people as this is a very popular spot. We parked in the Kirkjufellsfoss parking lot and headed to the other side of the waterfall to get a composition that included the falls and the mountain.

Mt Kirkjufell

The sunset colors were beautiful, it was partially cloudy as there was a storm coming that night. We couldn’t stay longer because we still needed to drive 40 min more to our hotel in Stykkishólmur.

If you don’t want to have to drive more, there is a small town next to Mt Kirkjufell where you can stay, if we knew the driving conditions were going to be like they were we would have stayed there instead to be able to spend more time in Kirjufell and reduce the driving time.

Despite the short time there I was able to get some more shots I enjoyed.

Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufellsa River

 

Mt Kirkjufell

This was one of my favorite spots, I wish I had more time there to explore other angles, also to be able to visit at night to try to catch the mountain with the northern lights, but I don’t lose hope and think I’ll go back one day.

If you have time explore the area, try different angles, across the road there is another parking lot and there are trails around the mountain, there are usually horses there too, so the photo opportunities are endless here.

After Kirkjufell we headed to our hotel, we stayed in Hotel Fransiskus in Stykkishólmur, it is a small cozy hotel with breakfast and parking included, it had everything we needed.

Unfortunately by the time we reached Stykkishólmur it was late and the next day we left early so we didn’t have time to explore this town.

Day 2 Map

As I mentioned above, we added a lot of stops on this day, we could not visit them all but they are still here on the map, hopefully this will give you an idea of all these other things you can visit in this are if you have the chance.

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In Part 1 of these series I talked about Four Mile Beach, gave some tips and showed some of the pictures I have taken in this beautiful beach. In Part 2 I want to give you more tips about another wonderful beach in the Santa Cruz County area.

Part 2 – Panther Beach

Santa Cruz Coast

Panther Beach is located around 9 miles north from Santa Cruz and around 2.6 miles from Davenport.

How to get there

If you are using Google Maps, use this link to get the exact directions to the parking lot. The parking lot is a dirt road on the side of Carrillo Hwy 1, it is quite big but still it might get crowded on a sunny day.

To get to the beach you need to go to the end of the parking lot and follow the trail, you will cross a railroad and then go down a dirt trail that can be a little tricky sometimes, nothing terrible but you need to be careful.

Panther Beach

If you want to take photos from the cliff, after the railroad don’t take the trail down, take the trail on the left and you will get to see the beach from the top, which is a pretty amazing view on both sides.

Panther Beach

It is not recommended to get too close to the edge, so please be very careful and don’t risk your life.

What to do

Once you get down to the beach, if you go the right, you will find some cool rock formations where, if the tide is high, you can get small waterfalls which are fun for long exposures or you can also get action shots of the waves.

Santa Cruz Coast

California Coast

Both photos above are from the right side of the beach, the first one is however with an exposure of 1.3 seconds while the second one is 1/250 seconds creating totally different effects on the water.

On the left side of the beach, there is a huge wall that has a whole in it, because of this some people also call this beach Hole in the Wall Beach. In this area there are some rocks that are great for long exposure and you get direct view of the sunset.

Santa Cruz Coast

If the tide is not high, you can cross through the hole in the wall and go left to another beach, some people call that beach Hole in the Wall as well, in Google Maps I see is called Seven Mile Beach.

California Coast

This beach is huge and gives an even wider view of the sunset, on the far left end of the beach there are some rocks that are great for different compositions.

Santa Cruz Coast

If you get to this side of the beach, just make sure the tide is not that high so you can cross back through the hole in the wall, because as I far as I know there is no other easy way out. If there is, please let me know in the comments.

Santa Cruz Coast

This beach is very popular not only among photographers but the public in general, so it can get very crowded. After the sun goes down, people enjoy bonfires on the beach which can also generate great photo opportunities.

Santa Cruz Coast

I hope you find some of this information useful, if there is any other tip that I missed please leave it in the comments.
If you visit this beach please let me know your experience in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!

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I received an email from a fellow photographer asking me for some suggestions on where to shoot in the coast, I replied to his email with several options to consider. After replying I thought why not put those tips into a blog post so it is available to everyone, so I decided to create a series of posts describing some of the beaches I have been to in Santa Cruz and some tips about how to make the most of your trip.

Part 1 – Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Today I am going to talk about Four Mile Beach which is a beach north of Santa Cruz that offers a lot of photo opportunities.
But first things first, let’s talk about some general tips:
  1. Before going anywhere always check the weather, you don’t want to drive an hour or more and then find the weather is not ideal for shooting.
  2. Do a quick search and look for a webcam in the area so you can confirm the coast is clear, a little bit of fog can add some drama to your photos, but if the fog is too thick most likely the light is not going to be great.
  3. Bring water and please use a reusable bottle.
  4. Dress in layers, California coast can get really cold really quickly, also a beanie sometimes can come handy.
  5. If possible wear waterproof shoes or have a second pair in your car. Sometimes waves can catch you off guard and you don’t want to drive back home with your feet wet.
  6. Don’t forget your tripod.
Four Mile Beach is a big beach with a lot of room to walk around so if it is your first time visiting get there early so you can explore and find the areas that you want to shoot when the light is right.

How to get there

Traffic to Santa Cruz can get really bad, specially on the weekends if the weather is good, so what I usually do is I leave late in the afternoon so I can get there around 1 or 2 hours before sunset. In this way, I avoid traffic since most people at that time are leaving Santa Cruz but I get there with enough time to explore, set up and shoot the sunset.

If you are using Google Maps, it will give you directions to the beach and not necessarily to the parking lot, so use this link to get the exact directions to the parking lot.

The parking is a dirt road on the side of Cabrillo Highway 1,  once you are there you need to make a short walk down to the beach, around 10 min.

Four Mile Beach

What to do

Once you get down to Four Mile Beach there are several options, I have usually just gone to the left where there are some rocks that depending on the tide can be a lot of fun because you can do long exposures of the water flowing down the rocks or capture the waves when they strike the rocks. You can also find a lot of surfers in this beach, so you can get some cool action shots as well.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

If you pass this rocky area there is more sandy beach where you can catch the sunset, play with long exposures, whatever you want to experiment with.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

If you continue walking you will find some more rocks that will provide additional views, I have yet to completely explore that side.
Sunset is over, now what? Well I usually stop by one of the many great restaurants in Santa Cruz for a warm meal, a few suggestions are:
I hope you find some of this information useful, if there is any other tip that I missed please leave it in the comments.
If you visit this beach please let me know your experience in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!
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We have visited Yosemite National Park in the past but never during winter. This year after returning from our trip to Costa Rica we decided to go to Yosemite during Martin Luther King’s weekend, we prepared our bags and left early on Saturday morning, we stopped for breakfast in Manteca and reached Yosemite Valley mid-morning.

Our first stop was Bridalveil Falls, there were a lot of people in the trail and there was a lot of ice which made it difficult to walk, a lesson we learned that day was to get ice grips for our shoes. We could not reach the end of the trail due to the icy conditions but I managed to get a shot of the falls that I like.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After Bridalveil Falls we decided to go to the valley and we made a stop at Swinging Bridge, we took our snow shoes out and walked through the meadows, there was still a lot of water from the flood caused from the storms from previous weeks, which were creating some awesome reflections. It was not sunset yet but the light was nice giving a lot of life to Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After the meadows we headed to Tunnel View to catch the sunset and because of the weather we had to drive really slow, we made it to Tunnel View just a few minutes before the sun went down, there were a lot of people, tourist and photographers, it was super icy making it a bit hard to find a good spot to shoot from. There were no clouds but the colors were amazing and due to the rain and snow of the previous weeks all the trees looked beautiful. I was able to get a shot before the sun went down, there was fog coming from the valley which gave the view a mystical feeling.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

The next day we drove down to the Valley and stopped at the Chapel, the contrast of the sky, trees and snow against the Chapel colors was amazing.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After this we decided to hike to Yosemite Falls, again we found a very icy trail but we managed to walk up and get some long exposure shots of the lower falls.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

In the afternoon of that beautiful Sunday we went to Valley View where we saw the fog was starting to come up making the view breathtaking. That side of the valley was under the shade however the top of El Capitan and the Three Brothers were being hit by the sun creating a lot of contrast, lots of snow down on the valley, not so much at the top, also the light and the shade created some amazing views.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

We decided to head back to Cathedral Beach to shoot some photos of El Capitan before going up to Tunnel View for the sunset. The Merced river water was very clear and I was able to get a shot where you can see the rocks in the river and a beautiful reflection of El Capitan.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Again we run up to Tunnel View, there were some more clouds and the sky was on fire that day, the tip of El Capitan and Half Dome were painted red by the sun and I was able to get a better spot to catch that amazing view.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

We stayed a little later after the sunset to try to catch the car trails in the valley, I was able to get one shot however since there was not a lot of fog that day the car lights were not reflecting as much as I wanted, but still I am happy with that shot. We didn’t stay much, it was incredibly cold so we went back to our rental for the night.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

On our last day, we stopped at Tunnel View to get a shot early that morning and then we spent some time in the Valley before heading home, it was a wonderful weekend that we hope to repeat next winter.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

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