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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 373
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California Coastal "Mountain of Gold"
Tuesday 3 February 2015   —   Category: Outings





When I was going to college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo during the 1980s, one of my favorite haunts was Montaña de Oro — Spanish for “Mountain of Gold” — a state park approximately two miles south of Los Osos and six miles south of Morro Bay.

Easy access to the coast is one thing I miss now that I live in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The rugged beauty of the Pacific coast, combined with the relative silence and solitude of Montaña de Oro, soothed my soul many a time during those college years.

A couple of decades later, in 2002 — right after the birth of my third child — I took a day-long hike on some of the many trails in the park. Stupid me, I decided at one point to cut across country from one trail to another. The result was a horrendous case of poison oak which took months to recover from. Since that fateful event, I have had a phobia of poison oak! I NEVER want to go through that again!

So for the past 13 years I have hardly set foot in Montaña de Oro. But during my trip to the California Central Coast last month I figured it was time to revisit this wonderful place, camera in hand. In light of my past experience, I made a point of staying OFF the inland trails. There was plenty to see along the shore.

I arrived at the Spooner’s Cove area at the southern end of the park around 8:30 a.m. For some of my first shots, I attached a Hoya 9-stop NDX400 neutral density filter to the lens. This allowed me to use shutter speeds as long as six seconds, resulting in an abstract, dream-like appearance of the ocean waves.

After spending two hours walking to various points of view and taking 87 photos — 30 of which are included in the resulting album — I drove a mile or so back north to the Hazard Reef area. Here, interesting rock formations, with Morro Rock and the old power plant in the background, are the premier photographic attractions, as well as various wildlife and even surfers.

Besides the “big picture,” small details also caught my eye. In this area of the park I took quite a number of close-up shots of what was on the ground in front of me — nine of which made it into the final album.

At one point I looked up and saw what seemed to be a large bird way up on top of a nearby hill. After mounting my longest telephoto lens, I was astonished to see a huge turkey vulture standing with its wings outstretched! The whole time I was watching it, the bird never moved its wings or body, but only its head — almost as if it were posing!

During the one hour I was in the Hazard Reef area, I took 103 photos, 38 of which appear in the final collection. Driving north yet another mile, I parked in the Sand Spit Day Use Area parking lot. A short hike along a paved path brought me once again to the beach.

There was not much to photograph at this location, but fortunately, just as I arrived, I spied some equestrians in the distance. I got some nice shots of horse and rider as they approached, passed me, and continued on their way. I also got some beautiful pictures of wildflowers growing along the path.

During the half hour at Sand Spit I took 52 photos, 19 of which are included in the album. I really enjoyed my morning at the coast, and I’m very pleased with the pictures I brought back. All in all, I took 242 photos, and I am presenting the best 87 in my new Montaña de Oro 2015 album.

For the other photo outings from my January trip to California, don’t miss these other articles and albums:
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 373
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 373
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