It’s that wonderful time of year again – Fall on the spectacular California Central Coast in all its grandeur. The crisp snap in the air, orange full moons looming overhead, minus tides along the craggy coast, autumnal leaves scattered under foot, grape harvests, and the special scent as warm days meld into cool nights and the earth exhales her breath. Halloween is just around the corner and, as friends of mine know, it is my favorite ‘holiday’ of the year for many reasons. One reason is the bounty of photographic opportunities this special season provides here on the Central Coast. We are so fortunate to be able to bask in and photograph diverse locations around San Luis Obispo County from sandy dunes to sandy beaches, charming coastal villages, mountains, volcanic outcroppings, oak-studded wineries, and much more.
As any good photographer will tell you, there is something very special about capturing the full moon this time of year, especially when there is such a rich variety of natural beauty to place in the foreground. I thought I would share two of my favorite full moon images taken here on the Central Coast: a shot captured along the coastal bluffs near the old Piedras Blancas Motel (see my post on the Legend of Piedras Blancas for more information); and an image shot near downtown Paso Robles in a train yard. Both images were created from HDR bracketed shots and processed in Lightroom 3, Photomatix Pro 4, Photoshop CS5, and plug-in software from Nik.
The image in Paso Robles was taken near the historic old Farmer’s Alliance building, currently undergoing renovation by a local winery, Derby. The railroad on Pine Street runs just west of the Farmer’s Alliance building, which is located off Riverside Avenue. These two old rail cars were perfectly positioned face-to-face and lined up exquisitely under the full moon that night. When I returned a few days later, they were gone! Lesson: always take your camera.
These images were taken during an outing of the San Luis Obispo Camera Club, a photography group based on the California Central Coast. The location is a special place called Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, about 15 miles east of Paso Robles off Highway 46 East, just off McMillan Canyon Road.
Perched high upon a vineyard-studded hill, this exquisite chapel was built by famous Shandon resident (Judge) William P. Clark, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and United States Secretary of the Interior, who worked under former President Ronald Reagan, his close friend and confidant. Chapel Hill has spectacular views and is located amongst the hills of Clark’s massive ranch. Shandon is a small agricultural town with many vineyards, like its Paso Robles counterpart. Anyone can make the journey up the hill from the parking lot. The gate is usually open during daylight hours. The chapel was built by Clark and his late wife Joan so locals could have a place to worship. The chapel is available for private ceremonies and, upon occasion, concerts and special events are held at the church.
Getting to the top of Chapel Hill is another matter, however, with a very steep climb of around 500 feet, I estimate. The incredible views from the top are well worth the climb with your camera equipment. There are beautiful grapevines along the path to the top. I estimate the top shot represents less than a quarter of the total climb up. Our Camera Club group arrived at the golden hour late in the afternoon and photographed in and around the chapel. As a storm was rolling in, we stayed till after dusk trying to catch the wonderful lightning bolts piercing the moody, roiling clouds. It was a fun outing with the gang.
The first image at the top is an HDR bracketed sequence processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and with onOne Software’s PhotoTools 2.6. I added a texture on top to give it the feeling of the approaching dark storm. The second image above has no texture added, but was similarly processed. For more information on and images of Chapel Hill, see my other posts Star Trails Over Chapel Hill, Starry Starry Night and Chapel Hill.
August 2013 update: Sadly, Judge Clark recently passed away at the age of 81 from advanced Parkinson’s disease. He was a devout Roman Catholic and kind, gentle man, treasured by so many people. His service was held at Chapel Hill.