Tide Pools of Montana de Oro State Park

Here along the beautiful and rugged California Central Coast, we experience the most spectacular sunsets and deepest minus tides during the winter months. On Thursday I joined a good friend for an outing to a favorite local spot for photographers – Montaña de Oro State Park just south of the sea hamlets of Los Osos and Morro Bay. Due to the prolonged rain we experienced in December, this planned shoot had been rescheduled numerous times. Finally, conditions were ripe to hike out to Hazard Canyon Reef and shoot the minus tide and sunset. For you Pixel Peepers, these were all Camera RAW bracketed shots processed in Photomatix Pro 4.2, Lightroom 4, and with onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.1, which I love for post-processing and stylizing my images. All images were taken with my Nikon D800 and later processed for HDR.

Tide Pools at Sunset, Hazard Reef, Montana de Oro State Park, California

Song of the Sea

Montaña de Oro is Spanish for “Mountain of Gold” and is named for the golden wildflowers found in the park that bloom in the Spring. This gorgeous and very rugged State Park has 8,000 acres of rocky cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347 ft Valencia Peak. It also has many hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, as well as a campground located across from Spooner’s Cove, a very popular beach. Naturalists and backpackers enjoy the solitude and freedom found along the park’s trails. Wildlife in the park includes black-tailed deer and the Black Oystercatcher. The Black Oystercatcher is a large, entirely black shorebird, with a long, bright red bill and pink legs. It has a bright yellow iris and a red eye-ring.

Five hundred years ago, when Europeans first arrived on the California Central Coast, they found it inhabited by the Chumash Indians. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 of them lived in small villages spread over a territory which extended from Morro Bay south to Malibu. Although the Chumash depended heavily upon the sea, they also drew on many other sources for food, clothing, and shelter, and were probably part of a large trading network. The Spanish Explorers who visited the Montaña de Oro area in 1542 recorded that the Indians were attractive, friendly people who paddled out to greet them in canoes.

Minus Tide at Hazard Reef, Montana de Oro State Park, California

As the Tide Rushes Out

In 1769, Don Gaspar de Portola marched his troops north from San Diego to establish new territory for the king of Spain. With the beginning of the Mission period, the Indians were moved inland, and this was the beginning of the end for the Chumash. Most died from European diseases to which they had no immunity. The survivors abandoned their villages and disappeared. With them, their customs, heritage and culture all but vanished as well. Traces of Chumash middens (refuse mounds) and village sites can still be seen in the park, but knowledge of the Chumash culture remains sketchy. For this reason, and so that others may enjoy them, it is against the law to tamper with or disturb any Indian sites.

Tide Pools at Sunset, Hazard Reef, Montana de Oro State Park, California

Spirit of the Sea

On April 24, 1965, Rancho Montaña de Oro was dedicated as a California State Park after it was acquired in a “friendly” eminent domain proceeding under the Park acquisition program that then Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown had launched and managed to fund. The Rancho Montaña de Oro property was held by a corporation, Rancho Montaña de Oro, Inc., which was owned by the prominent Los Angeles trial and constitutional lawyer Morris Lavine and Irene M. Starkey. They had the options of developing the park land or preserving it as open space and in the public trust. They chose the latter, despite the fact that their financial gains were far less by doing so. Rancho Montaña de Oro, until recently, has had the longest uninterrupted, preserved and undeveloped coastal area of any publicly owned land in California.

A Valentine From the Pacific Ocean

In honor of Valentine’s Day (although belated by a few hours), I wanted to share a photograph taken on New Year’s Eve at Shell Beach, California. As many of my friends know, I have been very busy getting set up and working as an Artist in Residence at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles. Therefore, processing new images has taken an unfortunate back seat to getting business permits, purchasing supplies, and readying work for the gallery. As any photographer knows, going any length of time without a major shoot is extremely painful, and my finger has been itching to get back to the shutter button. Fortunately I have plans for several new shoots.

Sunset During Minus Tide, Shell Beach, California

Heaven's Gate

While most people were out partying on New Year’s Eve, I spent a quiet, delightful evening in Shell Beach (near Pismo Beach for you non-locals) watching the final sunset of 2011. I feel so blessed to live along the spectacular California Central Coast. This image was taken near the so-called “Three Palms Beach” during a wonderful winter minus tide. The tide pools reflected in the rocks were just gorgeous that last night of the year. Winter along the Central Coast brings the most colorful sunsets, along with deep minus tides, exposing rock formations, tide pool canyons, and exquisite sea creatures normally tucked away beneath the azure waters.

This image is comprised of a series of five HDR bracketed exposures processed in Photomatix, Lightroom, Photoshop, and onOne Software. Of course they were captured in Camera Raw format. What a sweet ending to the year!

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