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Archive 2013 · Advice for a quick California Trip

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Advice for a quick California Trip

Hi all

I'm lucky enough to have 3 days free in the San Francisco area - a first for me - in mid Feb, and am looking for a bit of advice on where you think I should head off to. I live in New Zealand so not used to snow / cold weather shooting, and more importantly don't have a lot of winter gear. I've seen some great photos of the last few days from all over, but I've narrowed it down to:

Yosemite: In the winter, seems a bit tough to get around, but still looks amazing and I've always wanted to visit. Will I be able to get around much without snowshoes / good winter gear? Will I be annoyed that I can't go up to glacier point / Tioga road? It seems like the park is beautiful wherever you look, but will I just wish I were there in another season?

Big Sur / Coast: Looks to be much easier logistically, at least I hope! Lots of beautiful spots in Julia Pfeiffer park from what I've seen and Monterey looks pleasant.

I'll have a rental car so will be mobile and am willing to drive decent distances, bearing in mind I only have about 3 days to spare.

What are my glaring omissions? It's hard to plan a trip from the other side of the world, and I feel like i've probably overlooked something obvious.

Thanks !

PS if anyone's coming to picturesque NZ I'm more than happy to be your tour guide

Jan 15, 2013 at 05:41 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Advice for a quick California Trip

Hey Matt,

Almost all of the beautiful winter shots you have seen posted here of Yosemite did not require snow shoes. The beauty of Yosemite radiates from the road that loops through there with plenty of viewpoints to stop at. You will need snow chains though for your car to drive in there, though unless there has been fresh snow, you more than likely won't have to put them on, but you need to have them. Also, you need to dress warm. So keep that in mind for shooting Yosemite. Oh, and you won't miss not being able to get up to Glacier Point or driving Tioga Pass as there is so much to see in Valley, you will be kept plenty mesmerized. That is if you go there.

Myself, considering you won't have the warm clothes or snow chains, I would just work the coast, especially since you are already in SF. Head south to McWay Falls, etc. Head all the way down to Cambria, and stay in a place called "Cambria Pines Lodge" if you want to stay in a super cool lodge. A tour through Hearst castle can be interesting. But just working the coast line will keep you busy. Use one sunset with McWay Falls, use another sunset to shoot that keyhole at Julia Pfieffer State Beach. Just be sure to get directions to it, there are no signs off of the coast hwy telling you where to turn. So unless you know the turn off, it's easy to miss. And yeah, spend a day in Monteray, go to the aquarium there, it's a super cool place.

I think though you will have a blast no matter what you decide.


Jan 15, 2013 at 08:44 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Advice for a quick California Trip

Big Sur is great for photography. Also, there are great place close to San Francisco.

Check out this archived thread:

The drive from Big Sur up to San Francisco is nice.



Jan 15, 2013 at 08:49 AM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Advice for a quick California Trip

New Zealand, being one of the most picturesque places on the planet, is a tough act to follow. Jim has given you some good advice. Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row in Monterey is very nice and is located right on the bay. In mid February (winter in general) the marine layer is farther off shore and the famous Hwy 1 drive from Monterey to Morro Bay is really nice with many places to see along the way. Just before you get to Cambria (where Jim spoke of) stop and see the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas (they are right by the road and very easy to see). Right after the Elephant Seals is San Simeon and Hearst Castle. After you leave Monterey all of the towns are small and easy to get around in, not many tourists this time of year, and the weather is usually pleasant but cool. The wife and I had lunch outside in Morro Bay last week. The drive back to San Francisco is fast and easy; from Morro Bay go a few miles over to Hwy. 101 and head north; you’ll be back in San Francisco in about 4 hours.

The weather is the critical factor this time of year…….it is usually beautiful and pleasant on the coast this time of year; but Hwy 1 is not a place you want to be if winter storm blows in. If you decide to take this trip we can fill in many more details and give you a weather update.


Jan 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Advice for a quick California Trip

Trying to think of what you do not have in NZ which is an amazing place.
If you have not seen redwoods (or wish to see them again), they can be found in parks within a day trip of SanFran. The sequoias can be found in the lower Yosemite area, and other places like Sequoia King Canyon National Park. Looks like these trees were introduced into NZ a while back, not sure if it resembles a natural wild forest or not.

Jan 15, 2013 at 01:29 PM

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Advice for a quick California Trip

I think Yosemite would be worth the trouble, frankly, especially since you've never been, and don't know when you'll make it back to the region.

Big Sur is fantastic, but NZ must have plenty of places that are comparable. But there's no place else on earth like Yosemite.

Lots of potential for beautiful winter scenes in the valley. Could check out the snow cones that form on the falls, maybe see some frazil ice.

And if you're a real trooper (read: a little crazy), you can still hike up yosemite falls, or the JMT, to vernal and nevada falls, even with the snow. Check these shots out: http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,61809

Jan 16, 2013 at 01:29 AM

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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Advice for a quick California Trip

wow thanks everyone for the detailed and thoughtful responses!

It must've been one of those times where I had a sub-concious preference because as soon as most people suggested the coast I was a little disappointed.

I think I'm going with goto_dengo, Yosemite looks absolutely unlike anything I've seen here, so I will try and get myself organised to make the most of what should be a pretty exciting adventure.

My colleague is an avid mountain climber with some decent gear I can borrow, so that should make things manageable. I do have some mountain experience from doing a ski instructor course a few years ago as well, so I feel kinda comfortable in alpine environments. Boy, I'm getting good at convincing myself!

From what I've read from your link goto_dengo, it looks like most trails should be packed down pretty well unless there's just been a decent snowfall. If that does occur, I'll just stick close to the road.

I'm still young and fit, so why not, right?

Anyway, thanks very much again, and if anyone wants to join an intrepid Kiwi the 2nd weekend of Feb, hit me up!

Jan 16, 2013 at 02:41 AM
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Advice for a quick California Trip

In your shoes, I'd also make time to spend a little time in Muir woods, outside of SF. Well worth it.

Jan 16, 2013 at 02:58 AM

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