I will soon be traveling to Northern California for a week and am looking for suggestions for photo locations. We'll have a car and are pretty flexible in where we go. I'd like to stay within ~3-4 hours of San Francisco. We like nature photography and primarily shoot landscapes and wildlife. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
It's a big place, and very diverse. The answer depends on your point of arrival and departure,
and method of transportation. In the most populous US state, wildlife can be a long way from
the airport. You're probably not flying into, say Modoc County.
It's too late in the year for the high country: Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. The national
parts are crowded and expensive, and any day now a storm could close the high passes.
The coast is beautiful, but likely to be cold, windy and wet. SF is always cold (but only
slightly more expensive than Manhattan). You're probably ahead of the big rains, but who
Assuming you're flying into SFO, you are smack in most congested center of a giant urban
sprawl, with traffic funneld by the Bay onto a handful of bridges. East of SF after the
coastal hills is the Sacremento Valley--50 miles wide and 450 miles long and filled
with stubble, billboards, and foreclosed properties (and a couple of good waterfowl reserves,
but nothing worth driving half way to Fresno).
To avoid spending all your time stuck in traffic or trying to cover hundreds of miles on the highway,
consider checking out the open spaces located in the Bay Area and to the south. There are huge open
spaces in the East Bay and in the Santa Cruz Mtns (which are extremely rugged, with with steep
canyons, redwoods, oak woodlands, and grasslands on the ridges).
I suggest you drive to SF, see the sights, then head South on Skyline Blvd along the ridge of the Santa
Cruz Mtns. Talk about views! This route follows the San Andreas Fault, so watch for slump ponds
and other signs of faulting. It takes you to the MidPennisula Regional Open Space District https://openspace.org/
These parks are huge and very wild. if seen coyotes, bob cats, loads of deer,
and moutain lion tracks. You could make a series of day trips from SF, so you can enjoy some
On Skyline Blvd just beyond Hwy 9 is Castle Rock State Park: a waterfall, strange limestone formations
called tafoni, and amazing views. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=538
If you still feel adventurous, from Skyline Blvd take Hwy 9 south---a twisty mountain road that will
eventually take you to Felton and Henry Cowell Redwoods state park: BIG trees. From their you can
continue south to Santa Cruz. From Santa Cruz, you could head north on Hwy 1 to
Wilder Ranch State Park, https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549
Rancho Del Oso/Waddell Creek State Park ,https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=863
Ano Nueovo State Park (sea lion preserve). https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523
and eventually back to San Francisco on scenic Hwy 1 via Pecadero and Half Moon Bay.
Or take Hwy 1 south from Santa Cruz to Monteray (a rather boring drive, but worth it),
then on to Carmel and Big Sur. There are no better places to take seascapes than Point Lobos,
Point Sur, etc.
Robinson Jeffers wrote:
br Return br br A little too abstract, a little... (
If the weather is absolutely awful you could drive down to the Monterey Bay Acquarium in
Monterey. Sounds dorky, but it's world class: photograph sea otters in their natural environment
from 10 feet away, or a great white shark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thGkL-yk7bg
You'll feel like Jacques Cousteau--without getting your feet wet. I've taken people from Japan
and from France there and they were blown away. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
This is a tour though Jeffers, Steinbeck and Neil Young country (well, until recently).
It's a region where, only 150 years ago, 10 different Native American tribes spoke languages
belonging to 6 different language families (the most language diversity anywhere
except New Guinea and Australia). It's the Northern California that locals love.
Enjoy your trip!