The Great Journey in Photography

f8 and BE THERE! Pt. Deux

Brown Pelican Landing

300mm f8.0 250iso 1/1250sec

About a month ago I wrote about my failed attempt to shoot at La Jolla Cove near San Diego California in “f8 and BE THERE!“. Soon after I published that post the good folks over at Birds as Art pointed me to their San Diego Site Guide which is a really great document that spells out in detail where to photograph in the San Diego area and what kinds of Avian wildlife you can expect to see. Anyone considering a trip to the San Diego area should get a  hold of that guide, it is well worth the money.

As it turns out, on my first trip to La Jolla I really was exactly where I needed to be but I just was not familiar with the ins and outs of getting around the area. This time I headed out for a Sunrise shoot hoping to get one of those coveted few front row parking spaces. The drive went well and this time I got to the Cove without any problems and happy to see that there was only one other vehicle parked in the waterfront parking spaces. So far so good. I think the best spot to be is the “Cave Store Cliffs”  which is an outcrop of rocky bluffs and an observation deck. The best places to photograph however are beyond a fenced area and on this day the gate was locked and signs posted saying that the earth beyond was unstable. I hopped the barrier anyway but stayed really close the fence line for fear of making a fatal mistake. At that point it was still before dawn and  the only birds that were close enough to photograph were a bunch of Western Gulls. I took some shots and retreated to the observation deck. Right before Sunrise a couple of local photographers showed up and we began to chat. They informed me that the fence and signs were really intended to keep cliff divers away and that photographers were allowed to cross the fence and go out on the bluffs as far as they felt comfortable. As soon as the light came up a little we crossed over and staked out our spots.

I made the trip primarily to photograph Brown Pelicans. Further North in my neck of the woods, the Los Angeles area, Brown Pelicans are very sparse this year and I was hoping to get some nice shots of them before the season was over. As the dawn began to break it was clear that all the Pelicans were staying on the lower level of the cliffs and that was going to be a challenge for me working with a 300mm lens. My fear was that they would not come any closer. I thought about running back to the truck and setting up the 500mm, but decided to stick with the 300 2.8. As soon as the sunshine hit the upper level of the cliffs plenty of pelicans flew in and it was on in earnest. Shooting “Big Brown” is just plain fun and I got a bunch of shots I wanted except the one I really came for, the coveted head throw close up. I did record all manners of behavior even head throws from a distance and that made the day a complete success. In addition the Brown Pelicans there were also plenty of Gulls, Brandt’s Cormorants, Osprey, Seals, and Sea Lions to photograph.

Brown Pelican in flight

300mm f6.3 250iso 1/1000sec

I have to say the La Jolla Cove is one of the most beautiful coastlines I have seen in California and just for that it is well worth the trip. I really suggest one find the time to stow their gear and walk around just to enjoy the surroundings. I will say also however, that I can not whole heart-idly recommend the area for avian photography. La Jolla Cove is a tourist destination and there is just too much human interference going on for my taste. Be there early and you can get some spectacular shots but as the morning moves on and more people arrive you will miss a bunch of shots because people are scaring the wildlife away, and that is just not cool.

A couple of fun facts about the Cove- If you go on a Sunday the parking is unlimited. The rest of the week the coast line parking spaces are limited to 2 or 3 hours. In the winter you can shoot with the sun at your back all day.


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  1. Pingback: Diamond Society Blog

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