Right before we left, I purchased a 1973 Hasselblad 500c/m and several rolls of Kodak Ektar film. I named my new Hassy, Jane. This was the first time since high school that I shot with film. It was such a rush, standing in front of the most beautiful scenes in the US, with only 12 shots in a roll, and no LCD to check my shots. I loved the process of slowing down, really looking at the light, and thoughtfully composing and focusing on the subject with surgical precision before pressing the shutter button. All my film shooting friends kept warning me that I would fall in love with process and look of film. After getting my rolls developed by Indie Film Lab, I can totally see why.
Here are a few of my favorites from our trip.
Ah....today I get to conclude our trip to California by telling you the perfect ending to an amazing trip. This part (in some way) is my favorite... Here are the links to the previous blog posts:: Yosemite, Big Sur.
So, on Sunday night, we made our way back to San Francisco for our last night in California. Shane had to be back at work on Tuesday morning, so he took the 6 am flight on Monday. That flight was much more expensive than the red eye, so I took the red eye Monday night. (Plus, who could blame me for wanting to stay in San Francisco one more day?!). On Monday, Shane and I woke up at 3:30am to get Shane to the airport in time for his flight. My original intentions were to watch the sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge, but after I dropped Shane off, I figured that I could dream up a better sunrise on my own. So, I went back to bed...hehe.
I was fairly exhausted after such a full week of adventure. I decided to drop my expectations of seeing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in SF, and ease into my day. So, I slept 'til 9, enjoyed 3 cups of Beruk's home roasted coffee, dropped by Sightglass Coffee roastery, and then met up with my friend, Neezar, in the city.
I first met Neezar at Dane Sander's workshop in NYC in 2009. We have kept in touch through the years, and I always love seeing him as often as I can. Neezar has one of the kindest hearts, and he knows how to make you feel so valuable and important. Once I met up with him, Neezar promised to take me to all the best spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge. First, we went to Marin Headlands (that was my favorite!), then we went to Saulsilitos. (I love the images Neezar shot of me gazing out to the bridge from Saulsilitos.)
After the Golden Gate Bridge, Neezar took me to an amazing seafood restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf, Scoma's. I always enjoy our deep, life-giving conversations that we have when we are together. (Thank you Neezar for your friendship and constant source of love and encouragement!)
After lunch, Neezar and I parted ways. I started to hit an afternoon wall...especially after all of that amazing SF sourdough bread! So, once I left Neezar, I decided to walk around the Palace of Fine Arts. I've always noticed this building when I've been in SF, but I've never actually stopped there. I can't even describe how peaceful this moment in time was. The grounds were very quiet, and not many people were around. As I walked around the cupula, I remember hearing the echo of my boots, and birds chirping excitedly at my presence. When I looked up, I could see bands of sea mist coming in from the bay. The sun was spilling through the trees, and I'll never forget feeling so small against such large and intricate architecture. This was one point in the day where time slowed down, and I had the chance to savor peace and beauty.
After the Palace of Fine Arts, I decided to check out Tartine Bakery. Driving from the Marina District to the Mission District was a blast. I loved all of the hills in the midst of such a busy city. Plus, the colorful Victorian row houses are always a treat to see. So, I savored the drive to the Mission District, and luckily when I arrived at Tartine, the line wasn't completely wrapped around the block. As I was waiting in line, all I could think of was how much I wish I could experience this bakery with my friends. At this point in the day, I missed Shane, Julie, and Beruk.
At Tartine, I ordered a lemon tart to go, then set my sights on Alamo Square to visit my childhood dream home: the Full House home. I ended up in Alamo square at just the right time....the sun was setting directly on the Painted Sisters, and I sat on a bench directly in front of the colorful row of houses, and enjoyed my lemon tart. While I was there, I met a few new friends from LA, and we laughed about how big of Full House nerds we all were.
This next part is my favorite.....it was a gift directly from above. I'll try to describe it's divinity, but it will be hard to truly sum up the ending of my trip in words. But, I'll try......
So, on my flight to SF on Tuesday, I finished reading a book that has completely changed my life, 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I started this book in May, and have slowly journeyed through it. On my flight, I read the one line that would completely impact this whole California Trip...this line echoed through my head everywhere I went, and it really rooted itself in me during sunset on the last day.
This line opened my eyes to the gifts and creativity of my Father...how he paints immaculate sunsets for me.....why? Just to enjoy them. So, as I finished up my lemon tart in Alamo square, I looked at the time and knew that I had about an hour left before the sunset. Of all the spots to watch the sunset, I knew that Marin Headlands would be the best vantage point. Especially if I wanted to watch the sun dip behind the bay, but as I pulled up Google Maps, I noticed a chunk of green, undeveloped, land a little further west than the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a little spot called Bonita Cove. So, I dropped the pin on my Google Maps....to basically the middle of nowhere, and I began my journey to this mysterious point near Marin Headlands. In the meantime, an Instagram, friend who was in the SF as well, left me her number on one of my pictures to see if we could connect. Since I only had about an hour and a half of light left before I had to head to the airport, I was fairly certain that me and Heaven (my instagram friend) weren't going to have a chance to meet. However, as I was driving towards my mysterious location, I decided to give her a call. Would you believe that she was already at the exact spot I had dropped my pin if I told you? I'm being dead serious....Heaven McArther....my Instagram friend who I had never met was already watching the sunset over the bay in the exact spot I was heading. It was so rare that it actually felt divine.
I parked my car in a dirt parking lot, and started walking down a path. Even then, I doubted that I would actually bump into the Heaven. As I was walking down this path with my camera, my breath was knocked out of my body by the beauty of the scene before me. All I kept repeating over and over again was, "I don't understand how beautiful this is. I can't even take in the reality of this moment. This is hard to fathom". I was stunned by the golden sun dancing on the blue waters and green cliffs. It felt like this moment was a gift directly from the Giver....straight to little ol' me. As I was squatting down to take pictures, this bubbly, short gal, with a smile as big as the Grand Canyon came skipping towards me. I immediately knew that this must be Heaven.
We hugged, and immediately felt like longtime friends. It was refreshing to be around another photographer that spoke my same language. Instead of us laying our cameras down and getting to know one another, we hugged then immediately starting taking pictures of the sunset. We were both drawn to this cove, and started hiking down this tiny path to get down to the water.
Once we were by the water, I began taking pictures of Heaven and then she started taking pictures of me. It was natural, unforced...it was as if we both knew we were supposed to document this special moment in both of our lives. Our paths crossed but for a second, and in that second....we took pictures of one another dancing in the water, running into the sunset, laughing at the undeserved grace of heaven, and the amazing gift of life that we have been given. Of all the pictures I have ever had taken of me in my entire life....none of them compare to this moment. The pictures that Heaven took of me were of reckless abandonment....all insecurities laid aside. What Heaven captured was the heart of who I am and what I believe, and the pictures below are evidence of this. (Thank you, Heaven, for documenting these moments for me. I will cherish these pictures forever!)
Ending my California Adventure in Bonita Cove was the perfect way to conclude my trip. I learned to fully bask in the joy of the little moments of our trip, and I came back to NC more alive than when I left. Thank you for reading a piece of my story. I hope you enjoyed my California Adventure. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
This is the view from Marin Headlands. It doesn't disappoint!
I LOVE LOVE this picture Neezar took of me being all gorgeous and stuff in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Palace of Fine Arts.
The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square. You should've seen me screaming, "Uncle Jessie.....come outta that house!!!"
This is the view from Bonita Cove. What did I tell you? Insane!
See....I told you so!
I have never seen a more beautiful sunset.
This is Heaven, and her beautiful smile!
There are no words to describe how alive this moment made me feel.
I love this one that Heaven caught of me looking out over the ocean.
I adore this one of Heaven playing in the water. I just love her!
This one takes my breath away. I love how Heaven caught my hair flying wild in the wind as I ran into the sunset!
This is another favorite. Unreal!
I love the way this one makes me feel beautiful...just the way I am. I love when pictures make you feel more beautiful than what you see in the mirror at times.
Thank you SOO much for reading about my California Adventure.
On Monday, I took you through the first 3 days of our adventure in California. I left the blog post at watching the sunset over Yosemite on Friday night. After sunset, we loaded up the car, cranked up Mumford and Sons, and drove towards Monterrey Bay.
We arrived in Monterrey around 11 pm Friday night. We had a hard time finding lodging that was really close to Big Sur (maybe that's because I didn't book our hotel rooms until 2 days before we left NC...whoops!), but we scored a great deal through Priceline and stayed at the Hyatt in Monterrey Bay. It was an extremely nice hotel, and it didn't take us long to get to Big Sur at all.
I didn't know what to expect with Big Sur. But, if you ever talk to someone who's been, they'll say...."once you get to Big Sur, you'll never want to come back". I knew Yosemite was going to be a gem, but with the way people affectionately talk about Big Sur, I knew it was a place that we had to visit before coming back to the east coast.
So, on Saturday morning, we slept in a bit, then hit the road towards Big Sur. We stopped for breakfast at Big Sur Bakery....and, OH MY GAH.....that was THE best breakfast pizza and coffee I have ever had in my life. That place still stands out as one of my favorite parts of the trip. We ate on the patio and checked out all the locals who were hanging out with their pups and friends. The vibe felt low key and social. I was already attracted to the slower pace of Big Sur as soon as we got there. In Yosemite, there was so much to see with so little time, so we rushed everywhere we went. But, in Big Sur....even with so much to see...there was an easy vibe about it, and instead of rushing through breakfast, we all savored it, enjoyed the warm sun, great food, and dear friends. This was the perfect start to our two short days in Big Sur.
At breakfast, my buddy Jason Mize texted me about visiting McWay Falls. He told me that I HAD to go...or I'd regret it. So, I plugged it into the GPS as our first stop. This was one of my absolute favorite places. The view of this lagoon was breathtaking....and I just loved the waterfall that cascaded onto the beach. (Jason...if you're reading this....thanks for the text!!)
After McWay Falls, we stopped by Pfeiffer Beach. Shane took a nap while Julie, Beruk, and I toured the beach. This was a great stop. I loved the keyhole rock, and there was a cute little sea lion hanging out on the beach. At this point, the day started getting overcast, which was really nice since all of us were starting to get pretty tired from all the adventures we had experienced thus far in the trip. So, we just casually walked around the beach, and then hopped back in the car to head towards Carmel for dinner.
The rest of the day was rainy, but one thing I loved about dinner was grabbing dessert and talking to the owner at The Red House Cafe in Carmel. This stop made us actually want to live in Carmel. As all the local guests were walking in, the owner knew most of them by name. It was such a friendly environment, and I wish we would've actually had dinner there instead of just dessert.
On Sunday morning, (our last day in Big Sur), we decided to spend half the morning in Big Sur, then a portion on the 17-mile drive in Carmel, before driving back to San Francisco. Before we left the hotel room, I just so happened to stumple upon a Trip Advisor article on the top 14 things to do in Big Sur. One of the things on the list was drive the Old Coast Road. We were feeling pretty low key that day....none of us really wanted to hike that much, so a drive down a dirt road sounded adventurous. Y'all....I can't even express how cool this experience was. It's a 10-mile dirt road that winds through the mountains of Big Sur. At some points, you're driving through an incredible Sequoia forest. At other points, you are winding through a pasture of dairy cows overlooking the ocean. This was definitely my 2nd favorite part of Big Sur. (The first being the initial drive in).
After the Old Coast Road, we drove north towards Carmel to drive the 17-mile drive. This was my second time driving this, and it was just as beautiful as the first. I absolutely love the jagged rocks with the crystal blue waters. I would love to spend the night in one of those homes in Peeble Beach, just to see what it's like to wakeup with those views on a daily basis.
After the 17-Mile drive, we stopped in Santa Cruz for dinner. This stop was very nostalgic for me. Back in 2010, (when I was a brand new full time photographer) I had the absolute privilege of photographing a wedding in Santa Cruz. As soon as we pulled up to The Crow's Nest Restaurant for dinner Sunday night, I all-of-the-sudden remembered that I photographed a rehearsal dinner there. All of the great memories from photographing Nicole and Joel's Santa Cruz wedding came rushing back. It felt like such a small world that I was able to take my hubby and friends to a place that redefined me as a wedding photographer.
After a lovely dinner in Santa Cruz, we drove back to SF to spend one last night with our friends. I'll continue with the rest of the story tomorrow. For now, here are a few of my favorites from our trip to Big Sur, Monterrey Bay, and Carmel. Thanks for tuning in!
McWay Falls. This should've been a filming location for the Goonies.
This is what the drive looks like at Big Sur. Not too shabby, eh?
This is the drive on Old Coast Road. I could get lost in these woods.
It's unfair how beautiful the west coast is. They could've shared some of their magnificence with the east coast!
This one will definitely be a canas print on my wall!
Jane....my beloved Hassy.
The Key Hole rock at Pfeiffer Beach.
Check out my cute little sea lion.
This was taken on the drive down Old Coast Road. Pastures, trees, cows, poppies, ocean, mountains....it was a fairy tale.
Me and my huz....makin' out in a field ;-)
Carmel, 17-Mile Drive
Shane and I at the Lone Cypress. I felt like Marilyn Monroe in that dress.
Julie, Beruk, and I.......while Shane was napping in the car.
Julie looks like a super model here.
Mmmm...this is the beloved coffee at Big Sur Bakery!
The Lone Cypress.....oh, how I love Thee!
Tune in tomorrow for my final post about our California Adventure. Thanks for dropping by!