Landscape Photography at McWay Falls in Big Sur, California
McWay falls is located in McWay cove, which is a part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in the Big Sur Region of California. It’s rather easy to find by following the Cabrillo Highway which runs along the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
When you’ve found a place to park – remember to park off the road. We saw one young unlucky photographer who was being fined. There’s an easy-to-access trail from the road called the McWay Waterfall trail from which you have a beautiful view over the cove. There’s great compositions all along this trail, but I imagine you’ll have to work a bit with the foreground since the thickness and the amount of vegetation changes during the season. I found a spot by the end of the trail, which gave a beautiful opportunity to frame the cove, yet not cut off the part, where the water enters the cove.
The light is of cause also a factor to have in mind. McWay Cove is mainly a sunset location. When the orange and red light from the setting sun hits the cove and waterfall it’s hard to describe how beautiful it looks with words. It’s incredibly beautiful!
The thing you need to have in mind is if you want the sun in the frame or not. We were there in November, which made it impossible to get the sun within the frame. During sunset you’ll have some pretty strong shadows from the cliffs on the water, you’ll also have to consider that some foreground cliffs will shadow the lower parts of the waterfall dependent on the time of year you’re there. We were lucky to have a bit of mist in the air, so we get these beautiful sunbeams hitting the waterfall. If you want to make some long exposures, remember to bring a neutral density filter.McWay cove is also a beautiful night photography
McWay cove is also a beautiful night photography scene since you’ll have the Milky Way standing strong above the cove, but as with most night photography, you’ll have to consider the moon and go around the new moon, which we sadly didn’t.