(Note: All of the images from this trip are available for viewing over on my SmugMug site)

Second night in the field, I got to sleep earlier and slept better, plus I knew I could set the alarm a bit later and still get out to my shoot without rushing, so I was in a much better mood than for the first dawn shoot.

I had three locations scouted out depending on conditions; it was obvious early on that I wasn’t going to see any glow on the rock, so it made no sense to try to shoot it again, so I ended up going back to the area where I could shoot back at the city, hoping to get some nice color in the sky as the sun came up. This would have me shooting at the rising sun leaving the city in shadow.

Early on, I think this proved itself a smart choice.

Morro Bay Harbor at Dawn

Morro Bay Harbor at Dawn

Quickly the light fell apart and faded, leaving me with not much of interest. I shifted off to trying to shoot HDR, but even going with an extended dynamic range and merging it together, none of the shots were worth keeping. This was the best of the later shots, and everything beyond this I simply decided wasn’t worth trying to turn into anything usable.

Morro Bay Harbor at Dawn

So effectively I had about 30 minutes of nice light prior to sunset, then it all faded to blah.

I stuck around though because I wanted to see what might happen once the sun cleared the clouds, hoping maybe to get a nice glow on the water. And then it did.

Sea Otter Mom with her pup at dawn, Morro Bay Harbor

Sea Otter Mom with her pup at dawn, Morro Bay Harbor

And this made the trip for me, because I’ve been chasing this shot for years.

Way back in 2009, basically by accident, I made this shot:

Sea Otter at Dawn

I love it and it was taken right at dawn when the harbor blew up in that golden glow. It you look at it closely, though, technically it’s not great: the focus is off, the image is generally not sharp, and so I’ve long wanted to try to do that shot again with a better camera and better technique and see if I could improve upon it. And despite a number of tries, I’ve never pulled it off.

Until now. I give it bonus points because it’s a otter mom and her pup. The light lasted literally five minutes and then the clouds moved in and it all went grey again, but I didn’t care.

Somewhat surprising to me, I wasn’t alone for this sunrise. After I set up another car drove up and parked. In it where three 20something girls, evidently deciding to take in the sunrise. They did most of the normal things, like going and trying to take selfies with the otters (in the pre-dawn light, I can’t see that worked). So there I was shooting and there they were, laughing and giggling and we all sat and watched the light come on for the day. Then to my surprise all of the car windows rolled up and it got quiet again, and then I realized they’d pulled out the bong.

And all I could think was how much I enjoy living in California where things are more progressive than many other places in the country.

Once I was done with those otter shots, the girls took off — was this the start of their day, or the end of it? I’ll never know — and I decided to grab breakfast and drive up the coast to the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. This takes me up highway 1 through Cambria and San Simeon and past the Elephant Seal rookery which had some yearlings on the beach but was overall pretty quiet.

My thought was to scout out locations on the coast for sunset. I found a few, including this one I really liked, but as you can see, by this time the light’s not awesome. All this time the clouds had been building as well as a weak front had decided to move in.

Sweet Springs Nature Preserve

Then it was time for my walk. I headed out to Los Osos and Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, which is a small plot of land with a freshwater spring in it right on the shore of the estuary. It’s owned and protected by the local Audubon group, and it has paths and a few benches in it. It’s quite pretty and quiet and even in summer when the crowds can fill up Morro Bay downtown, it tends to be a place you can go to get away from it all and find a quite contemplation view.

Sweet Springs Nature Preserve

I took along the birding gear instead of the landscape gear because the light was poor and the clouds were building. I have done some nice shots of the harbor and rock from here in the past (see here for examples) but not today. Birding was okay but good photographic chances were few, and I missed focus on some of the ones I did try. I did have a nice chance to sit and talk with some other out of town birders and help them with some species ID questions.

And honestly, I just love walking this place. Way back in 2005 when I was trying to decide how serious I wanted to be as a birder, I took a trip down to Morro Bay and made my first visit to Sweet Springs, and as I walked through, a Western Tanager flew in and sat on a branch in full view for me to see, and it was basically all over after that. I always try to get back to visit again and walk the paths when I come to town.

After that, back to the room to rest, eat lunch and take a look at and edit the morning’s photos.

Meanwhile, back at the sunset shoot….

While I was in the room relaxing, the front finished moving in, so when I headed out again it was clear there was going to be no sunset shoot. I thought about heading up the coast to see if I could move beyond the clouds, and decided it simply wasn’t going to work. Instead, I headed to the harbor front and went out on a second walk along the water to try to spend some time shooting images more travel style and see what I liked.

Overall, I’m happy with the results. I cut it short when a knee started complaining but still got in some work along the water trying to show off the harbor and rock with more of a feel for the harbor as an operating entity. I definitely need to do more of this.

Morro Bay Harbor Embarcadero

Morro Bay Harbor Embarcadero

Morro Bay Harbor Embarcadero

(they do pretty good fish, by the way, and have great views, although I didn’t eat there this trip)

Morro Bay Harbor Embarcadero

Morro Bay Harbor Embarcadero

And then it was off to dinner and back to the room and early to sleep. I didn’t bother to set the alarm, because while I was eating, the rain had started and I knew I was going to get up and get on the road for home. A bit more sleep outweighed the chance I’d wake up to something epic. Based on what I saw as I checked out, I guessed right, too.

And then a three and a half hour drive home, and the trip is over…