A much-needed Los Padres Sunset – Pt. 1

Photo: Storm clouds over road in Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Storm clouds over road in Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0013)

Just after the New Year holiday had passed, I had a chance to join a friend for a quick trip to the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County. These are the mountains that form the spine of the Big Sur coast and includes at its heart the Ventana Wilderness. To put it simply, this is one seriously steep, rugged, and remote stretch of land. We arrived just as a winter storm was passing, and the sky was a solid blanket of clouds. Driving into the mountains at over 4,000′ elevation, we were soon traveling on a snow-covered dirt forest road. It felt like we were a thousand miles from civilization, but there was a joyful feeling knowing we were all but a few hours outside the Bay Area metropolis.

Photo: Tire tracks through fresh snow of road through the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Tire tracks through fresh snow of road through the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0074)

Each of us in our respective 4WD vehicles had moments of snow-induced sliding as our trucks grappled for traction. While it would have sucked getting stuck in the snow in such a remote place, at that point I was having so much fun, I don’t think I would have cared too much if that happened. For the entire latter half of 2015, due to personal and household reasons, I just didn’t get out to take any photos just for the sheer joy of doing it. It was an activity that had been missing from my life for nearly five months. Now I was finally able to be out driving, enjoying nature, and maybe if I got a nice photo or two, that would be sheer icing on the cake. But the weather looked far less than promising, but it was more than enough for me to breathe deep in the fresh mountain air.

Photo: Dark storm clouds over the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Dark storm clouds over the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0112)

About an hour before sunset, a small crack of light appeared underneath the clouds hanging over us. The opposing ridge line on the mountains across the valley slowly started to emerge. At first it was as if the landscape was waking from a dream, with the ethereal blanket slowly being raised to reveal a slumbering body. A ribbon of warm light split the cold gray of the clouds from the darkened landscape below. Then from within that omnipresent cold, steel-gray sky, tiny fragments of sunlight were able to squeeze through thin cracks in that cloudy veneer, touching the landscape with the soft brush of a warm hand.

Photo: Sunlight on the rugged mountain slopes of the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Sunlight on the rugged mountain slopes of the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0036)

From someone who’d just spent so much time imprisoned away from the passion of shooting outdoors, I was so happy to see the sun peeking through the clouds and falling across the landscape. It was as if I was attending a grand premier of a theatrical production, and God, knowing I’d been without such personal fulfillment for quite awhile, smiled as a hand stretched out over the stage and said, “Let the show begin.”

Photo: Sunlight on the rugged mountain slopes of the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Sunlight on the rugged mountain slopes of the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0322)

And so it did.

Photo: Sunlit rain over mountain ridge in the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California

Image: Sunlit rain over mountain ridge in the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – 160107_CMT-0156)

… And this was just Act I; the beginning of the show.

*** If you made it this far, I’d love to hear if you have a favorite image from this set, if you’d care to leave a comment below.

Thanks, and stay tuned for Part II.

– Gary.



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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.




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One Comment on “A much-needed Los Padres Sunset – Pt. 1”

  1. Alexander S. Kunz Says:

    Wonderful photos! I think “Sunlight on the rugged mountain slopes” is my favorite.



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