Mario Dennis Photography

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. G.K. Chesterton


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Point Sur Lighthouse

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Point Sur Lighthouse at Sunset

The Point Sur Lighthouse sits atop a 361-foot-tall rock at the head of the point. It was established in 1889 to guide ships transiting between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is open for tours and if you’re visiting Big Sur, it’s worth a visit.

I was there when tours were scheduled, so took the opportunity to climb the rock (it’s not difficult) and shoot some photos. However, my favorite image was taken from the road at sunset. There’s a fence keeping the public out of the area, but captured the lighthouse in the setting sun.


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Portal Rock

Portal Rock Pfeiffer Burns State Beach

Portal Rock Pfeiffer Burns State Beach

Tucked away in the heart of Big Sur is Pfeiffer State Beach, home of a unique rock formation that sits just off the beach. I’ve heard it called “Portal Rock” and “Keyhole Rock.” Whatever its name, for a few days each winter the setting sun comes streaming through the  portal for just a few minutes during the winter solstice in December, attracting photographers from all over the country.

The road to Pfeiffer Beach can be tricky to find: there is no sign on Highway 1, only a small yellow sign indicating a turnoff at mile marker 45.62. You’ll make a sharp turn off the highway onto Sycamore Canyon Road and in about a quarter mile you will come to a sign that says “Pfeiffer State Beach Two Miles.” Continue and pay your fee at the park entrance. There are restrooms and a path that leads from the parking lot down to the beach. Once on the beach, stay to the right of the creek and you’ll see the arches. The large arch on the right is the most frequently photographed; the smaller arch can also be a good subject.

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Piedras Blancas Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas Resident

I first visited the Piedras Blancas seal rookery in 2010 on my first visit to the Central Coast area. In December the seals are cheek-by-jowl, jostling for space and trying to catch the weak winter sun. This isn’t a quiet, sanguine little beach, the seals are constantly snorting, barking, growling and making farting noises that will leave the 8 year-old in you snickering. Graceful only in the ocean, they shuffle, roll and collapse into scattered heaps of blubber. The males growl and posture. Then there’s the odor. Their only captivating features are their eyes.

The main Piedras Blancas seal observation area is often busy, filled by tourists spilling out of buses and jostling each other for good spots to get photos of the seals. However, the seals are often too far away for really good shots unless you have a long telephoto. Even then, setting up a tripod will get you scowls and people are likely to trip over it, ruining your shot. There’s a wooden fence keeping visitors from encroaching on the seals’ territory. Bottom line, it’s not easy to get a good shot here. But, there’s a solution.

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