Roads Best Traveled

A Southern Utah landscape photographer leaves the red cliffs of home to photograph the magnificent California coastline and mountain cliffs.

I was thrilled when my husband took me on a short six-day road trip so I could photograph a tiny bit of beautiful California. We drove more than 2,500 miles and discovered a photo op around every bend. I was continually shouting, “Honey, stop the car," and by the end of our trip, I had taken over 4,000 photos! It was difficult to pick just a few to showcase some of my favorite places.

Bixby Bridge

The spectacular coastline in the Big Sur area along Highway 1 was our first destination. I was excited to photograph this iconic landmark, Bixby Bridge,with its graceful architecture, nestled in this beautiful setting. It happens to be the most photographed bridge in California. When it was completed in 1932, it was the highest single-span arch bridge in the world, and it remains one of the tallest.

McWay Falls

The next stop was McWay Falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It is a stunningly beautiful and picturesque spot, even without a colorful sunset. From this viewpoint, the waterfall looks like it is being gently poured from the spout of a tea kettle in one smooth, continuous stream. Years ago, before a rockslide changed the landscape, the lovely little cove did not exist, and the water fell directly into the ocean. Today, the cove remains natural and pristine, probably because humans are not allowed there.


One night we stayed near Monterey Bay, in the quaint, sleepy seaside town of Capitola. This village welcomed its first guests in 1874, making it the first beach resort in California. Today, the charming, colorful cottages make it a photographer's dream; and while it is not Santorini or the Amalfi coast, it does have a Mediterranean feel, and it is cheaper and quicker to get to! Hoping for a colorful sunrise, I encouraged my husband to get up early with me, and we headed out when it was completely dark. As the first light appeared, we enjoyed this beautiful scene with the splashes of vibrant colors and lights reflected in the water.

Shark's Fin Cove

Soon after sunrise, the fog rolled in and stuck around for most of the days we were on the coast, at times lifting a bit to let in some sunshine and blue sky, then darkening again to create dull and muted landscapes. This image turned out to be one of my favorites. The location is appropriately named Shark's Fin Cove. As we started walking toward this view, everything was dark and dull; however, when we found the Shark's Fin, I spotted one little patch of hot pink, and I knew I’d found my composition by combining two photos. This is a unique photo with the pop of pink standing out from the soft, neutral browns.

Half Dome

From there we headed east across the state to one of my favorite places, Yosemite National Park. My family vacationed here every summer while I was growing up and I have wonderful memories of floating down the Merced River on air mattresses, having scary close encounters with bears, and watching the real firefall from Camp Curry every night. One afternoon on this trip we drove to Glacier Point, where we patiently waited until evening. The waiting paid off when I was able to capture Half Dome bathed in lovely sunset light. We were the only humans at this viewpoint, and it was a memorable moment in time to ponder the vastness and majestic beauty of our earth.

Roaring River Falls in Sequoia National Park

From Yosemite we headed to Sequoia National Park. One dark, rainy morning we drove down Kings Canyon Road and were surrounded by soaring, rocky cliffs and majestic, towering trees. We discovered a lovely waterfall called Roaring River Falls, nestled in this picture-perfect setting.

The General

When leaving Sequoia, we saw wildfires in the hills near the entrance. The day after we returned home, we read wildfires were threatening some of the largest and oldest sequoias, including the largest of them all, General Sherman. Firemen were wrapping the base in a fire-resistant foil blanket. This national treasure is 275 feet tall, more than 36 feet in diameter at the base, and is estimated to be around 2,700 years old. To have an idea of its immense size, look how tiny the people appear at the right side of its base. (I took this photo with a wide angle lens to capture the full tree, which alters the perspective.)  

Now we are home and on to new adventures. Our road trip was filled with glimpses of beautiful, awe-inspiring landscapes. In the future, when my memory fades, I will look back at my photos and enjoy the road trip all over again!


“God creates the beauty. My camera and I are a witness.” – Mark Denman

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