A Weekend in Morro Bay, CA

Morro Back Bay Sunset

Morro Bay is located almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  It is just west of San Luis Obispo (SLO).  It’s defining attribute is a giant volcanic plug called Morro Rock.  The rock was named by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.  Morro Bay is a large, though shallow, bay that is home to a charming fishing village and touristy downtown.  The following are a few fun things you can do in a weekend to make  some good photographs.

Old Truck in Morro Bay

Photograph the Bay and Morro Rock

Morro Rock was named “El Morro” by Cabrillo.  It is Spanish for crown-shaped rock or hill.  It is one of the Nine Sisters – the other morros in the SLO area.  You can see plenty of photos of  Morro Rock on Flickr and other sites.  I think it is a rather boring subject unless you also get the small harbor in the shot.  Here is the harbor with morning light just kissing the top of Morro Rock.

Sunrise on Morro Bay and Morro Rock

Going south, you encounter the “back bay”, which itself is quite pretty.   There is a bird sanctuary and several private docks on the back bay that make for good photos.  Below, Morro Rock can not be seen as it is shrouded in mid-day fog that clung to the coast most of the day.

Back Bay Piers

See Wildlife – Whales, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, and Birds

This part of the California coast always has whales year-round.  It is a major “highway” for whale migration because the whales that live south swim through on their journey north to feed and the whales that live north swim through here going south to birth.  We just happen to see a very large blue whale and several “smaller” humpback whales.  We were lucky enough to see “tail” which only happens when the whales take a deep dive.  We were suppose to stay at least 100 yards away from the whales which necessitated a telephoto lens.  Then suddenly one surfaced just off of our boat.  This offered a little more excitement than we bargained for.

Whale tail about 2 miles off of the coast of Morro Bay
Humpback surfacing near our boat
Preparing for a shallow dive

We also saw several sea otters, but did not get close enough for a good photo.  There is a good viewing area just south of the Rock to see the otters.

There is also a large sea lion colony just north of Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  Again, there are always sea lions here of various ages.  They come here to molt and to give birth.  We saw a few babies and quite a few young males “play fighting” as they get ready to challenge the big bulls in a few years.

Young males "play" fighting

Lastly the Morro Bay area is a large refuge for birds.  Many use Morro Rock to nest.  In the morning, the tide runs out and the back bay is filled with hundreds of birds feeding in the shallow water.  We saw many egrets and made a few decent images.

Egret in the Back Bay

Explore Hearst Castle

I have been to Hearst Castle several times over the years.  I think the biggest change this time was the opportunity to freely roam the estate after your official tour.  This enabled us to take our time at the iconic outdoor pool, indoor pool, and gardens.  Though we photographed in the middle of the day, we got a few fine travel photos.

Outdoor Pool
Hearst Castle Theatre
Abstract of Indoor Pool at Hearst Castle

Watch the Sunset

I think the most fun I had was watching the sunset each evening.  We did not have any kind of great skies to speak of, but just the process and experience to slow down and take your time and enjoy the sunset was deeply gratifying.  I found several small sail boats for foreground and plenty of other interesting subjects.

Back Bay Sunset
Back Bay Sunset
Back Bay Sunset

A final word – we did not get out to the the several state parks.  Morro Bay State Park has a nice campground and Montana de Oro above the Bay has incredible views, but we were fogged in when we went up there.   Morro Bay has quite a few photography opportunities and is a fun and relaxing place for the whole family.  To see more of our photographs, go to www.pamphotography.com


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