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Out of the McWay!  I gotta get to the falls! | by Joshua Cripps
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Out of the McWay! I gotta get to the falls!

Way Better Big On Black


Another shot from my dash down the coast to McWay Falls. In case you missed the last photo, here's the full story:


God, if there is a God, is surely a practical joker.


It's easy to come to this conclusion when you are a photographer because there is never any shortage of funny, annoying, and exasperating things that happen to you when in pursuit of an image.


Last night I had it in my head that I was going to shoot McWay Falls in Big Sur at sunset. The plan was simple: leave my place at 4:00 pm, spend an hour socializing with some friends at a birthday party, drive down to Big Sur, arrive at McWay at 6:30, scout, compose, shoot, and presto!


Well my intro alone should tell you that my plan was derailed from the start. First off, I was cutting mats for prints for an upcoming art show and totally lost track of time, so by the time I realized the hour and spent an additional 10 minutes doing the "should I go or not?" foxtrot, it was already 4:45. I zoomed over to my friends' place and ran in their front door just as they were sitting down to some St. Paddy's Day fare and told everyone in sight: "I can only stay for 10 minutes!"


Yeah right, you all know how that goes: "Oh c'mon, Josh, at least have a bite to eat. Here, sit down, tell us how you've been. Here, meet these people. Are you sure you don't want some more to eat?" And how could I say no? So a few introductions, a few laughs, and a few bites later it's already 5:40. Crud. McWay is an hour and a half south of here and sunset is only an hour-forty away. I need to jet.


And jet I do, down the 1, flying through Moss Landing, Marina, Sand City, Monterey, Carmel like they're all one big blur. And then I hit the real Highway One: the Highway One that winds back on itself over and over like a drunk snake, the Highway One where you alternate between the gas and brake pedals like you're a metronome, the Highway One where the views are amazing, but a lapse in concentration means a 100 foot plunge into the ocean. And over this Highway One you simply can't drive fast.


I slow down to travel the road at safe speeds, all the while watching the sun plummet towards the horizon and getting a sinking feeling that google maps has grossly under-estimated the amount of time it takes to get to McWay Falls. Around every corner I strain my eyes, thinking "I must be getting close now!" only to see nothing but more winding highway. Then I pass Andrew Molera State Park and I know I'm getting close. Surely just a few more seconds I think/hope, while I watch the minutes go slinking by: 7:05 . . . 7:10 . . . 7:15.


Argh! Where the crap is this place?!?!?! About this time is when God, if there is a God, springs his best joke of the night on me: a Sunday driver out enjoying a evening jaunt along the coast, driving 10 mph below the speed limit. And even better: the kind of self-righteous driver who is not only driving slowly, but who you can tell also wants to prove to everyone else that driving slowly is so superior to speeding along that he refuses to pull over, even when the cars start stacking up behind him.


Fleurgen!!!! Now I am getting frenzied and frothy-mouthed. WHERE. IS. THIS. PLACE?. Finally, I come around a corner and see the falls just a couple of bends away. Hallelujah! One bend, two bends, three bends, and then suddenly I'm there: This is the cove! Oh crap, this is the cove? This is the cove!! Gotta stop . . . . NOW! I zip into a turn-out, park, gather my gear and run to the edge of the bluffs. But this isn't right, I see the falls, but where is the boardwalk? Oh crap, there it is way down below me! Where does the trail start? Oh crap, way over there?!?! So I take off sprinting down the highway, leaping over guardrails and onto embankments, past a few other sunset-viewers and down onto the boardwalk.


I have just enough time to snap off a few quick frames of the falls before the light to the south is dead. To the west there is still some good color happening though, so I scramble through the brambles to find something to shoot. Halfway up the hillside I come across a stand of wildflowers, compose and fire off a few different frames. Two minutes later the light is gone.


Phew, success! Now that's what I call a close call.




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Taken on March 21, 2010