Point Buchon Stacks

Well, I’ve got to continue somewhere and somehow, with photos from our Central Coast trip… but to be quite honest, I feel a little bit overwhelmed, paralyzed almost, by the sheer amount of photos that I came home with! So, so many new impressions.

After our walk among the Pygmy Oaks on the afternoon of our arrival in Los Osos, we scoured the map and got interested in the Point Buchon Trail, which leads south from Montaña de Oro State Park, along the rugged coastline on land that is owned by PG&E, and the photos that we saw looked quite interesting.

This entire stretch of land is called “Pecho Coast” (historically Pecho & Islay); the northern part can be hiked on the Point Buchon Trail, the southern part on the Pecho Coast and Rattlesnake Trail. In between lies the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Access to the trail is controlled by PG&E and the Point Buchon Trail is open Thursday through Monday, from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.

Since the following day was Thursday, we decided to go right then, and in the early morning too, to beat any (potential) crowds, since there’s a limit of 275 hikers per day.

Access to the Point Buchon Trail is in fact from Montaña de Oro, through a gate south of the Coon Creek Trailhead. After a couple of minutes walking on the paved road we reached the check-in station, signed the register, and proceeded onto the actual trail.

Coming from San Diego, we enjoyed the cool morning and overcast skies a lot. We took our time to make plenty of photos — plenty of long exposures, in fact, which is a very slow endeavor — and somewhere south of Disney Point*, where the trail swings a bit inland onto the coastal pastures that are still actively used for grazing cows, we turned around and went back.

During the 4 or 5 hours that we took to hike and photograph, our worry of overcrowding turned out to be completely unfounded: we hardly saw any other people — not a complaint! :)

Here is a first single photo from the hike. These rocks are south of Corallina Cove and north of Point Buchon proper. Point Buchon itself is named for El Buchón, a Chumash chief with a goiter, and in the 18th century Spanish of the Portola expedition’s time, Buchon means goiter. Charming!

I’m not sure if any of my other long exposures might work, so I’ll maybe group the more “documentary” photos from the hike into a separate little gallery at some point.

On this entire stretch of coast, including Montaña de Oro, the diagonally rising layers are the most fascinating sight. This alignment erodes them more easily apparently. The ocean doesn’t hug and kiss the land peacefully here, it gnaws and eats at it, constantly. As a result, there are many coves with caves and arches, and stacks with arches, too! It is really quite photogenic.

The photo above is a 30 second exposure made at ISO 100 and f/9.5 with a 10-stop filter; in other words, I could have chosen ISO 50, and stopped down more for a 3-minute exposure with substantially more blur in the water… but that would have required using bulb mode and the remote with the timer, and I was lazy that morning.

To punish myself for the laziness, I instead painfully selected (“masked”) the entire water surface with a brush, and used negative Clarity and negative Texture in Lightroom, to render it more smoothly. It goes without saying that going through the extra steps for the 3-minute exposure would have been much faster… :P

More to come.

*) named so for its appearance in the movie Pete’s Dragon — yes, the Maine coast was portrayed by a stretch of land in California!

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12 thoughts on “Point Buchon Stacks”

  1. What a cool place with interesting insights about the trail owned by PG&E. The angled features of the rocks are also quite intriguing – part of a large undersea mountain slope perhaps? Sea stacks, even though they are a popular photogenic subject (for good reason) – I am often jealous of having close access to such views. I could sit there for hours.

    And LOL – I think you should retitle the post Point Goiter. :)

    • Thanks, Mark. It’s definitely a beautiful coastline and thankfully, largely undeveloped too… (unlike the million dollar boxes that are crammed onto the shores of San Diego’s coast).

      But I think I’ll pass on the renaming suggestion and stick with the momentary mystery of “Buchon”. ;)

  2. Gorgeous photo! It also evokes for me an image of two gigantic dinosaurs feeding in the water.

  3. I love when the feared crowds don’t surface, so much more peaceful. And I absolutely have fallen victim to working within that 30 second limit, though I’ll sometimes switch to bulb and actually count myself because I’m too lazy to get out the phone and do a more accurate timed exposure. :-) Looks like a beautiful location, and this is certainly a beautiful image.

    • Thank you, Todd. I admit that I do have a remote (a knockoff of the Nikon MC-somenumber) that I can program for long exposures so it wouldn’t even be that difficult… ;)

  4. It sure IS photogenic but it takes someone with skill and sensitivity to do something like this with an unusual landscape. The colors are particularly appealing – the buffs against that inky blue-black-grey. I like your description of the water gnawing and eating away at the rocks. Personally, I’m not a big smooth water fan , at least not too smooth. It’s done so much and starts to look unnatural to me, but this works (for me anyway!) because there are still some variations in shade, texture, etc.

    • Thanks, Lynn. I’ve grown tired of super-long exposures for pretty much the same reason. I often aim for something between 5-10 seconds, which smoothes out waves and water movement, but still keeps enough structure.

      In this situation though, there’s a lot of kelp floating in the water at this time of the year (quite visible in the photos in “More from the Pecho Coast”) and with the longer exposure time and the additional smoothing, it was possible to hide this cluttering element a bit better.

      • I get it and that’s interesting about the kelp. Im still learning about these marine cycles. We have loads of Bullwhip kelp around all the rocky areas now – it looks like it was a good year for it. Washing up on shore is another kind, I think it’s called Sea lettuce but I don’t know the Latin name. I think the Bullwhip kelp will start to break up and wash ashore later, over the winter. I think. ;-)

        • This kelp should be edible… I think. :) Dried kelp sheets are a staple at our house (store bought, though). Soaked over night, then cut into shorter strips, they go into soups and such.

          • I have that, too, and people were just talking about collecting it in this area today, at yoga class, of course. I tend to forget to use it – never got into the habit – but I like the idea.

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