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Image Quest Photography Tours

The Central Coast of California:
Elephant Seals, Monarch Butterflies and Country Back Roads
A Natural History and Photography Tour

elephant fam

Dates: Friday through Sunday, February 10 - 12, 2012

Transportation: Private auto; the trip leader will help arrange carpooling for participants where possible.

The Trip: Explore the natural wonders on the Central Coast of California, during a special time of year. While the calendar states it will be February, it's really spring along the coast in California, with life on display everywhere, from green hillsides to early-season wildflowers, and with amazing biological activity in creatures as small as insects and as large as two-ton mammals. 

From our base near the picturesque seacoast town Cambria, our primary location in the field on the north will be the beaches and coves inhabited by elephant seals, those giants of the pinniped world, who will be in a battling, mating, and birthing frenzy. On the south, we'll explore the Morro Bay area. And we'll travel some interesting backroads into the heart of the coastal mountains. And we'll visit the eucalyptus groves at Pismo Beach state beach, to view and photograph monach butterflies, as they flutter and mate, perhaps by the thousands, as they pause in their yearly migration.

This will be a hands-on photography outing. We'll spend lots of time making photographs in the field, and not much time sitting in front of laptops and tablets. We'll connect with the world around us, as we learn to expand our creative vision.

Who is This Trip for: Anyone who loves nature and wild creatures, the sea, and nature and travel photography. The slant is on digital photography; 35mm and medium format cameras are welcome, too.

The Instructor: Dave Wyman has conducted photography workshops and natural history outings since 1984. He originated and directed the travel photography program at the University of Southern California. His pictorial guidebooks include Backroads of Northern California, Backroads of Southern California, and Yosemite in Photographs. Dave brings an unbridled passion to his photography and the Central Coast of California is one of his favorite locations, whether he's there with a camera, or riding his bike along the coast or up into the mountains.

Accommodations: Dave will stay at the basic (i.e. comfortable, clean, and very reasonably-priced), Silver Surf motel, in San Simeon, a few miles north of the the town of Cambria. There are several fine motels to choose from in San Simeon; here's a google link with a list if you prefer to stay elsewhere. The motels in San Simeon are all within walking distance of each other. 

Trip difficulty: None; conducted at a leisurely pace.

Cost: $325 

Cancellations: $75 cancellation charge. No refund after January 30, unless another participant takes your place, in which case all but the cancellation charge will be returned. Rain will not cancel the trip.

What the Will be Provided:

- Trip leader
- Guided field sessions
- Evening digital slide shows
- Help with car pooling where possible
- Two group meals

What You Need To Bring:

- Clothing for warm and cool conditions - items to include: mittens, ski or knit cap for cool mornings, rain gear (a coat, umbrella, and/or a poncho) comfortable walking shoes
- Money for meals not provided (we'll be near restaurants at meal times)

Camera Equipment: If the truth be told, a basic digitial or 35mm camera point-and-shoot camera will work well for most of the locations on this outing. But if you have more equipment, this is the trip to bring it along - super wide angle lenses, telephotos, filters, including medium format and digital camera. 

Note: If you'd like to share some of your own images with the group, on any subject, bring up to a dozen slides, or digital images (on a CD or your laptop or thumbdrive of tablet), and/or as many prints as you wish.

Bring along a tripod and you will be able to make blur-free images during our early morning and sunset. If you want to purchase one, and have questions about what to look for, contact the trip instructor (see below). Dave will bring along a few tripods to loan out, too.

Digital Memory: Make sure to have enough storage on CF or SD cards, and enough battery power to last through a day.

Film Considerations: Bring any sort of film. If you use print film, film speeds from ISO 200 to 400 will allow you to more easily hold your camera, without incurring blur from camera shake.

- Both Fuji and Kodak have excellent print films. ISO rating of 200-400 will work well.
- Slide films: Currently, Fujichrome films offer the best color saturation combined with very fine grain, and are the instructor's choice.  Another excellent choice would be the Kodak Ektachrome films

Basic Itinerary: Travel day - arrive anytime after 3 p.m. on Friday, meeting at Dave's room at the Silver Surf motel. We'll have some introductions, and travel north a few miles to photograph the old pier and surrounding area. Afterward, we'll enjoy a group dinner. Then we'll have an evening photo show-and-tell in Dave's room; feel free to bring up to a dozen of your own images to share with the group (see below for more about this). On Saturday, we'll explore early morning light along the coast. After breakfast we will drive north, to view the amazing elephant seals from at least two locations, which should see us within close distance of hundreds of elephant seals. We'll take time to explore the coast north as far as beautiful Ragged Point for lunch, and then return to San Simeon. In the afternoon, we'll explore Morro Bay, returning to San Simeon after sunset. 

On Sunday, after a dawn patrol high in the local mountains behind San Simeon, we'll depart San Simeon, and return home along the coast, stopping at the one-blotck long town of Harmony, and then, by mid-day, we'll be at the Monarch butterfly grove in Pismo Beach. We will end the trip officially with the Monarchs. However, feel free to join Dave as he makes his way south through the Coast Range Mountains, following backroads through wine country to reach the little Danish-themed town of Solvang, where he'll rejoin the freeway and head for home.

Payment: Send a check or money order to by good old fashioned U.S. snail mail to: Image Quest Tours, 1164 Alvira Street, Los Angeles, California, 90035.

Although we prefer payment via the mail, you can also easily use your credit card. Just click here to pay via PayPal.

You'll receive a receipt and any additional information, such as maps and directions to our accommodations in Cambria. Dave will touch bases with you by phone and/or e-mail prior to the departure date.

If you have more questions, call the instructor, Dave Wyman, at 323 377-7565, or send e-mail to Dave at:


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Questions or comments and/or requests for information about specific trips: Phone: 323 377-7565