Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bowling Ball Beach

I have been to Bowling Ball Beach three times. The first time I went it must have been high tide because there were no bowling ball to be seen anywhere. The next time I went a buddy and I researched when to be there and discovered it was to be a low tide, preferably a minus tide. So we timed a low tide with sunset and made our way to the beach. The bowling balls were so high up out of the water they were not worth photographing – they are not pretty at all when they are completely dry.

So we did some more research, now having a little more insight into the situation. The best tide level to photograph the bowling balls is between a 1.5 to 3 level tide, preferably receding. Now timing this to happen at just the right time to take advantage of the golden hour and blue hour is no easy fete. And of course it would be best to be a week day so there aren’t so many tourists. And throw in a few clouds for some interest in the sky. Not asking much, just a confluence of about four or five things.

We were in luck. The tide was a receding tide. In fact, when we first arrived you could not see the bowling balls because the tide was too high. But as it receded they began to emerge giving us the opportunity to start working the scene before the light got really good. The sky was really good, not spectacular like we would greedily wish for, but there were clouds and enough light coming through to light up the bowling balls.

Getting There
Bowling Ball Beach is north of Gualala and south of Point Arena. Park on the west side of the road at Schooner Gulch and be especially careful of southbound traffic as it comes over the rise and is on you in seconds. Take the trail that is at the north end of the parking area. It goes to the west and gets you to the bluff overlooking the beach. Go to the right when you reach the bluff and be careful as it is slippery when wet and you are quite close to the edge at one point.

The trail ends in a ravine and it, the trail, is washed out. You will need both hands to hold onto the rope someone installed (thank you whoever you are) which means you need to be able to carry all of your gear in such a way that your hands are free. This part of the journey looks a little tricky but really isn’t that bad. Lots of people have come and gone this way and there are pretty good footholds, and the rope is really good.  But be careful.

Once on the beach, go to your right (north). The bowling balls are on the north end of this first beach. If you come to the rocks in the image above you have gone too far, but the good news is the bowling balls are just 50 to 100 yards south of this point.

Tricky Shooting

Nothing will ruin your camera faster than a good dunk in salt water. If you shoot bowling ball beach you don’t have to get in the water but from my vantage point, that is where most of the good shots are. So if you go into the water be very careful, don’t turn your back on the surf, and keep a watchful eye for the next wave coming. If you are doing shots from a low perspective your camera will be close to the water and if you are doing time exposures that means the camera will be close to the water for a “long” time, remember that next wave just might be bigger than the last one that just cleared your camera, so be ready to lift your camera up out of the way.

There are also some very slippery rocks and since the surf is churning you cannot see where your foot is going to land. As the night wears on, your feet get colder and colder (in other words they get numb), which makes navigation around in the rocks all the more difficult.

My shooting buddy, Will Bakx, had the foresight to bring a spray bottle of distilled water to wash the salt off our filters and the front of our lenses. Water and a cotton cloth do wonders. Lens cleaner and lens cloth don’t seem to help much.

If you decide to go there check the tide tables and weather maps and have a great time! I would love to see your images.

If you enjoyed these images you might like to see more of Bob's fine art landscape photography by clicking here by clicking here.

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