I’m back to share the second half (part one here) of images from our trip to California last week. After a fun few days in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Yosemite, we headed east to Monterey. First off the drive back to the coast was beautiful in and of itself. We drove through some of the coolest, giant rolling hills that made our jaws drop. Once we got close to Monterey, we drove in we passed some neat dunes that met the Monterey Bay, and then explored a bit around Cannary Street and had an early lunch. The rest of the day we spent hiking just south of Carmel before finding our hotel for the night and getting ready to actually hit the Pacific Coast Highway the next day.
That day driving from Monterey/Carmel to San Simeon was definitely one of our most favorites. The Pacific Coast Highway is insanely beautiful and scenic but just as scary and curvy as everyone says. I’m not a fan of heights so being thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean on the side of a mountain really had me squirming at times. But there was just no denying how absolutely beautiful and awe-worthy every turn was. We were so grateful to have the most perfect weather, too, nearly the entire trip. That day was no exception, as you’ll often hear about the fog that can diminish the views. Fortunately we had nothing but sunshine and windows down temps! There are so many pull-off’s and vista points and we definitely stopped at our fair share.
After landing in the little town of San Simeon that evening (we passed on touring the Heart Castle, by the way, which is the most popular attraction in San Simeon), we spent our second to last day going from San Simeon to Thousand Oaks, Ca, and finally spent our last full day enjoying Malibu and Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles. Again, I’ve included some of our favorite spots and stops at the bottom of the post.
I know we will cherish these images for so long…it was pretty new for us to plan such an un-planned and flexible vacation, but I know we’ll look back at these images a few years down the road and remember how amazing it felt to be so carefree and adventurous (well adventurous for us haha!). Sometime in December I’ll share the film photos that I shot as well :) And again, these are a mix of DSLR and iPhone photos.
Hard to tell but those little rock islands out there are covered entirely with sea lions! They were so loud…we could hear them as we hiked toward them from the other side of the mountain.
One of my favorite things is how much Dustin really wants to learn to use my camera on manual. I thought it was so cute how focused he was trying to take this that I had to take a picture of him taking it haha.
This was at the stop before Bixby Bridge…which was less exciting than I thought it would be, but still pretty remarkable to see a bridge up that high.
Clearly he does not have the same fear of heights I do so he really enjoyed freaking me out as he’d stroll right up to the edge and look over.
This giant rock/island thing looks tiny here but it was enormous in person. There’s several buildings and a lighthouse on it. It was insane to see this giant formation out there in the middle of all that pasture.
The berries on the left are from the Thousand Oaks farmers market (we bought raspberries and blackberries and they were so good!) and the drinks on the right are from lunch at Lucia Lodge.
We got to San Simeon about an hour before sunset, so we checked into our hotel and since there’s literally nothing to do there, we bought a bottle of wine and drove across the street to watch the sun set on the beach and drink our wine from our paper Quality Inn cups. Keeping it classy here, obviously.
This panorama is from a beach just north of San Simeon…one of the few places we were actually able to get to the actual beach.
Pretty impossible to see in such a small photo, but on the right there are a dozen or so surfers down there in the ocean.
From the top of Point Dume…
- Actually not a favorite but definitely worth noting, the 17 Mile Drive was was we felt the biggest waste of $10. Driving this part of Monterey takes you through the Pebble Beach area, home to “mansions” and “amazing views.” Well I’m sure there are plenty of mansions in the community but you can’t see any of them because these people have the biggest and most hardcore gates around their properties that we had ever seen lol. Don’t get me wrong, the gates are beautiful and very expensive I’m sure haha! But we were hoping to see huge houses and the amazing views they have. We ended up joking and calling it the 7 mile drive because it was probably one for the first few miles that we were excited and then it wore off as we kept hoping the next turn would have something better in store…but it only got less interesting. We stopped for pictures along the rocks and crashing ocean at the very start of the drive but the houses in this part are all smaller and older; nothing you can’t see elsewhere really. So we would not recommend taking the time to do this.
- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Just a few miles south of Carmel and such a fun place to hike. We saw a family of deer on the cliffs, lots of sea otters playing in the ocean, and hiked all the way around to a bigger area where an island full of sea lions were laid up and making all sorts of crazy sounds. One of our favorite and most fun hikes.
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: We stopped here to hike the waterfall trail. The waterfall was smaller than we anticipated but still really beautiful. We also ended up hiking the valley view trail. Neither was exactly easy or one we thought we’d want to bring kids on (although we saw a few families and each time said they were stronger than us haha) but it was great exercise and the views at the top of the valley trail were so peaceful.
- Lucia Lodge Restaurant: The. Views. End of story. There aren’t many options for places to eat once you pass through Big Sur…which we didn’t know, as we happily cruised past those restaurants around 11-12ish. Quickling realizing we would be hungry soon but now understanding that we weren’t exactly in an area suitable for restaurants, we thought we were out of luck for a few hours, until we came to Lucia Lodge. So we basically stopped out of necessity but it ended up being one of the most relaxing places we ate. I felt like we were in the Caribbean. The view was just stunning. It helped we had perfect weather that day…sunny and just warm enough but with a great breeze. We ate on the deck overlooking the ocean and although two burgers, a beer, and a glass of wine at this place isn’t cheap, it was definitely one of my favorite spots. And really anywhere that has sweet potato fries is great in my book. Dustin referred to it as “the place with the $4 burger and $12 view” haha.
- McWay Falls: A quick stop to view a waterfall on the beach? Yes please. This is part of the Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and the story about Julia and the house that once sat on the cliffs is pretty awesome. This was probably one of the most scenic spots. The water was unbelievably blue…amazing different shades of blue. And seeing a waterfall plunge to the beach is so neat.
- Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals: Another great highlight was watching these giant elephant seals spar with each other and then relax on the beach. There are a few different places to view the seals pretty close and fortunately we were at the less crowded end, but where there was also a FES volunteer who told us all about the elephant seals habits and lives. We watched them for probably 30 minutes…and laughed while they flopped all over one another, picked fights with random seals, used their little fingers to scratch themselves while they basked in the sun, and flipped dirt up on themselves. They also make the goofiest sounds.
- Sandy’s Deli & Bakery in Cambria: A quick stop for a smoothie, bagel, and cinnamon roll was perfect. Kind people and the cutest little historic, artsy town.
- Montana de Oro State Park: We stopped here in the morning on our drive through Morro Bay and it was rainy and chilly but we still wanted to explore as much as we can without getting soaked. We drove around and found a beach area where Dustin discovered a little cave he was so excited over. Then we followed some surfers as they hiked over these massive dunes and came upon one of the most surreal views. We stood at the top of an ENORMOUS dune and looked down at the ocean while about a dozen surfers caught waves in the ocean below. It was one of the most impossible things to describe because the dune was so gigantic and sat so high above the ocean.
- Point Dume Natural Preserve: Another one of the most gorgeous views. We hiked both down to the beach and up to the top of Point Dume. Then we even walked back around and hiked down to this (off limits, but others were doing it too!) giant rock over the ocean. Malibu is absolutely gorgeous.
- The Sunset Restaurant in Malibu: This is where we had lunch Friday and it was again one of my favorite places we ate. You sit and look right out at the ocean, and it was warm, and sunny, and the food was so good. I had the BBQ, coleslaw, and sweet potato fries. You just can’t lose when it comes to sweet potato fries.
- Fishbar in Manhattan Beach: We ate here on our last night and for being such a busy, eclectic spot the service was fast and good, and the food and drinks were great.
Dustin and I just returned from an amazing week on the West Coast. Rather than a full blown honyemoon after we were married 2 years ago, we went for just a long weekend at my parents condo in Cocoa Beach, Florida…a “minimoon” as we called it. Because our priority for the last few years has been our house renovation, we decided to slowly save up and plan a trip in a few years. After tossing around tons and tons of ideas and locations this year, we decided to head to California and drive the Pacific Coast Highway. Because we had a whole week to explore, we also spent time in Sonoma and drove east to Yosemite National Park before hitting the coast.
We had such a great trip and it was amazing spending so much quality time together seeing amazing new places we’d never seen. There is literally nothing better than exploring new places with your best friend. I decided to split our vacation pictures up into two posts, so these images below are from the day we arrived in San Francisco, the following day in Sonoma, and our time at Yosemite. These pictures are mostly from my DSLR but a few mixed in are from my iPhone. I also shot a few rolls of film but I won’t be able to share those images for a few weeks. For those who love to travel, I listed out our favorite stops at the bottom of the post. Check back Friday for the coastal part of our trip!
- Marin Headlands: This was our favorite spot to see the Golden Gate from. We were there at sunset and it was super crowded and really hard to find a parking spot (and cops were giving tickets to those parked illegally), but after driving pretty far up the hill we found a spot on the way down. The weather in San Francisco was perfect that day and we loved seeing the bridge soaked in the golden evening light. If we’d had more time, it would have been nice to have parked in a less crowded area and been able to hike some of the trails rather than being clumped all in with everyone else on the road.
- Sonoma Cheese Factory: We visited the cheese factory on Saturday morning before heading out to the wineries. We got some yummy cheese, crackers, and pickles and enjoyed them in the park right across the street. It was so good that we came back after wine tasting to get sandwiches and eat lunch in the park before heading to Yosemite. Sonoma was easily one of our favorite places…so quaint, charming, kind people, great shopping, and SO beautiful!
- Benziger Family Winery & Imagery Estate Winery: We did the biodynamic tram tour and tasting at Benziger and it was perfect! We learned so much about the process of wine making and how Benziger does things very differently…with a biodynamic approach. After the tour we got to taste 5 wines, and then got a complimentary tasting at their sister vineyard Imagery. The atmosphere was great for wine rookies like us haha…it was super comfortable and relaxed, and both vineyards were beautiful.
- The Giant Sequoia’s at Yosemite: We probably hiked 5-6 miles that day in the most beautiful weather, in total peace, only seeing a handful of people because we opted to take the longer more involved trails. The trees were mindblowingly big and so beautiful! This part of the park is pretty out of the way but so worth it.
- Bett’s Gold Coin Tavern: We stayed in Mariposa, about an hour outside of Yosemite. Both nights we were there we ate at Bett’s and it was wonderful. The food was great but the atmosphere and company was even better. Mariposa is a small little mountain town so this sports bar was filled with locals and the most personable bar staff. We were lucky there were football games on both nights, and the second night (Monday) they also had a raffle for prizes during the game. It was so fun and one of the highlights of our time in Yosemite.
And a big shout out to my mom. It’s not easy to leave home for an entire week when you have 2 dogs, 4 horses, and 5 chickens that need to be taken care of. My mom came from Maryland and stayed the whole week to take care of everyone and we are SO appreciative. We had a great time exchanging pictures all week, but I have to say this was my favorite. It made me wonder where on earth she was sleeping since this clearly was now the dog bed?
In early November, my associate photographer Roxanne was alongside Shannon and Philip for their cozy winter wedding at Old Wide Awake Plantation. Although it’s not yet officially the winter season, Shannon and Philip were welcomed to Charleston with some of the coldest, wettest weather we’ve yet experienced this fall. Fortunately these two did not let it put a damper on their wedding, as they moved their previously scheduled outdoor wedding under the tent and kept the festivities going until their exit down the steps of the plantation house at the end of the night. We loved being a part of their day and wish the new Mr. and Mrs. Busch all the luck that a rainy day wedding could possibly bring :)
Venue: Old Wide Awake Plantation | Bride’s Dress Purchased From: Chica’s | Bride’s Jewelry: La Vie Parisienne | Bridesmaid Attire: BHLDN | Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux | Hair: Charleston Events Hair & Makeup | Ceremony Music: West End String Band | Reception Band: CEO The Band | Catering: B. Gourmet | Cake: Sablee | Invitations: Things Very Special | Transportation: Carolina’s Executive Limo-Line | Rentals: Snyder
Their friends and family all spoke about how this day was long awaited. Jackie and Matt have been together for many years and faced many challenges that might pull an ordinary couple apart. But they are so clearly not ordinary, and their union was so clearly meant to be this October in their hometown of Camden, South Carolina. If I had to pick just three words to describe them (which would be hard, they have so many amazing qualities!), I’d choose poised, kind, and thoughtful. All day they both remained completely calm, with this unshakable inner peace but SO much excitement to go along with it. They were SO excited to finally see one another for their ceremony! Prior to making it official, they exchanged letters through messengers and I know it just fueled their excitement even more. And once they were formally announced as husband and wife? I’ve never seen such an outpouring of love as they walked together back up the aisle!
The evening was spent beneath the most stunning clear top tent at the Springdale Hall Club, and the Finesse Band literally made the party. They kept the dance floor packed all night and it was so obvious how enjoyable the entire celebration was for all of Jackie and Matt’s family and friends. A truly classic southern soiree in Camden, planned and carried out by Meagan Warren Weddings.
The final gallery of images is available for viewing and ordering here.
Planning, Coordination, and Design: Meagan Warren Weddings | Ceremony: Grace Church | Reception: Springdale Hall Club | Bride’s Dress: Ines di Santo purchased from Hannelore’s Bridal | Bridesmaid Jewelry: Kate Spade | Hair & Makeup: Roxie Hart Salon | Florals: Flowers Naturally | Reception Band: The Finesse Band | Cake: Parkland Cakes | Transportation: Southern Valet | Lighting: Ambient Media | Rentals: Party Reflections
I typically only shoot a few pet sessions each year, so for Paige to be one of the pups who got in front of my camera this year was awesome. This senior girl was just as lively and busy as she could be. She stayed on the go our entire session but would also bounce in between her mom and dad…loving on them and begging for treats. We had a beautiful evening in Aiken for her session, and I’m happy to be sharing a few of my favorites today!
Hi! I’m Brittani, and I’m a South Carolina and Georgia wedding and portrait photographer. I’m also a wife, bonus mom, animal lover, and passionate about creating real, timeless, and romantic images that tell a story and are full of life. I’m inspired by light, love, the outdoors, and adventures with my family. Feel free to browse the blog to see more of my work, learn a bit about my life, and don’t hesitate to send me a note if you’d like to chat!