Dramatic and Stormy Photos from 5 Days of Photographing the Santa Cruz Coast

The California Coast near Santa Cruz will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I moved after deciding to try to forge a career as a photographer and it’s where I actually learned how to shoot. Over the four years I lived there I spent hundreds of nights at the beach, practicing my photo skills and getting smashed by waves. I broke multiple cameras and almost broke myself a time or two when I misjudged a sneaker wave. Aside from being a great place to learn photography the Santa Cruz coast is a world-class seascape playground, with dozens of rocky coves, seastacks, tidepools, and arches becoming fantastic subjects for photos.

I hadn’t been back to seriously photograph the Santa Cruz coastline since I left in 2013, and during this past fall I decided it was time for a visit. I watched the weather forecast and when a series of storms was predicted to hit the coast the week after Thanksgiving I hopped in the car and headed to the beach.

I spent the next five days photographing around the edges of the storm, chasing light, color, and drama at many of my old favorite locations. What follows is a selection of photos I shot during these five days. (Note that due to increased visitation leading to environmental damage in the form of vandalism, graffiti, trash, erosion, and tide-pool disruption I have chosen not to share the exact location of these photos).

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About the Author

Josh Cripps is a wilderness landscape photographer living in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, California. He shoots campaigns and gives presentations for Nikon. His work has been featured in publications like Outdoor Photographer, Pop Photo, and Landscape Photography Magazine. Josh also runs photography workshops, teaches online courses, and runs the popular YouTube channel Pro Photo Tips. Sometimes he talks like a cowboy and can grow an enormous beard when the need arises.

You can read more about Josh here.

8 replies
  1. Tony
    Tony says:

    Love the wide angle lens perspective and the use of long exposure and filters. Nice work, curious about your lenses. Do you ever shoot medium format, there some great new toys now! Thanks, hope to make it to the Mammoth Photo fest.

    • Josh Cripps
      Josh Cripps says:

      Hey Tony,

      I have lenses from 14mm to 500mm, generally zoom lenses, but sharp Nikkor ones. I haven’t shot medium format. At the moment I am more than happy with the image quality I’m getting from my D850 and Z7!



  2. Bambi Jones
    Bambi Jones says:

    Wonderful photographs! Glad you came back here for a few days. I thought number 11 was my favorite until I saw 14 and 16. Keep on shooting.

  3. Luna Sayeed
    Luna Sayeed says:

    Really very much enjoyed your sunta cruz coast photo shoot. especially liked 1,2,5,12 ,9 and 14. these are very impressive with composition,curve leading lines,motion blurr.
    Great!!! Regards

  4. Marcia van Bijnen
    Marcia van Bijnen says:

    Really moving those crispy yet soft colours in especially the first photo. Thank you for not overdoing the saturation as so many photographers do giving their pictures the same effect as people with too much perfume or make up on. I live near the Dutch seaside, so this pale golden light is what strikes me every time again.


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