Keyhole Quest: Sunset Glory or Bust?

The majestic Keyhole Arch in Big Sur stands against a sunset, its silhouette framed by a golden sky, embodying the timeless allure of California's rugged coastline as the sun shines the keyhole in the rock.

I am Jamie, a passionate nature & landscape photographer from Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been creating art from my photos for almost 20 years, first underwater, now on dry land.

I wanted to experience the sunset shining through Big Sur's Keyhole Arch and create my own depiction of the beautiful scene for my professional portfolio.

The distance I lived from this location and planning a trip to line up perfectly with the sun's alignment were two of my most significant barriers. However, I am a planner and very determined. I knew I wanted to get the shot, so when the opportunity to plan a trip to this location in December came my way, I immediately took it!

The day finally came to take this photo. My husband and I drove from Monterey to Pfeiffer Beach in plenty of time to get into position. To my dismay, a parking attendant at the top of the long winding road leading down to the beach wouldn't let us enter the area due to being at capacity. We had driven for hours to reach this spot just to be met with disappointment. I could feel my heart sinking and an empty feeling in my stomach as I thought about the closing window of this opportunity.

However, I was determined to keep trying and not willing to leave. I knew this was my chance to create something special, and I would not let a parking attendant, who I later named, "The Fun Police", stand in my way. I pleaded with the young man to let us in, but he remained firm. We tried every 20 minutes to see if parking spots became available. After almost two hours, I was about to give up hope.

I asked my husband to drive back one last time. As we pulled up, the man said, "You're in luck. I can finally let you in now". My first reaction was that he was kidding, and that wasn't very nice, but I knew it wasn't a dream when he motioned us to be on our way down the hill. I could feel my excitement rising as we drove down the winding, bumpy road.

Finding a parking spot was quick and easy. I was so excited that I immediately hopped out of the truck, grabbed my gear, and headed for the trail to the beach. My feet sunk deep into the sand as I trudged across the beach, making the quarter-of-a-mile hike feel like twenty. I thought I would never get there.

As we walked down the path to the beach, the sights of the beautiful sea arch came into view. The rocky cliffs rose towered over either side of the arch, with just a little light coming through the opening. As I rounded the corner, the smell of the ocean breeze was invigorating. The sound waves crashing and people chattering were a distant background noise as I focused on the beauty of the scene before me. Despite the long wait to park, we reached the beach about 40 minutes before sunset. I impatiently watched the swarm of onlookers snapping their selfies as I waited for the special moment. However, it wasn't long before the sun's rays blazed through the arch as the sun began to sink below the horizon. My camera was ready to go. Now I had to navigate through the sea of people still trying to take their selfies in front of the arch. On any typical adventure, I'd wait for people to be done and move out of the way of my shot. Not this time. I pushed my way through and positioned myself in front of the people. I crouched low and recomposed my shot. I set my camera's settings to long exposure. This way, I could capture the beautiful sunset through the arch with the waves crashing on the rocks in the foreground.I pressed away at the shutter button, getting shot after shot while moving back and forth in front of the arch to get the best perspective. I captured the colors of the sunset in all their glory, and the composition was perfect. I had done it. I had set out to capture something unique and succeeded. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that is hard to express. The final result received many compliments. My followers were in awe of the beauty of the location. I had captured a moment in time that I would remember forever, which is the greatest validation of all.

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