Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA
Sunset Cliffs is a beautiful stretch of bluffs that line the Pacific Ocean along the Southern west coast of San Diego. The cliffs are considered the local stomping grounds for all of the Ocean Beach residents who like to run, walk, bike, surf, or just watch the sunset along the coastline. Even though it is tucked away in the corners of Ocean Beach (a not-so-touristy area), this scenic road hosts its fair share of tourists year-round. While the views can be breathtaking and even feel secluded and quiet, the peak summer season can get extremely crowded for a place that offers not much else. So for those of you who are not so familiar with the location, I decided to list some suggestions, "do's and don'ts", and tips for you while planning your photo shoot or wedding at Sunset Cliffs.
Unless you have plans to wear a cute sweater and run around in windy gray skys I suggest planning to shoot in a warmer season. Having said that, in my opinion, you'd probably rather be a little chilly than hot, sweaty, sticky, and tired! Avoid the dead heat of summer as well as the dead heat of the day. Spring is by far the best time to shoot at this location, but you can totally get away with a perfect day in summer or fall. In addition, keep in mind there is absolutely zero shade and the cliffs are not paved, so be prepared by bringing a bag with water, sunscreen, hiking shoes/sandals, etc. It's always better to be safe than sorry when shooting in the natural elements and you never know how the weather could change!
I've found the biggest aspect of navigating a photo shoot in San Diego is TRAFFIC. The running joke of San Diegan's desire to constantly be talking about traffic, roads, highways, and driving directions is for good reason. Sunset or golden hour tends to be one of the best times to take pictures, and even more so when you're on the coast or at a beach, and often times that means arriving at your location during peak rush hour. Do you see where I'm getting at? Trying to drive to the beach in spring and early summer to catch that hour of pre-sunset means BACKING UP YOUR TIME. whatever time you think you need to leave, add an hour or two. Take into consideration not just traffic but also maybe running late out the door, potential accidents on the road, parking, finding the meeting spot, grabbing your things, walking, and weaving in and out of foot traffic..... did I mention finding parking?
I know, it sounds soooooo stressful, so why bother? because as long as you consider all these things and really allow for all the time necessary, it is so worth the moment you get there and can just relax and let all the magic happen. Most of the time the moment and pictures are well worth the effort and I never find people being disappointed with being too early or too prepared.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, safety will always come first! aside from not speeding or rushing to your shoot, the cliffs themselves pose a danger that I do not want to hide from my clients. There are many (not my clients) who think the cliffs are a big playground, and being so drawn in by the beauty, they forget or are just completely unaware of the fact that the regular erosion that takes place along the bluffs every year is made worse by constant wear and tear from pedestrians. I will let you look up the percentages of injuries, but let's just say no one's life is worth a good picture, so I always encourage my clients to let me know when they are not comfortable standing for or taking a certain picture. I try my best to stay as far away from the edges as much as possible and take precautions when we are shooting close.
Now that I have almost completely scared you away from ever shooting here, I am encouraging you to do so anyways! whether you're looking at Sunset Cliffs for a surprise proposal, engagement session, or even a cute little seaside elopement, they are an amazing and special place to celebrate, and even some place that is personal and dear to my heart as well. I hope I never stop shooting there and continue to meet couples who are just as in love with the location as I am.