I wanted to sit on a California beach and take a picture of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. It was a simple request and my son Daniel was ready to make it a reality for me. We were going to drive up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway to the beaches of Malibu (or as the locals say, cruise up the PCH to the Bu) for the ultimate sunset. I fired up my laptop to check The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) for the sunset time and angle and discovered a rift in my space-time continuum.
You would think that when you travel thousands of miles to the West Coast and you stand on said coast and look out over the water that you would be facing to the west. And if that is what you think, in many instances you would be dead wrong or as the locals say, “Dude, no way!” From just north of Santa Monica, until you get around Point Mago, the PCH runs due east and the beaches face towards the south. TPE indicated that the sun would set behind the mountains, not over the ocean. Bummer! But, what’s this? Near Malibu, there is a point of land that juts out from the coast just far enough to give us a clear line of sight to the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.
Merging onto the PCH, Daniel and I both wished that we were riding in an old black convertible Porsche, but the ride along the beautiful coast was enjoyable just the same. Our first destination was El Matador Beach, which is one of three pristine beaches that make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beach, just outside of Malibu. Along the way, we passed the many million (billion) dollar mansions of the rich and famous. Just how ritzy is this neighborhood? The Malibu Beach RV Park (mind you, you brought your own house) charges a jaw dropping $190 per day for their premium campsites.
Just west of Malibu, a small sign points us towards the small parking lot of El Matador. Unfortunately, the lot was full so we backtracked to find an opening beside the highway large enough for an Accord. After a short hike back to the parking lot, we were soon at the top of the bluff overlooking this spectacular beach. Looking down at the blue Pacific sending its waves crashing over the huge rocks and rolling up onto the beautiful sand, the view is incredible. This is obviously a favorite location for photographers, and scenes were even filmed here for the 2004 movie “The Notebook” staring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.
Climbing down the steep trail on the face of the bluff, we eventually joined the crowd at the beach. What a gorgeous place to spend a day! Since our focus was the prize of a sunset picture, we could only linger for about 30 minutes before we had to begin our journey back to “the point,” but this was indeed a special place. It must be a special place to Daniel too, because El Matador is where he proposed to his future bride last week.
Back in the car, we reversed course and headed towards Point Dume State Beach. Despite the ominous sounding name (pronounced Doom), Point Dume is a California Registered Historic Landmark adjacent to one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Malibu. It was named Point Dumetz in 1793, by explorer George Vancouver in honor of his friend, Father Francisco Dumetz. Lots along the cliffs of Point Dume, which were being sold after World War II for $2,400, cost around $10,000,000 today.
Because it was getting late in the day, we were lucky enough to quickly score a place to park (in the actual parking lot this time) and we set out explore the beach during the golden hour. As is the case with many of the picturesque locations in the area, many videographers have used the beaches around Point Dume for movie and TV sets. Astronaut Tony Nelson found his genie bottle here on “I Dream of Jeannie” and Charlton Heston found the remains of the Statue of Liberty on this beach in “Planet of the Apes.” More recently, an episode of “Modern Family” was filmed here.
A beautiful ending to my last night in LA. Although these golden shots perfectly captured some of the scenery of California, I think the more important part of my trip was who I got to spend it with.