A morning on the beach: Crystal Cove State Park and Little Corona Beach

When I think of beach pictures on the west coast of the United States, I think sunsets.  The glorious red sun falling beneath the ocean.  The soft light on the sky.  The ability to wake up at noon and still photograph it.

But recently I noticed that low tides were coinciding with early mornings, so I decided to head out for a morning trip to the beach on Friday.  My primary goal was to scout out locations for future sunrise and intertidal photography, so I headed to both Crystal Cove State Park’s beach and Little Corona (both beaches are in Orange County; Little Corona is in Corona Del Mar, and Crystal Cove is just north of Laguna Beach).  But I quickly got distracted from location hunting thanks to the beauty of the morning.

Morning Treasure: Sunrise at Crystal Cove


Both beaches have bluffs overlooking the ocean, meaning that the beach was shaded long after the sun rose in the region. This allowed for shots like the above, and also let me get pictures of a waterfall cascading down the bluffs long after sunrise:

Waterfall at the beach: a sight sure to make Greg (of Alpenglow Images) happy. Of course, if you want to ruin the illusion of a beautiful, pristine waterfall cascading onto a sunny southern California beach, just read the warning sign they put near it.


One lighting circumstance I should have anticipated, but didn’t, was that with the light coming from low in the sky to the east I was able to get nicely lit pictures of waves with rocky intertidal in the foreground.

Incoming Set of Waves


And another pleasant surprise was how empty the beach was. I got to Crystal Cove right as the park opened, and for the first hour or so there were only three fishermen and myself on the beach. In fact, when I walked back to the stairway I had come down earlier, I saw just a single set of footprints headed away from the stairway.  The only things crossing them were some bird tracks.  Then I realized: those were my footprints.

Alone on the beach: my own footprints, undisturbed in the sand, after a morning of shooting.  I’ve got another version that shows only a few isolated footprints.


All in all, even though I’m a die-hard night owl, I have to say that getting up for sunrise at the beach was worth it, especially since it ended with breakfast at Rose Bakery Cafe, which was just down the road on PCH in Corona Del Mar.

More pictures

To see more pictures from the morning, head to my Morning at the Beach Gallery or view the Flash slideshow below.

Morning at the beach – Images by Marc Perkins

Getting There

Crystal Cove State Park: Located along Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach in California.  I was at the “Treasure Cove” area of the park. Parking is plentiful, but you must pay the day use fee for the state park. From the parking lot you’ll walk on top of the bluffs for a while, before a steep ramp with stairs leads down to the beach. The park is currently open from 6am – sunset.

Little Corona Beach: Located at the intersection of Poppy Ave. and Ocean Blvd. in Corona Del Mar, CA. From Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) turn onto Poppy Ave, and park on the street once you get to Ocean Blvd. Street parking may be difficult to find at peak times, but was exceptionally easy to get on a weekday morning. From the street you’ll walk down a moderately steep paved ramp to the beach (but there are no stairs). Park is open from 6am – 10pm.

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