Andy: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?        
Red: No.  
Andy: They say it has no memory. That's where I want to spend the rest of my life: a warm place with no memory.


This was a really fun afternoon and moment.  It was filled with a lot of emotion as well.

Before moving to California, there were numerous sites and attractions that I was eager to visit. Among them was the Pacific Coast Highway. For years, I had always seen and been in awe of Pacific Coastline images from California. They would inevitably contain a winding road, some great natural rock formation and foliage and, of course, the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, with waves crashing or still shimmering waters.

In December of 2013, I had been living and working in California for close to a month, and could feel the Pacific Ocean calling. I had been to the Santa Monica Pier but not on the Pacific Coast Highway yet. The schedule for my day job was very nice at the time and the shift I worked was always complete at 11AM.

I finally had a stern conversation with myself, “Okay! You need to take advantage of all of this time that you have in the afternoon!”

I immediately thought/envisioned: get off of work at 11AM, and drive as far north as you can until 5PM and then come back.  For no particular reason, I picked a Wednesday. I packed my camera before work and stuck to the vision. After work, I was breezing along the Pacific Ocean on the PCH heading to who knew where, just north.

A second thought/vision guided this day and journey. I am a fan of the Frank Darabont film, the Stephen King novel adaptation, The Shawshank Redemption. I was always moved by the film’s messages of hope, perseverance and freedom.  The quote above is one of my favorite lines/interactions from the movie. I assume that you know the film, but if not, quickly: the film involves many characters but focuses on two men sent to prison for life sentences. One of the men, Andy, maintains throughout his time in Shawshank Prison that he is innocent of his crime. The other, Red, is “the only guilty man in Shawshank,” and has succumbed to an institutionalized life and imagines that his end will come in prison. During a great scene, Andy is telling Red of his dreams to one day be free from the prison and to create a new life in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. To repeat the quote from above, the two men exchange:

 Andy: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?          

Red: No.  

Andy: They say it has no memory. That's where I want to spend the rest of my life: a warm place with no memory.

I always liked the quote, just for the essence of what it was and what it represented: starting over and leaving the past behind. I never imagined that it would ever have a personal resonance. In March of 2012, I lost my mother to cancer. She was incredibly supportive of my passion for photography. Outside of that, I was reaching a great time in my life where my mother was more than a parent, mentor, protector and educator, but also a friend and confidant. When she died, I knew my personal call, my personal charge and challenge was to continue.

I had to keep moving forward in life. I knew that I owed it to her, I owed it to myself, I owed it to my passion for photography to push forward in life.

After much soul searching, I chose Los Angeles, California as my new home. Before moving, I often thought about that quote from the Shawshank Redemption. I did not know when and how I was going to move to California, but I thought about that quote. I just kept picturing a new life. I saw the Pacific Ocean the way Andy saw it, as a sign of freedom and new beginnings.

Fast forward, and in the blink of an eye, I found myself on the Pacific Coast Highway on December 10th, 2013, living my dreams. I made it. I was driving north with no destination in mind, just gazing at the Pacific Ocean to my left.  As I continued to drive, I decided that at 5PM I would stop to photograph a sunset image of the Pacific Ocean to bookend the journey, to honor my mother, and to honor the quote from the Shawshank Redemption. 

Driving until 5PM landed me about 50 miles south of Big Sur, in San Simeon, CA. I looked for a good view, a good place to stop and producing the image you saw above. I was nervous before capturing the image because, I could see the sun setting as I drove and I could not find a good stopping place for the car, or a good view of the coastline and I was very particular about the composition of the image I wanted to create.

Thankfully I found a spot, very close to 5PM, but the sun had officially set behind the horizon. I was happy to not panic and remember something I learned from an afternoon of photographing at The Grand Canyon. After sunset is a really good time to shoot landscapes. There is still plenty of good light (arguably better light) in the sky and interesting colors emerge.

Included below are a few extra images from my drive up the PCH on this freeing afternoon: 

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