location-photo
camera
len
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Shutter Speed
1/100 sec
Aperture
f/4
Focal Length
70mm
ISO
100

Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach

avatar
@selmshots
Hidden away just half a mile from Highway 1, Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most mesmerizing sights along the coast of California. The beam of sun rays that pierce through the rocky formation can only be seen during the winter solstice, but visiting in the colder months is well worth it for this incredible display of ethereal light.

Plan

Overview

Skill level

Easy
Accessbility
Public Location

Hours

9AM-Sunset

Fee

$10

Pack

  • Telephoto Lens (70mm)
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • ND Filter
  • Jacket

How to get there

N36° 14' 18.0348"W121° 49' 00.5268"
This image was taken at Pfieffer Beach, right in front of Keyhole Arch. To reach Pfieffer Beach, turn off of Highway 1 onto Sycamore Canyon Rd. The road is marked by an unmissable yellow sign warning "Narrow Roads". Cautiously continue down this road until reaching the Entrance to Pfieffer beach. From the parking lot (36.238132, -121.812358), head down toward the road, which will eventually take you to the beach. Reference the GPS coordinates and you'll see the keyhole from the shore.

Tips

When to go

Best season

January, December

Best time

Sunset
As a result of the winter solstice occurrence, mid-December until mid-January is when the sun will line up directly with Keyhole Arch.
The sun will be blocked by the rocky formations of the keyhole during midday and the late afternoon; however, during sunset, the rays of sun will shine right through the opening, creating a surreal golden beam of light.

Field tips

I recommend composing the image from an angle, which will emphasize the light coming through the keyhole even more.
Experiment with different focal lengths, as they can really change up how the image looks. For reference, I shot this image with a 70mm.
Be sure to use the rules of third to frame the light rays perfectly center in your shot.

Current weather

Big Sur, California
Clear
72o
F
Fri
65o
54o
Sat
63o
59o
Sun
62o
57o
Mon
61o
57o
Tue
64o
58o

Blue Hour

12:36
72o
Clear

Sunrise

13:05
72o
Clear

Golden Hour

02:46
72o
Clear

Sunset

03:23
72o
Clear

Do nearby

Explore the area! Behind the beach, there's a cliff that can be accessed near the entrance of Pfieffer Beach. It's a great place to get another perspective of the water from a higher angle.

Locations nearby

location-nearby
location-nearby
location-nearby