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Eric Rubens had a great job in San Diego as an electrical engineer. He liked it, but it was also stressful and predictable. So he started heading to the beach after work to unwind. While he was there, he took photos. Instagram was new and he began posting them to his fledgling account. People dug the vibe. Suddenly, his after-work hobby had a massive audience — all thirsting after his beach expertise. Before long, he found that seeking out cool angles and perfect lighting was more important to him than engineering.
Rubens quit his 9-5 and devoted himself to finding the off-the-beaten-path beaches and experiences that would inspire others to opt for lives of adventure. And one of Rubens’ favorite places to get unexpected beach shots is Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. Join us as we follow Eric’s lead and trade out the traditional “beach at sunset pics” for these insane cave/beach shots that feel reserved for only the boldest souls.
How to get to Sunset Cliffs:
RUBENS SAYS: When you want to go out and try to find a unique spot exploring, you’re always looking for those places that captivate and create a dreamy feel. I just think shooting the sunset out of a cave — where the opening of the cave provides the framing for your shot — is just an otherworldly feeling.
DETAILS: This beautiful 68-acre park is on the edge of Point Loma. Per the city of San Diego, “Take Interstate 8 west to the end. Then follow Sunset Cliffs Boulevard through Ocean Beach to the cliffs to where the street ends at Hill Street.”
When To Visit:
RUBENS SAYS: I make my marker on low tides. At low tide is when a lot of the areas that are inaccessible all of sudden become accessible. That’s when I try to go and do some exploring.
The biggest thing is being alert about the tides. A lot of people who are unfamiliar with the beach don’t really realize how much the tides fluctuate. They don’t realize that there could be a plus five or six-foot tide and then a negative two-foot tide on the same day. That’s literally an eight-foot change in the water level just by the time of day that you choose to go to the beach.
If you’re a photographer, you’re always looking to go when the light’s best, which is dawn, dusk, or golden hour, sunset, one of those times. Just trying to time the low tide with the sunset is the winning combination I always aim for.
DETAILS: Check out the tides before you go! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a website tracking.
What To Prepare For:
RUBENS SAYS: You can get big caves in New Zealand or Mexico, but a lot of people don’t realize that in Malibu, Laguna Beach, or San Diego there are some awesome sea caves to explore. People always think it’s a far off destination, but in reality it’s just a spot that you can find if you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort.
Sometimes you get wet, but it just really, honestly depends on how low the tide is. If you get an extreme negative tide then you won’t get wet at all, but the problem is a lot of people don’t check the tides, they just go down whenever they feel like it and then they get stuck because the waves are pounding the entrance to the cave. It’s actually pretty dangerous. I’ve definitely gotten soaked quite a few times.
DETAILS: Expect to not only get wet (you will almost definitely get wet even at low tide) but wear good shoes. The rocks can be slippery on your way down to the caves. Be careful.
Navigating The Hikes:
RUBENS SAYS: There are a couple of really cool trails in Sunset Cliffs that you can just walk down and get to at low tide just by working your way around the coast on the water. It takes a little bit of effort, but I always thought that if you’re gonna make your mark standing out in photography, you can’t just go to the most popular beach and just point the camera and take a picture, you have to try to find new spots. Or at least present a familiar location in a new light so people think it’s somewhere else. Maybe it’s a new perspective that they haven’t seen it before.
There’s a really cool path along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and it’s just a walking trail along the cliffs. That’ll allow you to at least to be away from the water — you’re actually up on the bluffs walking so it’s not dangerous by any means.
DETAILS: You can find several trails starting at Ladera st. Type 4501 Ladera Street into your GPS.
Eat And Drink While You’re There:
DETAILS: Little Lion Cafe has amazing breakfasts if you’re there in the morning (with actually healthy options!). And if you’ve worked up a bit of a hardier appetite cave exploring, head just a mile north to Hodad’s for one of the best burgers in Southern California (if not the country!).