Shark Fin Cove – California Photography


This town lies about 9 miles north of Santa Cruz, along the Pacific Ocean’s coast, on Highway One. Originally on the San Vicente Creek banks, the town expanded to the north during the twentieth century. Shark Fin Cove is a hidden location near our favorite hotel/restaurant in the area— The Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn. 

The town is presently noted for the spectacular cliffs and bluffs above the Pacific, beaches in between cliffs, surfing opportunities, the cement plant run by Cemex (shuttered in January 2010), and the former headquarters Odwalla, a company that makes fruit juices.

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We don’t go anywhere without our Think Tank Camera Bags. Special offer!


To get here, leave the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn (grab some organic coffee here), leave the location, and make a left while facing the ocean. You can go down until you see a parking lot on the right-hand side. There is no sign, but this is where you park to hike down to Shark Fin Cove. It is not an easy hike, so please remember that before you go. It’s under minutes, but it is very steep, there are no handrails, and it may be slipper if it is wet.


You can compare this location to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Perched high above the tumultuous ocean waves, Pigeon Point Lighthouse provides a surreal backdrop for stargazing and galactic photography. The night skies here lack artificial lights and pollution that typically obscure views, rendering the Milky Way in vivid detail.

You can photograph it from a distance, like this image, or you can get closer to photograph it. We suggest you photograph it during the daytime, as well as to get an idea of how you would like to compose your shot at nighttime to make it easier.

Pigeon point lighthouse with Milky Way blurring above it in the sky.
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It is a steep climb to get to the bottom. You should wear good hiking boots and be prepared. It takes work to get to the bottom.

Lens: Generally, this area is a wide-angle lens location and a Milky Way location.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filters, tripod, shutter release, wide-angle, and zoom lens. CPL filters will help you to create dynamic images. We recommend never shooting outdoors without one. They will make your white puffy clouds whiter, take the silver glare off the waters, and replace it with a beautiful reflection. You have moving waters at the location, so you will want to have your neutral density filters with you to get the long exposure and milky water effect. It is an excellent spot for a ten-stop ND filter. Please look at our ND filter page for more details if you need additional information.



Light pollution map


You will need a camera to manually control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.


A fast, wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you must increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain will appear in your photos.


A good, sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy, you will need a sturdy one. Remember that when you buy one, it should be sturdy enough to withstand the wind but small enough to fit in your suitcase.


Sky Guide is available through the iTunes Store for $1.99. It has a 5 out of 5-star rating on both the current (3.2) version (1200+ ratings) and all previous versions (8600+ ratings).


Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you can zoom in and out on the light emitting from the flashlight. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.


The best time to go is during a new moon; you want to be in the darkest area possible. The week before the new moon, when the moon has not risen, is a perfect time to go, so be sure to check the moonrise chart to see when the moon will be up.


When painting with light and over a 30-second exposure, you must have a shutter release to use your bulb mode. When exposing your pictures in general, you can use the remote release or use your camera’s built-in two-second timer.



Start with ISO 1600 – 3200.  This is just a common starting point, and you will adjust from here.

Shutter Speed – Remember, the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. We want crisp, non-star trail images. Here is the formula to avoid star trails—the 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.


Depth of field isn’t critical on these shots, but letting the light into the camera is; therefore, you should shoot wide open if. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (wide open =the lowest aperture your camera will allow). You will have to increase the ISO some, giving you digital noise.


Now that the ISO and aperture are set in manual mode, roll your shutter speed until your meter reads (0) zero. Take a test shot and adjust from there. Remember, the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. You can make star trails specifically, but that’s not what we are going for here since we started with Milky Way photography. We want crisp, non-star trail images when doing this.

Here is the formula to avoid star trails—the 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.


In live view mode, you can change your white balance settings and see what it will look like. You can shoot in shade or cloud mode as a standard setting and adjust things later when editing.


To focus in the dark, use your camera’s live view, hit the zoom button, and focus on a bright star. You can also use the infinity setting on your lens but do several test shots to determine accuracy. It can be off a little on some lenses. You can also light it up with a flashlight, focus, then gently, without touching the focus ring, put the camera in manual focus so it will not search for the focus. You must do this each time you move your camera to take your next angel.


The best images are usually of the dense part of the Milky Way. We can see this part of the milk way in the southern sky. During March, April, and May, the Milky Way rises above the horizon in the pre-dawn hours. In June, at about 10:00 p.m., you will see the Milky Way.  From July until October, you can see the Milky Way as soon as it sunsets, and it becomes dark enough to see about an hour after sunset. In November, the Milky Way no longer comes above the horizon. You will have to wait until March if you want to stay away really late or get up early to see her again.

See our Milky Way Hot Spot Locator and our Night Photography Information. 

area information - photography


Entrance Fees: There are no entrance fees.

  • Do not attempt to swim or surf at this beach. The powerful currents, lack of lifeguards, and sudden waves make it extremely dangerous for water activities.
  • There are no amenities available at the beach. Restroom and water access are not provided at this location.
  • There is no food or water at this location, so bring your snacks and water.


Add your campground here!

Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your campground to stay during their ghost-hunting trip? Put your campground information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number, and the information on your campground to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you. They are good at getting there in the dark.

Would you like to be featured in an article as a place to stay while doing photography or ghost hunting? If so, please send us an email. You will be surprised at how affordable our prices can be.



We absolutely LOVE this place. It has many healthy meal options, and the menu has icons for vegetarian and vegan meals. It also offers organic foods!! We promote healthy living, so this is on our top places to eat list.

Davenport Roadhouse Inn—See Below. It is a restaurant and a hotel. We really enjoyed eating here because we love healthy, organic food.

The best hotels while doing photography

We foud it to be the best place with the best rates and great service!


Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn

Convenient Location:  Located just 10 minutes from Santa Cruz, among organic farms, boutique vineyards, and state beaches and hiking trails, is the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn.  Our Restaurant features produce from neighboring organic farms, a full bar, and outstanding wines.  Our Inn features ocean views, beds made to our specifications, locally made soaps and lotions, and cashmere-like robes made of soy and bamboo fibers. In a hurry? Visit our Café/Take Out bar serving locally roasted coffees, custom teas, and delicious sweet or savory baked goods made daily.


Don’t forget that you can use a rain sleeve on your camera if it is raining. If it is bright and sunny, you want to use a low ISO, such as 100.

If you are doing photography along with your ghost hunting on cloudy days, you can do running water or waterfall photography to avoid the glaring sun. You can also use an ND filter to get a long exposure for dramatic effects, even in the sunshine. If you ghost hunt indoors in abandoned places, be careful!

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