Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: Part 1

A few weeks ago, I posted a preview to the set of photos I had taken while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I had a few projects (photography and other) come up in between, so it took me a while to get come back to these photos.

We went to Cabo for my good friend’s bachelor’s party — no, not the same guy as in Dewey beach, but yes, all my friends are getting married and having bachelor parties!! We decided on Cabo because we felt like it had the best mix of natural beauty and nightlife. I’d say we guessed right (though I can’t prove anything about the nightlife because I didn’t bring my camera :)).

Cabo has a beautiful beach atmosphere. The air is warm but dry. The sand is smooth and bright. The water is longingly turquoise with active (and sometimes strong) waves. All of these factors would already make a great beach resort, but Cabo is different than beaches I’ve been to in one noticeable way: its rocks.

Yes, yes, you might think I’m joking. But the dramatic backdrops created by Cabo’s rocks and mountains are truly amazing. I felt like I could really feel the age and power of the Earth as I gazed at these rock formations. Years and years of a violent Pacific Ocean slamming against the shore have created cliffs, sharp edges, and crevasses — eroding formidable rock into smooth sand beneath my feet. It was within the rocks, and their constant battle with the ocean, that I felt the inspiration for most of my photos of Cabo.

That being said, there were still many other interesting things to notice when touring the city… starting from the day we arrived.

We came to the Cabo airport and got a taxi to our hotel, the Pueblo Bonito Rose. The ride took a bit long, but it was cool to see the differences in atmosphere in Mexico. One notion I had prior to coming was that Cabo would be just like America, since so many Americans came there (including the kids from Laguna Beach, remember that!). But, I was wrong. The town had a foreign feeling to it – from the infrastructure to the people. That said, the city was still quite comfortable and didn’t require much of an adjustment. After all, everyone speaks English.

On the way to Cabo Hotel
The streets of Cabo, San Lucas

We got to our hotel, which was surprisingly nice. It was large and clean, with classic southwestern stucco walls, a large pool (with a basketball hoop), a beachfront view and bar, and a restaurant (whose food was really good). While I stayed in the room with the bachelor, and normally that means the nicer room, the view below was from another one of our guys’ rooms.

Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel Cabo San Lucas Mexico
The view from NOT MY hotel room, Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel

The hotel also had a birdcage with some pretty cool looking species, and a swan out front. Pretty classy stuff if you ask me — especially since I spent my childhood staying in Days Inns.

Birds Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel Cabo San Lucas Mexico
Birds around our Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel

Birds around our Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel
Birds around our Pueblo Bonito Rose Hotel (click for larger version or purchase)

The first item on the agenda was OBVIOUSLY hitting the beach! By the time we got to the water, it was early evening. Luckily the water was still warm, though the air got a bit cool. Between downs of beach football, I got a few shots of the water and mountains. Way out in the distance within those mountains is where the famous Arch resides. The waves here were strong and fast, so it was no wonder that the rocks in the distance were shredded like they were. The water would have destroyed my camera if I hadn’t retreated a bit after the shutter closed.

Waves on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Rough waves on the water!

In the next picture, I tried to slow the shutter speed to show how fast the water ran up the shore. A shutter speed of 1/60 of a second allowed me to capture the movement while not allowing the instability of my hands make the entire scene blurry.

Water rushing up the shore, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Water rushing up the shore (click for larger version or purchase)

Along with the mountains, the deep blue sky was a marvel. I used a polarizer in the following shot to dim the sky, and turned the entire scene black and white to illustrate contrast between the water, sand, mountains, buildings, and the sky.

Contrast Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Contrast scene on the beach (click for larger version or purchase)

A polarizer really is a landscape photographer’s essential accessory. While it does reduce light, it reduces reflections and saturates colors in a striking and natural way. I used a polarizer for pretty much all of the shots against the water or sky, including the following pic the next day:

Daytime scene of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Daytime scene of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (click for larger version or purchase)

Usually when visiting a city, I take daytrips to see the surrounding areas. After all, most natural beauty can be seen outside of human and urban influence. Although Cabo is on the water, it is still very dry and has a large desert area. We thought it would be fun to rent ATVs to tour the landscape.

Now besides the fact that the ATVs were ghetto, broken down pieces of junk, the tour was awesome. The tour operators fitted us with helmets, goggles, and bandanas… giving us a “bandito” look. We each got our own ATV and were off.

ATV Riding Cabo San Lucas Mexico
Ready to rock with ATVs in the desert

The scenery was awesome. There were large fields of dry trees and cacti surrounded by rows of craggy mountains.

Cabo San Lucas Desert Scenery
Desert Scenery in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

As we rode on, we got closer to the cacti I had seen in the distance. When we had a break in the action, I was able to catch this shot of a cactus:

Cactus in the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Desert
Cactus in the desert (click for larger version or purchase)

Now, I’m not really used to seeing cactus often, so I was intrigued by its flower buds. Using my macro lens, I opened up the aperture on my lens to keep the bud in focus but blur out the cactus needles:

Cactus bud macro in the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Desert
Cactus bud up close (click for larger version or purchase)

I went for something similar in this next shot, though I also thought it was cool to line up the cactus needles with the shadow from the cactus plant behind them. Since I “opened up” on this shot as well, the depth of field was too shallow to bring the bud on the right in focus:

Cactus, Cabo San Lucas
Cactus and its buds in the San Lucas, Mexico desert

The last shot I took was interesting to me because the flower subtly occupies the negative space between the two, vertically columned cacti. I also thought it was cool how each cacti was darker on its top and bottom, almost mirroring each other:

Cacti in the desert Cabo San Lucas
Cacti in the desert (click for larger version or purchase)

Like I mentioned, our ATVs were crap. I don’t know how these guys maintained these vehicles, but every 10 minutes one of our ATVs would stop running. Our tour guide frequently had to stop us to attend to one of our ATVs going kaput. This was OK with me though because it gave me time to take some pictures :).

ATV Riding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Desert
“Don’t pay attention to the crappy ATVs, LOOK AT THE CAMERA!”

One of the coolest parts of the trip was the end. After we traversed through the desert mountains, we came to a surprisingly wide clearing. It looked like a gigantic highway had stood in the place that was now occupied by a flat, sandy bed of rock. We were driving through a dried out river.

We sped through the dried river towards the beach. I was going so fast and having so much fun that I didn’t even stop for a picture (believe it or not)! We drove through the wide clearing until it gave way to the even wider beach.

At this point we all went our own way, speeding around the beach and having a blast. One of us decided to test the handling power of his ATV and had it end up landing on him!! I, on the other hand, rode around the beach with my camera in hand. As I approached the water, the strength of the water intrigued me again as I watched it pushed up the shore and into the rocks and mountains.

Rough waters and jagged rocks
Rough waters and jagged rocks (click for larger version or purchase)

I turned this next shot black and white to bring out the contrast in the ridges of the rocks. I also thought this pic was cool, seeing the left part of the wave climb up the rocks and the right part curl cleanly over.

Waves hitting rocks in Cabo San Lucas
Beautiful and strong water (click for larger version or purchase)

As I rode around the beach, I also noticed the cliffs in the sand created by (I assume), the tide. I thought this scene was pretty cool because while it could be a 3 foot cliff of sand (which it was), it also looks like it could be 4 or 5 times as big. Also cool to me was how the water rages in the background.

Sand cliff in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Sand cliff on the beach (click for larger version or purchase)

I wandered a little further down the beach in search of more inspiration. Just as I was going to turn back (since I couldn’t see any of my friends or the tour guide), I spotted a couple people riding horses along the beach. The silhouette of the lone riders against the sun was a breathtaking scene to me.

Horse riders on the Beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Horse riders on the beach (click for larger version or purchase)

Oh and when I finally tried to drive back to my people, my ATV’s tire FELL OFF. Yes, it fell off. Even after that, these guys had the nerve to try to charge us for “damaging” their cheap equipment! Despite all that, the tour was definitely worth it.

The vacation to that point was awesome — and that was before we went scuba diving, chilled at Lover’s and Divorce Beach, and celebrated our final night on a sunset cruise. More of the story to be told and shown… Stay tuned.

ATV Riding, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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