California is blessed with some of the most spectacular scenery in the US and the world. Between the forests and grandeur of National Parks like Yosemite and Sequoia, the snow capped peaks of Mount Whitney and the Big Sur coastline, there is no shortage of photography opportunities to cover everyone’s tastes! 


Along the coast of Malibu there are some of the most spectacular beaches in the country, and one of my favorites is El Matador State Beach. A series of three beaches, El Matador is the most popular because of the long stretches of sand, sea caves and massive stacks of rocks. 

When you arrive at the beach, you are greeted with an incredible coastal view looking out over the water and sea stacks. There is also a cool California style lifesaver hut that makes for a great photo. 

Remember to pay the parking pass in the small 20 car parking lot… its partoled regularly and I have seen a lot of people getting tickets. Cost is $8.00 and the machine accepts cards and cash.

The walk down to the beach is quite steep, but manageable for most. It starts off as loose dirt, but becomes a series of stairs that quickly take you down to the sand below. 

The beach is beautiful from all directions with massive eroded rocks, birds, and seaweed covered stones. 

The beach is fantastic at sunset, you get the sun lighting up the rocks and even setting through the middle of some of the rocky arches that really explains the name of golden hour!

I have been here multiple times to shoot both film and digital. Being such a popular spot, it is quite hard to get parking. In the winter I find I have been more lucky, but if you do find yourself parking on the street, keep a close eye on the signs as the inspectors are relentless.

Throughout my visits I have taken a number of cameras here including my digital Leica M along with film cameras including the medium format Hasselblad 503cw and Fuji TX-1 aka XPAN. Photos from all of these are featured in the article. Let me know if you have any questions about any of them. Something I did enjoy doing was taking a tripod for long exposures. Chris is much better at this than I, but I really enjoyed the effect of the smooth brush stroke like water around the large rocks. 

Malibu is one of those places that is really special to California, its proximity to LA make it an easy day trip, the drive is awesome along the coast and through the mountains. You can easily see why it’s such a popular spot for the rich and famous to live and hang out, and I would highly recommend the visit if you live in LA or on your next visit.