The King's Highway: El Camino Real

Ashby Fulkerson

Ricky Montalvo tweeted last Thursday that he had an idea for an El Camino Real photo project. Recently I too had been thinking about the King’s Highway after visiting a local San Diego Venture Capitalist; specifically, about the significance of the highway to the colonizing Spanish, the rich history associated with it and how it has changed so dramatically over the last 239 years. I thought it would be nice to travel the highway over a series a trips and shoot photos. So, when I saw Ricky’s tweet I direct messaged him a note and asked what he was up to.

Ricky Montalvo wrote:

Between So. SF & San Carlos, on El Camino Real are some of the best retail exteriors and motels I’ve seen.  The idea I has was to simply go down that particular section of ECR and photograph the modern w/ the not so modern.  Maybe even a “day in the life of” type journal. 


Although this is a processed image of mine, I’d like to approach it with more of a neutral look and color.  Almost like this:

I think you could do the same with your particular section down in SD and then we can publish it and ask the Flickr Community to fill in their parts, since ECR duns over 100miles of urban sprawl. 


Now, Ricky is an amazing multimedia artist and photographer. I, on the other hand, am not. I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. So, I responded to Ricky with:

That’s awesome! I’ve thought for some time I would like to shoot up and down El Camino b/c it’s quintessentially CA. I had some ideas about the bells, but I like your idea better. Let’s do that. So the point to focus on the particularly urban sections, correct?

Ricky’s final response:

Correct.  Nothing OFF El Camino, try to do a contrast of new and old.  Get traffic, shops, motels etc.  Give it that sense of urban sprawl and 70’s vintage with modern strip malls.

I’m going to take a stab at it this weekend.  Let’s compare/colaborate via Flickr.  I’ll create a private Flickr Group for us.


I asked Roy Kim, MindTouch VP of Engineering, to join me and Ashby (in case you’re new, that’s my [almost] 3 year old daughter) and we set out this morning. The El Camino Real begins in San Diego at Mission San Diego de Alcalá. This was the first Spanish Mission in California and was founded in 1769. While El Camino Real starts at the mission, in what is now called Old Town, San Diego, the highway breaks up quite a lot in San Diego County and doesn’t actually take shape until past La Jolla near Caramel Valley.

Roy Kim

What we photographed will surely be very different from what Ricky shoots this weekend, but we had to capture the start of El Camino Real. We started at the Father Junipero Serra museum in Presidio park. The highway is supposed to begin at Taylor St. and Presidio St., but we found a bell, which are used to mark El Camino Real, above this spot closer to the museum. This must be the southern most bell on the Kings Highway.

After shooting around the Father Serra museum we shot in Old Town itself. Now, the fact of the matter is, today this isn’t El Camino Real, but the shots in Old Town were taken pretty much where the original El Camino Real would have been. The next outing I plan to shoot on El Camino Real near Caramel Valley, which is a suburban landscape with rolling hills and canyons.

I shoot with a Nikon d40x that has a stock 18-55mm lens. The Nikon d40x is a decent camera, but the lens I use is not that nice. Ashby shoots with a Fisher Price Kids’ Digital camera. I do not recommend this kids’ camera.  Other than it being nearly indestructible the thing takes terrible photos and is actually difficult to use. For kids, I think a key chain digital camera is a better choice.

Aaron Fulkerson

The conditions were pretty bad for photography. It was 68 degrees F and overcast with occasional drizzle. Alas, I wasn’t going to change plans on Ashby and we had a lot of fun. Ashby took it all very seriously. She framed her photos and was very excited to show me the shots. “Look at the steps I took a photo of.” “I took a picture of some leaves. Look. Look.” It was frickin’ awesome.

My Photos:


Ashby’s Photos:

For the record, Roy is a much more experienced photographer than myself; so, I’m interested in seeing his shots. And most of all, I can’t wait to see what Ricky comes up with.


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