La Jolla, California

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International Photography Awards (IPA) 2008
The 2008 International Photography Awards received over 22,000 submissions from 124 countries across the globe.  
*Second prize for Professional Photographer of the Year in Nature Category: Sunset - "Sunset at Water's Edge" Series of four La Jolla Sunset Images.
*Honorable Mention for Professional Photographer of the Year in Nature Category: Waterscapes - "Sunset at Water's Edge" Series of 4 La Jolla Sunset Images

Field Notes:

This image is one of my personal favorites from 2008.  In a year that I have not traveled much, I have really focused on making images in my backyard - La Jolla.  When we depend on our eyes and our heart to see the world in a new and inspiring way, photographing at home can often be the photographers biggest challenge.  It can almost seem easy to be sparked and to capture life and landscape in a fresh way when you are visiting a faraway exotic locale where everything is new and your senses are heightened, but to do it at home in a place you see everyday and feel so familiar with isn't ever easy and can border on tedious.

This year has been a good lesson and has been successful in teaching me that it is possible to make strong images at home, and to overcome this familiarization with the area that can often extinguish any inspiration to be creative. 

The creative approach becomes different.  Whereas when you are traveling, you are in a locale for maybe a few days.  You are likely to be exploring the area and experimenting with many different compositions and burning through lots of film.  In the moment, it is best to shoot shoot shoot and edit later, trusting your eye and skills to capture some gems along the way.  Whilst at home on the other hand, the approach is to really slow down.  You can become more intimate with the subject because you know it will be there the next day.  You begin to know how much the scene changes due to tidal changes, weather, or time of day.  You saturate a potential scene with visit after visit until you feel that the image can no longer get any better!  It is a different approach and not one we as photographers generally daydream about.  It's always traveling to some foreign wonderland where the light is always sweet and at night there is good beer and good company.  How often do we fantasize about going 1/4 mile down the street 100 times to get the best possible image that our eye and skill can produce?! 

It is a test.  It is a different creative approach, but ultimately, I think in many ways it is more rewarding, and I think the work is stronger and more dynamic.  When your persistence takes you to a place where you can honestly say - I can do no better with this scene - then you have truly done your best and can feel complete with the image, and then move on to the next.  Such is the case with this image - Sunfire.  I have surely photographed these two rocks well over 50 times.  At different times and at different angles using a variety of techniques.  In fact, I still find myself being pulled there at times and just exposed a few frames the other night there.  But at the end of the day, I know it's done there for me.  I know that this is my best from this particular spot of this subject...these two simple rocks in the water.

Technically, I feel that I am doing something here that you may not see too often.  I am combining long exposure with bright light and color.  I mean, look at this epic sunset!  It was one of the more dynamic of the entire year!  But mixed with the longer exposure of 60 seconds, the water gets that smooth-foggy look that I absolutely love, simplifying the scene and making the rocks evermore dramatic, which adds balance to the drama in the sky.

This is one of a handful of images from La Jolla that fall into this lesson learned and approach to image making that I am sure to continue.  Sure, I want to travel the globe in search of exciting new areas to capture on film, but I also realize that there is endless scenes right here in my backyard too.  Surely it's no coincidence that my first big award winning photographs to receive acclaim are the ones that were produced in this new approach...and I never went further than a mile from my front door!