Sun Star Pier, La Jolla, California, August 6, 2009
Within days of moving to La Jolla 3 1/2 years ago, I discovered this local landmark – the Scripps Pier, and immediately was drawn to it photographically. I didn’t have any previous connection to pier’s or other of man’s constructions along the water’s edge, but that would change living in La Jolla – and in large part because of this pier. I returned every sunset for nearly 3 weeks to get my first successful image of this pier – Time. That particular photograph really started a new direction for my photography and made my work more personal. It would be fair to say that that image marked the beginning of working on my own aesthetic and creating my own images, as opposed to looking at others and trying to replicate. I imagine that most photographers and artists go through similar stages – it begins with trying to make the work you look up to and respect, and once you feel capable and have learned the techniques involved and the process, then you can begin to find your own aesthetic and create a new style that is more unique. Well, this photograph – Time, and the process of making it and having to be patient and go out night after night before I got everything right, had much to do with getting me on my own path as an artist.
Prior to this time, once I had a successful image of a location, I would generally not return to shoot it further. Why mess with a good thing? That too changed in La Jolla, and again, in large part because of this pier. After several months, I had began to learn much about this tunnel-view composition and what I was drawn to about it. It hung in the front of the gallery that I spent much time in and had the opportunity to speak with the public about the photo. This furthered my feelings and understanding of the piece. A desire to shoot it again arose and within a year, after many visits, I had made a second image that I felt to be a success – Fog.
Through the first 2 years, I made, what I would call – 2 successful images that were “gallery worthy”. In my third year, I went through a major aesthetic change in my work and went from shooting primarily bright Fuji Velvia color panoramic work to dark and moody black and white squares. There were a number of reasons behind this – a darker mood and life outlook due to events in my life; a feeling that color was too often distracting the viewer of more clear communication that didn’t seem to be the case with black and white; finding myself more drawn personally on an artistic level to cleaner, simpler works; feeling that the most challenging image to make, yet perhaps most rewarding, is the one that is most simple in it’s elements yet still holds a dynamic with the viewer, this leading to continually eliminating elements which eventually led to eliminating color – to name a few. In the end, this transition came completely naturally and with ease and my shooting was invigorated like never before. I began to re-shoot many of the compositions that I had become familiar with in the area, and found many new ones and ways of making images. At the end of a string of, yet many more visits, I had made my third successful image, and perhaps my best (favorite) yet – Passage.
Through 3 1/2 years in La Jolla, I would say it’s safe to say I have photographed the Scripps Pier over 100 sunsets. I have certainly thought that it would be cool to capture an image with the sun setting down the center of the corridor, and at one point, I made some conscious pursuit at it, but my timing was off and I never really followed through with it and never got closer than a week of the right time. I guess it wasn’t so important to me that I find the exact day or two of the year that it’s do-able. To be honest, I’m really not that much of a planner and it goes against my style completely to turn the art into a science and research as to the exact time and earthly coordinates blah! That would be one quick way to take the joy out of photographing, for me.
So, you could call it sweet karma, randomness, coincidence, dumb luck, or whatever you’d like, but on my final evening in La Jolla before moving away, I decide to head out one last time to shoot Scripps Pier at sunset. I’m super-busy packing and cleaning, and generally waiting until the last minute, like I do. As I arrive at the pier, it’s 5 minutes from sunset and I can see that the sun is lining up better than I have ever seen. This is pretty cool, I think as I set up the tripod. Just as I get the camera set and my settings in order, the sun clips the upper right corner of the frame at the end of the corridor. Sweet! I take about 8-10 exposures, bracketing and trying different f-stops before settling on f/22 to get the more dramatic starburst. The sun is visible in the frame for about 3 minutes before it moves north out of sight in this composition.
To get this on my last night in La Jolla! Pretty cool indeed. Now, I suppose I’m ready to move on outta here and go start over in a new area -
Maui will work…
Cormorants and Flowers
I’ve been working on putting together the DARK COAST series for a few months and it’s nearing completion. I had made a decision to approach it as a series which would have an end, a closure to the portfolio, as opposed to making it an endless compilation of like-work.
Most of the images that were shot for this series were made in a relatively short time of 4-6 months, but it is covering the locale that I have already been shooting for 3 years and am therefore very familiar with. The last month or 2, I’ve been working on editing the series, designing a Blurb book, creating a postcard as a mailer to galleries, figuring out the sizing/pricing/edition sizes and the rest of what comes with organizing this into a cohesive and strong body of work.
I am reminded as to how difficult editing a project down can be. I initially had 60-70 images that I felt were strong enough to be included, but kept taking my time with it and trimming it down to what will be around 30-35 images in the series to be printed as limited editions – the book will include most of the original 60-70.
Usually, I’d have a tendency to rush through some of this project, especially the making of the Blurb book, but again, I’ve been forcing myself to slow down and take my time with it. Initially, I had chosen this image and design for the cover. Not so much because it’s my favorite or the strongest image, but more because I thought it worked well as a cover shot and tied the book to the local La Jolla area with a recognizable landmark. But as the weeks went by, I found that I wasn’t loving this cover and I had chosen an image that I didn’t even feel was in the top 20 – in fact, I had contemplated cutting this image altogether from the collection! How could I choose this as my cover?! Today, I redesigned the cover with a different image and am now totally content with it. Not only did I choose one of my top favorites from the series, but it’s probably even more recognizable of a local landmark. This project is definitely proving as a valuable lesson in patience.
So, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel until this series is complete. Finalizing final prints for each image that made the final cut, figuring out the galleries to send mailers, putting the final touches on the book, and always brainstorming as to new and creative ways to market the photographs to possible buyers. And when I say – almost complete – that really means – ready to go out into the world – which, of course requires still much more work and concerted efforts to make happen! But it feels good. And that is why I am diggin’ this new approach to producing a series of work with an end as opposed to more greatest individual hits. With a project, you can visualize the process and the end result, then go out and make it, and at some point see the fruits of your labor and step away feeling satisfied, moving on to the next project.
Of course, I am already thinking of the next works and already have some images that I’m excited to share! These will probably be the basis to the next series, but for now – take a peek at DARK COAST and let me know whatcha think. And if you want to support emerging artists, buy the book – or - a print for your collection. And for those photogs that are used to working towards making the individual greatest hits, consider creating a series that you can focus on and that has a start and finish – it can really be rewarding and act as a learning lesson in many valuable ways that you may not find when you’re always going from one shot to the next.
Follow your bliss
and the universe
will open doors for you
where there were only walls.
Umbrella for Two, La Jolla, California 2007
With the cooler days of a Southern California winter before us, La Jolla has once again become a quiet little village. Yes, the locals like to call La Jolla a village for some reason, and of course quiet is being used relatively. Personally, when I think of a village, I think of some quaint little mountain setting in Italy, or perhaps Nepal, where there are a couple of hundred residents living and working together. You can trade some yak cheese for some rice wine or meet for bocce ball with the elderly men in the afternoon. In fact, Webster calls a village: ”a small community or group of houses in a rural area, larger than a hamlet and usually smaller than a town, and sometimes (as in parts of the U.S.) incorporated as a municipality.” Oohh, now a hamlet sounds charming indeed…not sure I’ve ever been to a hamlet, but do look forward to it. Anyways, I’m pretty sure that we are a lot larger than a hamlet and this certainly can’t be called rural. In reality, this is a town.
So, starting over more accurately…with the cooler days of a Southern California winter before us, La Jolla has once again become a quiet little town. Not a very good time of year for local businesses, but it is nice for those of us who live here in the village town. Photographically, I much prefer going out shooting when there aren’t a million people around. I suppose the portrait photographer would feel different, but for me, photographing has always been my solitary time. It’s my time to look within, and by doing so I can see a little more clearly. I like to go for long walks with the camera and an ipod. It still amazes me sometimes when I’m composing an image, totally in my own world, with headphones on, and someone comes up and taps on my shoulder, usually causing me a startle. I see their lips moving, but I can’t hear them, but I’m sure I know what they are saying already: “What are you photographing?” Although I am trying to open myself up more to these moments and to not be so shut off, I can’t help but to feel that this is at the same time an impropriety…isn’t it? I mean, aren’t headphones plugged into the skull universal for: Closed for outside business, will reopen later. And how in the world do you describe what you are photographing?! ”Well, uh, I’m photographing those 2 beach chairs and the umbrella.” and then follows, “Why” or “are you a professional”.
The photograph is the answer. The photographer is unable to answer on the scene as to why they are shooting what they are shooting. The photograph is the answer. When I came across this scene on one of my walks, it told me a story that I liked. A story that I wanted to tell. A story about a Southern California beach town that’s gone quiet for the winter. A place where the locals still prefer village to town, and maybe that in itself says something about the community. Anyways, a village ain’t a bad place to live.