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…
Serenity Maui, Hawaii 2004
For those of you who don’t shoot film, have never seen a slide transparency on the lightbox, and think of a photograph as a file in the computer’s hard drive, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t get me wrong, I love much of what the digi present and future offers, but there is, without question, something much more satisfying in capturing a great photograph on a piece of film that you can touch and hold and place down on the light table and view the light coming through.
Like most photographers, I started shooting with 35mm color negatives. I didn’t know any better. That changed when I saw a slide show in Kathmandu in 2001 that brought me to tears. It was then that I began to shoot positive slide film.
But it was the move from 35mm to the much larger (over 12 times larger!) 6x17cm format when I became truly hooked! Sure the images were much more difficult to capture…completely and totally different from 35mm. Exposing a big piece of film is a whole new craft and the learning curve was steep at the beginning. The amount of wasted film, time and money spent creating underexposed and unusable film was disheartening, and only concerted determination and perseverance got me through those times.
And when, perhaps I thought I’d never be able to create a great photograph with this big film and it’s wide 3-to-1 ratio format of space to fill, I created this image – Serenity. Initially, I named it Serenity because of the feel that it gives the viewer, but looking back, the making of this image brought me a serenity in finally having created one successful image. It’s like that one shot amongst many in a round of golf that gets you to come back and play again. You can forget the 104 horrible-to-mediocre shots that you hit everywhere but where you intended because you had that one shot. That one shot that felt great where you hit the “sweet spot” and it was effortless. Clouds part, angels sing.
Now, I had that shot. I had that one that would bring me out again, that would allow me to overlook all the bad ones that I had made. And unlike a shot in golf that is just a memory, or a digi file in your computer that’s foundation is invisible, this shot is one that I can hold and touch and look at…and how it shines when the light comes through it! Serenity.