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…
Note to self: This is why you always bring a camera with you…even if you are just going for a short walk with your sweetheart and your cute little nieces. That EPIC sunset you missed a few days ago won’t quickly be forgotten…although, this evening was beautiful!
While out exploring for photo opportunities recently, I found myself on Coronado Island at sunset. I had been down by the border and was hoping to get something there but to no avail, so I wasn’t quite ready to go home empty handed. Walking along the boardwalk, I tried a number of different compositions, mostly toward the Coronado Bridge with the beautiful evening light. I’ve tried shooting that bridge now a number of times and can’t seem to get something I really like of it…even with the sweet light of this eve. C’est la vie!
Although the light was most dramatic over the bridge, I decided to head around and look for a unique vantage on the cityscape. A couple hundred yards down the path, I came to this large puddle, leftovers from the recent rains, and without thinking, immediately laid out flat on the pavement to get this perspective. The camera had to be very low, just a few inches off the ground, so I couldn’t use a tripod. A beanbag would have been helpful, but I didn’t have that and it was too cold to take off my sweater and use that! So, I adjusted my settings to 1/25 at f/4 using a 400 iso. Using my elbows propped to the ground and holding my breath, with the help of the lens’ image stabilization, I was able to achieve a sharp image.
I like the feel of this image. The city in the background, the symmetry of the lampposts, it all seems to create a futuristic feel. The figure in the image completes the scene and adds some needed life. When you take out the figure, the scene feels too sterile.
Follow your bliss
and the universe
will open doors for you
where there were only walls.
So, about a week ago, I received an email that began with:
“Congratulations. We are proud to announce that your work has placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in one or more of the subcategories in the 2008 International Photography Awards competition. 22,872 photographs were submitted spanning across 124 countries!”
and then I did a little dance. Not a big I-won-10-million-dollars-and-never-have-to-work-again dance, but a dance. And of course I had to read it several times to make sure I was reading everything correctly before doing any kind of dance because how bad would that be to jump up and shake my booty in front of my sweetheart only to have her read the fine print saying “and if you could send a cashiers check in the amount of $10,000 to this Nairobi bank, we’ll release your award”…or some such nonsense.
It was fun, but torturous too, having all week to think about what may or may not be. Definitely cool to think back a year when I thought that this was the one photography competition that I would look to enter every year and hope to have some work recognized at some point, and now, just a year later…
The ’08 winners were announced on Friday ending the speculation. I was awarded 2nd place in the Nature category of Sunset for this series of La Jolla images that I’ve been working on, and 5 Honorable Mentions for other works.
It’s definitely rewarding to have been acknowledged for any of the work, but especially sweet that it’s the series of images that I’ve taken in my backyard over the last year. As photographers, I suspect most of us want to travel the globe to new and exotic locations, photographing on our own time-line. (I know it’s my goal!!) But, I’m not at that place yet and this year I’ve really had to focus in on my surroundings…my home.
So, although photography competitions are not a main focus for me, the IPA awards are one I’m proud to have my name attached to. And by coming in 2nd, I left room to do better next year!
Check out the IPA site: Photoawards