ECLIPSED – THE SPIRIT OF MOOSIE

ECLIPSEDECLIPSED  Joshua Tree National Park, California

At 7:01 pm, February 21, 2008, the shadow of the Earth covered the moon entirely, and the moon was in total eclipse.  An hour earlier, my sister Melissa and I realized we were lost in the rocky wilds of Joshua Tree National Park – with no food or water, in the dark, soaking wet from rain – on an evening that would dip to temperatures in the 30’s.

How did this happen?

Much easier than you might expect.

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BEST PLACES TO PHOTOGRAPH IN SAN FRANCISCO

You could spend an entire lifetime photographing the San Francisco Bay Area and still not capture it all.  It is one of those rare gems – packed full of scenic vistas and perspectives that can keep the passionate photographer endlessly inspired.  It certainly keeps me visually interested and coming back, year after year.  I still continue to find new vantages that compose nicely in the photographic frame.  But what if you are only coming to the city for a weekend, where do you go?  I will share with you some of my favorite locations to photograph in San Francisco.  Some of them are very iconic, some of them are a bit less widely known.  Alternatively, you could join me personally and explore my favorite spots alongside me during one of my SF photo workshops.

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TOWER AT SUNRISE

GOLDEN GATE SUNRISE  San Francisco, California

#1.  Battery Spencer     This spot is certainly no secret, but regardless, it is one of the most spectacular locations to photograph.  And not just in San Francisco, but perhaps the entire country!  This is called Battery Spencer.  Get up there at sunrise or sunset and be prepared to be blown away!  It feels like the Golden Gate bridge is close enough to reach out and touch, which is a very cool feeling.  If you can translate some of that feeling photographically, you are likely to make a powerful photograph.  You can use wide angle lenses all the way to longer lenses for countless perspectives.  Get creative and experiment.  For the above photograph, I was in position well before sunrise and prepared when the light started to get sweet.  The thick fog helped keep the composition simple and clean – making it all about the light, color and atmosphere.

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SPACE AND SOLITUDE – BRINGING ATTENTION TO SPACIOUSNESS

SPACE AND SOLITUDE

INTERSECT  Maui, Hawaii

If you close your eyes and visualize your living room and the various elements within the room, what do you see?  A sofa, a coffee table, an entertainment center, a TV, art, and probably quite a number of other elements.  Now, let me ask you – which element is the largest in the room?

If you are like most people, your response might be – the sofa, the TV, or the entertainment center.  If you think a bit more cleverly, you might say – the walls.  What most people don’t recognize is, there is much more “space” than anything else, by far.  Physicists tell us that 99.999% of the universe is space – no-thingness.  Oddly, science can be so much more bizarre than science fiction!  If you removed all the empty space from the entire human race, leaving only electrons and the other subatomic particles, all seven billion human bodies would fit in the space of a sugar cube.  That’s just mind boggling stuff, right?  But that gives you a sense of how much space there is in relation to form – yet we rarely bring our attention to the space.

With the living room exercise, it points out how we as people are living primarily form-based.  That is to say, our attention is always going from one form to the next to the next – whether it be the external forms of the world, or the hyper-active thought-forms continuously flowing through our minds seemingly on auto-pilot.  We are form-conscious beings, but is this our natural state?  Isn’t it odd that 99.999% of everything is space yet we hardly bring our attention to it?

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DARK COAST – A POEM BY MELISSA EGBERT

I realized today that a piece of writing that my sister had done for me several years back for the portfolio Dark Coast isn’t currently visible anywhere.  Unacceptable!  I can’t believe I hadn’t realized this before!  She wrote me this beautiful piece and I included it in a Blurb book that I had made.  I wasn’t overly pleased with the Blurb book quality so never did much with it, and the poem ended up kinda forgotten about.  Sorry, Moose! 

Without further ado…I’d like to present a piece by Melissa Egbert!


DARK COAST

My constant journey leads me to the edge of the shallow seas.  Time passes with each fluid motion of the water and I wait, for someone or something to capture a moment of beautiful illumination.

The dark coast, where birds settle on the guardrails of the pier, erected by ancient pylons, surrounded by crashing waves of salty water brought from the furthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean.  Waves, gentle and anxious, rhythmically invade the coast, then retreat from the sinking sands back into the flood.

I wander the coastline feeling the ocean air as the breeze cools my skin, tasting the salt on my lips.  I’ve wandered too close to the sea and it tries to pull me in, trapping my feet in the soft sand.  The ocean slips away and in that moment, I feel connected to the transforming world around me.  The world transformed by light and water.  But the moment escapes me like sandcrabs playing and skipping out of my fingers.

As I journey toward the sun, setting in it’s night haven, the clouds have surrendered the last of their offering to the earth, and given way to a silent calm.  I walk the coast, ever nearer to the water, until it surrounds me, moving my body to the sway and rhythms it commands.  I feel the serenity of the world pour through me.

The light is leaving but the water remains.

Written by MELISSA EGBERT

DEAR BANKSY…

Dear Banksy,

I have two favorite artists – you and Vik Muniz.  I have been lucky enough to see Vik’s work in an extensive exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla a few years back, but had not yet been fortunate enough to see your work in person.  I follow your website and own your book, Wall and Piece, so am familiar with the work.  While strolling down a street in San Francisco’s Chinatown a few days back, I was totally surprised to glance down an alley and see one of your works!  I immediately knew it was one of yours, and the plexiglass covering the original work was obvious confirmation.  Unfortunately, some friggin’-idiot had totally defaced the plexi so that the work was barley recognizable!

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THREE NIGHT DIVERS IN LA JOLLA

THREE NIGHT DIVERS  La Jolla, California

I was heading out 4 or 5 nights a week into the dark cool evenings of the La Jolla night and photographing with little or no light.  On this particular occasion, I was heading down the street and saw three divers having just loaded on all of their wetsuit and scuba gear, heading for the water’s edge.  I was curious to see what I might be able to capture. Continue reading

“HOW DO YOU GET THOSE COLORS IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS?”

When I exhibit my work, I am often asked this question in one form or another: how do you get these colors in your photographs?  I can’t help but to be a bit bemused by the question, especially when it comes the day after an epic island sunset that had sicko colors blazing across the entire sky, but have come to expect having to answer this question.  I find it an odd question mainly because I see insane colors in nature all of the time.  Granted, as a photographer, I likely pay closer attention to this than others, but still, there are many times where nature’s light is so dynamic that it forces you to stop and look, whether it be sunset light or a vibrant wildflower – do these folks not see this color?

For those of you who are color-deficient (not due to medical reasons), here are 3 easy ways to Enhance the Vividness reaching your eyeballs:

  • 1)  Take walks at sunrise or sunset.
  • 2)  Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • 3)  Purchase a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses!
  • I’ve been wearing these glasses for 15 years and they truly make the world more beautiful!  I don’t step outside without ’em…unless it’s nighttime ;)

Now, I know that most of the people who ask me about the color in my photographs aren’t asking me because they don’t feel that it exists in the world, as much as it doesn’t exist in their photographs.  This is what they’re essentially asking: Why don’t my photographs look like this?  (In fact, I get that exact question too, and I generally respond by saying, You probably haven’t dedicated the past decade to photography.)  So, if this is what people are essentially asking, then I wonder, why would you expect your photographs to look like this?  If you haven’t awaken 104 times before sunrise to get out shooting in the past year, and if you haven’t missed 234 dinner-times to get out shooting in the past year, and if you haven’t fully dedicated yourself to trying to see and capture dynamic light and color, then why would you expect your photographs to look like this?

The reality is, the dynamic nature of the color in my photographs come from a number of elements.  First of all, place and time of day.  This is obviously the most important factor and it can be insulting when people overlook this and go straight to some comment like, So, are these colors all like photoshopped?  I usually have a quick Woody Allen movie-like-moment in my head where I smack ’em in the head and tell there 6 year old to get their goofball dad outta here before I clone-stamp his ass to oblivion.  (Actually, I totally just made that up and have never thought that before, but you get the idea..)  These type of people require you to have a thick-skin, that’s for sure!  It comes from ignorance, and generally someone who wants an easy explanation of-a-thing – something that will fit nicely in a little box and get compartmentalized and then it’s off to the next thing to quickly solve.  For those people – have fun with that.  So when I say obviously, obviously I am not speaking about everyone.  For the rest of you, place and time of day is the most important factor.  You gotta have dynamic light and color in the foundation of your image, captured in-camera, to have a dynamic and vivid image in your final results.  Or, at least – I do.  After that, you’ve got your post-production, printing, finishing, lighting – all important elements to the color that people see in the work.

This week, I did a photography workshop here on Maui with a father and son from Washington State.  They wanted to cover a number of things, but they were both curious and made multiple inquiries to my color in the days leading up to the workshop.  I decided to take some of the mystery out of it and show them a few images from beginning to end.  I am going to show you the same thing with this image from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco that I captured during my last visit to California.

Here is the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw, straight outta the camera.  The colors are all in the foundation to the image.  The way a digital camera records a scene, it leaves things a bit unfinished.  Whereas a positive slide transparency like Fuji Velvia, properly exposed, is damn near a complete photograph outta camera, digital RAW capture is more like a negative and needs to be completed by the photographer.

Oh, and the back-story to the image – I was shooting here the night before for sunset when the fog moved in, so I felt optimistic about some ethereal sunrise possibilities.  I stayed with a friend in South City 45 minutes away, and although we stayed up ’til 1am-or-later drinking beer and playing Wii bowling, I still managed to get my ass up at 4:30am and get back up here for sunrise…without coffee!  Why on earth would I do such a thing?  Because of Enhance the Vividness Rule #1 people…to get the color.

All I have done in ACR is brought the color temperature down a bit, making the image cooler.  In so doing, the blues and pink become more blue and pink.

Here it is opened into Photoshop.

I open the image into Nik Colr Efex Pro and put a Contrast Color Range layer onto the image.  This is a tool that I use quite often and like.  You can achieve the same results on your own without the plugin, but it speeds things up and works very well.

Here, I apply a subtle curve to the upper part of the image and sky, just to bring those levels up some.

Finally, to add that little bit of punch, I add a little Vibrance and small-kine Saturation.

There, you get to see the path this image followed from out-of-camera to completion.  Not a big stretch.  The foundation has to hold the goods, otherwise you gotta get back out there and shoot it again.  You don’t get good shots every time you go out, because there isn’t going to be dynamic light and color every time you go out, and then the 10 times you do get the sweet-light, 1/2 the time you’ll still not get the shot because of one reason or another.  So, in reality, if you want to get dynamic color in your photographs, you’ve got to get out there a bunch and shoot lots.  If you simply want to see vivid color, pay closer attention and get yourself some Maui Jim’s!

MY PETER LIK STORY

In late 2005, I visited Canyonlands National Park in Utah and captured this photograph - Whispering Winds of Change. This image and location was inspired by Lik's early Utah work.

These days, not a week goes by that I don’t hear Peter Lik’s name.  More often than not, I hear someone mention his name in one form or another while I’m exhibiting my work.  If you’re a color landscape photographer who deals with the public, you may know what I’m talking about.  The fact is, Peter Lik has become widely known from his many galleries and more recent television show.  Up until now, every time I’ve heard his name over the past 7 years, I haven’t mentioned a thing about having known him, worked for him, and having a good understanding of his work, ethics, or general photographic gallery offerings.  I have chosen to not be associated and to not give his name more weight by repeating it aloud.  Well, it seems that much of the world now knows Peter Lik, and for good or bad, my time with the Peter Lik Galleries is part of my photographic journey…it’s part of my story.  In an effort to be more open to my audience through this blog, I have decided it’s time I tell my Peter Lik story.

At the Beginning

As a dedicated young photographer some years ago, near the beginning of my photographic journey, I began to understand and explore the many possibilities and career paths that I could follow with the camera.  I had been having small successes selling my own photography during weekend art fairs.  Most of these photographs were of temples, landscapes or portraits from my trips to Southeast Asia.  I had a good eye for this style of travel photography, and was having my first taste of talking-photography with the public and with representing and selling artwork.

Near that same time, a mostly-unknown photographer was opening the doors to a new gallery in town.  Peter Lik, a photographer with a number of galleries in his home country Australia, had already made multiple attempts to gain success in the U.S. and had failed in both Monterey and San Francisco.  Now I watched as he made another attempt in my hometown of Lahaina, Hawaii.  Front Street Lahaina was in need of something new and different and the Lik gallery stood out right away.  I was totally impressed by the gallery – the size and presentation of the individual pieces, the total gallery space, it was all fabulous and very inspiring to me at the time.  Although I had considered following the avenue of “travel photographer”, the Lik gallery was inspiring and I was now considering a new path as a “landscape photographer”.  As I began to explore the landscape more in depth in my own work, the decision became clear.  My love of nature and the outdoors, of solitude, and of a desire to pave my own way and to eventually work for myself, became clear.  I was to be an artist!

As a passionate photographer, it wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to work for the gallery.  I wanted to learn the fine art gallery business, and I wanted to be around photography as much as I could.  I made monthly visits into the Lik Gallery and spoke to various consultants and the gallery director – Jesse Donovan.  I remember feeling I know more about photography than any of these guys working here, so was surprised to hear Donovan say that photographic experience didn’t necessarily matter much in selling the work, and he typically hired people that did not have photographic experienceReally!?  I thought.  (It wasn’t until later did I understand this reasoning more clearly.)  I continued my visits and made it increasingly clear that I wanted to be a part of the gallery.

Nine months or more had passed.  I continued working nights at a local restaurant while working hard to sell my own photography in local art fairs.  One night while at the restaurant, Jesse came in and sat at the bar.  I went over to say hey while adding in some comment about wanting to work for him, and finally my persistence had paid off – he was actually there to tell me that an opening had become available and if I were still interested, I should come in and talk with him further.  A week later, I was employed by the Peter Lik Gallery and my professional art consultant career had begun.

Lik owes much of his success to his many images of Antelope Canyon in Arizona. As a landscape photographer, it's difficult to resist visiting such a location. I photographed the canyon in 2005, and again in 2008.

Working for Peter Lik Gallery – Lahaina

It was a very exciting, and very interesting time to be working for the Lik Gallery.  The gallery was essentially self-sufficient and was operated by director Donovan, an accountant/bookkeeper, and about six of us art consultants.  When I started there, I think the gallery had been open about one year, and the sales graph was moving consistently upward.  At that time, the sales were approximately 100k-160k a month.
Jesse worked with me and another new consultant quite a bit and began to teach us the sales strategy involved.  I remember how awkward it felt initially to take a piece of art off-the-wall and into the viewing room to discuss with the prospective buyers.  I certainly wasn’t born a salesman.  In fact, I never much liked pushy sales people and the thought of being one was an early challenge to overcome.  But as the weeks went by, this wonderful thing was happening – between the way Donovan was teaching and the passion I had for photography, I was discovering a way to sell without being one of those…salesmen.  I was figuring out a way to be true, honest, direct and authentic with my prospective buyers, while lacing it all with genuine enthusiasm, and what do you know, I was starting to sell!  And, starting to sell pretty well, I might add!

As a passionate photographer, I loved being in the gallery.  I loved viewing the work, talking about the work with visitors, putting on the white gloves and pulling out the beautiful prints that were in stock.  Before too long, I knew every shot that Lik had taken, the title of the piece, the location, and back-story and techniques involved in each shot.  I could talk to the customers for hours, if need be.

One of the things that made this time so very interesting, is that it was in this period when Lik was changing all his limited edition prints from the traditional Ilfochrome prints hand-printed by a master printer in Australia, to Fuji Supergloss prints being printed by a machine.  It was in this first year that I worked with the gallery, that I was able to see the entire collection in both Ilfochrome, and Supergloss!  The difference was B I G.  Some of the images that I thought were so beautiful turned garish.  Two of the images I remember changing the most were Kapalua, and Serenity.  Both were absolute stunners as Ilfochromes, and afterwards…not so much.  Well, to be fair, not to my liking.  It seemed I preferred the artistic decisions Lik made prior to switching to digital prints.

Another thing that made it such an exciting time is that we began to break new records for Lik.  Within that first year I was at the gallery, we broke 200k in a month for the first time ever for a Lik Gallery, and then started doing so consistently.  It was around this time, and directly from the success of these 200k months that we were achieving, that allowed for the next big step in Peter Lik’s career.

Working for Peter Lik Gallery – Las Vegas

Soon after the 200k months in Lahaina, Lik was able to negotiate his way into a space into the Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, a longtime goal of his.  Rumors began in our gallery about Donovan, the-now International Gallery Director, and a couple others heading out to Vegas to help get the next chapter going.

A number of factors were at play for me, but I found myself wanting to be one of the staff that moved out to Vegas.  I had been getting island fever on Maui, felt confident that the gallery would be a success in Vegas and felt that it would be a great learning opportunity.  After discussing the possibilities in-depth with my wife, we decided it would be a good opportunity and we’d go for it.  I approached Jesse with a desire to go and he welcomed me aboard.

A month later, we’re in Las Vegas with all of our possessions, a new apartment, a car, a new wardrobe, ready to go to work.  There were four of us from the Lahaina gallery, plus a few others brought on from Lik’s earlier San Francisco gallery, and a couple other rogue consultants, in addition to Lik himself, who was leading the charge.  A handful of us worked with Lik to help finish the gallery and the floors and ready everything for the Grand Opening.

Before we knew it, we were opening the doors to Las Vegas and a new chapter in Peter Lik’s career.  Up until this point, breaking 200k in a month was a gallery record.  Now, I was personally selling 100k a month!  And so were others.  I think this gallery was doing 700k+ those first months.  It was nuts!  As an art consultant, I’d go to work expecting to do 10k a day.  I’d talk non-stop for my entire shift and be disgusted with my own voice by time I was off work.  It was constant – one presentation after another for your entire shift.  With the way money flows in Las Vegas and peoples impulsive behavior while visiting Sin City, it was an obvious recipe to success – not to mention the fact that the gallery and work was stunning and unlike anything most people had seen before.  It was a huge hit.

Up until this point, Lik had given Donovan a lot of control as to how the galleries and sales strategies would be operated.  Donovan had proven success and the sales strategy we used were ethical and fair to collectors, and producing for the galleries.  Good for the clients, good for the owner, good for the staff.  It was all good and it worked well.  Lik’s prices were reasonably set and ranged from $800 to $4500.  You could purchase a nice big beautiful framed 60″ print (1.5 meter) piece for above your sofa for around 2600 bucks.  Fair enough.

While most of us were a good strong crew of genuine people who simply wanted to work hard and earn a good living, there were a couple that were simply jockeying for position and feeding the insatiable ego of the artist to get ahead.  As the months went by, good staff began to fall victim to the moves played by others, including Donovan, and a more suspect type of person came into control.  This began another very interesting time for the Lik Gallery.

Ironic that just a few years after the "emerging" photographer was inspired by the "master" photographer, now Lik has been inspired by my La Jolla works, such as this composition of the Scripp's Pier that I first made in 2006.

Value of Art?

Once Donovan left and a…different type of person took over, a lot changed.  The entire sales strategy shifted.  Initially, sales dropped.  In order to continue making deals happen and having good daily numbers, they started giving away the house.  Buy one, get one free.  Hell, buy one get two free!  Whatever they could do to get the deal done.    They didn’t know how to achieve the same success as before, so they improvised.  By giving away all this work to get the deals done, it at first appeared to management that the numbers were good, but of course the numbers were all funky and the margins were out of whack.  In order to compensate, drastic changes started happening.  Staff received huge pay cuts for one.  Obviously, this didn’t go over well.  Pricing and limited edition changes to the artwork quickly came next.  There was a significant price increase across the board to the artwork, and Artist Proofs were suddenly born (added to the regular editions) and priced very high – like $25+k.  Before long, a number of things were being realized to these people – mostly regarding the cost to the customer and what they could get away with, and the entire dance became about value.

This focus on make-believe value was another interesting shift in Lik’s career.  Soon enough, they realized that having the $25+k Artist Proofs (AP) helped sell the $3k and $4k pieces.  Someone would fall in love with a piece that was being showed as an AP and be told is was $32,000!  Their heart sank knowing they could not afford that, and then they’d offer you a “regular edition” piece for only $3700.  What a bargain!  You were sold.

My Time to Move On

Seven months seemed like 2 years.  I had gone from being very dedicated to the gallery, to having trouble even talking with customers about the work.  I had sold over $700k of Lik’s artwork in those seven months, but now couldn’t stomach it any further.  Without notice, I quit the Lik Gallery.

What happened?  Well, the shift I discuss above and the myriad of aftereffects from it were a big part of it.  This whole shift toward selling the work on a false-value seemed like a load of shit, to put it simply.  I always prided myself on being able to successfully sell while being honest and genuine to the collector, and suddenly I felt like I had to feed people a bunch of lies.  I know the subject of art and value is a touchy and sensitive subject, and I know there’s plenty of foolish people that will pay a ridiculous amount of money for something solely because it’s priced at a ridiculous amount of money, but at the end of the day, I have to be able to make sense of it and explain it to myself in a sensible way.  For me, it is important to believe in the product and to use my knowledge and enthusiasm to successfully sell it.  When the knowledge and enthusiasm wasn’t enough to sell the now-high-priced work and the discussion with prospective buyers had to become about value, I was done…because I did not believe in the value of the product.*

Secondly, the new directors of the gallery were a big part of me leaving.  I was not accustomed to working with, or amongst, these type of people.  I remember feeling that my days had become a chess match and I had to be careful with how I played my moves.  This isn’t the sort of living I like, nor the sort of people I like to share my bubble with.  This was very clear to me.

Finally, Peter Lik.  You might have noticed that I didn’t mention him much.  That was no accident.

When Lik opened a gallery in La Jolla, he viewed my collection of La Jolla work that I had been working on for several years. My photograph of Windansea is another photograph that inspired his shooting the same location.

In Closing

It’s so bizarre for me to look back on all this and realize that Peter Lik’s work had an influence early on my photographic journey.  With that path becoming so objectionable, it’s not been something I’ve reveled in.  Yet, this period of time did teach me a lot both professionally and personally.  I learned the how-to’s and how-not-to’s to opening and running a gallery honorably, forming a sales strategy ethically, managing a staff respectably, among many other things.  I suppose I would not have learned much of what I did if it had all been peaches.  And, I suppose looking back on it all, I’m thankful it was a “landscape photographer” that came to town and influenced my path over another – my love and passion for my path, and my work, has been unscathed and burns bright.  There isn’t a day that passes that I’m not terribly thankful to be doing what I am doing, to earn the collectors that I have, and to be doing it my way, as respectably as I can.

 

* Value for the product:  I have no problem with artwork selling for high costs.  In fact, I am very happy and excited to see that photography has finally been accepted into the art world and we now see photographs fetching high amounts of money.  These are photographs proving to be very valuable.  2 of the 5 most expensive photographs ever sold were by Andreas Gursky, a living artist.  Last year, his Rhein II photograph sold in auction at Christie’s for 4.3 million making it the most expensive photograph ever sold.  It was an edition of 6.  Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon, a two-part photograph, fetched 3.34 million a couple years earlier in a Sotheby’s auction.  It was an edition of 6.  Cindy Sherman, a living artist, is also on the Top 5 Most Expensive List for her Untitled #96, which sold at auction at Christie’s for 3.89 million.  It was an edition of 10.  I could continue to list photographs of value and there are going to be a couple common threads throughout the list – have you noticed what they might be?  They are sold in auction – not by the actual party.  They are small editions.  Scarcity fuels real value and the auction house brings a certain legitimacy to the sale.

(More thoughts added on this HERE)

SCRIPPS PIER OF LA JOLLA

SUN STAR PIER, La Jolla, California, August 2009

Within days of moving to La Jolla at the beginning of 2005, I discovered this local landmark – the Scripps Pier, and immediately was drawn to it photographically.  I didn’t have any previous connection to piers 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.  This photograph, Time, and the process of making it, being patient and returning every night before everything was right, had much to do with directing me to a new and more personal 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 I had the opportunity to speak with the public about the photo in length.  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 successful image, 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 square compositions.  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; finding myself more drawn personally on an artistic level to cleaner, simpler works, 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 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, never getting closer than a week of the proper time.  I suppose it wasn’t so important to me that I find the exact day or two of the year that it’s do-able.  In reality, 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 2 minutes before it moves north out of sight in this composition.

To get this on my last night in La Jolla!  Pretty cool is an understatement!

TIME, 2006

FOG, 2007

PASSAGE, 2009

(in retrospective – May, 2012)

With some years and many images now between me and this era in La Jolla and these images, it’s interesting to look back, and to see how new thoughts and feelings have developed.  I still feel that Time was the image that sent me on my own path, it felt so original at the time, and therefore it still holds a special place along my path as a photographer.  I wonder if most artists have such a clear moment when their works become more personal.  Perhaps for many, this exact moment is not clear, or for others, clarity of vision never comes at all.

Not too long after Time and Fog, and while still living in La Jolla, Peter Lik came to town and opened a gallery around the corner from my work/exhibit place at that time, the Bartram Gallery.  He evidently was attracted to the composition as well, because soon after he saw my image Time, he came out with his own version – the same composition but, on a gray day with poor light.  Obviously, he didn’t go down there a bunch of times to get sweet light!  It looked like a one-and-done, which I found a bit surprising from him – if you’re gonna replicate, then you’ve got to at least match-or-better the original, right?!  Especially if you’re the self-proclaimed greatest photographer in the galaxy.   Well, I’m guessing he agreed that his first attempt was weak because more recently, a few years later, he’s now come out with a newer version with a bit more dynamic light.  Better than the first attempt, but I think I’ve still got him beat on this one. ;)