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!
(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. ;)