Southern California Photos

Southern California including Santa Barbara

This is a heavily populated area, but along the coast there are piers and lots of wide beaches which are perfect subjects for wide angle photography under the right lighting conditions. I like to keep people out of my images so that the viewer feels a though he or she is the only one in that peaceful moment. The San Diego area coastline has sandstone cliffs and bluffs along the sea are extremely beautiful in shape, color and form. The coast from Santa Barbara and north to Big Sur are very scenic areas.

 

Oceanside Surf - Oceanside Pier, CaliforniaOceanside Surf – Oceanside Pier, California

It had been clear all day and by noon, things were looking grim for any sort of a dramatic sunset. Fortunately, this cloud bank I saw all day moved over the ocean at sunset and I saw this amazing scene just as I had hoped. It extended to the north and south for at least 50 miles in each direction. The cloud was moving quickly but it was evaporating on the backside and forming in the front side, so overall it remained in place for hours. It was still there at 10 at night!

Needless to say, it is really important to study the clouds to know whether it is worth your effort to drive 40 miles as I did to capture this scene.

 

Winter Light at La JollaWinter Light at La Jolla – Southern California

A winter storm was clearing right at sunset, which is often the best time to photograph the seascape on the California coast. Only for a few hours after a storm do you get these fluffy clouds which light up nicely about 15-30 minutes before sunset. After that, the skies clear up fast leaving you with ‘good’ weather, which is usually boring for photography.

Storms pass by quickly here. So when the cumulus clouds are thick and fluffy like this in California, they often they disappear at sunset or the light fades into a color-less sunset. You need the light coming down through these sorts of clouds for the best effect. In general, the thicker the clouds, the higher the sun must be for the best light.

 

Santa Monica Spin #3 - Santa Monica Pier, CaliforniaSanta Monica Spin #3 – Santa Monica Pier, California

This is the new wheel that was installed after the old one was sold on eBay for US $132,400 to an Oklahoma developer sight unseen! This is a very high-tech wheel with programmable lights that can create patterns and images. Also, it is powered by the solar panels you see in front of the wheel.

It is difficult to capture this correctly. The wheel must be in motion to get this effect, but slowly in motion. It constantly stops to let passengers on and off. And then the light in the sky fades. You only get a few minutes to get it right.

 

Santa Monica Spin #4 - Santa Monica Pier, CaliforniaSanta Monica Spin #4 – Santa Monica Pier, California

The wheel changes colors and patterns every few seconds. So every shot looks completely different it seems. The bad news is that you only get about 10 minutes where the light is even enough to get a decent exposure across the entire frame. That is the brief period when the lights are bright, but not too bright and there is light in the sky. The other bad news is that it takes about 7 minutes to fill up the wheel with passengers before it spins 2 or 3 times and then stops again. So I really only got a few minutes during the entire evening where the wheel was in motion and the light was good at the same time. Still, I managed to get a few nice images.

 

Christmas Morning at Santa Barbara #1

Christmas Morning at Santa Barbara 1 – Stearns Pier, California

Before sunrise it was completely clear but fortunately some nice clouds moved in to bring color to Christmas morning. It was cool but not too cold.

There was nobody on Stearns Wharf or on the beach. It was perfectly calm and a great morning to be out there.

 

Santa Barbara Evening - View of the Channel Islands, CaliforniaSanta Barbara Evening – View of the Channel Islands, California

This is the view from 4,000 feet above Santa Barbara looking south towards Santa Cruz Island. Part of Channel Islands National Park. To the right is Santa Rosa island and far to the right is San Miguel Island. The Channel Islands are America’s Galapagos Islands and home to the oldest dated human remains in North America-Arlington Springs Woman (13,000 BP). The world’s most complete pygmy mammoth specimen was discovered on Santa Rosa Island in 1994. These miniature mammoths, only four to six feet tall, once roamed island grasslands and forests during the Pleistocene era.

 

The Light Behind the Pier - Scripps Pier, La Jolla, CaliforniaThe Light behind the Scripps Pier – La Jolla, California

The Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California is used by oceanographers to do studies on the ocean and its effects on the rest of the planet. Before making this image, I waited for the light rays to arrange themselves between the pilings. I also waited for the waves to pull back leaving foam on the sand. I didn’t have to wait too long because the wind was howling and the clouds were moving quickly. The sea spray and rain made the shafts of light easily visible. The rain also added depth to the image by having the background disappear into the mist. I liked how the light brought out the colors in the foam on the sand. Good atmosphere often produces subtle effects that you don’t see on a clear day.

 

Malibu Light - Malibu Pier, CaliforniaMalibu Light – Malibu Pier, California

The last rays of sunlight peeked though the clouds, bathing the Malibu Pier and the hills in the distance. The waves were small, which allowed lots of light to reflect off the water and the sand. The sunset behind the camera was excellent with lots of color in the clouds, but I liked the light on the pier even more. Many times, it is best to point the camera away from a nice sunrise or sunset because the light will be superb on the land and sea opposite from the sun. I also like how the small bits of seaweed cast long shadows on the sand.

 

Sandstone and Sky #1 - La Jolla, California
Sandstone and Sky 1 – La Jolla, California

On this morning, I was struck by how the clouds complemented the sandstone formations. So I arranged this scene and waited for a dramatic wave to impact the shoreline. Once the light was cascading across the scene, I made the exposure.

 

Sandstone and Sky #2 - La Jolla, CaliforniaSandstone and Sky #2 – La Jolla, California

So, I was shooting the sunrise out at the point on the far left of this frame, pointing to the right over the ocean when I looked up and saw this amazing formation in the strato-cumulus cloud deck. I looked around for some rock formations that lined up with the clouds but saw nothing out there. So, I ran almost a mile down the beach over terrain like you see in the foreground until I finally saw what I wanted. Fortunately the cloud formation stayed in place long enough for me to capture it here! Then I waited for a wave to complement the scene and provide definition to the sandstone formation on the right side of the frame.

 

La Jolla Falls - La Jolla, California

La Jolla Falls – La Jolla, California

I was in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore a while back trying to get out of the heat when I noticed a familiar looking photo in the Calendar section. I picked it up and sure enough, there was my photo on the cover of the Audubon 2012 Nature Calendar with a circulation of over 3 million worldwide. It was fun to see it there of course!

This image was chosen for the cover and for the month of February along with another of mine for May. And I was paid, so that was all fine. Of course I bought a few copies to give as presents.

 

Santa Barbara Sunrise - Stearn's Wharf, CaliforniaSanta Barbara Sunrise 1 – Stearns Wharf, California

Stearns Wharf is the central attraction on the beach in Santa Barbara. There are shops and great places to eat while you take in the dramatic views of the ocean and the ridge of 4,000-foot mountains behind the city. In the winter, the sun rises behind this wharf, which is the oldest working wharf in California.

It took 10 trips to this pier over the course of a year before I finally made this photograph. On the other occasions, it was either completely clear (most of the time) or completely foggy. There are few places on the west coast where you can see a sunrise, but this beach faces southeast so during the winter, the sun rises behind the pier and over the ocean.

 

Joshua Tree Oasis, CaliforniaJoshua Tree Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park, California

This was the only spot I could find in the entire park that had any standing water. It was late spring, and there were a few flowers around but not enough to make a good landscape, so a water scene was the next best thing. It is a natural spring with a small dam that raises the water level a few feet. It can go dry in the summer. Fortunately a few rare clouds drifted by, improving the light quite a bit!

 

Santa Monica Evening #1 - Santa Monica, CaliforniaSanta Monica Evening at the Pier 1 – Santa Monica, California

The Santa Monica Pier is a great place to escape the summer heat and enjoy an ice cream and watch all the people walking by. I used an 8-second exposure to show the movement without the people disappearing entirely. The timing on the wheel was important. The wheel would stop to pick up passengers and then move a little, eventually filling up to spin several times.

Here, a little movement was combined with a medium amount of light to fill the circle with light, yet not overpower the rest of the scene. The spokes show when there is no movement in the wheel and though it looks great to the eye, a single image simply shows the spokes.

 

Crystal Cove Breakers - Laguna Beach, californiaCrystal Cove Breakers – Laguna Beach, California

Stearns Wharf is the central attraction on the beach in Santa Barbara. There are shops and great places to eat while you take in the dramatic views of the ocean and the ridge of 4,000-foot mountains behind the city. In the winter, the sun rises behind this wharf, which is the oldest working wharf in California.

It took 10 trips to this pier over the course of a year before I finally made this photograph. On the other occasions, it was either completely clear (most of the time) or completely foggy. There are few places on the west coast where you can see a sunrise, but this beach faces southeast so during the winter, the sun rises behind the pier and over the ocean.