When my husband and I just want to get out of the house on a hot summer day we will often head to one of the small Malibu beaches. We take the windy 30 minute drive through the Santa Monica mountains, find an open parking spot on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and step out to a refreshing ocean breeze and air temperatures at least 10-degrees cooler.
The free beaches in LA are a great social equalizer open to all walks of life and economic classes. There is always a story and I always bring a camera. Although the direct lighting is often a struggle, reflecting harshly on the great Pacific Ocean, the payoff are the people, timeless setting, and the stories to be found.
This image, like many street images, was a gift with all the elements aligning just right. I am on wooden staircase leading down from PCH. To get to the beach, you must first cross this strip of asphalt. It was likely once a piece of PCH itself but is now closed providing pedestrian access to the coast.
This littleman surfer was walking up the road. I am attracted to by color and gesture – orange and blue complementary colors, the turquoise of his boogie board tying in with the ocean scene. He glances up at me, but keeps walking. He is trailed by a sandy-white dog dragging his leash, I do not know if they belong to each other. The dog’s color is in harmony with the road slowly returning to its natural unpaved state. These two subjects are tied together by the nostalgic lifeguard stand in the mid ground, adorned by a single seagull perched in profile on the roof. There are many other small details adding to the story: the single communication line leading into the lifeguard station and the silhouette of the tiny people in the surf. The one tiny person standing with arms slightly raised and feet spread provides a special visual gift by showing this fully detailed outline. Even the scraggy row of cactus at the bottom of the image provides locational cues and a compositional base to this southern California scene.
It is a bright sunny day. Before getting out of the car, I mount a fixed 50mm equivalent lens and set the camera to f/11, ISO 400, with the center focus point turned on. Images will appear and disappear quickly. There will be no time to frame with a zoom or fuss with focus or other settings. Little Man gave me this gift within 5-minutes of our arrival.
El Matador Beach, Malibu CaliforniaIlford Delta 100, Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm T*, D76 1+1
As I work in Medium Format (2-1/4 x 2-1/4 film), I’m looking for simple shapes and compositions. There were some very lovely simple compositions at El Matador this weekend, but they weren’t very effective in B&W. I’ve been thinking about B&W and intellectually understood the need for contrasts, but it wasn’t until I evaluated this image in with my other, simpler, images, that I understood just a little bit better.
Stand Tall by I Nancy, on Flickr
Today’s hike was at Malibu Creek State Park with good photo buddies Jerry, Connie, and Hutch. Jerry, Connie and I were trying out our gear management systems (err, I just made that up – how we carry our gear) for a trip to Utah that we are taking at the end of the month. I was testing out how I would carrying my new Induro CT114 carbon fibre tripod and Acratech GP Ballhead. With the whole setup weighting a bit less than 4lbs they were both a pleasure to use and to carry. I mostly just carried it across my back draped diagonally across my body. The biggest hitch was managing how the camera, tripod and hat straps were intertwined.
“Gear is good, but vision is better” (thank you David DuChemin) so I must get to talking about my vision for these images.
In September it is starting to feel like fall in most parts of the US, but not in beautiful sunny southern California. Here is is still full on summer. Highs between upper 80 and 100 F. Today was about 84. The sun is bright and harsh and all the bad stuff for taking photographs. I’m not one to make my living from HDR images, but I knew before I left the house that HDR was a technique I would need today to keep the exposure and lighting under control. Also, this little grove of redwoods and just that, a little grove. A little anomaly in what is mostly brush, sycamores, and California oaks. And in comparison to the big redwoods in northern California, they are quite small. I wanted to exaggerate their height and isolate them to make it feel like we were surrounded by redwoods. Setting up the tripod I was conscious to keep the sky as filled with branches as possible and create some dramatic angles. f/9 for good depth of field, 28mm for fairly wide angle. In this shot I setup specifically to shoot into the sun. It is actually one of my favorite things to do to add additional drama and power to a shot. Since I was shooting HDR, I knew I could recover the tree shadows in the exposure brackets.
Here are two more from the day: one capturing the spread of the branches and the other as if the redwood was posing for a classic portrait.
Braching Out by I Nancy, on Flickr
Portrait View by I Nancy, on Flickr