I have been working on shooting the Santa Monica Bay in a panoramic format. From both sides; Point Dume and Palos Verdes. The way I shot this project was by combining several frames together. The results are huge views of the city. Some prints can be as large as 40 feet and the detail is incredible. I spent 8 days this winter waiting for the “day after the rain” so I could get super clear views of the bay and the city behind. I also kept a diary the whole time I was shooting it:
I am obsessed with this image. I am crafting it. Has taken me a bunch of days. I got the idea to shoot Downtown form Palos Verdes. I had seen some Hallmarkesque shots from there. This is an attempt to recount for myself how long it takes me to craft a shot.
I get the idea to shoot from PV. I go to Google earth and spend about 3 hrs looking for good vantage points. I look at some amateur photos from the area to get a god Idea of where I think I should be
One month later. The idea to shoot from PV gets in my head again. Go back to Google earth only to find out I did not save my spots from the last time. I spend about 2 hours on Google Earth again and this time I make sure I save my spots.
I am going to a friends place in Sunset Beach so I decide to go and shoot from PV before then head to my friends place after. I pack my camera gear. On my way I decide not to go and shoot, I just don’t feel like it. Maybe I’ll go look at it on the way home from my friends place. On the way home in the freeway, I see the exit but I keep driving. All along I am telling myself I should go look at it, that I am right here, the spot is 40 miles from my house and I am only about 10 miles from it right now. I keep driving and think to myself fuck it; I don’t want to work tonight.
This is it. I am going to shoot today. I don’t feel like it but the weather is right. It will be a super clear day. Unfortunately the winds are 22 mph. I don’t care, I am not sure that I will get to shoot but I am going to look at it anyway.
Victory at sea. Awesome white caps. The wind is moving my truck from side to side. There are some beautiful BW shots of the sea to b had today but I don’t want them, sorry guys, next time. I am here for one shot. I sit in my truck for 3 hrs just thinking about all kind of things, trying to ignore the fact that my shot is out there but its not letting me in today. That’s ok I can wait it out, sometimes the wind backs off a bit at sunset. Not the case today. I got to see it. There’s a lot of potential for an epic shot of not just Downtown but the whole bay going all the way up to Malibu. I am coming back. I sit in traffic on the 110 and wonder how people can do this every day for years.
Night of Day 4
My cat woke me up at 3AM and is hungry. I don’t care, I want to sleep. I long ago stopped trying to reason with him so now I just take it. Take a sleeping pill and try to doze off. Every time I am about to fall asleep, he meows. He’s killing me and I want to kill him, but I don’t. He jumps on top of me and I rise up in my bed arms reaching out to the ceiling and yell out noooooooooooo. Trying to scare him. Then I am awake. Sleeping pill has bean beaten down. The shot pops into my head and I think to myself: If I can see Malibu, then Malibu can see PV. Immediately my mind begins to race, I visualize shooting from the other coast in this gigantic horseshoe bay that is LA and can instantaneously see how one image will met the other image in some sort of imaginary middle. I think I can bend the Plexi so it will give the viewer the feel like he is looking at LOS ANGELES from the middle of the bay, to the right the PV peninsula and to the left the hills of Malibu.
At 4AM I begin to look at the weather and realize that it’s going to be a great day to shoot. The wind died down and the forecast calls for sun all the way into the night. I don’t feel like shooting at all today. Feel drained from yesterday. I know I have to go.
I get to Palos Verdes at 2:30. Scout the location out for a sheltered area. The wind is still a factor. I find a great bush on the edge of the cliff that has a vacuum of air. Perfect. Go back to the truck and grab the sandbags and tripod. Go back down and set those up. Go back to the truck and grab the camera, jacket, hoodie and motto pants. I don’t like to be cold. I shoot a few shots and get my bearings. I figure out what I am going to do and get all the settings on my camera right. Ready to go. Its 3PM but my shot is not going to happen until 5PM. I sit there for the next few hrs looking at the sun, checking out its trajectory, and studying it. I make mental notes on how this will affect my shot from the other side of the bay; it’s going to be more difficult from there because of the angle of the sun. Most likely it will only work at night. I’ll find out.
I kill the time by taking the camera off the tripod and shooting birds, backlit grass in motion and some waves. These orphan shots are always trying to get home.
Malibu. Drove to a few spots before settling on Pt Dume. Hiked to the top and set up the tripod on the east side of the hill, to get protection from the wind. While waiting for the sun I noticed some birds and clouds that were coming together nicely. I shot the birds for about half an hour. Maybe I came here to get this today because even though the view of PV is great from here and the sun is hitting it at the right angle, it is not as clear as the last few days and the Point at PV looks muggy. I shoot it anyway so I can have a matching daytime scene. Doesn’t look so great. Going to have to wait until sunset to shoot it. Gotta wait till the ocean turns black and the light s start to glow out, only way this shot is going to work.
Morning. Spent two hours looking at the files from last night and PV is showing up better than I thought. Going to have to go back again tonight, its worth it, the shot is going to work out I think.
Evening shoot a total failure. Too foggy, cant see PV. This time I wait it out until total darkness. Still no good. I have to come back right after the next rain/wind storm.
Day 8 1.03.12
Spent 4 hrs editing and looking at the files, finally figured out that my subject is the whole bay. I made a drawing and looked at how the sun travels through the bay. Figured out the best lighting situation for each of the coasts. Now I just have to wait for a clear day after it rains, hopefully with some wind. It’s going to be a long day. It means I have to photograph Malibu from PV from sunrise till about 10 am then drive to Malibu and photograph PV from 2PM till sunset.
Day 9 1.07.12
Went to bed at 9 the night before because I was planning on getting up early for the sunrise shoot. Cat fight again. My cat scratched me; I threw him of the bed and then spent the next 45 minutes apologizing to him. It was 3 am. Sunrise shoot. Just missed it but I got the rest of the beautiful morning light. I was surprised to see how great the bay looked backlit. Shot for 2 hours and then drove around the peninsula. I found the Catalina shot I’d been looking for. PV is huge. I saw beaches today I’d never seen before on my drive I instinctively took a left turn and that put me in Palos Verdes drive east. Got to see the neighborhood and made a note of several great roads to photograph cars on as well as people jogging with awesome ocean vistas in the background. Left PV around 9:30 in the morning.
Got home and looked at the files. Success. Finally, on day 3.While editing I realized that there were problems with the night shoot I’d done in the same spot. I have to go back to PV for the sunset shoot so I can have a full perfect set of images from the sunrise until sunset. I am planning on making this print in a way to represent that, not sure how its going to work yet but I can picture both images, the one from PV and the one shot from Malibu meeting somewhere along the middle. I am not sure how it will work but I am curious and want to se it for myself.
Went back to PV at 3pm and stayed until 7. Finally got a good evening pass with the shots. Was very careful to make sure all my settings were right this time. This is my 4th day shooting here and I don’t want to come back. I feel like I’ve gotten to know the bluff I shot from (same exact spot all 4 days) very well. I am getting a very clear picture of how the sun travels through out the city. It’s funny to come home and pass by Downtown and see all the shapes I’ve been photographing up close. I think I have the silhouette of Downtown burned in the back of my head. It’s some sort of compass.
Now I need to spend the day at Pt Dume and get the opposite view.
Just checked the weather and looks like tomorrow or Friday will work for the Malibu shot.
Up at 4:30 this morning. Got the cooler ready: two smoked turkey and cheese sandwiches, two cokes and some cookies. Left the house at 5:15. Listening to Mozart on PCH with no one around makes my truck feel as if it’s floating above the road. When I got there I realized I was about 30 min late to get the early early light but there was still some pink left. I have to park about a half a mile away because the community in Point Dum does not like people that haven’t bought houses there. Surfers like me know that there are a couple of side streets we can still park in. I fasten my tripod to my backpack, put my beanie on and run the half a mile to the point. Running with a North Face 700 jacket does not make any sense unless you are being chased or chasing. Beautiful early light, city lights in the background are glowing. The wind was 24MPH last night, it’s really died down a lot and I am set up on the east side of the point, protected form the wind. It’s the opposite of PV, the point there looks straight out to the west and the wind comes right to it, with its full force.
Started shooting at 6:30 and shot until 8:30. Super clear day, the best I’ve seen, As I shoot I am constantly checking my settings AF ON, Stabilizer, ON, mode 1, check, shooting RAW, ISO 200, I review my earlier files to make sure everything is matching up. I take extra precautions to make sure I don’t make any mistakes, I have waited 3 weeks for this day and I don’t have it in me to return. I always say that but if I don’t get it right, I always return. Packed up and went to my friend Roy’s house in Latigo Point for the day. We ended up taking out the stand up paddleboards for a quick cruise. Roy caught 3 waves; I cruised around and avoided catching anything, super cold. Ate my sandwiches with him and his family. The whole time I thought about nothing but the shot and how the sun was traveling. I returned to photograph at 2:30PM and spent the rest of the day there, shooting until 7:30. I was also able to make a couple of passes while playing with the lights. Success.