Day’s end, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
On a few nights during my visit, I was fortunate to be able to photograph the sun touching the sea as it passed through a distant bank of translucent clouds. The clouds render the orb of the sun in various shades, ranging from yellow to pink to orange. I caught such a multi-colored sun in this image, just as an incoming silhouetted surfer was finishing a successful run. The small surfer adds a sense of scale to the scene, as both man and nature combine to symbolize the end of the day.
Point Loma, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
“Sunset” photography can go well beyond the actual setting of the sun over the ocean. Once the sun has vanished below the horizon, dusk may bring magical colors to bear on a scene such as this one. This surfer lies flat on his board, waiting to catch an appropriate wave and ride back to shore. The sun may be gone, but the pink and orange sky still illuminates the texture of the water itself, and throws the waves that thread through the image into relief. The peninsula in the background is the San Diego area known as Point Loma. It lies as flat on the horizon, just as the surfer does on his board.
Heading home, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I placed the end of the Imperial Beach Pier in the upper left hand corner of this image, and then waited for someone to enter the lower right hand corner to give me a diagonally organized image. I was able to shoot numerous figures moving through that lower corner, but the body language of this surfer on his way home best told the story I was looking for. I wanted an image that summed up the end of a surfer’s day, and the body language of this person – head tilted forward, one arm wrapped around the board and the other handing before him – perfectly matched my intentions. The landmark restaurant at the end of the pier identifies the locale, while the pattern of broken clouds floating over a pink sky underscore the end of this surfer’s day.
Diehards, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Well after the sun had set, and the ocean had turned to a creamy pink color, I noticed two young body boarders walking the water’s edge, probably looking for a good spot to have fun while they still could do so. More importantly, there was another surfer kneeling on his board in the background. Adding them together within the same frame, I am able to photograph a symbolic community of diehards – pushing their participation in this sport to a limit set by nature itself.
Surfhenge, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This 20 foot high gateway to the Imperial Beach Pier Plaza was created by artist Malcolm Jones and dedicated in 1999. Each of the four translucent surfboard shaped arches weigh three quarters of a ton. They symbolize giant surfboards stuck in the sand, and pay homage to the surfing heritage of Imperial Beach. The presence of feathery clouds in the sky inspired me to make this photograph with a wideangle lens from across the street, allowing me to not only include the clouds in my image but also the feathery palm trees that dominate the scene. I layer this handsome gateway with people in both the foreground and background, flanking the giant boulder that draws the eye through the monument and give a sense of scale to the image.
Colorful entry, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
One of the most important advantages of staying in one location for an entire month is the ability to return again and again, at different times of day, to photograph the same subject in many different ways. I photographed Surfhenge, the gateway to Imperial Beach’s pier area, nearly every day I was there. I made this photograph late in the afternoon, when the translucent arches framing this public art monument were in their most colorful state. I used a nearly 300mm telephoto focal length for this image to compress the spacing of the arches until they merge into a single band of vivid colors. I photographed a variety of different people passing below the arch and in the surrounding background. This image combines two figures – one man carrying a water bottle is wedged between glowing green and red acrylic, while another stands upon the green grass in the background, bordered by green and yellow arches. A palm tree trunk stabilizes the entire frame at the left hand edge. This piece of civic art becomes living art, part and parcel of the community itself.
Selfie, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I knew that the translucent acrylic “surfboard” arches comprising the Surfhedge gateway to the town’s pier always project vividly colored reflections upon the surrounding sidewalk around 5:30 pm each day the sun may be shining. One afternoon, I used a 24mm wideangle focal length to link my own shadow with these striking reflections, creating a self-portrait that symbolizes my personal impression of a town so closely identified with the sport of surfing.
Spirit, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This 18 foot high sculpture, entitled “The Spirit of Imperial Beach, depicts both surfing and sand castles, activities closely linked to this town’s identity. Created in 2008 by the sculptor A. Wasil, the sculpture features a seven-foot tall lifeguard surrounded by children building a fantasy city out of sand. I photographed this sculpture in a number of ways, and rather than literally describing the statue, I found the most successful approach was to link it to the surrounding architecture and vegetation. I photographed only the huge lifeguard, and used an off to one side vantage point to blend it into the geometry of the background building and its surrounding palms.
Detail, Spirit sculpture, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This is the same sculpture appearing in the previous image. Only this time, I emphasized a small detail that validates the popular appeal of the entire artistic effort. The sculpture includes two bronze children at its base, making castles in the sand while flanked by large bronze fish placed just below the towering lifeguard seen in the previous image. I moved in on the foot of one of those children that seems to be riding on the back of the fish. Both the child’s foot and a fish’s fin have been rubbed so many times by visitors that the patina has worn off, and the bronze base is showing through. This detail expresses how some people interact with this piece of art – for them, viewing it has also become a tactile experience.
Sea and Sky, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Among the works of public art that are placed at the end of major Imperial Beach streets ending at the sea, the sculpture “Sea and Sky” is by far the most simple. Sculptor Ken Smith uses reflecting light that flows from the highly polished stainless steel surface to enhance an abstract vision of a graceful seagull flying overhead. I have abstracted Smith’s work in my camera, using a wideangle lens to photograph it from underneath, with the sun creating a halo just behind the stylized seagull. My interpretation of Smith’s art stresses only one part of his sculpture -- flight. To see the entire sculpture, view the next image in this gallery.
Same sculpture, different story, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This photo of the same Ken Smith sculpture, which also was the subject of my previous image, takes an entirely different viewpoint here and tells another story. The previous image was an abstract vision of a soaring seagull. I made this image from a distance and included a rising moon, a lifeguard tower, and a group of people having a chat in the background. I abstract it in shadow, rendering it largely as a silhouette. I reveal the entire sculpture here, depicting an abstract sea otter floating on its back and playing with a large sphere on its belly. The wings of the flying seagull now become the tail of a playful otter. The curved shape of its back echoes the curve of slender quarter-moon overhead.
Mermaid mural, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This mural adorns a nearly block long wall of a souvenir shop on the town’s main street. I saw this cyclist approach and watched him approach the mermaid that seems to be awaiting his arrival. As his head meshed with the white background, I made this image. The young man’s red shirt echoes the color of the huge lollypop he has just passed.