The long walk, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This family is enjoying a long walk on the town’s 1500-foot long pier, leading to a restaurant at its very end. The shadow behind them provides a focal point that helps anchor the image. A fisherman leans over the railing at right – he seems to be lost in own thoughts. By using a wideangle lens, I stretch the scene, and make the long walk stretching before them look even longer.
Contrasts, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
My 24mm wideangle focal length is wide enough to embrace a series of contrasts within a single image. The most obvious contrast is in the nature of the two activities that hold center stage here. One fellow is focused only on catching a fish, while an affectionate couple, sitting only a short distance away, is focusing only on each other. The lamppost offers a contrasting vertical thrust to the horizontal sweep of the horizon, the twin benches, and the pier’s railing. There are also contrasting diagonals at work here -- the diagonal clouds are light, feathery, and transient, while the diagonally converging floorboards of the pier are dark, solid, and held firmly in place. There is also a contrast in primary colors. The blue sky fills much of the frame overhead, while the yellow cooler on the bench provides context for the fisherman’s purpose. A final contrast: the pair of pigeons on the pier is hanging around for a possible free lunch. The birds are small in scale, while the humans looming above them are large.
Doubling his chances, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This fisherman lets a pair of poles do the work for him. This setup is incongruous, and invites the viewer to use his or her imagination. I also abstract the fisherman by photographing him from behind, as his arms rested on the pier’s fence and he looked down into the deep blue ocean. He is so intent on studying the sea that he seems to have “lost his head” in the process. Mexico is in the distance at upper left.
Fishing fun, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I made this incongruous image at the far end of the Imperial Beach pier, as a family of four, two of them wearing traditional Muslim costumes, enjoyed a chance to do some fishing. The man and boy at the left are watching a sea lion swimming just below the pier, while the woman in the yellow scarf proudly displays a bloody mackerel she has just caught. I use the reflection of the sun on the water at left to abstract the man and the boy, and allow the two women in the scene to take center stage. A kind fisherman has loaned the fishing rod to the woman in the yellow scarf for only a moment, and she made the most of it almost instantly.
Ecstatic, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I spent the better part of a half hour with a group of men fishing off the end of the Imperial Beach pier. My goal was to express the essence of the sport itself by capturing the responses of the more fortunate among them. Most of these men faced away from me, looking towards the sea. However this man didn’t. As he skillfully reeled in a fish, he turned towards me, delighted that I was photographing his triumph as it happened. He is ecstatic. I’m not sure if his evident pleasure stems from catching the fish itself, or from the fact that I am standing next to him, photographing his successful effort. In any event, this image expresses the whole point of recreational fishing. These are not commercial fishermen. They may indeed catch enough fish for a meal or two, but essentially they fish for pleasure. And this image expresses just that.
Treading lightly, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This fisherman is fishing from a rock jetty, rather than a stable pier. The waves are churning only inches below him, as he carefully threads his way, step by step, over the slippery rocks beneath his sandals. It is after sunset, and he is still at his task, doing it from a place that tests his balance and skill. My image of him expresses solitude, grit, persistence, and risk – all readily understandable human values.
Eye of the mackerel, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
All of the people fishing off the Imperial Beach pier had coolers to store their catches. One of them removed the top of his cooler to show me his latest prize, a large mackerel, still very much alive and staring at me from the bubbly bloody water that swirled around him. Its eye seems incongruously large, and provides the focal point of this image. In my original color image, the huge eye coming out of the bloody water symbolized suffering. I converted the image to black and white, abstracting the image and changing its meaning from suffering to confinement.
Acrobat, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I found this young man seated on a concrete bunker separating the beach from a park adjacent to the Imperial Beach pier. I began to photograph him from a distance and when he noticed that I was making pictures of him, he spontaneously sprang to his feet, threw his body into the air, and somersaulted into the sand behind the wall. I caught him just as he planted one foot on the wall, and threw the other into the air to begin the somersault. Meanwhile, a pigeon resting on the wall next to him did not move a feather. The late afternoon sun throws most of his body into shadow, abstracting him just as it abstracts the massive bunker below him. The entire image comes together a coherent composition as the pair of railings leading down to the sand rhythmically repeats the flow of his thrusting arms, and his planted leg completes the vertical thrust of the corner of the bunker under his foot.
Sport on the sand, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
While surfing and fishing are largely individual sporting endeavors, beach volleyball is a team sport, and offers head to head competition. By shooting into the sun, I abstract the players, the ball, and the net into stark shapes silhouetted against the late afternoon sky. The sun itself is out of the frame, yet its reflection throws a spotlight on the valiant fellow at the heart of the image. He seems to revel in this spotlight – his fingers stab the air, his back is arched, his head is skyward, and the sand explodes below his feet. The sheer scale of the scene itself propels his effort to epic proportions, and because the moment is frozen in time, we must imagine how it will turn out.
Net play, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I made this image only a few minutes before the previous one. Only this image interprets the sport of beach volleyball in an entirely different way. While the previous image concentrates its attention upon a single player, this one involves a man on man confrontation. The figures here are larger and closer, as an attacker and defender clash at the net. This image relies upon spacing – the tension created within the tiny space between the ball and the net itself crackles with energy. It is this decisive instant that provides the expressive power of this image. I shoot all the players as silhouettes, abstracting them into symbolic figures. I later converted the image into black and white to intensify this abstraction.
Shell-seeker, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I was working on an image featuring two empty armchairs watching the golden evening surf cascading towards them. The chairs, complemented by brilliant red beach toys at their bases, made a lovely evening scene. Suddenly a young woman walked into my frame. I held my shot, waiting for her to get out of my picture. Just as she passed behind the second chair she stopped, and gracefully threw one leg into the air and bent forward on the other to retrieve a tiny shell cast up by the sea. I spontaneously changed my mind, and made this image of her, just as her raised toe seemed to hover above the chair. Actually, she was well beyond the chair, but if her toe had been any lower, it would have merged with it and destroyed the beauty and tension of the moment. This image offers a more humane story than my previous “empty chairs” idea. It relates nature to mankind, and the lovely context intensifies that relationship.
Celebration, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I combine two elements to express a celebratory mood in this sunset photograph. The cloud layer lifts at day’s end, permitting the setting sun to break through it with a showering of golden rays upon the sea. The diagonal rays echo the upraised arms of a young boy as he hails the end of a day’s play with his friend at the water’s edge. The scale contrast between the vast ocean, the dazzling sunset, and the tiny silhouettes in the surf takes the measure of man and compares it to the overwhelming presence of nature itself.