A dance at sunset, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I rarely will make a stand-alone photograph of the setting sun. Instead, I will usually try to use a sunset as a backdrop for an image that tells a story. In this case, I focused on two young girls dancing together upon a gilded reflection at the edge of the beach. I made a series of images of these children at play as the sun slowly set in the background. This image is my favorite of the series – the sun touches the horizon just as the children turned their backs on each other, and moved in opposing directions. Each child had one foot off the ground at this instant – one high, the other inches away from the golden wet sand. The vertical frame echoes the dancing vertical figures, playing them against a series of ten horizontal bands that flow behind them. The golden sunset offers atmosphere and mood, while the dancing children evoke spontaneous expressions of joy and pleasure.
Dusk run, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I make the majority of my evening photographs after the sun has already set, but before nightfall removes the colors from the sky. This period, called dusk, usually produces the most striking colors and offers an ideal tool for abstraction. By rendering this runner as a silhouetted figure, I abstract it to remove its gender, identity, and all detail. The figure becomes symbolic rather than descriptive. I saw the runner coming long before it entered my frame. As I waited, I carefully composed the entire background, placing the horizon above the center, keeping a thin strip of beach at the bottom and reducing the amount of golden sky at the top. Most of the frame is filled with horizontal bands of flowing surf, tinged in pink. The distant clouds floating on the horizon create a crowning layer. When the figure finally entered the frame at right, I left more space to the left – space symbolizing the distance this runner has yet to travel.
Quartet, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Four small children await one of the evening’s final waves, long after sunset. There is still a slight pink glow among the scattered clouds that float above the cloudbank massing in the distance. Two of the children appear to be in motion, while two others remain in place. The nearly equidistant spacing between the children unites them into a single quartet. Darkness is nearly upon them, and they are the only remaining group of people still at play in the surf. The image takes four individuals, and bonds them into a group, using light, time, and space to do so.
Seascape, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
On this night, clouds masked the sunset itself. A threating cloudbank on the horizon acts as a reflector, deftly painting the colors of the invisible sun upon both sea and sky. This seascape image is anchored by the tiny figure wading through a reflected pool of light at the bottom of the frame. The pool of light flows towards the horizon, where a distant fiery red band of reflected sunlight burns through the base of the cloudbank. Meanwhile, the sky itself becomes an artist’s palette as yellow and orange colors are reflected upon the scattered overhead clouds. While a lovely seascape is the result, the small figure standing in that pool of light creates the story here. It is so small, yet seems to face the vast sea and the threat of storm without a qualm.
Concrete hammock, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This is the first of four successive photos in this gallery that I made of people with phone in hand. This beachgoer checks her phone as she incongruously attempts to relax on a concrete hammock – actually a massive retaining wall at one of the entrances to the beach. I photograph her from behind, and contrast her horizontal positioning with the woman at left who, drink in hand, plods through the sand as she leaves the beach.
Sunset shadows, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This image is also a photo of someone looking at a smartphone. Such pictures will usually not prove expressive unless something else is happening in the image to provide a story-telling context. While this man may provide a focal point for my image, it is the mass of shadows incongruously cast on the wall next to him that brings expressive value to this image. The shadows belong to some of the many visitors who have assembled near the beach to photograph the sunset itself. Those people have no idea that their shadows have become the subjects of my own sunset image. The man looking at his phone does not see either the shadows or me – his sees only what is on the screen before him.
A quiet place, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
When people make a phone call in public places, they will often seek a spot that is in shadow, in order to see more detail on their phone’s screen, or in a quiet corner, so they can hear the conversation more easily. I photograph this caller, one of the many surfers that gather on this beach, as he squeezes into a shadowed corner on the perimeter of a luxury hotel. I composed the image so that a line of delicate plantings fills much of the frame and flows towards the subject, ending abruptly at the electric utility boxes just in front of him. A decorative white wall behind these plantings seems to move through the sunlight, carrying the eye to the subject.
Anonymity, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I was photographing this car standing in front of a white picket fence, concentrating on its incongruous protective cover. It hides the car’s detail to make it seem mysterious. As I worked on this image, a woman entered my frame, wearing a blue beach robe and pressing a phone to her head. I caught her just as she neared the shrouded car. Her hair obscures her identity, abstracting her just as the shroud stretched over the car hides its details from us. The slats of the white picket fence in the background rhythmically combine to link both subjects. Together, the dual abstractions create an image expressing the nature of anonymity in our society.
Shrouded beetle, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I photographed this shrouded Volkswagen beetle from a distance against a dark wall, allowing light and shadow to reveal its distinctive identity even though the car is completely covered. Although we know exactly what is beneath this shroud, which protects the car from the salty seaside mist, this abstracted image still is incongruous. I increase the abstracted mood by converting the color image to black and white.
Shroudless, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Unlike the vehicles in the two previous examples, this truck does not live under a shroud. It displays an accumulation of rust most likely inflicted by years of salty mist that often lingers along many of California’s beaches, particularly in the early morning hours. The house behind it is surrounded by potted flowering plants, providing an incongruous contrast to the rusted vehicle parked before them.
Weekend bathers, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
On summer weekends, the town’s beaches are crowded with bathers, most of them coming from the San Diego area. I made this image from the pier so that I could shoot down on them. This high vantage point allows the viewer to enjoy these bathers as individual details. It also allows me to stress the pattern of the incoming waves that flow through most of the frame. The wave pattern provides a context that links all of these bathers, in spite of their numbers and their varying size and activity, into a coherent scene.
Weekend sands, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
The sands of Imperial Beach are filled with visitors during summer weekends. I tell that story by moving in on them with a long telephoto zoom lens. I use this long lens to stress my point by compressing the bathers, bringing them even closer together than they actually are. Although the scene is very crowded, I make the image coherent by leaving the only real empty space at the bottom of the frame, creating a spatial anchor for the young man running towards us with the belly-board under his arm. Our eyes go right to him, and then take in the vast supporting cast, many of them shaded by a mass of multicolored umbrellas that dominate the balance of the frame.