Monthly Archives: February 2015

Photography In San Diego Weather

Weather is tough to predict, even for meteorologists.  Landscape photographers have the challenging task of reading the weather and deciding when to get their gear out and when to wait for another day.

I live in San Diego, which has a reputation for constant sunny weather.  The truth is that weather in this area is much more complicated and nuanced.  I have spent many years learning, and being frustrated on the way, waiting for the perfect weather to make landscape images.

As with most areas, approaching and clearing storms provide amazing, dramatic, light.  Because San Diego sits in an arid environment, there are only a few storms per year.  These weather systems usually generate a lot of buzz, and for photographers, it is relatively straight-forward to be ready.

Spring and Fall weather are strongly influenced by the onshore flow, also known as marine layer, which blows in every evening from the Pacific coast.  I have had many lovely evenings end with zero light at sunset due to this phenomenon.  Sometimes, the fog is subtle, and I have been headed down Interstate 8 to Sunset Cliffs only to go from sunny skies to dark overcast just one mile from the coast.  If you have heard of “May Gray” or “June Gloom,” then you know what this looks like.

Summers prevent the onshore flow from greatly influencing the weather, but what seems to be a plethora of high pressure systems prevents the North American jet stream from veering far enough South to bring us weather systems.  Occasionally, a system will blow in from the Pacific south of the jet steam, sometimes called the Pineapple Express.  These weather systems seem to be pretty rare.

In the height of Summer, the monsoon season which affects the Southwest deserts occasionally makes it way to San Diego County.  I like to head to East County when these systems develop in the afternoon.  I have found, though, that while these cumulonimbus clouds look impressive at noon, they are often scattered from high elevation winds by sunset.  These are typically not a red sunset.

The Fall brings much of the same onshore flow from the Spring, so the same rules apply.

The Winter is my favorite season to photograph.  The Pacific current keeps temperatures cool, so onshore flow is slow to develop.  In addition, San Diego seems to develop more higher elevation cloud systems in the afternoons.  The higher the clouds, the better to photograph at sunset.  This is the time of season where you need your gear with you at all times.  Clear the schedule.  Watch at all times.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my friends app, Skyfire, at http://www.skyfireapp.com.  This application will provide you some intelligence on reading the weather and selecting the best locations at sunrise and sunset.  I am a paid subscriber myself, and use it several times a week to give me some insight into what to expect out in the field.

It is important that wherever you live, you invest time and energy in learning your local area’s prevailing weather patterns.  Do your homework, because some people aim to make lucky photographs, but an artist aims to make prepared photographs.  Be the latter person.

Best Photo Locations In San Diego

Best Photo Locations In San Diego

Sunset at La Jolla Shores - Great San Diego Photo Locations

Sunset at La Jolla Shores

Finding the best photo locations in San Diego is important for people visiting or who people who are fortunate enough to live here.

Having spent the last 18 years in San Diego, I have had the opportunity to learn many of the best places to make images in town.  This is a living list, is not complete, and will be updated over time.  With that being said, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment if you think another location deserves consideration.

This list is presented in no particular order, because ranking photo locations is entire subjective.  That being said, I will try to leave what I personally feel are the best locations towards the top of the list.

  • La Jolla Cove

    • La Jolla Cove may be the jewel of San Diego.  The cove has rocky outcroppings making various designs and patterns that make perfect foregrounds for your landscape images.  This location is fogged in during marine layer season.  Look for approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds.  Be extra careful during periods of high surf.  Unexpected large waves have drenched many a tourist and photographer.  It is highly recommend you get to the cove extra early because of very limited parking.  If you are coming on a weekend, it is likely best to park in the village (the bank building has plenty of paid parking) and hike down to the cove.
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

    • Sunset Cliffs is a beautiful location.  Just South of Ocean Beach (O.B.) mostly along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, this can be a phenomenal location outside of marine layer season.  Look to come here during approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds.  Parking can be limited on weekends.  Look to park on the Northbound side of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard on the curb.
  • Harbor View/Lucinda Street

    • A world-class view of Downtown San Diego is available at this Point Loma location.  The street is steeply sloped facing downtown.  The locals who live in the neighborhood are well used to photographers capturing an amazing view.  That being said, it is important you spend your time there quietly and respectful of those who live there.
  • Balboa Park

    • Now celebrating it’s 100th anniversary, Balboa Park is one of the best ways to spend time in San Diego.  There are numerous locations to make images, from landscapes to portraiture to street photography.  Locations include the Organ Pavilion, the famous koi ponds, the Botanical building, the Bea Evenson Fountain, the Old Globe Theater, and the famous tower.  You can also capture the North side of Downtown from the El Prado Bridge.
  • Scripps Pier/La Jolla Shores

    • Scripps Pier is famous for various images taken under the pier with the waves crashing in.  In addition, along the walk down from La Jolla Shores Drive, you have several compositions using the pier as a leading line in your photograph.  To the south of the pier, there is an elevated sitting area with plenty of room for you to set up.  The pier is not as picturesque up front.  There are usually vehicles parked on top.  The pier is an active research facility for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  Keep in mind that east of the beach, you are on public property for UCSD, and you should respect the area appropriately.
  • Centennial Park/SDG&E Park

    • Both locations in Coronado offer great views of Downtown San Diego.
  • Santee Lakes

    • If you enjoy making photographs of birds and wildlife, then Santee Lakes is an amazing place.  Thousands of ducks can be found migrating as well as year-round on the 7 individual lakes.  Ospreys hunt fish out of the lakes, and you can find them eating their meal on power poles.  Egrets are everywhere.  Hawks are easy to find, particularly morning and evening.  Dragonflies can be found in the reedy areas every hot September.
  • Oceanside Pier

    • The Oceanside Pier is huge, and if you want to include a cityscape in your image, you can walk out a great distance and look back.  The beach is also fantastic, and I have made sunset images balancing the pier, some lifeguard towers, and people enjoying their day at the beach.  Because of the size of the pier, this is a great twilight or night image as well.  Just after sunset, wait for the lights to come on to make a more powerful photograph.
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve

    • Torrey Pines is famous for being one of the best places to photograph the green flash.  However, being some of the rarest pine trees in the world, you have many opportunities to balance the trees with the surrounding landscape.  This photo location is best at sunset.
  • Coronado Tidelands Park

    • The tidelands park can be an amazing photo location.  The park gives you a view of the Coronado Bridge in San Diego Bay.  Boats, canoes, and kayaks are often beached, giving you an amazing foreground for your image.  Images in light fog can be spooky.  Stormy sunrises can be amazing.
  • Windansea Beach

    • Windansea is another local location with easy beach access, as well as plenty of rock outcroppings to give you numerous compositions to photograph.  Parking at this photo location is also limited, so get there early.
  • Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial

    • Mount Soledad is famous for it’s somewhat controversial memorial, but it is overlooked as a photo location.  Parking is limited, but normally not impossible to get.  While the memorial is supposed to be open 7 AM to 10 PM, I have photographed sunrises and evenings outside of those hours with no issues.  This was a great location to get one of the last lunar eclipses.  This location is a good sunset location in the Summer when the sun is high in the sky, but a separate peak with towers obscures the view at 270 degrees and is therefore not recommended for most sunsets.
  • Bird Rock

    • Bird Rock has several outcroppings you can photograph from.  Same rules apply on the best days and times to shoot.  Be very careful in this area along the rock.  I broke a finger making this image.  Worth it for the shot, but it is easy to get injured.
  • Mount Helix

    • Mount Helix is just outside of La Mesa and has a wonderful 360-degree view.  This is a great location particularly at sunset for the view of San Diego to the West.  There is limited parking, so it is recommended you arrive early.
  • El Cajon Mountain

    • El Cajon Mountain is one of the most overlooked photo locations in greater San Diego.  Also known as El Capitan, the massive piece of granite is an impressive sight.  Easily seen throughout the county, but hard to approach for a photograph, my best advice is to look for Creek Hills Road and locate the El Monte Park trail.  A great scenic overlook is about a half mile down the trail.  Look for good clouds in the morning or evening.  The rock glows a bright orange at sunset.

Again, this list of San Diego photo locations is not complete.  Please bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates.  Feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have further suggestions.

New Features I Would Like To See In Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

It is about that time, and Adobe Systems will soon be announcing Photoshop Lightroom 6. For those who have been with the program since Lightroom 1, they have seen the program evolve from rudimentary to indispensable. While there are a number of amazing tools such as Nikon CaptureNX, OnOne Photo Suite, Topaz Labs, and MacPhun, Lightroom has the largest recognition and scale in the field of photography. When a new version is announced, everyone must pay attention.

I have witnessed the impressive maturation of Lightroom from it’s initial edition to Version 5. What were once massive updates have become more subtle as Adobe adds more fit and polish to an incredibly full-featured product. That being said, here are my list of updates, dream, and wish-list items I would love to see if Lightroom 6.

  • Automatic dust spot detection. Adobe added a great contrast filter that allows you to detect even hard-to-find dust spots. Now, I must admit, I use my cameras so much that I am often stuck with a dirty sensor in between cleanings.
  • An update to the 2012 Process. The upgrade from the 2010 Process to the 2012 Process was significant (who remembers the Recovery slider?).
  • Better plug-in integration. One of the greatest features of Lightroom is the non-destructive editing. Your edits in Lightroom do not tough the raw file until you export an image. However, if you are using a plugin (such as Nik Software, MacPhun, OnOne, Noiseware, list goes on), you are required to make a separate tif file. I feel this ruins some of the Lightroom aesthetic when you are making a separate file. I would love to see plugins handled more like Adobe Photoshop Layers and Layer Masks in the Lightroom database.
  • Seamless editing with Adobe Photoshop. This issues follows a similar issue to the way Lightroom plugins. When you want to use Photoshop for those final edits out of Lightroom, you must export to a PSD file. It would be great to be able to edit in Photoshop right out of Lightroom, and return with those edits intact, all without creating a separate file.
  • Larger image cache. Adobe currently has a 50gb image cache maximum, and the default is much smaller. For those working with heavy image loads, particularly wedding and event photographers, initial images load slow. Storage is cheap, and being able to increase the image cache would be a huge help.
  • Improved batch editing. This would save wedding and event photographers a lot of time. While you can do some minor batch editing, a full featured batch editing feature based on user preferences and the histogram would be useful. This is much different than the autotone, which uses an Adobe-specified profile. This would be able to set by user.

With the Lightroom 6 announcement coming soon, many of these features may be slated for the next version, or something we may see in the future in Lightroom 7, 8, or beyond. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see the next edition of Lightroom and what it does for all of us in the photography field.