LA, The Big OC, & Carlsbad, CA — Latest Photos – part 1

June 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Steve in Birds | Buildings | California | Flowers

Hello all,

This is a larger email to cover a couple of months of sending nothing out.

I have been in and out of town often since my last message over 3 months ago, and unfortunately too busy to think about photography much.  During one trip home, Aaron, Jacob & I had an afternoon together on March 27th.  It had been raining the night before and early that morning.  Francie had an outdoor event to decorate at Angel’s Stadium so she was very concerned.  But the rain disappeared and her event turned out all right.

While Fran was gone Aaron showed up early in the afternoon with Jacob in the car seat in back.  Aaron suggested we go to the LA harbor to shoot some photos.  The area has lots going on and many interesting forms.  I have been going there on and off for years trying to get good images so another trip was great with me.

We started on the Long Beach side of the harbor driving out onto the old US Navy mole.  The navy base was closed in 1997.  The area is now mostly commercial for container freight with other types of sea operations in evidence.

No matter where we drove on the mole all we found were no parking signs.  This was a bother as it seemed where there were good shots it would require parking to set up the gear.  I don’t mind trying to get some grab shots on the fly from the passenger seat, but that would have given Aaron no opportunity for himself.  We turned around and moved over to another part of the harbor, which was the same.

From there it was on to Terminal Island.  For me visiting Terminal Island was a sad trip down memory lane.  In years past it used to have some really old scenic buildings.  Some these may have even dated from the early part of the last century.  In the last 10 years or so Terminal Island has been largely redeveloped.  Most of the old buildings have been torn down.  Few are left to remind one of what used to be.

When Fran & I first met she worked on Terminal Island in the office of the Starkist Tuna plant.  In those days the island bustled with activity.  While Fran worked there in the 70’s we had met some employees who had been with the company since the 1940s.  The Starkist cannery, once the largest tuna cannery in the world, was closed in 1985.  The cannery has since been replaced by a container parking lot easily some 10 or more acres large.

With all that labor no longer coming onto the island the landmark bar (some would say ‘dive’), Joe Biff’s, is also long gone.  I showed Aaron where his mom used to work and we drove on.

By now it was middle afternoon and the sky was clearing.  Jacob was sleeping in the back so all was peaceful with him.  We drove across the Vincent Thomas Bridge into San Pedro.  By the time we made our way down to the Pt. Fermin headlands the day was quite clear with only a few clouds scudding across the sky.  We tried finding a place to park at the Korean-American Friendship Bell, but to no avail, there were so many people there taking in the view.  The bell overlooks the straight out to Catalina Island some 20 miles south.  The view was postcard fresh and crystal clear.  The coastline below us stretched down to San Clemente some 60 miles to the southeast where the distances began to compress and become less discernable.  All & all it was a glorious Southern California day.

With no parking at the bell I opined there would be no parking at the old lighthouse only a few blocks away.  Aaron agreed so we headed for the Ports of Call Village along the waterfront.  It was crowded as usual for a bright Sunday & we moved on to a working part of the harbor.

At the head of the harbor are warehouses that seem to be as old as the hills.  Municipal Warehouse 1 of the LA Harbor is the most photogenic.  It is a poured concrete structure 6 stories high finished in 1917 at the end of Signal St. & at the head of LA Harbor.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places & serves as a landmark for inbound ships.  The concrete is now rotting in places and falling away, but the warehouse is still in use.  Parking there has no restrictions so Aaron & I climbed out with our camera gear to get some shots.

Aaron recently got a very good video job on the side.  That allowed him to buy a Canon 5D Mark II & a 24-105mm f4 lens.  The camera shoots stills or video.  It is the same camera I use so Aaron can use any of my lenses.

Here is a photo of Warehouse 1 shot at 24mm with my camera.  I will show at least one of Aaron’s photos because he shoots a different style than I do.  As you look at the warehouse note the little bumps on the sunlit side.  Those are rainspouts made out of concrete & formed in the shape of lion or gargoyle heads.  I’ll call them gargoyles.   The pipe of the rainspout comes out of the gargoyle’s mouth.

Aaron noticed these gargoyles, I did not despite many visits to the same place.  That speaks exactly to the major difference in Aaron’s photo style and mine.  I look for the broad, grand landscape, Aaron looks for the detail.  You will see that later with the trolly car.

Here is the warehouse so you all get an idea of it.

(click on photos to enlarge)

 (photo by Steve)

Next is a fisheye view.  I love using my fisheye lens.  Often times I don’t much care if the final shot is good or not because the lens offers such interesting and exaggerated affects.  The lens gives a 180 degree view across either diagonal of the frame.  Equally impressive is the lack of internal lens reflection from the sun (seen here at two o’clock as only 1 spot about midway between the center of the frame and the sun at upper right).  I was standing no farther than 8 feet from the edge of the building as I took the shot.

 (photo by Steve)


What next caught my fancy was the gargoyles that Aaron had pointed out.  I did a number of shots with various lenses.  I used the 70-200mm f2.8 lens hand held for this one.  The shadows have been lightened a little to bring out some detail.

 (photo by Steve)

I probably should have used a 300 mm lens, but that will have to wait for another visit.

Looking north up Signal Street from where we were standing Aaron got this shot.

 (photo by Aaron)

It is not remarkable except for what makes it most remarkable.  This could have been shot 60 or more years ago and the street would look the same!

I wonder if this older area of the docks is slated for renewal because none of these warehouses handles containerized freight.

At the head of Signal St. about a half mile from the shots above is the California Fish Company which resides in an old restored warehouse.  Next to the Fish Co. stretching to the end of a side channel is an open commercial dock used by the fishing fleet.  The channels along these areas offer lots of places to park.  While I was shooting elsewhere Aaron shot this one of some fishing floats.

 (photo by Aaron)


Here is the tower of the California Fish Co. first in color then in B&W.

      (photos by Steve)


The tower highlights what is otherwise a non descript old warehouse.  The tower attracted me because of its architectural style (& fresh paint).  It is done in a Spanish or Mediterranean style popular in California during the first few decades of the 20th century.  Here & there in Southern California a few of these architectural gems can still be found.  Towers found in Pasadena & Ojai are more ornate & come immediately to mind.

While we were driving along the San Pedro side of the harbor I noticed an old Pacific Electric Red trolley car operating.  This was both interesting and quite a treat for me.  The Pacific Electric Railway operated the original red cars.  They used to cover much of LA & stretched as far as San Bernardino and Orange County.  At their height they were the largest electric railway in the world.  They ceased operations in 1961.  I don’t know if San Pedro refurbished an old car or made a new one, but it was operating for passenger use running up & down the San Pedro side of the harbor, probably for the tourists.  The conductors were even wearing period accurate uniforms.

This is my black & white interpretation. [I used the Channel Mixer in Photoshop to create the effect. First click the monochrome button. Then Red is +150%, Green is +140%, & Blue is -190%.  This combination doesn't work too often.]

 (photo by Steve)


This is Aaron’s color shot using (if I recall correctly) my 100-400mm zoom lens.

 (photo by Aaron)

The tracks lead the eye into the frame and the telescopic effect both shows the subject and excludes most of the modern surroundings.  It is a very good photo.

This is a perfect example of my using a wide angle lens to get the landscape while Aaron is zooming in on the detail.  Both approaches are valid and can secure a memorable shot.

Moving up a month I’m on a different trip home.  On April 23, Fran and I decorated an Easter Party with balloons.  This was in an exclusive housing development high above the water between Laguna Beach & Newport Beach along Orange County’s Gold Coast.  The homes up here are a minimum of 5000 sq feet, each has a view, and each costs $4mm or more.   Some of the home sites have homes of 20,000 sq feet or more.  These monsters sell for $10-15 million or more.

The view from the private park that day was a little hazy with moisture, but still grand.  Catalina Island was hidden by the haze, but that didn’t stop me from taking a few snapshots for grins.

This first is a general view.  A very large home is being built at the far left.  In a very dry year this whole canyon could burn in a few minutes so I hope the residents have good insurance.

 (this and the remaining photos by Steve)

At center right is the hint of a strip of sand.  That is the Balboa Peninsula & old Newport Beach.  Here is a close up with the telephoto.

The Balboa & Newport Beach Piers are seen at center left.  The harbor is peeking out from above the large homes at center right.

The last from this series is the entrance to the Newport Beach Harbor.

Nestled against the longer jetty out of sight at right is one of Orange County’s famous surfing sites, the Wedge.  When conditions are just right the waves come in there 30 feet high.  When the boys were young we walked all the way out to the end of the jetty, much to the consternation of Francie who watched us from shore.

As the day wore on Francie & I made our way slowly down the coast into San Diego County.  Before stopping to see some friends for dinner we stopped at Carlsbad beach.  The wind was blowing so it was very hard to get some flower shots.  These two are pretty good, but most of them are throwaways because the wind was blowing too hard to both freeze the motion of the flowers and get any depth of field.

I think the problem I had with the flowers was twofold.  First I wasn’t using a tripod, even though I had brought one.  Second, I accidentally had the camera on Program Mode instead of Aperture Priority.  This limits the ability of the photographer to the algorithms programmed into the camera.  Program is a catch all mode by the manufacturer to deliver a generally acceptable photograph in most situations.  It is useful, but it is also a lowest common denominator issue.

On the good side, the Program Mode probably made shooting these pelicans easier.  They seemed to really enjoy the windy day as they floated in the air currents up and down the coast.  I used the telephoto to get these hand held shots.


They didn’t seem to be doing anything except coasting by, but they were moving at a good rate of speed.  Even in the Program Mode it was very hard to get them in the frame, let the autofocus do its work, and freeze the action all at the same time.


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