Balboa Fun Zone & Laguna Beach, CA

October 31st, 2011 | Posted by Steve in California

This is really my first pure post to this website.  All the others below were sent first via email.  Only a notification of this is going out via email.  If you want to read it or see the photos this is the only place.

Saturday, Oct. 29 Fran was working all day and Angela & Jacob were in Bakersfield visiting her parents.  That left Aaron & I with nothing to do so we planned to get together for some photo time.

Aaron left things up to me.  I suggested we go to Balboa peninsula and Laguna Beach.  I arrived at his home by 2 and we were finally on our way by 3:00 pm.  The sun was still high in the sky and the light was not yet warm so I took a long overland route to Balboa Peninsula.

First I headed for Balboa Island, which was jammed with people enjoying a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.  We drove to the southbound ferry and were both surprised to find only 3 cars in line ahead of us.  Our wait at the ferry was brief and off we went.

During the summers when the kids were young Fran & I used to take them weekly down to the peninsula for rides on the ferry.  Both boys grew up on it and Aaron even proposed to Angela on one of the ferries.  The ferry has been operating since 1919.  The transit across the channel of Newport Bay is less than 300 yards & the ride is usually over way too soon.  The ferry website is well worth the visit.  Their leadoff photo shows the direction Aaron & I were heading.

The southbound ferry leaves the island at Agate St., crosses the channel & terminates on the peninsula at the Balboa Fun Zone & Palm St.  This was right where we were headed, but first we needed a parking spot.  We quickly found a place not too far away on the opposite side of E. Balboa Blvd.  The afternoon was getting on and the light had finally begun to warm a little so we unpacked our cameras and walked back to the Fun Zone.

This first shot kind of places us in the area.

The Boathouse is in the background.  The Boathouse or Pavilion was first built in 1906 and is probably the most famous building in Newport Beach.  I have seen it in the background of at least one movie.

The Fun Zone was first built in 1936.  I first remember visiting it in 1969.  It was pretty seedy then, but has been rebuilt & refurbished a few times since then.  On a warm & sunny day it always attracts a large crowd.

The major landmark of the Fun Zone is the Ferris Wheel, not even a hundred yards from the Boathouse.  This post leads off with a horizontal of the Ferris Wheel shot with my fisheye lens.

Here are two more photos of the Ferris Wheel.  One with the 24-105 zoom, the other with the fisheye.


The Fun Zone has at least 2 arcades.  One of them has a sign that looks like it has been hanging there since the 1930s.  Here it is in color and B&W for comparison.


A lot of the buildings in the area have facades that seem to date to the middle of the last century.  Walking up and down Balboa gives you a little flavor of what the place might have been like 50 or more years ago.  Not far from the Fun Zone at Main & Balboa is an old drug store.  The sign looks like it dates from the 40s or 50s.  Here it is in color & B&W.  The B&W was converted using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.  Once I had the basic file all it needed was 1 stop of underexposure.  Got that?  Not overexposure, underexposure.


Looking down Main you see the front of the landmark Boathouse.

From here we walked back to the Fun Zone as I wanted to try one last composition.  This is the old U-Drive ad sign shot with the fisheye.  I’ll have to come back another time to get this with some light shining on it.  The brown boat in the background is a for hire for parties, weddings, business meetings, etc.


After this we packed up and drove up the peninsula to the mainland then back down Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna Beach. Laguna Beach is a favorite destination for tourists and locals any time the weather is good, which is covers most of the year. Surrounded by steep hills that end in cliffs at the ocean there are only 3 ways into the town; Pacific Coast Highway heading south, Pacific Coast Highway heading north, and Laguna Canyon Road heading to town from inland.  By the time each road hits town it is basically 2 or 2+ lanes.  The traffic on a summer Saturday or Sunday is terrible.

Aaron and I drove south from Newport Beach.  The stretch of Highway 1 from Newport to Laguna used to be narrow & deserted. Then it was widened and developed.  Now multi-million dollar tract homes cling to the hills above the highway.  High above them are the even more multi-million dollar custom homes.  Look at my post of June 23, 2011 for a few photos of this area that has been nicknamed the Gold Coast.

On the north side of town on Cliff Dr. near Diver’s Cove is a small park overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  We parked there.  This time I grabbed all of my camera gear and headed to a spot I had in mind.

Aaron walked down to the ocean and got some very good shots of the tide pools.  On the cliff above I waited for the sunset.  Over dinner later that night Aaron told me he saw a dolphin swimming off shore.  I told him it must have been there on porpoise.

Back to the photography. This is probably the best shot of what was a poor to medium sunset.  I mounted the camera on the tripod then put a spirit level into the flash shoe to make sure the camera was shooting on a flat horizontal plane. Then I took the skylight filter off the front of the 24-105mm zoom.  In its place I attached the Lee Filter holder.  Into its first slot I slipped in a 3 stop soft edge graduated neutral density filter & aligned it with the horizon through the viewfinder.  This was not enough to balance the foreground against the harsh sun so I also put in a reverse neutral density graduated filter.  Both filters are made by Singh-Ray and both are the flat 100x150mm size.  Finally I attached the remote shutter release to the camera.

As I was shooting directly into the sun I felt I could not trust any reading from the in camera meter.  I pulled out my 18% gray card and my 1% spot meter.  I took a reading with the sun shining on the card, then compared it with a reading of the ocean & the sky at my left, a 90 degree angle from the sun.

Next I put the reading from the meter into the camera, took it from aperture priority to manual control, and also took it out of bracket mode.  This means the camera would only make the exposure I told it to and only 1 at a time.  Then I put the lens into manual focus, out of stabilizer mode, and adjusted the focus to a hyperfocal distance for the greatest possible depth of field.

I did not bracket because I wanted to make one good shot and not have to use HDR in the computer.  Maybe next time I will expose to allow for HDR.

I hope I didn’t forget anything.  Finally it was time for a test shot.  After each test shot I adjusted the exposure time to get a colorful foreground.  The photo was going to be useless without a foreground.  My preference for a great depth of field led to long exposures and a faster ISO. This was not a problem because the camera was on a solid mount and triggered with a release, not my finger.

I made a few test shots to “dial” in the exposure that would give me an interesting sky and an interesting foreground.  After that it was just a matter of adjusting the exposure to a slowly darkening sky. The filters vignetted a little at the top corners, the 24mm focal length at the far end of the lenses zoom range probably had a lot to do with that.  Next time I must remember to use the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens instead.

This photo was on the 24-105 mm f/4 lens set to 24mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/6th of a second at f/22 aperture, and both filters described above.  The sad thing is one day later, Sunday, the sunset was far more spectacular with wonderful clouds and wonderful color.  Of course I saw that from a parking lot in front of a shopping center.  Oh well.


Some 15 minutes after the sun had set I was back at the truck stowing my gear.  The sky was still colorful so I made some hand held shots.  These were grab shots.  I was hoping to get something.

This photo is with the B+W 010 UV Haze +1 filter back on the lens protecting the front element, which means there is really no effect from the filter.  Depth of field was not an issue because the nearest tree shown in silhouette is over 50 feet away.  The shot is with the 24-105 at a 55mm focal length, ISO 640, f/8, 1/50th of a second.  The lens stabilizer is turned back on and so was the autofocus.  My focus point was the crescent moon.


I have no idea of when the next post will be.  Hopefully it will be soon.




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