Posted on August 20, 2018
Once the band of Night Hawks was finished with the fountain display on Harbor Blvd., we walked down Swinford St. till we got to a little lagoon area. There are a bunch of wooden posts rotting in lagoon, the LA Harbor cranes are just on the other side … and the mighty Vincent Thomas Bridge towers above.
I came late to the party, one too many fountains. But the group’s cool about sharing shooting spots. In fact these Night Hawks events all seem to have a supportive interaction with none of the turf battles you see at a spot like Mesa Arch. The main thing I (and everyone) attends to is not walking into someone’s shot.
I’d done this lagoon location about 9 months ago — and used the shot in my Dekor Gallery show. So on Thursday, I mostly played with subtleties of composition and shutter speed. From all my expeditions out to LA and Long Beach Harbors, I know that the water gets a nice sheen after 15 seconds or more of exposure. So I played with long exposure shots.
I kinda like including all four of the container cranes in the frame. It gives them more primacy in the image, weighting the eye in that direction. On the other hand going tighter with the same idea, i.e. bridge and cranes reflection, gives the image more impact.
This one above was fairly similar to the shot I did for my gallery show in March:
The earlier shot is more zoomed in on the crane and bridge, less concerned with the scope of the bridge. The main difference between the two images is shutter speed, the one from nine months ago doesn’t care about that issue. Going long exposure is sorta overdone these days. But in this situation, with lagoon water already untroubled, you almost don’t notice the effect of a 30 second shutter. Instead your attention goes to the upper half of the image.
And in this situation, the smoothing effect of long exposure heightens the visual abstraction, heightens the play of color, smooths out the image’s dynamic range. On the other hand, at 1/50 sec., the light reflection in dark water is quite painterly and closer to what the eye sees. Both choices work.
Vincent Thomas Location #2
After shooting at the lagoon for a bit we each went NE on Front St. for a quarter mile and turned left onto Knoll Dr. This hill is home to a baseball field and higher overlook for viewing Vincent Thomas. Here you’re able to catch the cars driving the bridge — and more importantly, the car head and tail lights. So a long exposure gives some cool light trails.
On this evening, there was a huge construction light set up on the bridge. It steals focus and is a hassle to remove in Photoshop. Plus, for some reason the cars were being held up on the bridge. So to get any decent light trails, you had to see when traffic was allowed to move.
On the other hand, this is a great angle to shoot the bridge from, a location I didn’t know how to get to previously. I’m sure I’ll be back once construction is less annoying and be able to explore more approaches.
Posted on November 27, 2017
Now that we live in San Pedro, I’ve been wandering down to LA Harbor for the occasional photo shoot. It’s one of the busiest ports for container ships in the world and just over the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
The scale of the place is amazing. And since they seem to work 24×7, the place is always lit up. So it’s great fun to work on night photography — once you figure out how to get around the warren of roads and detours.
A small section of the harbor facility:
And from Harbor Blvd. in San Pedro:
It’s impossible to get close to any of the harbor areas. But that offers creative opportunities.
The fact of night and a lit up environment gives the most everyday machinery a kind of mythic quality.
These loading facilities are all securely guarded and fenced off. They don’t let anyone use the bathroom if you have a camera. But the main roads are public property. A few images from a pull-off on Navy Way.
Posted on February 6, 2016
LA’s Union Station is a great spot to shoot architecture at night. But it’s equally good for photographing people. There are two elements I look for, someone who’s immersed in a personal moment and the way the person gets woven into the environment.
Union Station is the busiest train station in the West. And there’s something about folks who are traveling that makes them interesting as character studies.
This shot could have been taken almost anywhere. And I like it just because the two are so engaged in the moment. But I’m not sure if this image is anything special except to their friends. The thing that Union Station adds to the composition is how it helps me as a photographer — people tend not to notice me working. There’s just too much happening.
With this shot I went formal — by aligning myself with the couple and the two rows of seats. That pulls the setting in and the station’s layout becomes an equally important aspect of the photo. On the other hand, the moment is only OK. This is certainly the feeling of a train station but it’s not anything extraordinary. Just folks waiting. Here’s another shot where the station environment makes a difference:
There’s a human story here that’s subtle but I like it. Mom shepharding her two kids home. These kinds of images are harder to make work than they look. I wanted to have a formal composition of this hallway leading to the trains. Rule of Thirds and all. But there are a couple of million folks who walk this hallway every month. And out of the ten or so images I took here, only one showed a human moment without too much busyness. To me that’s the secret sauce for any character study, an interesting composition that has some emotional depth.
Union Station at night. It’s eternal. It’s Waiting for Godot. Except that these days, Godot is whatever’s on your phone.