After my big move out of my San Francisco apartment, I thought I’d take myself and my wonderful mum, who helped my move, on a little California photo vacation before heading back East. It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot the Santa Monica pier after seeing it in a number of movies/tv shows, so last night I trekked out onto the sandy beach and snapped this shot.
This shot was all about persistence. When I arrived at the beach, it was quite foggy and the light wasn’t great. The colours were muted, the sky was grey and there were a lot of pesky tourists parked right in the middle of my shot. After waiting for almost an hour, the sky suddenly turned a gorgeous shade of purple with a misty pink horizon. So, I had my sky. Next, I needed a great reflection of the lights on the pier.
I tried a number of different angles on the beach and levels on my tripod. Unfortunately, the sweet spot for the reflection and composition was very close to the shoreline which meant that when a large wave came in, I was calf-deep in salty ocean goodness. I also had to time my 10s exposure just as the waves were pulling out so that the sand was wet enough to create the best reflection.
Next came the ferris wheel spin. Much to my chagrin, the ferris wheel spun very sporadically and with numerous lighting patterns. It was hit or miss, so I had to take a lot of shots. I took over 100 shots waiting for the perfect combo of tide out, good reflections, and ferris wheel spin and this photo was my very last shot. Needless to say, my mum was not impressed that this whole process took nearly 1 1/2 hours of “one more photo”. She had long since put her tripod and camera away and was hopping up and down to keep warm.
When we got back, she wasn’t really happy with the photos she took. She lamented about the fact that her less expensive, Canon XSi (450D) couldn’t take as good pictures as my 5DMKII, but I said that the difference between our photos wasn’t the fact that I had the better camera, but that I persisted longer to get the shot.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve taken almost 30,000 pictures with my 5DMKII. My first shot was out of focus. My 100th shot was over-exposed. My 1607 shot was completely black. My 3056 shot needed a lot of post-processing. But, this shot, my 29,604 shot was great straight out of the camera. Why? Because I had 29,603 shots to practice my skills, so that when I finally got to this beach to take a shot I dreamt about for years, I knew what camera settings to use, how to compose the shot, and to wait an hour and a half for great light.
The bad news is you can’t skip the steps it takes to learn how to use your camera settings, compose great shots, and perfect light. But, the good news is that anyone with a relentless determination and passion can go to this exact spot and take an equally great photo.