Welcoming committee, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
A gateway featuring four surfboard shaped arches, believed to be the largest colored acrylic moldings ever cast, dominates the entrance to Imperial Beach’s iconic pier. I abstracted the 20-foot high monument, known as “Surfhenge,” by zooming in on the welcoming committee at the moment -- a sole pigeon, perched atop aluminum letters that spell out the name of the city itself. The bird brings the abstracted image to life, while the brilliant colors draw the eye into the scene.
At heart of town, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
The sport of surfing is at the core of Imperial Beach’s image. The “Surfhenge” gateway pays homage to town’s proud surfing heritage, and the 1,500 foot long pier that stretches beyond that gate offers a place to watch and photograph the local surfers at close range. It is also the most southerly located pier on the West Coast, and is a prime fishing spot. I stood a block away to make this image, and used a long telephoto lens to compress distance. Using the rows of parked cars as my foreground, I am able to draw the eye towards the vividly colored acrylic arches of “Surfhenge.” I waited for the crowd at the beginning of the pier itself to thin out, and when the silhouetted couple became visible (just to the right of the arches), I made this image of the most important spot in Imperial Beach.
The Tin Fish, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
A fast food restaurant, known as “The Tin Fish,” dominates the end of the Imperial Beach pier. I photographed that silhouetted restaurant just after sunset, using the lush colors of dusk to bring both beauty and a sense of calm to the scene. The distant neon signs glowing in the window and cupola of the restaurant add a nostalgic touch as well. I waited to make this picture until a pair of young bodysurfers entered the lower right hand corner of my frame. They add a measure of scale incongruity to the image.
Surf shop, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Imperial Beach is highly regarded in surfing circles. This small town draws surfers from all over the nation, and many international visitors come to surf as well. There are several well-stocked surf shops to serve their needs. While shooting in one of them, I was drawn to the curving tips amidst a forest of surfboards for sale. I honed the curving tips down to less than a dozen, creating a series of rhythmic curves that seem to mimic a series of waves.
Well-equipped, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
The sport of skateboarding is an offshoot of surfing. This young man carries both a skateboard and a surfboard as he heads towards the ocean. It is an incongruous sight, and I intensified his purposeful stride by including the long wall stretching through the background. The wall features a flow of repeating tiles and windows that seem to draw him forward. I use the late afternoon light to add a theatrical mood to the scene.
Surf sale, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This shop had so many surfboards for sale that some of them were stacked amidst the palms on a nearby sidewalk. The brilliant yellow board on top of the stack caught the sun, and dominates this image. I abstracted the background and the palms to simplify the image and stress the power of the primary color here.
The west’s last beach, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
I made this image from the Imperial Beach Pier, anchoring the composition with a surfer on his way to the waves. The rhythmic flow of whitecaps echo the flow of bathers on the beach and the flow of beachfront condos that line the shore.
Confrontation, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
This surfer confronts the challenges that lie in his path, while the image, in turn, confronts the viewer. His hands imply the sense of balance that is essential to riding the waves.
Making the most of a wave, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Another surfer not only demonstrates exquisite balance – he seems to be moving forward and sideways at the same time in order to prolong his ride. The board leaves a semi-circular explosion of water behind it, expressing the power and thrust of nature itself.
Sharing the wave, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Two surfers ride the same wave, as one takes the high road, and the other takes the low road. The wave itself resembles Niagara Falls in miniature when photographed at one twelve hundredth of a second. I made all of the surfing pictures in this gallery from the Imperial Beach Pier, which gave me a high vantage point to shoot down on action such as this.
Master of the moment, Imperial Beach, California, 2014
The body language of the surfer in the foreground is decisive and masterful. He slices through the top of the wave just as it crests. Meanwhile, the surfer in the background still holds to his board. He seems to be going too slow to risk rising to his feet.
A moment later, disaster strikes. Imperial Beach, California, 2014
Within one second after I made the previous image, my burst-shooting mode caught the same pair of surfers in action. The wave now seems to explode beneath them. The surfer in the foreground, who seemed to be doing so well only a second earlier, is abruptly pitched backwards. His body language expresses futility, and he looks skyward in frustration. He will go no further on this run. Meanwhile, the surfer in the rear seems to have stopped abruptly as well. He still rests on his knees, but he, too, is left behind in the wake of this wave. This image shows us that surfing is a sport where skill does not always triumph. Sometimes nature plays its own hand, and the surfers must try again.