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More Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
More Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
Please Click an Image to See it Bigger

My obsession with palm tree pictures continues, apparently. As I covered in a recent post, palm trees have dominated the majority of my photography lately. And I'm not getting tired of them. They have become my muse. It's as if within the past couple years I suddenly realized how special they are to me and my location. I guess I took them for granted my whole life having grown up in southern California, and now I'm catching up for lost time - giving them the appreciation they deserve.

I mean, come on, check out these amazing facts about palm trees:

  • There are around 2,700 different types of palm trees in the world (source)
  • The tallest palm tree can grow up to 197 feet tall! (source)
  • The coco de mer palm tree has the largest seeds of any plant on Earth - as large as 20 inches in diameter and as heavy as 66 pounds (source)

But aside from these fun facts, what other plant has such a recognizable and iconic silhouette? What other plant simultaneously conjures images of both the desert and a tropical beach?

Am I starting to sound crazy? Okay, okay. Enough about palm trees. Let's talk photography.

The more I grow and evolve in my photography, I notice 2 things:

  1. "Different" is about a thousand times more important to me than "good"
  2. I'd rather my pictures do the talking

 

I spent a couple hours trying to write this blog post - writing, re-writing, undoing this, changing that... Then I realized those two points and scrapped the whole rough draft. So with those two points in mind, here's all I want to say:

I've been working hard lately to shoot things differently and to develop a style that stands out from the rest - a style that's both beautiful and uniquely my own. I have a long way to go, but I think I'm on the right track. On that note, I am really proud of these pictures (especially the first one at the top of the post). Whatever you take from these pictures, good or bad, I hope it's at least different and I hope they communicate something to you my words wouldn't be able to.

Thank you, and please click the pictures to see them big!


Technical Notes:

All of the palm tree pictures shown here were made on 6x17 film with a Shen-Hao TFC-617A camera on Fuji Velvia 100 film. The first and last pictures were made at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The second from bottom was made in Dana Point, CA.

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
Please Click an Image to See it Bigger

I've become obsessed with palm tree pictures over the past couple years. I'm not sure why exactly; I've never really had strong thoughts about them one way or the other. But having grown up in Orange County, CA, they've been ever-present in my life. Perhaps they've burned into my psyche as a symbol of home and my childhood, kind of like the smell of mom's home cooking.

Thinking about this recent obsession two things come to mind. The first is an interesting tidbit that a good photographer friend of mine told me. He said that nature photographers typically organize their work by terrain - coastal photos, mountain photos, desert photos, etc. But that's not really what artists do. Artists often pick a subject to do "studies" on. They'll spend time focusing on a single subject or topic and really dissect it to get to the juicy meat. This subject might even consume their work for years. Just look at Andy Warhol and his Campbell's soup cans. So rather than avoiding this obsession in the interest of pursuing variety (as a younger Nick might have done), I'm letting this obsession guide much of my work. I'm letting my obsession play itself out until I feel a natural urge to move on. I'm trying to roll with it rather than fight it.

The second thing that comes to mind is a quote from the great Annie Leibovitz:

"I’ve said about a million times that the best thing a young photographer can do is to stay close to home... Discover what it means to be close to your work, to be intimate with a subject... Of course there are many good photographs that have nothing to do with staying close to home, and I guess what I’m really saying is that you should take pictures of something that has meaning for you…"

- Annie Leibovitz

Ms. Leibovitz here is not speaking of home in the literal sense, I don't believe. She's talking about working with subjects that mean something to you, subjects you can be intimate with. As a life-long resident of Orange County, palm trees are a subject I can really sink my teeth into because they are everywhere you look. And as I mentioned above, palms trees are meaningful to me in what they represent: home, growing up, building my career, and many fond memories of trips to Palm Springs, CA. To put it simply, palm trees have been a regular companion to many of my most important life events. They've often towered above me like gentle guardians as I've experienced the major milestones and memories in my life. I suppose that makes them worth obsessing over.

But beyond my own personal connection with palm trees there's something else I love about them. Palm trees embody the "dream" of Southern California. Think of every cheesy movie you've seen where the small-town girl with big dreams risks it all to come out to Hollywood in hopes of making it big. The first thing they cut to in the movie when she's finally made it to the city is a row of palm trees with the crisp California sun beating down on them. Palms trees and the Hollywood sign are the most basic symbols of "California Dreamin'."

And there's a special dichotomy with palm trees. On one hand they represent this ambition to reach greater heights, make it big, and find that elusive fame. While on the other hand, palm trees are a typical token of relaxation, vacation, and a slower pace of life. These palm trees with their unmistakable silhouette simultaneously represent ambition and taking it easy. I don't think you could make the same claim of the pine tree.

That California Dream doesn't speak to everyone and I'm not even saying it's a real thing, but what it represents is awfully romantic, isn't it?


Technical Notes:

All of the palm tree pictures shown here were made on 6x17 film with a Shen-Hao TFC-617A camera at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The color photos were made on Fuji Velvia 100 film and the black and white photos were made on Ilford Delta 100 film. The black and white photos are part of The Palms Collection - a series I've been working on using multiple-exposure techniques to capture that "California Dreamin'" vibe. You can view more of The Palms Collection here.

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

New Photos: Top of the World Laguna Beach

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop
Top of the World Laguna Beach

Click Any Image to Enlarge

I held a workshop last night at Top of the World in Laguna Beach, CA. Eight of my wonderful students and I ventured to this high-point overlooking Orange County to see what we could capture. Seeing as how it's "June gloom" season, the marine layer was out in full force.

For those of you outside Orange County, the marine layer is a thick blanket of clouds that keeps the beach cities in a perpetual state of overcast skies throughout June. It's a real bummer for tourists who plan their SoCal summer trip expecting that classic California weather. Take it from a local: you're better off coming in August or September.

Top of the World Laguna Beach is one of those places where the beautiful compositions don't immediately jump out at you. When you head down to a beach with some epic tide pools with an epic sunset and epic waves, let's be honest, it's not difficult to get an epic shot. Just throw on your wide angle lens and get low. But Top of the World doesn't offer such easy ingredients for a good shot. You have to work harder up here. You have to look for the subtle beauty - soft colors, layers, patterns, lines...

Everyone wants those "punch you in the face" landscapes. You know what I mean - super wide angle, bold colors, epic light - the kind of stuff that racks up the likes on Instagram. But it's good to try something else. It's good to try muted colors for a change and see what you can do with a telephoto lens.

I could tell when we arrived to Top of the World many of my students were skeptical about getting good shots up here. But once they found their groove and saw what kind of subtle beauty could be captured, I was proud to see them come up with stunning compositions! Some were thrown out of their comfort zone, and they came through like pros.

I'm sharing my pictures here because I just loved the light and scenery we had that night. The marine layer rolled in, filling in the nooks and crannies between the hills, providing some of the tastiest layers I've ever seen. We were pretty much eye level with the top of the marine layer, which was awesome! You could see the top of the "blanket" and the sky above, which resulted in some seriously stunning light. Plus, at Top of the World Laguna Beach, you have, hands-down, the best view of iconic Saddleback Mountain.

I took all of these shots handheld with my Canon 5D (original version). No filters were used, although I did get creative with the white balance to get some cool color casts. I was looking to capture lower-contrast, more muted, simplistic compositions. I was after subtle beauty, not the "punch you in the face" compositions.

If you'd like to join me on a workshop like this, check out my full schedule here.

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop