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New Photos: Top of the World Laguna Beach

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

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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

Orange County Photography Classes: 2015 Summer Schedule

2015 Summer Schedule
Orange County Photography Classes


How to Shoot in Manual Mode

May 26 & June 2 - 2 Tuesdays 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Learn the correct way to shoot in manual mode in this very affordable single-evening seminar. Nick will demystify the process with his easy-to-understand and fun-to-use technique for manual metering. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $79
Get More Info About This Class


Filters & White Balance for Digital Photography

June 6 - Satuday 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Don't be fooled by the marketing of software companies - filters are just as useful in digital photography as they've ever been! Find out what filters Photoshop can never replace and which filters are most important to keep in your bag. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class


Popular Beginners Photography Class:
Understanding Exposure for Beginners

June 13 & 20 - 2 Saturdays 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Perfect for beginning photographers, this class is designed to make exposure easily understandable to even the greenest students. Learn what shooting modes to use, how to get correct exposures, and what the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are. You'll leave this class knowing what the f-stop is, how to get blurry backgrounds, how to avoid totally blurry photos in low light, and much, much more! - 2 days (5 hrs total) - $75
Get More Info About This Class


Field Workshop:
Sunset/Twilight at Top of the World

June 17 - Wednesday 6:45pm-8:45pm in Laguna Beach, CA
In this single-evening workshop, you'll join Nick to capture the sunset over the ocean in a stunning panoramic to the west before turning your camera east to photograph Saddleback Mountain and the city below at twilight. - 1 day (2 hrs total) - $49
Get More Info About This Class


Composition for Dramatic Landscapes

June 23 - Tuesday 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Composition is what will make or break your landscape photographs. Don't get so caught up in the technical stuff that you forget to give due attention to the artistic side of landscape photography. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class


Includes a Field Shoot!

Landscape Photography

July 9 through July 30 - 4 Thursdays from 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
This class is 1 evening per week for 4 weeks. It covers everything from how to shoot in manual, to using filters, to composition, to final output and much, much more. And this class is my one and only class to include a field shoot! - 4 days (10 hrs total) - $99
Get More Info About This Class


Macro DSLR Photography

July 11 through July 25 - 3 Saturdays 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
This class is 1 saturday per week for 3 weeks. Learn how to improve your macro photography with your DSLR camera, what equipment you should invest in, what settings to use, how to frame a shot, how to find good light and more! Includes an in-class shoot. - 3 days (7.5 hrs total) - $85
Get More Info About This Class


Adobe® Lightroom® Class

Aug 6 through Aug 20 - 3 Thursdays 6:30-9:00pm in Tustin, CA
In this class you'll learn everything from import to export, including proper file management, how to adjust images for maximum impact, how to set up an efficient workflow, and more. This class will teach you how to use Lightroom like a pro to cut down your time at the computer and create better results. - 3 days (7.5 hrs total) - $85
Get More Info About This Class


Field Workshop:
Long Exposures at Little Corona

July 21 - Tuesday 6:15pm-8:15pm in Newport Beach, CA
In this single-evening photography workshop, you'll join Nick to practice long exposure photography at some of the most interesting rock formations in Orange County. - 1 day (2 hrs total) - $49
Get More Info About This Class


Field Workshop:
Sunset at Cress Beach

Sept 2 - Wednesday 5:30pm-7:30pm in Laguna Beach, CA
In this single-evening Orange County photography workshop, you'll join Nick at one of his favorite beaches for photographing the sunset - Cress Street Beach in Laguna Beach. - 1 day (2 hrs total) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

 

Don't wait, sign up before these orange county photography classes fill up!
More information and enrollment details
can be found here.

Fog at the Quail Hill Trailhead in Irvine

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CAFog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA
Fuji Velvia 100 film, Shen Hao TFC 617-A camera
Click Images to Enlarge

I should probably move to Northern California, because I'm in love with fog. Waking up to that enveloping haze gets me all excited, like I'm seeing my lovely lady for the first time after months apart. And it should come as no surprise that I love fog. After all, I'm in love with clouds, and fog is nothing more than a cloud coming down to our level to say "hello." But we just don't get enough fog down here in Southern California, and when we do, it doesn't stick around long.

Oh, Fog, you're such a tease. Always playing hard to get.

Luckily for me, my muse - Fog - paid me a visit recently. She popped in to greet me several mornings in a row last week. Maybe she knew Valentine's Day was just around the corner. She wanted to surprise me. That's so cute. She knows me so well...

On Friday of last week, I seized the opportunity to spend some quality time with Fog. I woke up before dawn and packed up my panoramic camera, drowsily loaded up my truck, and headed to an old photographic stomping ground: Quail Hill Trailhead in Irvine. I fired off 3 rolls of Fuji Velvia 100 film over the course of a few hours, playing entirely with compositions involving dirt roads vanishing into the mist. The whole beauty of fog, after all, is the layers and depth she creates. With a road winding into the distance, I was able to show this layered effect.

Things didn't go well when I first arrived. I couldn't find a composition that worked, I felt rushed, I began to feel frustrated. It had been so long since Fog and I last spoke that it was just...awkward. But soon she'd be gone, and if I didn't turn on my A-game I'd have nothing to show for it. I was blowing my chance with Fog! Then, after taking the time to get reacquainted with each other, I finally found my groove and it was just like old times.

Quail Hill right now is beautifully lush from the rains this winter and I've been spending a lot of time lately at Quail Hill and the Irvine Open Space Preserve trying to capture this verdant landscape. Fog, though, mutes colors and casts a blue tinge over everything. The green was strong enough to show through, but it definitely takes on a different hue under these conditions. I actually dig the bluish color cast and muted tones for these shots. I think it captures the solitude and moodiness better than warm tones would.

Well, after this rendezvous with Fog, she fled town like she always does. I'm sure she's off playing with some other photographer's emotions up north, making him feel like the most important guy in the world until she wads him up and throws him in the garbage like a used tissue. I should break it off with Fog, tell her it's over and I'm done with her teasing me like this. But who am I kidding? I'll be waiting by the window with camera in-hand until she finds her way back to town.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA