Category Archives: Landscape Photography

Downtown Waterfront – Long Beach, CA


Address:  880 S. Harbor Scenic Drive, Long Beach, CA 90802  [ Map It ]

Harbor LightsA great place to shoot at night, the harbor at Long Beach where the Queen Mary calls home (Queensway Bay), provides for a picturesque and very colorful photo of downtown Long Beach and the attractions across the bay. The light reflections on the water can really turn your photo in something magical.

Shooting from the edge of Harry Bridges Memorial Park or along the sidewalk on Harbor Scenic Drive in front of the Reef Restaurant will provide for a good vantage point in which to capture the action from across the bay.

Capturing the Shot: For best results, try shooting an HDR photo. Two steps under exposed, one normal shot, and then a final two stops over shot. Combining all three photos to create an HDR photo will bring out all of the great lighting, colors and water reflections that the area has to offer. See photo above.

In order to get some good light reflections on the water, you need to find a night that has relatively no wind. Wind will cause ripples on the water and instead of the long reflection lines on the water, like the photo above, you will get short fat lines that all blend together and break up rather close to the shore due to the ripples. Ripples on the water will start to appear when the wind gets to be above 5 mph and become very noticeable at 10-15 mph and above. A dead calm on the water is ideal for this particular shot. Check the weather in the area in advance and select an evening with clear skies and wind below 5 mph. For the picture above, the wind was 2 mph with gusts up to 3 mph and I had to wait for over a month for such conditions to appear, so be patient.

Now, you might want more wavy light reflections on the water, and if that’s the case, then a 15-20 mph wind would give you that shot.

Choosing a night that has a clear sky is also important. The marine layer all along the coast will roll in towards the evening hours. The marine layer brings with it low clouds and makes for a very wet shoot, so try to avoid those nights. Also, any kind of clouds will cause light pollution to reflect off of them and cause the clouds to capture a color of their own which very well might take away from the subject of your shoot. It’s best to pick a clear night.

There is not much parking in the area, save paid parking at the Queen Mary. The park does have a few free curbside parking spaces available. The park being closed the night of my shoot and curb parking there was temporarily marked “No Parking” so I pulled into the parking lot at the Reef Restaurant just across the street and parked in the far corner nearest to the park.

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Wind Farm – Windmills – Desert Hot Springs, CA


Address:  Lat 33.910235, Lng -116.562491  [ Map It ]

Like the Cabazon Dinosaurs, the wind farm in Desert Hot Springs can been seen off Interstate 10 on the way to Palm Springs where windmills scatter the desert landscape. Starting near Whitewater and continuing into Palm Springs, by checking the frontage roads, you can get up close and personal with the windmills, which offer some unique perspectives. Whether shooting up at one individual windmill or zooming out for a wide angle view of many of them, you can depict the enormous size of these windmills or the green energy they provide.

Capturing the Shot: Clear skies offer up a bright blue sky against the contrasting mountains and windmills. Too cloudy of a day or overcast and the windmills will seemingly merge with the sky making for a rather bland photo. Because of the high winds in the area, you can often sit until ugly clouds pass by in relatively quick order.

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Lake Fulmor – Highway 243 – Idyllwild, CA


Address:  Lake Fulmor, Highway 243 (Lat 8051129, Lng -116.779569)  [ Map It ]

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Lake Fulmor is a great location to photograph that mirror like image on a calm lake. You might have caught a glimpse of this lake as you passed by on your way to Idyllwild, CA. On Highway 243 with its winding road, this lake will only be within view for a second before you head into another turn on the highway, so it often gets overlooked.

The lake itself is man-made and part of a reservoir system for Indian Creek which flows into it. The creek turns into a trickle in the Summer months but in Winter, when the snows come, you can catch some great photos of the creek just north of the lake.

Lake Fulmor sits at about a 5,500 foot elevation, and is a rather small lake that only takes about a half-hour to walk around. Well used dirt paths mark the way all the way around. On either end of the lake, there are bridges, which provide some great shooting locations. The south side of the lake provides the most picturesque views with a pine tree covered mountain as your backdrop.

Capturing the Shot: Wide, wooden steps leading down to the water can be found at several points while walking over the south bridge (nearest the highway). Walk down one and check out the view from water level. I set my tripod up with two legs hanging off of the lowest step to touch the ground and one leg of the tripod placed on the step itself. Shooting with a shutter speed of 1/125 and an ISO of 100 will bring out the surrounding Autumn colors suitable for framing. An f-stop of f/11 will produce a nice depth of field to bring both the lake and nearby mountains into focus.

The north bridge is where Indian Creek meets the lake. When the creek is flowing, this vantage point allows for some great photos.

One notable landmark at the lake is an outcropping of rocks that protrude into the lake. These rocks provide for some great shots due to their contrast to the surrounding area. If you are adventurous, you can even climb on top of the rocks for some different views of the lake.

Opposite of the rocks is a wooden platform (pier like structure) that extends partly over the lake. This area too can provide a great location to shoot from.

The best photo results of the lake will come in the Autumn (multi-colored leaves) and Winter (snow covered trees) but really, it has no bad season. However, weather does play an important factor in capturing that calm, still, lake photo. Even the slightest breeze will cause ripples in the lake, destroying that mirror image. Still a good photo with minor ripples, you really want to to visit on a day when the winds are nil. The time of day that you visit also plays an important role. The best time to visit is in the morning between 10:00 am and Noon. Before 10:00 am, the Sun has yet to come over the mountains to shed light on the trees and lake. In the late afternoon, the Sun will be at the south end of the lake, so shooting from the north and down the lake will put the Sun right into your lens.

The highway leading up the mountain to the Lake Fulmor has many turnouts that you may not want to overlook. Take the time to stop at a few for some fantastic views (right side turnouts are often views of Hemet and the valley far below, and the left side turnouts reveal mountains and many rock formations). The small mountain town of Idyllwild is about 10 miles past the lake. If you plan your trip right, you can arrive at the lake by 9:00 am, do some exploring, take some photos, and then head off for Idyllwild for lunch before heading back down the mountain.

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Note: Lake Fulmor is a designated “Day Use Area” requiring the $5.00 per day, Adventure Pass. HOWEVER, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), which was passed by Congress to authorize the policy for collecting such fees, was recently struck down in part by the U.S. District Court, Central District, and the U.S. Forest Service was enjoined and barred from collecting fees from people who simply park and hike without using any of the developed facilities, such as picnic tables and restrooms. See Fragosa, et al. vs. U.S. Forest Service.

“On April 28, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., ruled that the United States Forest Service cannot charge fees to recreational visitors who park a car, then camp at undeveloped sites, picnic along roads or trailsides, or hike through the area without using the facilities and services.”

“Relying on a previous case, Adams v. United States Forest Service, 671 F.3d 1138 (9th Circuit 2012), Judge Hatter wrote, “Adams is quite clear. The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA.”

Don’t be duped or intimidated into paying such fees if you are simply visiting the lake and do not use any of the facilities.

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