san diego

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Just an early morning view of some surfers at La Jolla Shores in San Diego, California. Is it me or if you glance at it real quick, it just looks like some little bits of rice that has fallen down? LOL. This was my only successful attempt of actually getting footage of my cousin, Vincent surfing. All other times he was already in the water and I tried using my drone to find him but with everyone in all black wet suits with white surfboards, it can be really difficult to find the person you’re looking for. It finally worked out that I had my drone ready to go when he was getting into the water and followed him while flying. I told Andrew to also keep a lookout just in case. But I’m so glad I was actually able to find him this time.

While trying to capture him, I had it on video for a majority of the time. But this image was taken in the part of the ocean where it is a bit calmer. You can sit on the board and relax a little bit before swimming out deeper to get the big waves. So while they were taking a break, I took a few pics. I loved the really calm water with the gradient of blues. I purposely waited for a little wave to come up so that it looked more like ocean water and I could highlight Vincent a little more. He’s the guy on the green surfboard kicking up towards the top of the image. The whole time I was editing this image I was channeling my inner Mark Rothko and imagining what he would do. Either way, I love the way it turned out. It just oozes with calmness.

My camera settings for this image is F2.2 at 1/100th sec and ISO 196 with my DJI Mavic Pro.

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Being from the east coast, I love our annual getaways to the west. Sort of like how birds migrate to the south for winter, I like to migrate the west and soak up the California sun and surf. Plus any excuse for a fresh acai bowl, amirite?

To be honest though, San Diego is one of my favorite places to be. I love the vibe of the city, everyone is super friendly and there’s no shortage of things to do. You have the beach life but also a fun downtown area if the city is more of your scene. It’s all of that plus a super dog friendly city. Frankie loves taking his morning walks on the beach, you basically have to drag him off the sand.

This was our second year in a row visiting around the start of the new year, but I have visited many times in the past too. This will definietly not be our last time visiting so keep checking back as I update this guide.

So if you’re heading to San Diego, here are the best places to take pictures:

The Beaches

This past trip we stayed at this beautiful airbnb right at the tip of Mission Beach. It was the perfect place for us because we were able to enjoy the beach in a less crowded environment but still have views of the water.  (If you’ve never stayed at an airbnb, I highly recommend it. Especially if you’re going somewhere for an extended stay. It’s all the comforts of home while you travel.) Morning runs were peaceful on the boardwalk and Mission Bay was right behind us which made it fun to fly the drone for a satisfying perspective of land and water. But if we wanted to check out some of cool restaurants on Pacific Beach, we were just a 15 minute scooter ride away.

One of my favorite parts about Pacific Beach was standing at the end of Crystal Pier. The pier allowed for unique, overhead shots of the wave riders and definietly provided a lot of great photo opportunities. And you can usually find the bubble man around sunset. I love watching the huge bubbles fly in the air and can’t resist trying to pop some if they float in my direction. The kids love them too!

(left) view from Crystal Pier (right) bubble from the bubble man framing a palm tree

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I love La Jolla. Out of all the places that we have visited in San Diego, La Jolla is my favorite place to be. I love the beaches, the views and how photogenic that little part of SoCal is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it also seems a bit quieter than the neighboring Pacific Beach and just an overall cool place to hang out.

This image was taken after a night of rain. It actually rained a couple of times while we were out there which was so weird because I thought it never rained in southern California? Anyways, Vincent was taking another surf lesson at sunrise so Andrew and I decided to tag along. We figured we could bring Frankie and let him run around on the beach before a lot of people got there and I could also take some early morning shots too. It turned out to such a quiet and beautiful morning of just walking in the sand and flying the drone. But after awhile both Andrew and I got a little hungry. We found a cafe close by that we could walk to but along the way we had to walk across the parking lot. It was like hitting the puddle jacket pot. I also distinctly remember saying out loud “oh snap, reflections ahead”. LOL. Who does that? It must have been my way of warning Andrew that we were going to be in the parking lot for a little while.

But honestly, if I had to pick one place with the best palm trees in San Diego, La Jolla Shores has to be it. There’s nothing special or different about them. The only difference is that there’s a lot of them on area.

My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/5000th sec at ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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If you had asked me last year, I would have said no to anything that had to do with getting in the Pacific Ocean in the winter time. There’s something about really cold water that scares me and I didn’t even want to put my toes in it. Seriously.

But this past trip was different. Our cousin, Vincent actually signed up for surf lessons while we were in San Diego and asked Andrew and I if we wanted to join him. We both immediately said no. I don’t know what Andrew’s reasons were, but mine was definitely because of the cold. I mean, it was cold enough at night time in the regular, above water air I can’t imagine what the water was like swimming in it.

Well Vincent finished his lesson and I asked him about the temperatures. He said it wasn’t even cold at all and I didn’t believe him. He kept on going on about how fun it was and that he wanted to do it again. I must admit that I wanted to surf but it really was the cold water that was holding me back.

So it turned out that the next morning I was out photographing the sunrise at Windansea beach in La Jolla and I got splashed by a huggggeee wave. I wasn’t paying attention and I got soaked. I packed up all my gear and went immediately back to the car. But before I got back to our airbnb realized that Vincent was right. The water wasn’t that cold. LOL. So Andrew and I ended up taking a surf lesson and it was so fun. LOL. I would totally do it again but only if the water is warm.

My camera settings for this image is F4.5 at 1/4000th sec at ISO 500 with my Sony A7II with my 70-200mm.

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Salk Institute is one of those mind blowing places that you can’t believe is real. The most unbelievable part about it is that it’s a part of the University of California San Diego campus and that scientist can actually get work done in this beautiful place.

This was my second time visiting Salk. The first time was last year, but I knew I had to go back for this year’s trip. However, the main goal of this visit was to capture it differently than last year. I started off with my wide angle that provided me with some really cool views but spent most of the time with my 70-200mm. This allowed me to compress much of the building to provide the unique views that I was looking for.

Even though it seems like a really quiet place, there are people all around. Maybe because sunset was around 5p when working hours typically ends and people were leaving to go home, but there were people walking around at almost any given moment. It could also have been that I was there at sunset and other people wanted to get that golden hour glow on the buildings but I was definietly not alone.

The unfortunate part is that you’re not allowed to walk up the stairs. I totally understand why but I would have loved to capture someone standing at one of these stair landings. The best I could do was capture a fellow photographer at the very bottom of the steps. Either way, I love the way that it turned out. The pattern, the line, the shapes just fascinate me. I could seriously spend a whole week here and not get bored.

My camera settings for this image is F4.5 at 1/80th sec at ISO 1250 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom handheld.