Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

Santa Monica Beach

The early morning light is beautiful at the shore, says photographer Stephanie Diani, who took this shot of the beach and the Santa Monica pier on a foggy September morning (she had to wait a while for the fog to burn off). Take the Santa Monica freeway here, but leave plenty of time — L.A. traffic is no trifle.

Pacific Park, Los Angeles

Carny rides have been a part of the landscape of the Santa Monica beach since 1916, when carousel manufacturer Charles Looff bought land next to the municipal pier, built his own pier and began erecting roller coasters and other thrill rides. Pacific Park fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but city residents banded together to rescue it and the amusement park was reopened in 1996.

Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

When the light is harsh or foggy up top, Diani suggests checking out the underbelly of the Santa Monica pier; light refracted from the water and sand creates soft shadows and moody highlights around the pilings. She used a slow shutter speed (1/20 second) to capture the motion of the crashing waves.

The Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles

You haven't seen L.A. until you've seen the Pacific Ocean, but capturing its vast expanse on film is notoriously hard to do. Here's a neat trick: Add a foreground element — in this case, an emergency fire escape route from the Santa Monica pier.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the legendary shrine to the movies built in 1927, is now a multiplex surrounded by high-rise office buildings and cheap souvenir shops. To eliminate some of these distractions and get a fresh take on a tired subject, Diani photographed the marquee theater in reflection — in the window of a Hooter's restaurant across the street.

Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

Searching for a novel shot of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Diani strolled down Hollywood Boulevard until she came across this troupe of breakdancers. When she first arrived, there wasn't much going on, but she says experience has taught her that "when you see something interesting, wait and then wait some more. If you are patient, something good will happen."

The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles

How do you photograph the Hollywood Sign, possibly the most clichéd of all city icons? Diani found an unusual vantage point from the Griffith Park Observatory, where she waited until the sun was low in the sky, giving the scene an evocative monochromatic quality. She mounted a longer lens (50 mm) on her camera to push the geometric shape of the banisters closer to the organic curves of the mountain, framed the sign in the compositional center, then waited for two visitors to walk through.

The Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles

Opened in 1935, the Griffith Park Observatory has been used as the backdrop for countless Hollywood films, most notably Rebel Without a Cause, which is commemorated by the bust of James Dean that stands just outside the domed building. The grounds also feature a monument to astronomers, and this sundial, which Diani used to add depth and spice up the composition of a shot of the observatory's exterior.

Hollywood Hills

If you put your camera on auto, it tends to overexpose the soft light that occurs around sunset. Diani set her camera on manual and narrowed her aperture opening to f/8 to get this frame of a couple descending the stairs of the Griffith Observatory, with the sun disappearing over the mountains that surround L.A.