Caught this moment this evening when I stepped out to check out the sunset. The sand dunes created on the beach always make for interesting photos.
I just returned from a fantastic week exploring the northern coast of California on a family gathering outside the small town of Elk, in Mendocino County. The area is primarily known for three things – wineries, breweries and landscapes – and we made a point of enjoying all three in mass quantities. The group consisted of my father, his fiance Gayle, her son Geoff and his girlfriend Bianca, myself and my younger sister Lauren, and was more or less a Thanksmas gathering for those of us living in the western states. The drive was about 9-10 hours coming from both LA and Portland, home to Geoff and Bianca, so the location was an excellent compromise. The others flew in to San Fran and had a 3-hour drive north from there. The week basically consisted of lazy mornings around the house followed by day trips to the numerous vineyards, breweries and small towns situated up and down the coast, and then a return to the house where we took turns cooking enormous feasts, including an untraditional Thanksmas dinner (if there is such a thing?) of freshly caught Dungennes crab. Among the favorite spots we visited were the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, the Pacific Star Winery north of Fort Bragg and pretty much the entire seaboard, which is among the prettiest territory in these United States. I probably didn’t do as much shooting as I could have, but I thought I came away with a few nice landscapes. The weather was overcast and foggy for all but one or two afternoons, but that was fine by me. The weather made for better photos. With a few exceptions, the landscapes are all I’ll post here, but will probably put more family photos up on the Facebook page soon.
On one of the more perfect days in recent memory, last Sunday I was fortunate to join my new friends Alan Pottasch and Veronika Vrbacka, and about a dozen of their closest friends, for an impromptu wedding on the San Onofre Bluffs followed by a reception party at nearby Surf Beach. The location is special to the couple, as they regularly spend several days a week surfing there, driving down and sleeping in their kick-ass VW van. The ceremony was held along trail 6 on a tabletop cliff overlooking the ocean. Just before the ceremony began, a group of dolphins was seen swimming among surfers far below. The site was marked by a rug covered in rose petals. As many days do along the coast, this one started out overcast. But just like clockwork, the cloud cover started to burn off around the 10 o’clock hour when the wedding was to begin. This created a picture perfect environment of mixed light, giving the scene a combination of warm skin tones and a seafoam blue background. For fifteen minutes, the group of friends gathered there as the couple said their vows and exchanged rings. During the ceremony several surfers stopped along the path to witness the event. Included in that group was actor Mad Men actor John Slattery, who was being followed by a lone photographer, likely paparazzi, who stopped for a moment to focus his lens on the wedding. Following the ceremony we did some quick group photos before piling into our cars and heading to Surf Beach. The couple had reserved a shelter known as the Dogpatch. We spent the rest of the day there eating great food, surfing and generally enjoying ourselves. This also marked Erinn’s first day of surfing, which is very exciting as she can now join me rather than watch from the beach. I wish I’d taken pictures, but we were out there at the same time. As the day wound down we joined another group that was there around a campfire and sat around talking and laughing until the park closed. The next day we reconvened for a late-morning surf session before heading back to the real world. A really great couple of days!
Erinn and I spent a couple days last week camping at San Onofre State Beach and surfing at nearby Surf Beach. The camping, sandwiched between the bluffs and I-5 and an active Amtrak rail, leaves something to be desired, but Surf Beach may be my new favorite place in Southern California. As a novice surfer, there’s really no place better that I’ve found in my limited experience. The beach is a mile or so long with low waves steadily rolling in for most of the day, making it a great place to learn without fear of getting thrashed about.
Aside from 4 trips out into the surf, we also went for an afternoon bike ride on a trail that runs through Camp Pendleton, which begins on the south side of the park and extends for miles down to Oceanside, just north of San Diego. Not really the prettiest scenery there, but it made for a good ride.
We also met up with some friends Erinn knows through work who frequent the beach despite the 1 1/2 hour trek from LA. They do it right though, cruising down in a late-model VW camper complete with a bed and small kitchen. We met up with them on the beach and then joined them at their van, where they treated us to a home cooked meal.
Oh, and despite the beach’s reputation as a nude beach, we saw no sign of it other than numerous signs warning would-be nudists to keep their shorts on.
Nude beach or not, I’m sure we’ll be heading back there soon and often.
I went out last night to join the Venice Oceanarium‘s Grunion Run Party at the Venice Breakwater. The grunion are apparently abundant in the South Bay and their unique mating ritual brings them up on the beach during full moons on spring and summer nights, allowing them to be easily observed and even picked up. They’re supposed to be good to eat too, though most see it as more trouble than it’s worth to scale so many of them for such little meat. I went out at 11 p.m., when the party was starting and after 20 minutes they started popping up on shore one or two at a time. There they flopped about as they did their thing before being washed back to sea by the next big wave. It was a fun thing to see and the sizable crowd that turned out was very entertained. More can be learned about grunions and the specifics of their spawning practices here.
I think I’ve taken that first seagull photo before. Nothing much here but a few pretty shots I took on a sunset stroll a couple weeks back.
I spent a beautiful Saturday morning at Sunset Beach Pacific Palisades shooting a bunch of costume-clad surfers who were there for the 7th annual Doo Dah Surf Day, a fundraiser that benefits the West LA/Malibu chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which aims to protect the world’s oceans and beaches. Larger than normal swells apparently kept a lot of the surfers away, but a couple dozen still showed up in a variety of costumes like aliens, grandmothers the “chairman of the board,” and even “Octomom,” complete with red puffy lips and 8 baby dolls fastened to the nose of the board.
Considering the location, the only actual sign of summer from these three photos is the police patroling the boardwalk on their customized Segways. The weekend crowds are growing noticibly more dense and with that apparently comes an increased police presence. I guess they get a better view from up there, but considering the number of people roaming about I’d think they’d be better off chasing someone down on foot.
Last night we made the trek down to Huntington Beach to check out the annual Huntington Beach Kite Party. I was hoping to catch the final moments of the event, which was slated to go until dark, at sunset, but when we arrived only a couple kite flyers remained and most were packing it in. I like the way the light was coming through this kite. It was sort of what I had imagined I’d see, but I was hoping for a sky full of them. Oh well. The trip wasn’t a total waste though. Besides getting to check out a new beach, we took advantage of Huntington’s proximity to Little Saigon, a Vietnamese community in Garden Grove, which, oddly, has a large number of restaurants that serve up pound after pound of delicious Cajun-style crawdads. The Boiling Crab, which Erinn and I visited in October after reading about it in the L.A. Times, is supposedly the originator of this phenomenon. Apparently the owners are from the Gulf Coast of Texas, or lived there for awhile, and decided it would be a great idea to start importing the suckers to the west coast. Now there are lines out the door every weekend and a number of imitators that have sprung up in the area as well. Rather than eat in this time we called in an order for 3 pounds and brought them home where we feasted for more than an hour along with several margaritas and a few episodes of Arrested Development. A pretty great evening in the end.