Yesterday night that gorgeous sunset drew me and my drone out. I had my safety beacon on so I lingered above my house a little longer, because I could not take my eyes off this. I think Redondo by night has a wonderfully rich vibe. It’s not the unmistakably Californian beach city is it by day. Once the Beach Boys store their surfboards, Redondo dons two completely different souls.
Looking South, it looks more Mediterranean than ever. Almost a busy Greek city, close to Athens, or Crete, with the Palos Verdes Hills adding to the Hellenic flavor.
Looking North, it’s totally different. It’s Urban, it’s Hard Boiled as Redondo fades into the rest of the South Bay and into Los Angeles, further away. It looks like intrigues and nightlife and warm drives in a slow but nervous traffic. A song started playing in my head, B.B. King’s “Into the Night”.
As some of you may know, the song introduces a John Landis’ movie by the same title, and the opening scene is an airplane approaching and touching down at LAX at night, as the song begins.
I’m curious to see what these views inspire in you, what they remind you of, what they make you feel like?
I brought my 100-400 lens to the beach earlier as Anne-Claire and I ordered pizza from a new truck on the Esplanade. A few minutes ago I was looking at my idle captures, I zoomed in, and I realized I could see it was a Korean Air Boeing 747.
I looked it up among the LAX departures. It was a long haul headed to Seoul. It was more than half an hour late.
I don’t know. If I was to be in the air for thirteen and a half hours, I would be really upset about the delay. Or I would cherish half an hour longer on the ground. Or maybe I would not care.
I developed a strange attachment for this flight. Tomorrow morning I will check what time they landed. Maybe I won’t but right now I like to think that I will.
I am wondering who’s flying. Are they flying home? On a business trip?
Such a long time with a mask on, they must barely have a face when they arrive in Seoul. I barely had a face last time I flew to Italy.
I am not looking forward to any thirteen-hour flight.
But a thirteen hour drive, just give me a sign and I’ll be on my way.
In the past few weeks my photography has been very Redondant: that does not mean that I always photograph the same thing, but rather that much of my work revolves around Redondo Beach and the immediate surroundings.
On the cusp of Spring and Summer, our Western skies turned into a kaleidoscope of gorgeous displays, some offering a foretaste of the heat to come, other reminiscing of colder months.
A few days ago, I got this classic afternoon vibe.
And the view was amazing from Malaga Cove as well, with a flock of pelicans heading my way. It’s actually rare to see the mountains so well in the hotter months.
This is a similar view but shot from higher up, precisely from the Queen’s Necklace Overlook in Via Del Monte.
The Redondo Beach Pier has been offering some very rewarding sights, too. I love to get cozy with the timeless impression you get down there.
And every image becomes dense with the emotional recollection of Kodak Chrome.
But what you see from the Pier is most magical and awe-inspiring, too: consider this morning view of Redondo, Torrance, and Palos Verdes shot from the southern side of the pier. The sky looks like a cross-seasonal patchwork mixing marine layer and scrambled cotton candy clouds.
Since getting my FAA Part 107 license in April, I’ve felt the growing lure of the endless skyways over the South Bay (at least where they are not restricted by LAX and Torrance Airport).
Thanks to the drone, I can see how lucky the hawks and the seagulls can be as they soar high above our beautiful shores.
And if you go up high and look to the north, the view is not shabby one bit.
The drone has often become my go-to for driveway photography. Meaning, all I have to do is go to my driveway, unfold the propellers, and climb to the allowed clearance. And this is what I see.
You know as they say, work smarter not harder. Once upon a time, whenever I saw a dramatic sunset in the making, I would grab my gear and run to the Esplanade. Sometimes I would get there in time, sometimes it was a bust. Now, when I see some promising sunset, I can just release the drone and have a look from up high. This does not only let me catch more sunsets, but also affords a new framing of the sunset into the geographical and esthetic fabric of our city.
And I can embrace all of the beauty in the space of a single gaze.
But do not worry, some special accents of our Redondo State of Mind can only be captured by being there, boots on the ground: so you will still see me with my camera in hand trying to frame that perfect sunset, although I know very well that the best shot is always yet to come.
I love how the drone helps me put everything in a new frame. I’ve always been a sunset-chaser. “I really hate sunsets”, said no photographer ever, but before the drone, the sunset was a piece of its own. Now, through aerial photography, I can frame the sunset into a broader narrative, for instance the sunset and the city.
I caught a glimpse of the Sun setting over Redondo, last night. Summer solstice was just a couple of days ago, which means that the Sun sets at the most Northern point. From Redondo, the Sun is basically setting behind Malibu. That was quite a show.
It’s been a long day. I finally gave in and ordered postcards (I spent the whole afternoon editing them). I got a new Aputure light with a Fresnel lens, I’ll use it tomorrow and I haven’t even got it out of the box yet. I framed the first print of Coyote for some friends of mine, as a housewarming gift.
This is Coyote, short for Can’t catch me, Coyote. It’s one of my favorite photographs. I shot it while driving a van from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. Those on the left are the Vermillion Cliffs.
But I digress: I do all this, and my right eye is acting weird. I was preparing to enjoy a nice dinner (some chili that my neighbor cooked a few days ago) with some French wine (La Vieille Ferme red, harvest of 2019, one of my favorites), when I look out. And I see something grand is happening out west. It’s been cloudy all day, but the day had a happy ending for all of us light-chasers.
My best bet was to grab my drone and fire it up asap. Scramble! Scramble!
First, it looked like this.
And like this:
I was happy, I got back inside. Ate dinner, drank some wine. Then my eye starts acting weird again and I look away from the screen to give it some rest. And there’s the Sun, showing up just five minutes before the curtains fall on today.
And then it went like this and my heart melted a little bit and I landed. Happy.
I’ve been toying with this idea for a while. To take a drone shot of the magnificent sunset in Redondo Beach.
It is intimidating. Flying your drone is always intimidating. I like to say that every flight feels like your second flight.
At the same time, I’ve been studying hard to get my Part 107 commercial drone pilot license, and that’s where Francis Bacon’s famous motto comes into play: Scientia Potentia Est, “knowledge is power”. Knowledge lets you do more, better, and with more confidence.
There’s a bit of a paradox surrounding drones: everyone loves drone photography and footage, but many people dislike seeing drones flying around. There is a lot of negative bias around drones. One day I will elaborate on this, but I think that half of the issue is purely evolutionary: the fact that drones sound, look, and fly like big insects, and the whole thing of being seen by something we don’t see elicits our primordial scare of predators. On top of this, a few people have been using their drones in illegal, annoying, reckless, or simply stupid ways. Sadly, it takes a few morons to taint the reputation of a whole sector.
I hope I can do my part and show how drones are tools of beauty that give us unprecedented views on everyday vistas.
Without further ado, here’s what I did yesterday.
✅ Request LAANC authorization from Torrance Airport (funny enough, my home is on the demarcation of the 100ft and 400 ft clearance areas of the Zamperini Airfield airspace. If I take off from the back alley, my allowed ceiling is 100ft, on the front Avenue, the ceiling is 400ft).
✅ No people, kids, and pets close to the take-off and landing area.
✅ No hawks or ravens flying nearby.
✅ Good weather, low wind.
Here’s what happened:
This was not a real “flight”, more of an elevator kind of thing. I flew up, stayed there a few minutes, flew down. Here’s what Redondo looked like from up there.
I did also take a 180º panoramic shot, right into the sunset, stretching from Palos Verdes to the Redondo Pier.
Kind of magic, huh?
Now that I found this safe and beautiful spot, I cannot wait to see what this looks like at other times of day. What I am really looking forward to is to capture the marine layer blowing in from the ocean. That will be some eye candy.
Make sure to follow my Instagram for more updates on my photography!
The beauty of living by the beach is that even when you’re just going to pick up groceries at Smart & Final, you can still take the long way and walk by the beach. The beauty of being a photographer with a compulsive gear acquisition disease is that there’s a good chance you’ve got the tool for each situation. A few months ago I gave in and bought the camera I had wanted for the past five years, the camera that had actually brought me to Fujifilm but that first I could not afford, and then I could not justify. Last September I could finally afford and justify the Fujifilm X100, in its fifth edition (V). Long story short, it’s the perfect camera to fit in the pocket of my new REI jacket that keeps me super warm in the 20 cold days we have in California.
I walked down to the beach and this is what I saw.
The sand had been smoothened by the wind. No footsteps. No tracks. Just sand. It looked like a pure desert. I stepped closer to the sea. Another angle? Okay, because it’s just too beautiful.
For a second, I considered walking back up to the Esplanade. Not so much because I was defiling the carefully polished sand – yes I gave that some thought to be honest – but because of the sand whipping my bare legs at every gust. Con gusto. I also thought that my lens would probably like it as little as my calves. But hey, we all serve some greater purpose. Drive on and look at the texture of the beach.
The sea looked like this: it was a swirl of mint and blue and ice and foamy frosting.
As usually, I lost track of time as I strolled South. I was witnessing Redondo at its best, when the R ends up standing for Rapture. Rapture Beach.
In the end I got to Avenue H, and I decided I had taken in enough beauty. I was elated. I felt as if I had attended a thousand masses from a thousand churches. It was time to step back into life.