Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation. If you like this, be sure to check out my always growing gallery of San Diego photos.
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jollaâ€™s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Childrenâ€™s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50â€³ high by 130â€³ long with no interpolation Image ID: 30773 Location: La Jolla, California, USA
This is the second in my series of recent San Diego aerial panoramas, part of my collection of aerial photos of San Diego. Making an aerial panorama is difficult. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Aerial Panorama of La Jolla’s Bird Rock, with surfers in the water at lower right. Submarine reefs, characteristic of the La Jolla coast, can be seen through the clear water. Mount Soledad rises above everything. This 180-degree panorama extends from Camp Pendleton in the extreme distance to the north to Point Loma in the south. The resolution of this image will permit it to be printed 80″ high by 200″ wide with no interpolation.
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south). La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rises in the center. The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide. Image ID: 30778 Location: La Jolla, California, USA
In March and April I made a series of flights to photograph many of San Diego’s prominent coastal features. (Yesterday I described one flight focusing on making aerial photos of San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas.) During their spring breaks, my daughters and I hired helicopters a couple times with the goal of adding to my collection of aerial photos of San Diego, trying something new. The pilots and I discussed the plans before taking off, and we gave it a shot. Making an aerial panorama is very difficult to get just right. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. This is the first of several I will post over the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!
I recently made a special flight with my pilot friend Steve Parker in collaboration with Lighthawk. Lighthawk’s mission is “to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight”. On this flight, we were trying to produce new aerial images of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the San Diego coastline for organizations involved with these MPAs to use in their outreach, conservation, research and legislative efforts.
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve Image ID: 30569 Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
I’ve flown with Steve many times, including previously for Lighthawk to document the impacts of the large wind turbines constructed on the landscape around Ocotillo, California as well as a number of times to survey blue whales in the southern California bight and the Channel Islands. On our San Diego MPA mission, we would be passing over several lagoons and rivermouths, various kelp forests, two submarine canyons, several stretches of coastal bluff, one peninsula and lots of urban elements surrounding and interspersed with these MPAs. Our goal was to produce imagery presenting, for each of the MPAs, at least the following: 1) the general setting of each MPA, so that viewers can quickly understand what and where it is, and 2) something unique, special and/or appealing about each MPA, to help viewers connect with and appreciate the MPAs. Steve’s daughter Roxanne accompanied us as second pilot as well as locating the MPAs and facilitating communication between Steve and me. Steve handled the primary piloting, and communications with air-traffic controllers in the area.
The Marine Protected Areas that we hoped to fly over were, from North to South in the order we would see them:
Batiquitos Lagoon SMCA
San Elijo Lagoon SMCA
San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA
South La Jolla SMCA
South La Jolla SMR
Famosa Slough SMCA (we missed this one, unfortunately)
Tijuana River Mouth SMCA
Time in the air is always limited and, frankly, it comes at a steep price. I wanted to make sure we had some variety of perspectives, and at least one or two good images from each of different MPAs. It is a challenge, in more ways than one, to pull off a successful photo flight like this. We had several long conservations with Lee Pagni at Lighthawk about the objectives, then Steve and I had to work out several possible flight dates given tides, position of the sun in the sky, etc. Our first slot was scrubbed due to clouds. When we finally met at Palomar-McClellan airport in Carlsbad, we already had invested some hours and energy. On top of that are the expenses Steve incurs operating the plane, which are considerable. So, I did want to leave any possibility of missing a photo due to equipment failure or simply having the wrong lens in hand. I would be shooting out the side of Steve’s Cessna 206 plane, with views from about 7 to 10 o’clock (the nose of the plane being at 12 noon). We also mounted a GoPro camera on the wing, pointed somewhat forward and down, in the hopes of obtaining some additional very wide images with a view that I was not able to get. We set the GoPro to take a picture every 5 seconds for the duration of the flight. I photographed with three cameras to give me quick access to a variety of focal lengths: Nikon D800 with 14-24 lens, Nikon D800 with 24-70 lens, and Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200 lens. The 24-70 is by far the most useful lens for this sort of aerial landscape. The 14-24 is typically too wide and sometimes catches a wing tip or strut in the corner of the frame, but it can produce beautiful aerials in some circumstances. Unless the air is exceedingly clear, 70-200 is typically too much lens for my taste and produces a flat-looking, low-contrast image even with a polarizer. (The 70-200 is, however, excellent for photographing whales while shooting straight down.) I also had two GPS units recording our positions every few seconds, producing a “GPX file” which I would later use to “geo-tag” all of the photos. (Good thing I had two, my older GPS produced a faulty GPX file and is now retired.)
Editing left me with 150 images, including a few of the GoPro ones that illustrated reef structure in La Jolla that I did not manage to photograph well with my “real cameras”. In particular, the GoPro stills are hard to use due to the fisheye-like view they produce, but in some cases the fisheye distortion can be corrected and a useable image results. Taking all of the GoPro images, correcting them all for distortion and then cropping them to a 9:16 perspective, allowed me to produce a sort of jerky time-lapse which gives a sense of the views we where working with. If you don’t see a Youtube frame below, you might need to refresh the page. Be sure to select “HD” when it starts playing:
When editing aerial images, the first thing I always do is “geo-tag” them. This simply means adding the location (latitude, longitude and altitude) into the EXIF information that is present inside of a digital photograph. I do the geotagging in Adobe Lightroom, using the GPX file created by my handheld GPS. (Some cameras, including the iPhone, geotag photos as soon as they are taken.) The raw GPX file is simply a dot-to-dot set of locations that, when plotted in software like Google Earth, shows the path of the flight:
Here are a couple zoomed-in-views, showing our flight paths over Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) (first image) and Swami’s SMCA and San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (second image):
These tracklogs are nice, but without the images they simply say “we were here”. After geotagging the images and producing a “KMZ file” to display in Google Earth, one can see the images at the location where they were made. The geo-information associated with each image is now of some value:
If you have Google Earth installed, you can work with the full KMZ file by clicking the next image. (It may simply download the KMZ file instead of displaying it in Google Earth.) It contains embedded within it small versions of all the edited images, appearing at their proper locations. If this does not work, you can download the raw KMZ file to your computer and try loading it into Google Earth directly.
I would like to thank Lighthawk, Christine Steele and Lee Pagni of Lighthawk, and my pilot friends Steve and Roxanne Parker for helping to make these photographs possible. I will be posting detailed information about selected images from this flight over the coming weeks. If you reference these images, they should be credited “Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com / Lighthawk.org”.
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve Image ID: 30563 Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve Image ID: 30622 Location: La Jolla, California, USA
The Wildcoast annual report for 2014 has my aerial photograph of a mother and calf gray whale pair swimming off the coast of California on the cover. Wildcoast is a great environmental organization. Cheers and thanks for looking!
This is Anacapa Island, viewed from the west with the California coastline visible in the distance. Anacapa Island is composed of three islets stretching about 6 miles long, located 11 miles off the coast. West Anacapa, seen here, is the highest of the three reaching an altitude of 930′ above the sea. Anacapa Island is part of California’s “Channel Islands” and is one of the five islands in Channel Islands National Park. This image was made during an aerial whale survey of the Channel Islands.
Aerial Photos of the Coronado Islands, Baja California, Mexico
These new aerial photos of the three main islands in Las Islas Coronado, offshore of Baja California not far from Tijuana (Mexico) and San Diego, came from a nice flight a few weeks ago during a high pressure system, which calmed the ocean surface thus allowing some of the submarine rocky reef structure to be visible. Thanks for looking!
Flying recently while a winter high pressure system hung over Southern California, I was able to take advantage of clear dry air to shoot several aerial panoramic photos of the La Jolla and northern San Diego coastline. These are technically very difficult to realize, both in capturing the source images and in digitally blending them into the final high resolution panoramic image. The plane was moving 100+ mph, so parallax was a significant factor, and holding a 300mm lens steady while buffeted by wind is not easy. Shown below are coastlines along Torrey Pines State Reserve, Point La Jolla south to Bird Rock, and Point La Jolla north to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (including UCSD). Cheers and thanks for looking!
Aerial Panorama of La Jolla, University City, showing (from left) UCSD, University City, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla Shores, Point La Jolla, Mount Soledad, in the background some of the mountains to the east of San Diego. The highest peak in the center of the panoram is Cuyamaca Peak (6512′) while the rocky peak directly in front of it is El Cajon Mountain (3675′). Image ID: 29098
Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) migrate from the Bering Sea in Alaska down the west coast of the United States to the “calving lagoons” of Baja California. (A small number of grays whales also live in the extreme western Pacific.) This migration is considered the longest of any mammal. Calves are typically, but not always, born in or very near the Baja California lagoons but are sometimes born north of there, during the southern migration. I have encountered one gray whale mother and newborn gray whale calf well to the north, in the cold gray waters of Big Sur, about 20 years ago. I recently had another special opportunity to photograph gray whales during their southern migration, this time from the air. Southern California had experienced a high pressure weather system that cleared out the air and laid the seas down flat. The best time to fly in such conditions is in the last days of the high pressure, before it breaks. We had clear skies, flat oceans, great visibility, and did see a few whales. These photos are tagged with their exact GPS locations (sometimes I get requests for info from cetacean researchers). Cheers, and thanks for looking!
Hotel del Coronado, known affectionately as the Hotel Del. It was once the largest hotel in the world, and is one of the few remaining wooden Victorian beach resorts. It sits on the beach on Coronado Island, seen here with downtown San Diego in the distance. It is widely considered to be one of Americas most beautiful and classic hotels. Built in 1888, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Image ID: 22287 Location: San Diego, California, USA
San Diego Coronado Bridge, known locally as the Coronado Bridge, links San Diego with Coronado, California. The bridge was completed in 1969 and was a toll bridge until 2002. It is 2.1 miles long and reaches a height of 200 feet above San Diego Bay. Coronado Island is to the left, and downtown San Diego is to the right in this view looking north. Image ID: 22288 Location: San Diego, California, USA
Coronado Shores, a group of 10 condominium buildings south of the Hotel Del, on the water on Coronado Island. Image ID: 22297 Location: San Diego, California, USA
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, situated on the Silver Strand between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, is the West Coast focal point for special and expeditionary warfare training and operations. The famous “swastika building” is seen on the southern (left) side of the base. Image ID: 22298 Location: San Diego, California, USA
This blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) was photographed from the air as it surfaced off the coast of Redondo Beach (near Los Angeles, California) to exhale and take a new breath, before diving underwater to feed on krill.
I recorded the GPS position (latitude, longitude) each time I took a photo of a blue whale. Curiously, the blue whales remained in a small area directly over the submarine canyon that lies offshore of Redondo Beach, as seen in the below screen shot from Google Earth. My hunch is that the krill upon which the blue whales were presumably feeding was gathered in, or near, the canyon. You can click the image below to bring up the Google Earth display, showing the images superimposed where they were photographed above the Redondo Beach submarine canyon.