Tag

San Diego

A Few New Blue Whale Photos, or, Why I Won’t Be Visiting Iceland Soon

Blue Whale, California, Environmental Problems, Underwater Photography

A huge blue whale swims through the open ocean in this underwater photograph. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on Earth, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

A huge blue whale swims through the open ocean in this underwater photograph. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on Earth.
Image ID: 34567
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Blue whales have been in our area recently. Not too long ago you could have said that and most people would have been quite surprised. But it is no longer a secret, it is a fairly reliable natural history event. For 25 years I’ve been getting out on the water with photographer and good friend Mike Johnson to look at life on the ocean, and this year we had a little luck. Inquisitive whales came by a few times to take a look at us and I got a couple photos out of it.

What does this have to do with Iceland? This. I have long wanted to see Iceland, with its cute ponies, spectacular waterfalls and Instagram-celebrity ice cubes rolling in the surf like “From Here to Eternity”. I am positive Icelanders are wonderful folks, and I know their country is gorgeous and welcoming. I wish Icelanders well. But the Icelandic government permits this asshole to commercially hunt fin whales, in spite of fin whales being protected by the CITES. To be clear, these whales are killed for profit — they are exported to Japan. There is no element of “aboriginal” or “subsistence” whaling to what Kristján Loftsson’s commercial whaling company Hvalur hf is doing. Last week, however, Hvalur hf actually killed a blue whale, or a blue-fin hybrid. That strikes a deep nerve with me. On the heels of having some of the best views of these magnificent creatures that I have had in years, I was stunned to learn a few days ago that a blue whale was killed for profit. Blue whales represent the pinnacle of evolution in many ways. They are the largest creatures ever to inhabit Earth. One blue whale is larger than an entire herd of African elephants. A child can crawl through the passages of a blue whale’s heart. Who knows, blue whales may be the largest sentient being in the entire Universe — we can’t rule it out. They have not been hunted, by international agreement, for decades. Until last week.

I’ve seen many blue whales, have had several blue whales look me in the eye and watched blue whales hunt krill, breach out of the water and nurse their calves. They are awe-inspiring animals. Under no circumstances should a blue whale ever be hunted, period.

Why do my feelings matter to Iceland? I, and others like me, represent a considerable potential revenue stream for Iceland. I spend a lot of money on travel. I spend way too much time thinking about where to go next. I am constantly planning trips abroad, as far as two years out. I have organized as well as participated in at least 50 significant trips (some would be called expeditions) with friends where as a group we can easily drop $75,000 or more in two weeks of travel. Many friends ask me for advice and ideas about where to go to have fun and take cool photographs around the world. My website gets more than a little traffic, and I get hit up with emails weekly about my opinion on this place or that dive. I plan to spend more money traveling and diving in the coming ten years than I have in my life so far. And I hope to spend a fair bit of it in Iceland, seeing the wonders there. But it won’t happen until I see improvement on the part of the Government of Iceland toward whales, along with holding Hvalur hf accountable for its take of this blue. I don’t get to vote in Iceland’s elections. The only way I can influence Iceland’s policies towards whales and whaling is with my wallet, by keeping it shut and by encouraging others to do the same, until change occurs.

Take a look at these blue whales we saw recently. They are not food and they shouldn’t be hunted. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Blue whales, adult and juvenile (likely mother and calf), swimming together side by side underwater in the open ocean, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

Blue whales, adult and juvenile (likely mother and calf), swimming together side by side underwater in the open ocean.
Image ID: 34568
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

A huge blue whale swims through the open ocean in this underwater photograph. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on Earth, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

A huge blue whale swims through the open ocean in this underwater photograph. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on Earth.
Image ID: 34565
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Blue whale, exhaling in a huge blow as it swims at the surface between deep dives. The blue whale's blow is a combination of water spray from around its blowhole and condensation from its warm breath, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

Blue whale, exhaling in a huge blow as it swims at the surface between deep dives. The blue whale’s blow is a combination of water spray from around its blowhole and condensation from its warm breath.
Image ID: 34560
Species: Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Blue whale, exhaling in a huge blow as it swims at the surface between deep dives. The blue whale's blow is a combination of water spray from around its blowhole and condensation from its warm breath, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

Blue whale, exhaling in a huge blow as it swims at the surface between deep dives. The blue whale’s blow is a combination of water spray from around its blowhole and condensation from its warm breath.
Image ID: 34564
Species: Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Eleven Great Aerial Photographs of the La Jolla Coast in San Diego

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, San Diego

I’ve done quite a bit of aerial photography along the San Diego coastline over the years, most of it via helicopter but some in a fixed wing plane, and my favorite images are clustered around La Jolla. It is no wonder that La Jolla is considered the jewel of San Diego, with its rugged shoreline, luxurious real estate and fabulous beaches. Please enjoy some of my favorite aerial photos of La Jolla, California. All of these images are available as canvas or face-mounted acrylic prints, several up to 60″ in size. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Torrey Pines seacliffs, rising up to 300 feet above the ocean, stretch from Del Mar to La Jolla.  On the mesa atop the bluffs are found Torrey pine trees, one of the rare species of pines in the world, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Torrey Pines seacliffs, rising up to 300 feet above the ocean, stretch from Del Mar to La Jolla. On the mesa atop the bluffs are found Torrey pine trees, one of the rare species of pines in the world.
Image ID: 22285
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children's Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children’s Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide.
Image ID: 33860
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children's Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children’s Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide.
Image ID: 33863
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial photo of Windansea Beach area in La Jolla, rugged rocky reefs exposed to view at extreme low tide

Aerial photo of Windansea Beach area in La Jolla, rugged rocky reefs exposed to view at extreme low tide.
Image ID: 33981
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Photo of Beautiful La Jolla Coastline, rugged rocky ocean reefs exposed to view at extreme low tide, San Diego

Aerial Photo of Beautiful La Jolla Coastline, rugged rocky ocean reefs exposed to view at extreme low tide, San Diego
Image ID: 33985
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

La Jolla Caves and Coastline, Goldfish Point, Aerial Panoramic Photo

La Jolla Caves and Coastline, Goldfish Point, Aerial Panoramic Photo
Image ID: 34021
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Point La Jolla Aerial Photo. 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 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. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 30? high by 80? long with no interpolation

Point La Jolla Aerial Photo. 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 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. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 30? high by 80? long with no interpolation
Image ID: 34099
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

SIO Pier Aerial Photograph. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier is 1090 feet long and was built of reinforced concrete in 1988, replacing the original wooden pier built in 1915. The Scripps Pier is home to a variety of sensing equipment above and below water that collects various oceanographic data. The Scripps research diving facility is located at the foot of the pier. Fresh seawater is pumped from the pier to the many tanks and facilities of SIO, including the Birch Aquarium. The Scripps Pier is named in honor of Ellen Browning Scripps, the most significant donor and benefactor of the Institution, La Jolla, California

SIO Pier Aerial Photograph. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier is 1090 feet long and was built of reinforced concrete in 1988, replacing the original wooden pier built in 1915. The Scripps Pier is home to a variety of sensing equipment above and below water that collects various oceanographic data. The Scripps research diving facility is located at the foot of the pier. Fresh seawater is pumped from the pier to the many tanks and facilities of SIO, including the Birch Aquarium. The Scripps Pier is named in honor of Ellen Browning Scripps, the most significant donor and benefactor of the Institution
Image ID: 34122
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial View of the La Jolla Coastline at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Aerial View of the La Jolla Coastline at Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Image ID: 34126
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Mount Soledad Cross aerial photograph, sunrise. The Mount Soledad Cross, a landmark in La Jolla, California. The Mount Soledad Cross is a 29-foot-tall cross erected in 1954

Mount Soledad Cross aerial photograph, sunrise. The Mount Soledad Cross, a landmark in La Jolla, California. The Mount Soledad Cross is a 29-foot-tall cross erected in 1954.
Image ID: 34137
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Point La Jolla Aerial Photo. Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park

Point La Jolla Aerial Photo. Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park.
Image ID: 34261
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This past spring my daughters and I took a couple flights over San Diego to shoot panoramas while the conditions were good. This is one of my favorites, showing the beautifully scalloped coastline of Sunset Cliffs, north of Point Loma. You can even see the sandstone outcropping we jumped off of into the ocean in the summer when I was in college! Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla are just visible at far left. This image was created with my uber-secret ball-head technique and is over 224 megapixels in size, printing up to 6′ x 20′ in size with no interpolation. If you like this, please see more panoramic photos and more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy's Point, Claiborne Cove

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy’s Point, Claiborne Cove.
Image ID: 30790
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 8011 x 28354

Photographing Macrocystis in La Jolla’s Beautiful Forests of Giant Kelp

La Jolla, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

I have been photographing kelp forests in California with a passion for 25 years, from the Mexican border on up to Monterey including all the Channel Islands. Usually when I go diving in kelp its to San Clemente Island, which arguably has the most beautiful underwater scenery anywhere in California. In doing so I have bypassed the large tracts of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) just offshore of La Jolla and Point Loma because the water is just not as clear as I would like in those places. During the last couple years, however, the kelp forests at San Clemente Island have thinned out incredibly due to overly warm water, while those along the coast are still thick and healthy. Recently while out with a friend on his boat, I was able to do a little freediving in the kelp beds just off Point La Jolla and managed to get some nice photographs. The light was great, the visibility “good enough” and I was reminded again just how beautiful a healthy kelp forest is. As is done with a lot of my underwater photography, these images are made with only the available light — no strobes or tricky equipment. In other words, this is what you would see if you put on a mask and fins and went for a swim off in the kelp beds off Alligator Head or Children’s Pool. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30986
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30989
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30996
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30998
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30992
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

San Diego County Fair at Night, Del Mar, California

California, San Diego

The Del Mar Fair — or, for noobs, the “San Diego County Fair” — has some great lights at night. My favorites are the ferris wheels and whirling rides. This year I added a new image to my collection, one in which the full moon is rising above the fairgrounds. A little bit of time exposure lets the moving rides trace out cool circles in the air like a Spyrograph. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair.  Del Mar Fair at night

Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair. Del Mar Fair at night.
Image ID: 31030
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

Train lights, Del Mar Fair and San Dieguito Lagoon at Night.  Lights from the San Diego Fair reflect in San Dieguito Lagooon, with the train track trestles to the left

Train lights, Del Mar Fair and San Dieguito Lagoon at Night. Lights from the San Diego Fair reflect in San Dieguito Lagooon, with the train track trestles to the left.
Image ID: 31025
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair.  Del Mar Fair at night

Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair. Del Mar Fair at night.
Image ID: 31028
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

Hot Dog on a Stick, corn dog, greasy fried fatty food, Del Mar Fair

Hot Dog on a Stick, corn dog, greasy fried fatty food.
Image ID: 20860
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA

Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure, Del Mar Fair

Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure.
Image ID: 20872
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA

Del Mar Fair rides at night, blurring due to long exposure

Del Mar Fair rides at night, blurring due to long exposure.
Image ID: 20876
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Torrey Pines Golf Course and Black’s Beach

Aerial Photography, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

This aerial panorama of Torrey Pines Golf Course will print huge: up to about 4′ high and 10′ wide! In the center is seen Torrey Pines Golf Course south course, with the north course to the left. I played Torrey Pines often when I first moved to La Jolla and it is as beautiful on the ground as it looks from the air. Dominating the scene are the 300′ tall seacliffs that characterize the coastline from Torrey Pines State Reserve south to Scripps Institute of Oceanography. To the right is seen Torrey Pines Glider Port on the mesa, and Black’s Beach at the base of the seacliffs. Interstate 5 is seen in the center distance along with University City, Del Mar to the extreme left and Mount Soledad and La Jolla to the extreme right. I am often asked if I use a drone to shoot aerials, since they are becoming so popular. The answer for now is “no”: I always hold the camera. Someday I will probably use a drone but for my current interests and goals, I have greater control and can produce a higher quality image if I am in the air with my camera. Besides, its fun to fly, and I don’t want a drone to have all the fun. It was exciting making this panorama, hovering over some of the most beautiful coastline in all of California. If you like this, see more of my aerial panoramic photographs. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)
Image ID: 30851
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Panorama of Point Loma, Cabrillo Monument and San Diego Bay

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This is a highly detailed aerial panoramic photo of the southern end of Point Loma, with Cabrillo Monument and both old and new lighthouses visible. The original Cabrillo lighthouse is seen atop the bluff, while the new lighthouse is down near the water’s edge next to the green lawns. North Island Naval Air Station and San Diego Bay are seen in the distance over the top of the peninsula. The submarine reefs of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve are clearly visible through the clear water. The Coronado Strand stretches off to the right (south) toward Mexico, while the broken coastline of Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs stretches off to the left (north). This high resolution panorama will print 40″ high by 90″ wide. If you like this, please see more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, San Diego, California

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument
Image ID: 30847
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Aerial Panorama of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

One of the images I wanted to add to my collection of San Diego aerial photos was a very wide, very detailed image of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. I could have taken a single image with a very wide lens — such as this image taken a few years ago that has since paid for the flight many times over — and achieved a reasonable result, but as far as high resolution goes this approach has its limits. The wider the lens, the more distortion is present in the image (think “fisheye view”). Correcting such distortion reduces the sharpness of the details especially around the edges of the image. Also, a single photograph will be limited in resolution by what the camera can record — these days, 36 megapixels is typical. What I really wanted was an enormous, highly detailed, and rectilinear (straight lines, no fisheye distortion) image suitable for large reproduction in a space that would warrant it, such as an office lobby, museum, or the Oval Office. Equipped with the most expensive and high-tech ball head in the world, my daughter and I got up in the air and set about shooting the images. I later stitched them together on the computer using several stages and software programs. The result is this panoramic photo of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, suitable for printing 50″ by 100″ wide with no interpolation.

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge
Image ID: 30789
Location: San Diego, California, USA

If you like this, please see my other San Diego aerial photos, or my collection of aerial panoramic photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park, San Diego

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

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 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

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 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
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 Photographic Survey of San Diego Marine Protected Areas for Lighthawk

Aerial Photography, California, San Diego

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

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
  • Swami’s SMCA
  • San Elijo Lagoon SMCA
  • San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
  • San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA
  • Matlahuayal SMR
  • South La Jolla SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR
  • Famosa Slough SMCA (we missed this one, unfortunately)
  • Cabrillo SMR
  • 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.)

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego
Image ID: 30641
Location: San Diego, California, USA

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.

The full collection of images being made available to bon fide conservation organizations can be seen here. Please contact me directly if you have questions, or if you would like to make use of them.

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

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, La Jolla, California

Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve
Image ID: 30622
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve

Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve
Image ID: 30638
Location: La Jolla, California, USA