Lifeguard on Duty – Mission Beach San Diego

Lifeguard Mission Beach San Diego California ToweCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4 IS USM at 105mm, f/8 for 1/100s at ISO 100, circular polarizer


Summer is almost upon us and what better way to spend it than a day at the beach. Although the crashing waves are both beautiful and tranquil, they possess a hidden danger in the form of rip currents, shore breaks and jellyfish stings. There to watch over and help us are the men and women of the lifeguard force. Ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice of distress, these individuals keep a day at the beach from becoming a tragic one.

How to get this type of shot

A nice day at the beach with a cloudless sky overhead is great for sunbathers and beachgoers in general, but horrible for us photographers. The midday sun gives bright highlights and casts harsh shadows that result in photographs which are too contrasty. On overcast days, the clouds above serve as huge softboxes which give nice soft light. These are the days that I like to go out and shoot outdoor photos.

Being a densely populated place during the warmer days, the beach can be a challenge to photograph. There are endless amounts of people, umbrellas, towels and other objects that are scattered along the beach, so getting a clean composition without these distracting elements can be a challenge. In the first photo, I walked away from the main parking lot where the highest density of people usually are. In addition, I waited until around 5pm when most of the beachgoers had already left and called it a day. This allowed me to get a clean composition of the lifeguard in his tower. I think the dull gray sky works for this image and gives a feeling of the lifeguard looking out for danger before an oncoming storm.

Lifeguard Mission Beach San Diego California Trucks and BuoysCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4 IS USM at 47mm, f/8 for 1/125s at ISO 100, circular polarizer

The second photo above was shot shortly after we arrived at the beach. The stack of buoys was almost perfectly placed for me as I walked up to the scene and saw that it would make a strong foreground object for the lifeguard trucks in the background. I experimented with various f-stops and focus points ranging from small f-stops and focusing on the buoys, then the trucks, to using large f-stops to maximize depth-of-field and keep both the buoys and trucks in focus. In the end, I decided focusing on the background trucks and letting the buoys fall out of focus gave the most pleasing results.


Mission Beach – San Diego, California (coordinates: 32.774573,-117.2531)


8 thoughts on “Lifeguard on Duty – Mission Beach San Diego

    • Vincent. Thanks for stopping by again. I never thought of doing this in monochrome. When I get home, I might try that and if I like the results, may post it alongside the one above. Thanks for the suggestion.

  1. beautiful beach, I love any beach! The shot of the Life Guard would make a great advertisement for Life Guards in general! I have to admit I didn’t realize a clear sunny sky wasn’t the best for taking photos…good to know! The perceptive you chose by using the unfocused buoys in the foreground allows the vehicles to be the photo, without interference from the buoys…while I see the buoys, my eye is drawn to the trucks…

    • Thanks for stopping by Heather and for taking the time to leave a comment. I would not go as far as to say that sunny days are bad for photography, just more challenging due to the high contrast you have to deal with.

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