Lifeguard on Duty – Mission Beach San Diego
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.
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.