La Jolla Cove Staircase

La Jolla Cove Stairs San Diego CaliforniaCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 80mm, f/16 for 60s at ISO 100


I sometimes wonder why I continue to try and chase images of beautiful sunsets when I can clearly see that conditions are overcast with the marine layer vanishing any hopes of getting that type of shot. Why? Because I like to shoot photos and you never know what might catch your eye when you get on site.

The image above was made on one such occasion where the sun had already set and no interesting light remained in the sky. I had abandoned my original location (Where I still camped out for around 30 min with the small hope that some miracle might produce some good or interesting light) and was walking down the coast with no other photography for the evening in mind when I saw this composition and found it interesting. A single nearby tungsten street light was providing some interesting side light giving the scene a feel of early morning light.

How to get this type of shot

Usually when I go out and shoot, I have a certain subject or scene in mind, but one has to be open due to changes in condition and circumstances. I was initially drawn to the lines created by the staircase and the path leading to the hut. Since the conditions were overcast, I chose not to include the sky in my composition. I changed my position along a 6 or so foot section of the walkway to get the most pleasing composition and shot off of a tripod.

The sun had already set, but there was still light in the sky and a single street lamp provided that extra pop in the image and skipped light off of the vegetation and into the cement staircase. I used an aperture of f/16 to get as long a shutter speed as possible to reduce the choppiness in water. In addition, since it was only about 30 minutes after sunset, there were still a good amount of people walking up and down the stairs, but I knew if I were to increase the length of the exposure, they would not show up in the photo. The aperture f/16 gave me a shutter speed of 60s. I had to use my remote programmable remote release since the longest shutter speed I can get without one is only 30s.

After looking at the image I had initially made on my Camera’s LCD, I thought the scene looked a little empty. Although I liked the composition, I felt the photo could be improved by adding a human element into the scene. With this in mind, I asked my wife to go over to the hut and positioned her so she would be looking out into the ocean. Obviously, she needed to stay relatively still as to not become a blur and the still windless night certainly helped with that.


View of the hut and staircase at La Jolla Cove (Coordinates: 32.848854,-117.275829)


11 thoughts on “La Jolla Cove Staircase

  1. wonderful…the stair case is indeed an interesting subject…to me, your wife looking over the water adds a calming feeling, nice touch! for the most part I don’t have a specific “something” in mind…I bring my camera with me where ever I go and see what happens…

    • Thanks Heather. I think both ways of thinking work. Having a set shot in mind or just getting whatever shot comes at the time. I just have a catalog in my head of all the images of San Diego I would like to make.

      • Yes, I think both ways work just fine, but you are probably a far more disciplined person than I am…besides… you have some of the most amazing images just waiting to be captured!

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