My First Large Scale Display

Mark Shimazu Photography Westfield UTC Mall Large Scale Display

A couple of months back, I was approached by the Director of Marketing at the Westfield UTC regarding licensing one of my photos for a large scale commercial display. Now that the project is complete, I can share the results with you.

The Westfield UTC is an upscale mall located in the University Town Center area adjacent to the University of California in San Diego and the beach enclave of La Jolla. The mall recently underwent a major renovation and art is a major theme. The plans called for a large five panel photo display of scenes in La Jolla and the surrounding coastal areas.

I was initially approached due to the client’s interest in my Scripps Pier image (probably my most popular photo as I have been asked for license of this file on numerous occasions). A Google image search had led the client to my blog. This really emphasizes the necessity for good Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Had I not tagged my photos with good search terms (with the help of my fabulous wife who, in her previous life, was in marketing ) and made my photos “visible” I would never have gotten this sale. Even if you do not intent to license or sell your photos, good SEO leads to more hits to your blog from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing and is worth doing and doing well.

When I met with the client and was shown how large my photos were going to be printed, I have to admit, I was a little nervous. The panels were approximately 94″ x 94″ or nearly 8 feet across and high and were going to be displayed where the viewing distance was going to be measured in feet and not yards. I stand around 5’11” so you can get a sense of scale of the display with me in front of it.

Mark Shimazu Photography Westfield UTC Mall Large Scale Display 2

Before I fully committed to the project, I did tons of research to determine if the images from my 5D Mark III would hold up to such an enlargement, and it turns out that they do. So just think about this the next time you are wondering if your modern DSLR is capable of even 11″ x 14″ prints (which seems to be a questions that comes up often on forums). Viewing at around 1-foot distance, there is minor pixelation (remember the majority of these prints are a square crop and if the original 3:2 aspect ratio would have been preserved, it would have represented a print measuring 141″ or nearly 12 feet on its long end!). At a viewing distance of 3-feet, the image looks very clean and at a normal viewing distance of 6+ feet, the images look spectacular.

Prints this large also emphasize something I am a huge proponent of, getting it right in camera. With the really high megapixel cameras these days, it is easy to perform sloppy compositions (tilted horizons are a huge pet peeve of mine) and to simply say “I’ll just crop or fix it in post processing”. The images used for this display are either not cropped at all (aside from what was required to fill the display windows) or cropped very minimally to fix minor leveling of the horizon line. Due to the final output size of these images, I needed all 22 megapixels my camera was capable of producing. So next time you think, “I’ll fix it in post processing”, resist the urge as you never know when you might need all those megapixels.

For those interested in the technical details of these images, I shot them as RAW files then imported them into Lightroom where I performed global adjustments. Next I imported them as 16-bit TIFFs into Photoshop where I applied additional processing. Finally, the files were saved as uncompressed TIFF files (around 250 MB each) and the printer was able to work with these files for the final output. Email me using my Contact Me page if you want more specifics.

I know I have a few local San Diegans who follow my blog. If you get a chance, please go and check these images out in person. They are in the general area of where the Nordstroms is located and the display is right next to the Restoration Hardware. For those non-locals following my blog, you can check out the individual photos from the 5 photo collage using the links below.

Windansea Beach
La Jolla Cove Staircase
The Children’s Pool at La Jolla Cove
Scripps Pier
La Jolla Cove Sunset


San Diego Neighborhood Signs

Gaslamp Sign Quarter San Diego CaliforniaCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 65mm, f/11 for 6s at ISO 100


These images are a continuation of my series on San Diego neighborhood signs. The first shot of the series was “The Boulevard” on El Cajon Blvd and can be seen is this post. There are several of these signs that either are prominently featured on an island divider or span the entire street. A complete list of signs in San Diego can be found here. So that makes four down and one more to go for a certain project I have in mind.

NorthPark sign San Diego CaliforniaCanon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM at 135mm, f/22 for 30s at ISO 100

How to get this type of shot

Patients and timing are critical in getting a successful shot. For both the Gaslamp and Northpark signs I wanted to include the activity of the city represented by the streaking car head and tail lights. These light streaks not only serve as leading lines into the image, but also add a dynamic element of activity in a cityscape. To get both incoming and outgoing cars, I had to time my shots with the traffic signals so that cars were going in and out of the frame during the exposure. This took several tries to get the most pleasing streaks.

Shooting at the right time of day is also key. For the Gaslamp shot I wanted to feature the downtown buildings so I shot slightly after sunset so that some light remained in the sky which also served to light up the surrounding buildings with natural light. Some neighborhoods are more photogenic than others and those signs surrounded by strip malls are best shot at night when the signs light up and the rest of the city falls into darkness. The Boulevard and Northpark shots are examples of this.

Encinitas is home to the world famous surf spot Swami’s, so I wanted to capture this photo during sunset with blue skies and clouds in the scene to get the “Sunny California” vibe. I also framed the shot to include some palm trees to give the image a sense of place for those that are not familiar with the location of Encinitas.

Encinitas Sign Highway 101 San Diego California SwamisCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 58mm, f/11 for 1/15s at ISO 100, circular polarizer


“The Gaslamp” sign in San Diego California in the Gaslamp quarter of Downtown San Diego (Coordinates: 32.707262,-117.160087)

“Northpark” sign in San Diego California (Coordinates: 32.748566,-117.131296)

“Encinitas” sign in Encinitas California on Scenic Highway 101 (Coordinates: 33.046309,-117.293762)

Festival of Sail – San Diego – California

Festival of Sail San Diego California Tall Ship SailingCanon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 58mm, f/8 for 1/125s at ISO 100


The Festival of Sail is an annual event that takes place on the San Diego Bay adjacent to Downtown during Labor Day Weekend. Numerous tall ships are both on display and are also available for people to take a ride on. These magnificent ships take you back to a time when wind power was the only way to propel your ship. I missed this event for the past two years, but thought I would share a couple of photos from 2011.

How to get this type of shot

Due to the time of day I was there, I was forced to shoot in mid-day sun, but fortunately the day had some nice clouds between the areas of blue sky so I could get photos which were not too contrasty. I used a polarizer to darken the sky and to make the white sails of the ships stand out. I brought my wide angle lens to get some interesting compositions aboard the tight confines of the ship, a standard zoom lens as well as my telephoto zoom to get closer to the action of the staged cannon battles.

For the first image I wanted to layer the image to show the docks with the cannons in the foreground and the ship in the background. The second image was a classic use of leading lines. Due to the nature of the ships sails, all lines (ropes) converge into the central mast. I felt that the peripheral lines added interest to the scene and the white sails contrasted well with the blue skies.

Festival of Sail San Diego California Tall Ship SailingCanon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 35mm, f/8 for 1/320s at ISO 100


Looking up at the mast of the tall ship Star of India(Coordinates: 32.720261,-117.173547)

Torrey Pines Gliderport

Torrey Pines La Jolla San Diego Paraglide glider gliderportCanon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 130mm, f/2.8 for 1/640s at ISO 100


The Sunday forecast called for cool clear skies near the coast and the conditions were going to be great for paragliding. So my wife and I went out on an impromptu afternoon trip to enjoy the weather and hopefully get some nice shots at the Gliderport. This was my second time taking photos here and images from my first trip can be found here.

How to get this type of shot

Since the conditions were great for flight with strong onshore winds, the paragliders did not need to make use of the runway area to lift off. This resulted in the pilots spending most of their time lifting off from the far end of the runway near the cliffs. This meant I was not able to get great photos from the area I shot from last time just outside the pilots only restricted zone.

This turned out to be serendipitous since I had to re-position myself and found a location near the sheer cliffs overlooking the beach and ocean. I immediately knew I would be able to get some great shots of the paragliders against sky with the ocean, cliffs and beach providing context to the place. Luckily, the sun was also in a favorable location relative to the direction I was shooting and provided a nice 45 degree angle of light on the subjects. Just to give you a sense of how high these cliffs are, see those dots on the beach? Those are beach goers enjoying the sun and surf.

Torrey Pines La Jolla San Diego Paraglide glider gliderportCanon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 170mm, f/2.8 for 1/640s at ISO 100

I shot all of the images with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM with a circular polorizer attached to darken and saturate the sky. I shot wide open at f/2.8 which gave me a shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/640s (it was this low due to the ~2-stops of light I lost due to the polarizer) which was fast enough to freeze the paragliders. I shot in Servo autofocus mode and in continuous high speed to increase my chances of getting the action, composition and focus accuracy I was after.

Torrey Pines La Jolla San Diego Paraglide glider gliderportCanon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 105mm, f/2.8 for 1/640s at ISO 100


Location facing North looking down Black’s Beach (Coordinates: 32.889279,-117.251856)

Coronado Bridge

Coronado Bridge Sunset San DiegoCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 55mm, f/11 for 30s at ISO 100


The last time I photographed the Coronado Bridge I chose to do so from a nearby beach where I could use boats used to access the ships moored out on the bay as foreground objects. Although the light was nice and the composition pleasing, what I realized when viewing the photos at home on a large monitor was that I did not adequately capture the uniqueness of the Coronado bridge. The bridge as I captured it looked like any other bridge and appears to be a pedestrian connection between two land masses when in fact the bridge makes a sweeping right turn going into Coronado from San Diego. It was this striking feature that I wanted to capture with this photo.

How to get this type of shot

The shot was more difficult to get than I initially though when I had planned and conceived it in my mind. The problem was that there is a 8-foot fence on both sides of the path immediately surrounding the underpass of the bridge. This meant getting a clean composition without the barb wired and chain linked fence was going to be a challenge. Luckily, there is an embankment with a concrete structure right under the bridge. It was a little tricky positioning my tripod in a stable position on the embankment, but it allowed me to shoot over the fence (just barely) and get the composition I wanted.

The night was clear without any clouds which I preferred since I wanted to emphasize only the form and textures of the bridge itself. Dramatic clouds, although pleasing, would have distracted from this goal. The smooth sky in the upper left of the image, I feel, contrasts well with the strong lines of the bridge.

Due to the sky being darker than some parts of the bridge (and much darker than the underside of the bridge) I had to use a 3-stop graduated ND filter. Can you guess how I placed the filter? The graduation actually runs from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock with the graduation placed vertically in the frame. This allowed me to even out the shaded portions of the bridge from those being hit with light.

The shot was made after the lights of the bridge had turned on and had sufficient time to warm up. This occurred around 20 minutes after sunset. One thing that I did not notice at the time of shooting are the flare patterns the street lights created in the middle of the frame. Although I typically try and avoid lens flare in my images, the pattern created in this case was pleasing and I feel adds to the overall photo.

I used an aperture of f/11 since the first bridge pylon was a good 50 feet or so away. The bridge spans around a mile and this f-stop gave me plenty of depth-of-field. The resulting shutter speed was 30 seconds and this was enough to help smooth out the water in the bay, again helping to focus on only the strong lines and textures of the bridge.


Location under the Coronado Bridge looking out towards San Diego (Coordinates: 32.688491,-117.163785)

Windandsea – La Jolla California

Windansea La Jolla California Seascape Landscape Photo SunsetCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 28mm, f/16 for 1s at ISO 100


This is similar to the shot I showed yesterday, but in landscape, from a slightly different location and shot around 30 minutes before sunset. Although the scene is similar, the mood is different in each image.

How to get this type of shot

As with the photo from yesterday, I tried to layer the image as much as possible by interweaving the rocks with the incoming tide. Just to the right of the frame are some homes that I chose not to include in the composition to give it more of an “out on the beach far from civilization” look even though I was right in the middle of La Jolla.

I used f/16 to get a large depth-of-field and wanted a shutter speed to show some, but not too much motion in the waves. There were some breaks in the marine layer that allowed for some light to come through (way on the horizon you can see some God rays) so I used my 3-stop graduated ND filter to even the exposure of the sky to match that of the foreground. This filter is a must have if you are a landscape photographer and I use it on about 80% of my landscape shots. There are many choices in terms of number of stop reductions and manufactures, but if I were to only buy one, it would be the graduated 3-stop (0.9) from either Lee or Singh Ray. You will also need the Lee Foundation holder and proper adapter ring to match your len’s diameter.

Next time out I hope to have clearer skies as the last half dozen or so times I have been out to the coast, it has always been overcast during sunset.


Rock formations at Windansea Beach in La Jolla California (Coordinates: 32.827924,-117.280261)

Stormy Night – Windansea – La Jolla

Windansea La Jolla California Seascape Landscape PhotoCanon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 35mm, f/16 for 2s at ISO 100


I was after some surfer/surfboard shots this weekend and headed down to a popular local surf spot, Windansea in La Jolla. Although I did not come back with any of the shots I was originally after, I was able to get some decent seascape shots of the rocky coastline.

How to get this type of shot

One of the many challenges that photographers face is how to convey a sense of depth in a flat 2-dimensional image displayed either as a print or on screen. There are several techniques available to us including composing for a strong foreground, middle and background, the use of leading lines and layering an image just to name a few. I chose to use the layering technique by carefully composing my image so that the rocks formed layers between the incoming tide and ocean. Can you imagine the above image without the rocky ledge in the bottom of the image? Not including this would have resulted in less apparent depth in the image.

The image itself was taken around sunset, but even though the marine layer had already come in some light was still able to penetrate the clouds giving this image a dark stormy look. Despite the overcast conditions, I still needed a 3-stop graduated ND filter to balance the exposure of the sky and foreground rocks.

I used an f-stop of f/16 to get everything from the foreground rock to the horizon in focus. I wanted a relatively fast shutter speed to capture the motion in the ocean and retain most of the shapes of the incoming waves and not turn the ocean into a uniform mass which would have happened if I used a long shutter speed such as 15s. I also paid particular attention to the incoming and outgoing tide waters in the two foreground channels and wanted a photo showing the swirling pattern they created. It took around 15 minutes for me to get the combination of wave motion and swirl patterns which I feel make this photo successful.

Oh and those black spots you see in the ocean near the horizon line, those aren’t dust spots but surfers.


Rock formations at Windansea Beach in La Jolla California (Coordinates: 32.827924,-117.280261)