On any given day, the beach walkers who cover the roughly one-mile stretch from Bird Rock Reef to Nicholson Point (aka WindanSea Beach), can witness a number of amateur and professional photographers at work. “One day, I counted 10 photographers photographing families there … and that was more than 10 years ago!” said local photographer Michael Spengler.
He explained that the area’s variety of elements attract photographers. “You have beach and rocks where you can place people in various poses, and then because of the rocks, if it’s high tide, water splashes and it’s pretty — those are some of the things that are really good.”
Raven Erin, who has been taking photographs in the area for years, agrees. “What WindanSea pulls in is a lot of things to shoot. Given the way the reef interacts with the water and sand, it’s a really good surf, so it allows for a lot of types of photography and that’s why a lot of people shoot there,” he said.
Erin explained that, as a La Jolla native, many of his photographs started in the water capturing surf moments. “I like to get in the ocean and shoot from there. You see a lot of landscape photographers shoot there using the surf. A lot of them want to catch surfers in their environment, so it provides that, and they get a lot of clarity in the water. They can shoot aerials, looking at the water … There’s really cool composition opportunities.”
In February, Erin plans to open the Raven Erin Gallery on Prospect Street, and along with his travel photography, he said he will have many WindanSea and other area beach scenes. “I love the idea of having some local pieces in the gallery, which are going to change out every month,” he said.
Spengler said the social media boom has influenced the number of photographers who shoot at WindanSea. “Also, there’s a lot more hobby photography with the digital age, people with better cameras ... there seems to be more hobby photographers than there are professionals (at WindanSea),” he said. He and Erin concur they now try to avoid the beach for their shoots because it’s so overcrowded.
“The clients want to have an exclusive experience with the photographer, and if every 10 feet there’s going to be another photographer, that plays into it a little bit,” Spengler said. When asked what his new favorite spot was he explained he couldn’t reveal “a secret of the trade.”
For Erin, photography is “an act of solitude, so sometimes I shoot places a little further away to have that peace.”
However, photographer Mark Lenoce who has a studio in town, said he seeks the natural beauty of WindanSea for his work. “I usually recommend it because most of my clients are from out of town, and for a while, only locals knew about it,” he said, adding that often times he shoots marriage proposals on the spot. “I have my client go for a walk on the beach, and he’ll propose to her on the beach, and then we’ll do an engagement session right afterward in different locations, getting the whole scenery in and getting nice portraits of them.” Wedding photos are a staple, he added.
For Spengler, it’s mostly families and high school seniors. “In their senior year, they do a ‘senior session,’ and those are very popular now, especially with social media,” he said.
His shots at WindanSea entail, “taking pictures on the various rock formations, walking on the sand, sitting in the sand ... we do a lot of lifestyle — throwing kids in the air and talking to each other, not so much looking at the camera.”
The most popular time of the day for photographs is sunset, where the mellow light and the figure of the sun in the sky bring up the natural beauty of the beach. “Everybody wants their sunset shots, and you only get so much time to shoot. At WindanSea, you can move around a very small area and have the tide pools, sand, grass and many options for portrait photographers,” Erin said.