Getting up early in the South Bay pays off for photos

Surfers in Hermosa Beach
Jefferson Graham captures morning surfers in Hermosa Beach on his iPhone 12Pro Max


Morning sunrise

The sun rises over Manhattan Beach, by Jefferson Graham for the Photowalks series

By Jefferson Graham

Good morning!

I love waking up early and running outside with my camera. The quiet of the streets, with few cars, fewer people, the smells, the birds chirping, the morning dew, the reflections, fill in your cliche. You can sleep when you’re dead. Or at least take an afternoon nap.

There is no more pleasant time to be out and about than the morning hours in the South Bay. 

Surfers in Hermosa Beach

Jefferson Graham captures morning surfers in Hermosa Beach on his iPhone 12Pro Max

I had a great mid-August run this week of SoCal beach moments, all taken between 6 a.m. and 6:30, when colors appeared suddenly, and then quickly vanished. 🌴 I got the gift of low tide, which in turn produced wonderful reflections. For instance, the shot above of the three surfers just leaving the water. 🌊

Take out the reflections and the bird, and would it be the same? Not for me. (It was cool in color too, but more dramatic in black and white. You can see the original at the bottom of this edition. And I’ll give you a story about the making of the photo.*)

It’s not just me. The Washington Post had a great piece Friday on the joys of an early morning walk, suggesting that travelers should always look to AM to check out a city.

“Daybreak walks provide glimpses into local life that you’d never see later in the day,” says Nancy Nathan. “The light is crisp and the sounds are clear. The deserted streets carry you back to an earlier time. You may be surprised to find that you have the quiet all to yourself, except for a few folks cleaning streets or delivering bread. As you head back for breakfast, you can watch the city come alive.”

Timelapse videos are great for this, as a way to show the night turn to morning. If you haven’t made one before, just put your phone or GoPro on a tripod, go to timelapse mode, and click record. Then stand there for an hour or two.

Morning clouds by Jefferson Graham

Morning clouds in Manhattan Beach, photographed by Jefferson Graham for the Photowalks series

☁️ Clouds in California are a rare sighting and I occasionally see them in the morning. Then they go their own way later in the day.

The photos shown here were all taken on an iPhone 12 Pro. The original of the lifeguard tower seemed a little flat, so I enhanced the colors with the (free) Adobe Lightroom Mobile app. I boosted the exposure, used the Blacks slider to darken the colors and the Dehaze slider to yank some of the morning haze from the shot. Which do you prefer?

The original of the lifeguard tower, before it was developed in Adobe Lightroom Mobile

I have photographed the Manhattan Beach Pier so many times, I fight myself in the morning to keep on going and not get another shot. But with the clouds and more importantly the reflection of the Pier and clouds in the water, I couldn’t let this moment go undocumented. What do you think?

Jefferson Graham

The Manhattan Beach Pier by Jefferson Graham for the Photowalks series

🌇 Most promotional brochures for cities usually show off their towns at sunset, because of the richness of the colors and the great skies. Everything looks great at magic hour! This is all true, but all those people are out! In the morning you’ll have the town to yourself.

Promotional plugs: prints of the above photos are available on my website and I’d love you to watch episodes of my Photowalks travel photography series, which streams for free on the Tubi TV app. How to watch on Tubi? Thanks for asking! Instructions here.

Sidenote: sure, beaches look great anytime and make for memorable photographs and I’m lucky to live in a beach town. But for any of you who live in the L.A. area, who think this is just a beach thing, I’m happy to meet up and prove my morning theory for early morning urban shots. Griffith Observatory anyone? Sunrise in Los Angeles tomorrow is 6:15 a.m.

Thursday Photowalk

Oh yeah, I love sunsets too, really! Thursday night (8/19) in Manhattan Beach, I’ll be leading a live photowalk, and offering various tips on how to get improved shots on your smartphone. Care to join me? Sign-up here.


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