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Exploring Los Angeles: An Evening on Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

The Location

Located at the end of Colorado Street, Santa Monica Pier is the city’s most prized and one of the oldest landmarks of the City.

Agrandir le plan

In the city for a business trip in November 2010 and staying in Santa Monica, I had to capture the beauty of this place at the best time of day: the blue hour! I was surprised and lucky because it was a quiet night and contrary to my last trip in the summer, it was not overly crowded. After parking at the entrance, the first building to photograph was the Bubba Gimp Shrimp Co Restaurant.

Bubba Gimp Shrimp Co Restaurant on Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

Then going up on the Pier, I was fascinated by the scene of the Surf View Cafe  and for a more dynamic scene, I let a few people walk into the frame. The result is amazing!

Surf View Cafe on Santa Monica Pier at night, California by David Giral

The view towards the end of the pier shows beautiful colours against the blue sky.

Santa Monica Pier Promenade at the blue hour, California by David Giral

Then you get to the amazing entrance of Pacific Park where you’ll see a big octopus dominating the scene.

Pacific Park Entrance on Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

Coffee Bean entrance at Pacific Park Entrance on Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

A few dozen meters further, on the left part of the Pier, you get this wonderful view.

Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral


And walking a bit further you get these two amazing scenes. I especially  love how the HDR brings out the texture of the weathered wooden floor of the pier and how the 2 shops light up the scene against the blue skyline. The colours balance is nearly perfect.

Harbour Office, Mariasol Restaurant and stores on Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

Harbour Office, Mariasol Restaurant and stores on Santa Monica Pier at the blue hour, California by David Giral

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Equipment used for the shoot

Nikon D700

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4 G ED VR

Gitzo Leveling 6X tripod GT2540LVL

Default ISO settings : 200

Using the 16-35mm was the best way to capture the place “landscape” style and shoot for HDR. What’s really important when shooting for HDR at night it’s to capture all the details of the highlights and have a base exposure with sufficient shadow details. When choosing focal lengths, staying away from 16-20mm helps avoiding distortion and stretching. Contrary to the 14-24mm from Nikon, this lens allows for the use of filters (77mm diameter).

hardware used for the editing

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bits

Core 2 Duo E6750 + 4GB memory

Samsung 275T 27″ monitor + Samsung 244T 24″ monitor

Wacom Intuos 3 tablet

The Wacom tablet is always a must have tool for editing. It allows for pressure sensitive adjustments and it will speed up your workflow once you get used to using it.

Software used for the editing

Photoshop Cs5

32-Float Plugin from Unified Colours – HDR Experts

This was my first series of tests done using this new application from Unified Colours | The HDR Experts. Contrary to other tools like Photomatix, it’s much more easier to set the black point and once you find the right “recipe”, it’s pretty straighforward to use. Colour rendition is way superior to Photomatix and overall result is more realistic. Check for yourself and use coupon code “dgphotohdr” for a get 20% off any of the products.

Contact me for questions or if you’d like to see some topics discussed in more details here!

Thanks for viewing.

David Giral is a published Montreal/Toronto based editorial and commercial professional photographer specialized in architecture, interiors, portrait and travel photography.

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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright David Giral (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without permission from David Giral.

David Giral
1 Comment
  • Julia

    What incredible photography!

    2010/12/18 at 7:56 pm

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