Venice Beach Pier

Once a year I head out to Los Angeles for work, and if possible I take an evening to take the camera out somewhere new. In 2015 I drove up to Leo Carillo Beach, last year I went for a photo walk around downtown, and this year I planned on heading down to Venice Beach to watch the sunset at the pier.

On my flight in I woke up just as we were coming over the mountains surrounding Los Angeles, and was able to snap this quick shot from my iPhone. I love the layers of mountains and cool colors. I wanted to get a shot like this when I was in Oregon but never had the chance to hike up Saddle Mountain while I was there.

Mountains of California
Mountains in California

As always I was on a tight schedule, so I arrived about a half hour before sunset. Walking down the beach I watched the surfers, swimmers, and people playing in the water, all while getting my feet wet. Most people were wrapping up for the day and I took this photo of a surfer coming out of the water while trying to find angles to shoot from.

Surfer at Venice Beach Pier
A surfer coming out of the water at sunset

Thanks to The Photographer's Ephemeris I knew exactly where and when the sun would be setting, and without fail I had the spot I wanted to shoot from picked out before I even stepped foot in California. It worked perfectly, and I was lined up and ready to go with plenty of time. I wanted to get the pier in silhouette with the waves crashing up the beach as the sun set directly behind it.

Sunset at Venice Beach Pier
Sunset at Venice Beach Pier, California

Combined with the difficulty of shooting straight into the sun behind the pier, I also was calf deep in the waves, having to jump up a few times to avoid getting completely soaked. It was worth the effort as you can see in the next shot, with the waves flooding in just inches below the lens.

Sunset at Venice Beach Pier
Sunset at Venice Beach Pier, California

While jumping in and out of the water I was running all over the beach to get as many angles as I could. As the sun was at the horizon line I swapped over to my 70-200 2.8 to get some close ups of it dissappearing with the people on top of the pier running and fishing.

Sunset at Venice Beach Pier
Sunset at Venice Beach Pier, California

I kept the 70-200 2.8 on at 70mm until the sun completely disappeared behind the horizon.

Just a sliver left...
Sliver of a sunset at Venice Beach Pier

One thing people don't realize about sunsets is that it's not over when the sun completely sets. About ten minutes afterwards you get some truly amazing colors painting the sky. I had switched back to my 16-35mm and attached it to my tripod. Knowing that the surf pulls sand from underneath the feet I firmly pushed the tripod down an inch or two and waited for a few waves to break before shooting some long exposures. At f/16 I was exposing for 10 seconds each which was tricky with the water, but watching the ebb and flow of the waves I captured this without any shaking.

Golden hour
Golden hour at Venice Beach Pier

After packing up my gear I took a long walk up the beach back to Santa Monica and headed back to the hotel. Sure, I was only out for about an hour overall, but it was worth the trek down to the coast. On my flight back to Chicago I glanced out the window to see another sunset, but this time over Iowa. I snapped a few photos and then called it a trip. Till next time.

Iowa at dusk
View over Iowa at dusk