About the beach photos

If you follow me on Twitter you’ve likely seen an increase in the number of beach photos that appear in my stream. Now seems as good a time as any to explain why.

Because it’s there

I’m blessed to live near the California coast—not walking-near, but close enough that I can jump in the car and be standing in surf and sand within 10 minutes. However, living in such close proximity to the ocean is a bit like having a swimming pool. It’s great for the first little while, but after that while wears away you tend to ignore it. Because I easily can, I’d now no more spend a day at the beach than a San Francisco resident would frolic along Fisherman’s Wharf.

But I’m trying to shift my priorities so that I give my surroundings their due. While I may not routinely pack the umbrella, cooler, fuzzy-tennis-ball-that-you-throw-at-the-velcro-paddles-and-really-what-is-it-about-that-activity-and-the-beach-anyway, and boogie board, I’m coming to realize that not spending some time witnessing this natural wonder (particularly during non-tourist hours) is disrespectful. In my more delusional moments I feel that I must represent the countless landlocked souls who can’t be here (and when they can, spend a lot of time and money to do so).

Seeking reason

That said, there’s only so long that I can stand and stare at the vastness of the ocean and live within Grace’s golden bubble. Truth is, I get bored and need something else to do. I’ve tried beach sculpture, sand castles, shell collecting, tide pooling, dog admiration, and bird watching, but the thing that seems to stick is photography (and Tweeting the results).

Getting the picture

And it does for a variety of reasons. They include:

I have a decent camera I can carry in my pocket. My iPhone 5s isn’t the world’s most versatile camera, but it’s easy to pack and can take some damned fine photos. Plus, it has the ability to share its pictures in an instant.

It forces me to pay attention. Talk to people who take photography seriously and they’ll tell you about “actively seeing.” The idea being that you view your environment from the perspective of what might make an interesting image. This causes me to look for details and notice textures that I might otherwise ignore. (The flip side of this is that you can often miss the big picture—actually being at the beach.)

It compels me to experiment. Wonderful though the beach may be, it’s a little limited. You’ve got your water, your sand, and your sky. Again, I appreciate the miraculous expansiveness of it all, but do this long enough and it’s easy to fall into the “seen one beach, seen ‘em all” trap. I don’t want every shot to be an image with a bit of sand at the bottom, ocean in the middle, and sky on top. And so I look for different ways to represent where I am. That may mean looking for interesting light, shooting some easily ignored detail, or capturing something that reflects my mood. It’s a little like painting with three colors and therefore requires some thought and planning.


And then there’s the Twitter component. I have opinions about how to use this social networking service, the upshot being that I view it as a personal playground/soap box/stage. And with that in mind, it too serves a variety of purposes.

By way of reminder. The ability to snap a picture and then, within seconds, share it with the world is wonderful. People use this to great effect to promote, complain, and entertain. I use the beach photos as a way to remind people that places like this are open for business, right now. Forever. It’s easy to forget when you’re sitting in a soul-draining open office that the tides roll in and out, day after day, and that maybe slapping a cover sheet on the TPS report isn’t as important as it’s made out to be.

It’s not commercial. I understand that business makes the world go round and that the people who founded Twitter did so with the idea of making a living from it. But the commercialization of Twitter and other social networking services leaves me cold. The beach photos aren’t selling anything. They likely do nothing to increase my visibility or follower count (in fact, they probably decrease it). They exist because I want them to.

I’m a little bit evil. And okay, I occasionally take a perverse delight in letting you know that I’m at the beach and you’re not. It’s an unpleasant facet of my personality and one I deeply regret (until such time that I give in to that temptation).