The Santa Monica Mountains

Alpen glow on the Santa Monica Mountains coastal range.
Alpen glow on the Santa Monica Mountains coastal range.

The Santa Monica Mountains are one of Los Angeles’ backyard photo locations. The coastal range spans from the Hollywood Hills in the east and ends in the west past Malibu at Pt. Mugu. What makes this different from the rest of North America is you can photograph fall color and spring flowers all in the same day. It sounds impossible but the mild winters of the mediteranean climate makes this possible.

What's Blooming right now in January?  The lilacs and a few other early bloomers, I'm not crazy just in a mediteranean climate so spring starts early here!
What’s Blooming right now in January? The lilacs and a few other early bloomers, I’m not crazy just in a mediteranean climate so spring starts early here!

Early bloomers under sandstone in the highest part of the mountain range.
Early bloomers under sandstone in the highest part of the mountain range.

The moon setting into the Earth's Shadow.
The moon setting into the Earth’s Shadow.

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11 Responses to “The Santa Monica Mountains”

  1. David Leland Hyde Says:

    Now there’s a unique way of doing alpenglow that I haven’t seen before. I especially like the third image. What a beauty. As I similarly commented recently on Greg Russell’s Alpenglow Blog, I had a very interesting conversation the other day with Gary Crabbe about photographer influences, “magic hour” and alpenglow. As you may know, he started as a photographer working for Galen Rowell. Anyway, I wrote a comment that I thought might offend him. I said that I thought his sunset images were more profitable than of high quality like his other photographs. As you probably know, he is a nice guy and a long-time professional photographer. Apparently he was not offended at all. He did make an excellent point in defense of photographs of Sierra and other mountain alpenglow. He said that many people became photographers because of Sierra sunsets and sunrises. He also said that many photographs of high mountain lakes with peaks reflected cause him to feel nostalgic about some of the best memories in his life in the high Sierra. How could I disagree either with the logic or with the argument put across in such a kind way? I couldn’t and I can’t because some of the best memories of my life are of mountain sunsets and sunrises when I think about it.

  2. Glenn Mills Says:

    I love the moon shot. A beautiful place.

  3. colorblindxs2 Says:

    Beautiful Steve…

  4. Derrick Says:

    Steve, practically every time you post I tell myself that’s the best of your work that I’ve seen yet. And then you go and post something fantastic like this series. WOW! Nicely done.

  5. Richard Wong Says:

    Very nice Steve. The mountains look quite rugged here.

  6. Steve Sieren Says:

    Thank you for commenting David, Glenn, CBxs2, Derrick, and Richard. I’ve been struggling to keep this blog consistent, I published it from the phone yesterday while Christina drove us from a wedding ceremony to the reception. This just makes me curious to ways people keep the consisteny in their own blogs?

    Derrick, I do appreciate those words of kindness. Everytime you head out there in the field there is a surprise waiting for you.

  7. Steve Sieren Says:

    David, the Santa Monica Mountains are a real treat for someone looking for a unique ecosytem to photograph. If you’ve been to Pinnacles Nat’l Monument or the peaks of the San Luis Obispo area, the Santa Monica Mountains are similar to what you can find there.

    Sunsets, not aplenglow or golden hour light, but colorful clouds in the sky are heavily photographed at this time in digital photography. This is something that makes me curious if it’s the most popular thing to photograph in landscape photography at this time? I could just ask if it’s cliche or trendy, but I’ve found people may take offense to that. I asked a similar question on facebook, I asked if anyone thought it was a trendy item. I got a lot of feedback from many different people. I wasn’t looking for an outcome whether people thought it was or wasn’t the popular item but just curious about it because it’s so easily done nowadays with the different forms of HDR available. That doesn’t make up for any lack of other skills it may take to create a compelling image. I’ve been out there with other photographers that have refused to even take a single shot if there wasn’t a colorful cloud in the sky and curse that the day was wasted.

    My first drive by myself through the Sierra was a winter day, it had snowed in the lower elevations of the Mojave Desert so I was in for a 400 mile drive through snow for the first time. I’m from L.A., we don’t get snow so I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t see any sunset or sunrise but I did see every peak covered completely in a thick layer of snow. I saw many abandoned vehicle wrecks from Mono and northward, some of them left tunnels in the snow bank. My chains broke near Bridgeport and there wasn’t a place I could just go and buy new chains. I made it to my parents house in Gardernville just fine but it was an experience for me and all of my kodak throw aways were full. I think the sites scene along the 395 that day was well enough to keep me coming back again and again.

    The whole trip was sparked from a previous flight from San Jose to Reno. I was glued to that window starring at how much wilderness there was out there. The peaks were covered in scattered clouds and they disappeared and reappeared magically to me, it was the first time I had ever flown. As a kid our family would camp out there and and I was never up in time for sunrise so I can see how the average person can grow a love for a place with out the sunset being a big part of it.

    Seeing a sunset or sunrise in the Sierra is amazing site to witness and we can all agree to that but for myself I connect with these beautiful places by seeing great photography from other photographers regardless of time of day it’s been created.

    I can’t say what images sell but I’m selling a mixture of color and black and white. Some of the sunset / golden hour images are big resellers but so are some of the black and white images. I don’t do much black and white at all so I’m shocked because I offer so much more color work. The random sold work is the ordinary daylight stuff, it may not sell again but I ask why and the majority of the time it’s some emotional connection to a memory once had with the location. I’m always sent a calendar in the mail from a friend or family, it’s always a landscape calendar. This year it was Galen’s work, last year I had Michael’s Frye’s, before that it was a compilation from stock but I began to notice the images here in these bookshelf selling items were more daylight images then they were sunsets and sunrises. This could get the average photographer thinking what does really sell but I have you to ask now. What kind of light are the Hyde collectors buying? I would guess it’s a mixture and it’s completely different from the common shared work on the internet that drives traffic?

  8. Eric Leslie Says:

    Those are some interesting thoughts you’ve brought forward about what sells. I’m new to all of this and have yet to sell any work, but I’ve experienced what you’re describing with people that refuse to take a shot unless there’s a colorful sunset. I think taking the sunset shot is the obvious shot and why it gets shot first. So in order to differentiate yourself, you must look for something more unique and more difficult to shoot.

  9. Richard Wong Says:

    Hey Steve. As for publishing on the blog, when I have enough material, I write them all at once then schedule them out to publish ahead of time. I find that to be the most efficient use of time.

    As for the sales, I think most regular people relate to the fair weather stuff better than sunsets because clean blue skies is what we see most of (or wish to if you live in LA!) so that is why that might be published more. I know that is what sells better for me when it comes to stock.

  10. Steve Sieren Says:

    Eric, you blog a lot and the tagged items usually come up in search engines so people might find you that way. You never really know what someone is looking for unless they tell you. I don’t know any secrets to selling but if you’re the only one selling it needs to be at the least, good enough for a person buying that doesn’t take photos. I think many of us have wanted to buy a photo and thought, the price is out of my range or I can do that myself. On the internet, the way most people get photography shoved in their face nowadays, we see many of the higher traffic photographers work because they’re marketing it well and that doesn’t always mean it’s better then other work that doesn’t get high traffic. Most photographers will have some kind of average number of clicks and hits, that’s how you will know what’s popular when you’re work goes above your average. I do think a person’s style and possibly uniqueness is what can differentiate themselves among other photographers in my opinion. There are people that just like the plain old ordinary everyday artwork so it’s always a surprise to what stands out.

  11. Steve Sieren Says:

    Thank you Richard, I have a few drafts just sitting there waiting to be finished but I haven’t gotten to the point of setting them up to go on auto. Thanks for the info on what kind of light you usually sell Richard.

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