A Conversation from Above

Infinite Horizon n°1 (Velvia 50 8x10 | Nikkor 450mm | Ebony RW810 | 2 Stop GND)

For the past 6 months, I’ve had a photographic project on the back burner.  My goal is to capture simple, rule breaking photos of the ocean with my 8×10 camera.  When printed large with a contemporary flush mount presentation, these images will serve as a breath of fresh air.

Sure, I’ve been busy with lots of shooting trips lately, but that’s not the reason for the back burner status of this project.

The problem has been the weather.  Trust me, I realize that complaining about the weather in San Diego  is just like complaining about having too much money — but this year has been different.

During the months of May and June, we experience persistent overcast conditions in San Diego. We refer to it as “May Gray” and “June Gloom.”  This is caused by the heating of the desert, combined with the curved shape of the coast from San Diego toward Los Angeles.  An eddy forms in the marine layer, which does not allow the clouds to burn off as the sun warms the atmosphere.

The coastal clouds subside in July, and they are long gone before August arrives.

This year has been different.  Well into the month of July, the dreary marine layer has not freed its grasp of our coastal communities.

Now that we have reached August, we’re finally getting some clear days along the coast — photography weather.

While running some business errands this past Monday, I noticed some beautiful high clouds along the coast.  I drove to the Torrey Pines Glider Port, which is perched between the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, and a multi-hundred foot cliff that drops to the beach. From this location you can watch hang gliders and paragliders soar silently — held aloft by the steady breeze.

Locals know that the beach at the foot of this cliff is “clothing optional.”

The conditions were ideal to start my Infinite Horizon series of large format photos.

I gathered my 8×10 camera, 450mm lens, tripod, and the other tools that I needed to take the photo.  I made my way to the edge of the cliff, and setup shop.  I use the term “edge” in very loose context.  Unlike the sandstone cliffs at Toroweap where I am very comfortable with my tripod mere inches from the edge of a multi thousand foot drop, the cliffs at Torrey Pines are a different matter.  They are composed of crumbly, unstable soil.  Imagine standing on the edge of a piece of cornbread.  Every year, portions of the cliffs collapse, sometimes taking the lives of people up top, or below.

For me, the “edge” of the cliff was about 15 feet from the actual edge.

I setup my camera, and focused the lens under the dark cloth.

From somewhere in front of me, I heard a voice.

“How old is that camera?”

I emerged from the dark cloth, and looked  in the direction of the voice — no one was there.

I looked behind me — nothing.

As I panned upward, I spotted a paraglider floating  some 15 feet above my level. The edge of his canopy was nearly flush with the edge of the cliff.

“It’s about 3 years old,” I responded to the voice in the sky.

“Cool man.  It sure looks a lot older than that.”  His voice trailed as the distance between us grew larger.

That was a uniquely San Diego moment.

4 Responses to “A Conversation from Above”

  1. Sharon Van Lieu Says:

    Love the paraglider story. I like this shot quite a bit. I think I would like it as a whole piece rather than three, but I can appreciate the triptych also.

    The light on the horizon is wonderful.


    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks Sharon. I can certainly print it as one piece, but I felt like it needed something further to set it apart. I’ll certainly run some test prints to see what looks best.

  2. Dan Cross Says:

    Okay Ben, hearing voices that close to the edge of a cliff? I think it’s time to put down the bong…

    Really good stuff here, I like the detail in your story and the triptych is cool too.

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