Saturday, March 27, 2010

Serendipity and the search for the perfect LA skyline

For some months now, my friends and I have been looking for the perfect place to take pictures of the LA skyline. I often see beautiful, unobstructed shots — when I'm driving on the freeway. Last week, we decided to take a photo field trip to Chinatown in downtown LA. Instead of taking the freeway, we drove surface streets, and, where we least expected it, we saw this great view of LA from the far side of the Los Angeles River.

The hazy morning sky made the skyline less than perfect, but it was good practice. (Fortunately, so-so pictures can always be made more fun in post-processing.)
LA skylineThe LA skyline

LA City HallLA City Hall (taken later in the morning from Olvera Street)

The second serendipitous part of the morning is that this view of the skyline occurred in the middle of several train tracks. I love everything about trains: the engines, the tracks, all the graffiti on the trains...
TrainA train passed through unexpectedly. I wasn't ready for the first engine. This engine is actually at the end of the train.

LA skyline and trainMy challenge was, could I catch the skyline (in focus) in the gaps between the cars? Out of 10 or so attempts, I caught one shot I was happy with.

Next, we turned our attention to our immediate surroundings. This is where the haze in the air came in handy, providing the perfect atmosphere for the standing trains.
TrainsI didn't notice the two men standing next to the train until I got home.

TrainsI like the glow of the train traffic lights in the distance.

LA skylineI liked how this sign stood out in front of the blurred skyline.

And of course, the graffiti...
Train graffiti

Train graffiti

What did I learn?
  • Sometimes you just get lucky. I didn't anticipate finding this location, or having a train pass through while we stood there.
  • Sometimes you don't get lucky. The hazy sky wasn't very appealing. I'll have to go back to this location on a clear future morning.


  1. Wow, you made some awesome photos of LA. For some reason, I find LA hard to shoot (maybe it's the haze!), but you did great!

  2. Thanks! You're right, it's a never-ending quest for a clear day in LA.

  3. You've caught some beautiful lines here. And the colors are really beautiful, very bold and bright.

  4. Beautiful set of photography's

  5. There are some wonderful compositions in this post, Pam. I especially like the one with the glow of the lights in the distance, but my favourite I think is the one above that.

    I like the intensity of the image and the contrast i think it is that youy achieve. Is that a particular picture style that you have set for Sharpness and Contrast?

    Whatever it is, it works a treat.

  6. Thanks, Julie, I'm glad you enjoyed them. The one you mention is my favorite also (currently my laptop desktop picture). I did a variety of post-processing: increased contrast and clarity to emphasis the grunge look, decreased vibrance, and then a Topaz Adjust filter on top of it all.

  7. Pam, great series. I like the composition and clarity. Your grab shot between cars worked very well ... nice gritty quality with hard edges! Keep at it!