From the Ocean to the Desert and Back

A Chance Meeting

I know it doesn’t look like it, but this shot started when my good friend Daniel Bommarito ( and I decided to take a road trip to Arizona.  We wanted to get some shots of Upper Antelope Canyon, the famous slot canyon on Navajo land near the town of Page on the northern border of Arizona. We ended up going from the ocean to the desert and back.

Daniel and I first met about a year before this trip. I flew out to San Diego for a conference. I’m always stoked to go back to Southern California. Plus, my big brother, Danny, lives on Coronado Island, just across the bay from San Diego.

There just happened to be an art fair right down the street from Danny’s house and Daniel happened to have a booth there. My brother met him while I was at my conference and took me back the next day. Daniel and I hit it off right away. In fact, we ended up making plans to meet at Coronado Beach the next morning for a session of shooting waves.

My brother walking down to the art fair and stopping to talk to Daniel is another one of those little decisions that ended up having a big impact. My brother is on the quiet side and tends to keep to himself. So, I’m lucky that he struck up a conversation with Daniel that day. Daniel and I have shot together many times since that first day in the water.

From the Ocean to the Desert

So, fast forward about a year and we’re headed out to Arizona. I flew from Miami to San Diego, picked up a rental car, and headed over to pick Daniel up. We loaded his gear into the car and immediately headed out. The next day, we arrived in Page and found the guides to take us out to Antelope Canyon. We were able to shoot both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon that day.

From the Desert to the Mountains

The next day, we drove from Page to Zion National Park, arriving in the afternoon. It was late enough that it was worth it to wait until sunset to get some shots. Since we’d waited for the sun to set, it just seemed like it made sense to wait a few more hours until it was really dark. We wanted to try and get some shots of the starry sky, since there weren’t really any clouds.

After that, we started driving back towards California. We made it just a little past Las Vegas and stopped for the night.

From the Desert Back to the Ocean

Up early the next morning, we were off and headed like a bat out of hell for Laguna Beach. At this time of year, it was November, the water down around Laguna Beach is incredible. It is SO clear. We were really pushing the pace because a nice-looking swell was headed straight for the south facing beaches, like Laguna, and we didn’t want to miss it.

We made it to Laguna by late morning. The cameras were loaded into water housings. Wetsuits were donned. Fins were dug out of suitcases. It’s probably fair to say that we were pretty tired after the breakneck pace of the previous couple days but, growing up in Southern California, there’s one thing I know about the water……. it’s refreshing!

That is to say, it’s COLD. Even in the middle of the summer, water temperatures in SoCal only average around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20C). As you can imagine, the water temperature in the fall/winter is decidedly colder.

It was awesome, though. Crystal clear water. Perfect waves. Living the California dream, for sure.

Same Ocean, Different Beach

After hours in the water, we drove over to another beach in Laguna and waited for sunset. We didn’t want to miss any chances to get another shot. I grew up in California but left when I was 23 years old and have missed it every single day since. I love shooting on the beaches at home. Sunrise. Waves. Sunset. It doesn’t matter.

After sunset, we drove back down to San Diego. The next day, we were up early again and headed right back north. We stopped at a couple spots that Daniel knows to try and get another wave session, but the swell was over. So, we decided to keep going up by Los Angeles to Manhattan Beach.

Finally at the Pier

So, now, faithful reader, we’ve finally arrived at this shot. This is taken under the Manhattan Beach pier a couple hours before sunset. I’ve always loved shots from under a pier and this, I think, is my favorite pier.

The sound of the water running back down the beach while the next wave is already coming in, crashing against the pier posts; the smell of the salt air; the water running over my feet; the sand between my toes, I love it. So, we shot until it was too dark to shoot anymore.

As it happens, my little brother lives in Hermosa Beach, which is only a couple miles from Manhattan Beach. I hadn’t told him I would be around since I didn’t know for sure if I’d make it up that way. Since I ended up making it, I called him when we were done shooting and headed over for dinner. Lots of laughs, lots of food, and a little wine brought the day to an end.

Many Miles

Except for the drive back down to San Diego, that is.

Well, and the flight back to Miami the next day.

So, to get this shot, I drove almost 1500 miles in four days. Started out at the ocean, then to the desert, to the mountains, and finally back to the ocean.

Totally worth it.

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