A Year of Beach Culture Photography

[If you’d like to grab this video, you can get it at YouTube]

Every region has it’s own special culture and atmosphere, just waiting to be experienced. The Southern California beach towns are no exception! It’s been one year since I moved to San Diego, and I’ve been captivated by the beach towns that lie along the Pacific Coastline. As a photographer, I’ve made it a point to explore and document these towns, in hopes that I’ll eventually be able to share something greater than individual photos.

What I’m sharing today isn’t a finished product — it’s still in the making. The video above and the slideshow below are just a sample of what I hope to achieve some day. I’m lucky to be able to live in such a great place, and I don’t know how long I’ll have that ability. Prior to living here, I lived in New Jersey and I got to experience the East Coast culture and New York City culture. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in full swing with my photography and I missed a great opportunity to document an amazing region. I don’t plan on making that mistake again.

And to help me finish this project, I’d like to get your help. For the next year of my existence in Southern California, I’ll be photographing with this project in mind. Based on what you’ve seen here, give me some feedback. What’s working? What’s not? What’s missing? What’s overdone? What places or things can I photograph to better capture the culture? When you think of Southern California beach towns, what comes to mind? I’d love to get some feedback from all of you.

13 thoughts on “A Year of Beach Culture Photography

  1. Daniel Yee

    Hey Brian. Love the photos so far. I used to live in Santa Monica and they remind me a lot about the beaches near LA.

    What I missed seeing in the photos were the buildings esp. those on the beachfront which are often brightly painted…or areas like Abbot Kinney in Venice.

    Maybe some photos of a beach that has signs posted that says it’s closed for some environmental reason? (chem spill, Red Tide, sharks).

  2. Trevor Carpenter

    I must say, Brian, you’re doing a great job of capturing the SoCal beaches. However, you’re going to need to venture a little further, to get a more balanced look at the SoCal beach culture.

    Malibu, Port Hueneme, Silverstrand, Oxnard, Ventura, and Santa Barbara are required attendance for a good look at SoCal beaches.

  3. Martin Wolf

    Hey Brian!
    I like the video and love the music, but in my opinion there are too many different animations and it’s a little bit too fast. I would like to see each photo for a longer time.

    Keep on the good work! 🙂

  4. My Camera World

    Hi Brian:

    I love the video collection you put together and it was good to see your photos from the past year roll bay again.

    I am not sure if you or Animoto put together the special effect for the video slideshow or a combination of both

    I watched the video 8 times so I could better understand the flow within the video as I don’t think with once, or twice is really enough the understand and comment.

    For the most part the video works very well. Never having lived or near the west coast I cannot really appreciate the California coastal community atmosphere except what I get from the movies, and now like yours now (grin)

    While the music is sweat and invigorating for my impressions it doesn’t quite catch the laid-back feeling of beach towns at least that is how I imagine them to be like.

    The way the images move about is interesting and works for about 90% of the time. There are a few moments when I wish some images would hang about just a little longer to really have that visual grab.

    I also think that if you could it might be interesting to mix the music themes and artists throughout the video. Maybe 3-6 I just don’t know but more of a feeling.

    The reason for this is that I think any beach town has different flavors or feeling depending on the time of day. (ie laidback mornings, radical wave action in the afternoon and high energy night life.) Also it may change from the high tourist season to contemplative winter days. Just my guess.

    To make a video that tells a story then by changing the music and images types to reflect these moods would help you to better understand this kind of life.

    I hope this makes sense and the preliminary work is just great.

    Niels Henriksen

  5. laanba

    Strictly speaking about the photos I’d like a few more straight up color ones in the mix. You have a lot of black and white which are excellent as well as your cross processing, but when I think of California I think of bright colors. I think a few more color ones will balance everything out. Of course keep in mind that I love color so I may not be entirely objective. 🙂

  6. Brian Auer Post author

    @Jeremy Thanks! And, yeah, Animoto is pretty neat.

    @Daniel I’ll definitely put the “beach buildings” on my list of things to shoot over the next year.

    @Trevor Yeah, I’ve been mainly focused on the San Diego towns, but I’ve hit a few on OC and LA too. I do need to venture further north a few more times.

    @Martin Thanks for the feedback on the video. I agree, it’s a little too fast and “animated” for my own taste too. A lot of that is a result of using Animoto — something I probably won’t do for a final documentary video. I was just kinda checking it out to see what it would do.

    @Niels Great feedback! I love the idea of several different music tracks to match the various settings and moods. I’ll definitely want to do more story telling in the final video.

    @laanba I noticed that too! I need to search through my archives a little deeper and find some good color photos. I agree that this would balance things out a bit.

  7. Bryan Villarin

    There’s so many good suggestions here, I can’t wait to see how you go about this in the next year.

    I do agree with Trevor, but I can understand the distance required to travel. You’d probably crash for a night in those beach towns farther away, huh?

    I thought the video was pretty good, actually!

    P.S. I’m glad I was immortalized in this video. I’m sure Ryan Goodman would agree, too. You knew I might say that, huh? 🙂

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    Yeah, I’ve gotten some good feedback from everybody on this! And, seriously, those towns north of LA are going to be slightly difficult — especially with a 4 hour drive each way! We’ll see what I can work out.

  9. Matt


    An area that you may want to explore is the Palos Verdes peninsula. There are some amazing things to see and photograph all the way up from San Pedro (recall ‘The Usual Suspects’), Lunada Bay, Malaga Park, and so on.


  10. Brian Auer Post author

    Oh man, that would be pretty awesome to explore. Though, I may need to do that as a separate project in the future (and maybe learn some Spanish before I head down there on my own!).

  11. Steve

    Hi Brian,
    I think you have done a great job of capturing the essence of the little towns. Your focus on details make the difference. Your capturing the people is what it is all about. Small town people are probably not that different from large cities folks but the way they do things is different and you capture it well.
    Great shots

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