Imperial Beach, California is like the pretty girl in high school who didn’t try out to be a cheer leader. Yes, she’s pretty but not as popular as the cheer leaders. Imperial Beach is a sort of poor man’s beach in comparison to the more popular locations of Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and the beach in the nearby tourist haven of Coronado; these beaches are the cheer leaders, the popular ones… Locals refer to their San Diego beaches by initials, Ocean Beach = OB, Pacific Beach = PB, and my personal favorite Imperial Beach, or IB, is the southern most. Not only do I like IB because it’s close to home, but it also has character with the old wooden pier and lack of a carnival atmosphere that is common at some southern California Beaches. Imperial beach is simple, parking is usually not a problem, and there are places to grab a bite to eat. It is a pretty low key place for now, however, it’s rapidly growing and signs are everywhere that “low key” isn’t going to last.
Shooting sunsets in IB is almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Unless it’s a completely cloud covered evening you’re practically guaranteed a spectacular sunset. Even if there is complete cloud cover the wooden pier is an excellent subject! In fact, on my San Diego photo bucket list is shooting nothing but black and white shots at the pier in a storm.The photo at the top, December Sunset 1, is a prime example of the typical IB sunset! December Sunset 1 was shot, like all of these photos, with a Canon 6d, EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/8, 1/125 sec, focal length 35mm, and ISO 100. People who know me know that when it comes to taking photos, I HATE sunny days. Sunny days are just boring, while blue skies can look amazing to the naked eye, for me it doesn’t translate well to the camera. In a photo, blue skies do nothing for me especially if they occupy a majority of the photo. On the other hand, clouds add drama and draw your attention. Sunsets and sunrises, without clouds for the sun to poke through, are not interesting. Again, this is just my opinion… The photo at left, IB Sunset #3, was taken from the southern side of the beach. It was shot with an EF 24-105mm lens at f/4 L IS USM, f/10, 1/160 sec, focal length 28mm, and ISO 100.
Another thing I like about Imperial Beach is that it’s not crowded for the most part. Sure you’ll run in to plenty of people in the summer, or when there is a local festival, but it’s still possible to get candid shots like this just about any morning you visit. Many mornings it’s also easy to shoot the surfers from the pier who line up nearby to catch waves. While on the pier, there are plenty of birds, people fishing, and the pier itself that can make excellent subjects. This photo, Morning Walk, was shot from above on the IB pier one morning with an EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at f/8, 1/200 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. People come here in the mornings to walk the beach like this man, but also to jog or just sit in the sand and listen to the waves. Everything in this photo just looks peaceful to me, and that’s why I like IB in the mornings, it is just like this photo, peaceful.
Like most piers, pigeons and seagulls are everywhere and sometimes they make great subjects. Because these birds are very accustomed to people you don’t always need a long lens to catch them. This photo, Birds of a Feather, is kind of a typical IB day but instead of focusing on the people, I chose the birds. This photo was taken with an EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at f/8, 1/320 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. This photo is one of the reasons I keep going back to Imperial Beach because it’s not difficult to find an interesting subject. The below photo, My Kind of Beach, represents a fairly busy day at IB and this is why I like it most, it’s still not too congested on busy days. My Kind of Beach, was taken with an EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at f/5, 1/500 sec, focal length 110mm, and ISO 100.
Imperial Beach seems like it gets overlooked by tourists but locals obviously get the attraction. As for being the beach that is low key compared to the others, that may change soon. As for now, I sometimes go to IB with no camera and my kids to just walk in the surf and have a blast. IB is definitely worth the stop and if you’re looking to capture an easy sunset photo this is the place! If you just want to chill out, take in the scenes and sounds, this is the place. Sure, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Coronado are all amazing places to visit and I do like them. But for the moment, until the commercialism sets in and ruins IB’s atmosphere, that’s where you’ll find me.