Fourth of July Fireworks – Orange County Beach/Seaside Firework Shows and Photography Tips

I’m so excited about Fourth of July this year; it actually lands on a Saturday. I think it’ll make for a great day at the beach, followed by an evening of fireworks. My top picks are the San Clemente and Huntington Beach Pier Fireworks shows. This year, I haven’t decided where to go yet.

But, I know I’ll be bringing my camera for the fireworks show. If you plan to as well, here are my recommendations for photographing fireworks:

  • Photographing fireworks will require a long shutter speed, so a sturdy tripod is an absolute must. You’ll want to start your camera settings at f5.6 ISO400 with a 15 second shutter speed.
  • A wide-angle lens will be necessary to capture the height of the firework and some of the scenery and foreground.
  • Most likely, your best shot is going to be at the start of the show. Be sure to be ready. If needed, take a few test shots to get your dials set before the show begins. As the show continues, there’ll be a lot of smoke, and it’ll become difficult to get as clean of a shot, from earlier in the show.

Huntington Beach Pier Fireworks Show
This is one of my favorite spots to see the fireworks. Most likely, you’ll have to park pretty far from the Pier. Just take any open parking spot you see. It’s always popular with a huge crowd. Be sure to arrive early and be prepared to walk 1-2 miles to the Pier. In the photo below, I captured a nice, clean shot from a spot far away from the Pier on the North side (away from the crowds).

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San Clemente Pier Fireworks Show
The best place to photograph this fireworks show is from the park cliffs (not from the sand). I prefer the South side of the Pier. Get there early, and make sure you’re upfront to avoid people standing and blocking your view.

Check out this same photo on the San Clemente Pier Fireworks Show on AdoramaPix’s Facebook cover page. Thanks to AdoramaPix for selecting me as one of their Photography Ambassadors!

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Dana Point Harbor Fireworks Show
This view is from a spot off of Green Lantern Street near the Chart House. I would not recommend this spot because it was just too far away. The fireworks looked too small.

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Newport Dunes Fireworks Show
Free, public parking for this show is hard to find because there are hardly any street parking close by. It’s best to park in Balboa Island, and walk up Jamboree and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). You’ll be able to walk up to the corner of Jamboree and PCH and watch the fireworks show from a small park area for free. Alternatively, you can pay admission to Newport Dunes to see it up close, but it can be pricey.

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A list of Fireworks Shows in Orange County with a beach or seaside view. 

  • Avalon/Catalina
    Parade, dinner and fireworks at the casino
    Golf cart parade down Crescent Avenue begins at 1 p.m.
    Buffet dinner and concert with USC Marching Band begins at 6:15 p.m. ( Tickets are $65 for adults, $30 for children)
    Fireworks at 9 p.m.
  • Doheny State Beach
    25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive
    Park open 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.; fireworks at 8:45 p.m.
  • Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa
    4th of July BBQ buffet and fireworks
    25135 Park Lantern
    5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
    Price: $99 for adults, $40 for kids 6-12
  • Laguna Beach Heisler Park
    375 Cliff Drive Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (Monument Point at Heisler Park)
    9 p.m.
  • 4th of July Cruises from Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching
    Dinner and fireworks display cruises
    Price starts at $29
  • Huntington Beach – Pier Plaza at Huntington Beach Pier
    Sounds of Freedom Celebration
    July 3 – 5, 7 a.m. -9 p.m.
    July 4th events include breakfast, parade, 5K run, fireworks and more
  • Newport Beach – Old Glory Boat Parade Event – Newport Harbor
    7 a.m. – 9 p.m., fireworks follow
  • Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina
    1131 Back Bay Drive
    Noon – 10 p.m.; fireworks at 9 p.m.
    $50 per car
Posted in Beaches

Maternity Photo Session | Orange County Beach

To book a photo session, contact me for available dates and pricing.
Maternity dress by Sew Trendy Accessories

maternity shoot- maternity shoot-4038 maternity shoot-3992


Posted in Portraits

Tips for Photographing on a Windy Day

This weekend, I went to Huntington Beach Pier. It was extremely windy.  As always, I showed up early to scout the location, tide, sun position, waves, etc. After 10 minutes, my glasses were covered in salt water, and I could barely see. The wind produced a thick salty mist that was terrible for my lens front element. The wind was also kicking up grains of sand.

Here are some helpful tips, if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  • If you anticipate high winds during your photoshoot, plan ahead. You will not be able to safely change your lens onsite. Put on the lens you are going to use while at home. One grain of sand in the camera body can cause a failure; I learned this the hard way.
  • Definitely shoot handheld and be sure to replace the lens cap after every shot. This allows the front element to be exposed only for a few seconds, so it can remain clean. On my shoot, I noticed a bunch of photographers shooting on tripods for 1+ hours; I suspect their lens must have been a mess, there is no way they were getting useable images.
  • Don’t bother with a tripod or 4 x 6 filters. Windy days are not good for long exposure shots.

On a general note, it is very important to think about all aspects of your image before you begin to shoot. Just snapping hundreds of photos and hoping for a good one is a terrible plan. I spend my time looking for the right composition, then wait for the light to be perfect, and then shoot. Typically, I shoot around 50 photos for a sunset shoot.

Have you shot during windy conditions? Comment below! What was your experience, what tips would you add to the list?

If you’re interested in an individualized or small group landscape photography workshop, e-mail me.

Laguna_Beach_Secrets_4-25-15 Huntington Beach Pier-2991

Posted in Beaches

Neutral Density (ND) Filters for Landscape Photography – Comparison of Hoya vs. Dolica ND Filters

I decided to test ND filters, specifically the Hoya HMC ND8 vs. the Dolica CF9-ND77. The goal of this test was to determine which filter is sharper and which would best reproduce the truest colors. Both filters are 3 stop ND filters, and I’m testing them on a Nikon D750 with Nikon 16-35 f4 lens.


I use a ND filter in some of my landscape photographs to get a longer shutter speed. With a longer shutter speed, I can achieve more motion blur when capturing rushing water, even in bright daylight (see photo of Table Rock in Laguna Beach below). I prefer to use a 3 stop ND filter, also referred to as a 0.9 ND filter. I cover usage and techniques of ND filters in my photography workshops.

Example of ND Filter to Capture Rushing Water


ND filters come in a variety of strengths: 1(0.3), 2(0.6), 3(0.9), 5(1.4) or 10(3.0) stops; with more stops, you will need more shutter speed. For my style, 3 stop is a sweet spot.

These following RAW images are straight out of the camera with no editing and the white balance is set to daylight in the camera. The Dolica filter has a blue cast along with a slight green tint. The Hoya filter is color neutral and requires no corrections.

RAW Images Straight Out of the Camera

Laguna_Beach_Secrets_nd filter test hoya dolica

I applied color correction to the Dolica image to match the Hoya image. I had to increase the white balance of the Dolica image from 5300k to 6456k and increased the tint from +7 to +11.

Dolica Image is Color Corrected

Laguna_Beach_Secrets_color corrected nd filter test

The 100% crop images below have these color corrections applied to make viewing sharpness easier.  By viewing these images side-by-side at 100%, it is very hard to tell which image is sharper, but the Dolica filter appears to be the slightest bit sharper.

100% Cropped Images – Example 1

Laguna_Beach_Secrets_nd filter test crop

100% Cropped Images – Example 2

Laguna_Beach_Secrets_nd filter test

Price wise, the Hoya HMC ND8 77mm and Dolica CF9-ND77 77mm filters both cost roughly $40. They are both slim filters, which helps to avoid vignetting when used with ultrawide angle lens. The Dolica is the slightest bit sharper, but has an easily corrected color shift. The Hoya filter does not require any color correction, but is arguably less sharp. Both filters feel like they are well built, and they each come with a hard plastic carrying case.

The Hoya filter is ideal for those willing to sacrifice a tiny amount of sharpness for accurate color reproduction. The Dolica is better, if you want to capture your image with the maximum sharpness possible.

Have you used either of these filters? What is your experience? Your likes and dislikes? I want to hear your thoughts! Comment below.

Product links:

Hoya 77mm HMC ND8 Multi-Coated Neutral Density Filter

Dolica CF9-ND77 77mm 0.9ND 8X Neutral Density Filter

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged , , , , |

San Clemente Beach – Amtrak and Metrolink Trains and San Clemente Pier

Over the weekend, I went to shoot San Clemente Beach, one of my best spots in Orange County to shoot a passing train with the beach in the background.  First, the Metrolink train stopped, so I used an aperture of f /13 to get everything sharp from the bush in the foreground to the pier in the background. The sun was just barely beginning to set and casted a nice glow on top of the bushes in the foreground.


Later on, an Amtrak train passed through, but didn’t stop. I was hoping it would. I was using a shutter speed of 1/80th, and it wasn’t quite fast enough to freeze the action. There’s a bit of motion blur when I snapped the shot. Next time, best to plan for a faster shutter speed, possibly 1/500th.


Here’s a nice one, shot from the hills near the Beachcomber Hotel. I composed the end of the pier to line in between the palm trees. Do you like it?


Towards the end of sunset, I ventured down to the sand for a few long exposure shots. I was pleasantly surprised to see the beach covered with black rocks, something I’ve never seen in all the times I’ve visited San Clemente Beach. Have you? Leave a comment, I am interested to hear what locals often see.  To capture the rocks in the foreground, I placed the tri-pod in the lowest position. Here’s what I came out with.



Finally blue hour arrived, and bright magenta streaks appeared among the clouds. I used a 3 stop graduated soft-edge neutral density filter to darken the sky. In Lightroom, I selected the rocks in the foreground and added +20 clarity and brushed in a little magenta to reflect what’s in the sky.


Posted in Beaches

Family Portraits in Laguna Beach

I had a great time photographing this happy and stylish family, both kids were super adorable. The clouds rolled in just in time for this portrait photo session, and I was able to get some really nice reflections with the low tide.




Posted in Portraits