San Diego Beautiful

Photography of America's Finest City by Stephen Bay
Stephen Bay Portrait
© Kamala Venkatesh

I am a landscape and scenic photographer living in San Diego. I am originally from Canada but I have been in California since 1997. I first came to the US for graduate school in Computer Science during which time I met my wife and then decided to permanently settle here. While my career as a computer scientist was very intense and rewarding I have now left that profession and I am entirely focused on my photography.

My passion for photography comes from my love of traveling and exploring new places. Initially, my work focused on urban scenes as I have always found it enjoyable to go into a city and just walk around with no destination in mind. I also enjoy exploring the natural environment through hiking and camping and this interest, combined with California's spectacular beauty, brought me into landscape photography.

I moved to San Diego in 2015. I have never lived in a city before with so much to offer photographically. We have beautiful coastlines, amazing skylines, and the mountains and desert just a short drive away. With such incredible surroundings, I decided to focus on capturing local subjects and presenting them with my own point of view.

My Approach to Photography

My goal is to make beautiful landscape images. I want the viewers of my work to feel the same emotions and wonderment that I felt when I photographed the scene. I want to inspire those that view my work and let them see the amazing beauty that I see all around me.

I always strive to achieve a unique composition. I have purposely not photographed some subjects for over a year while I thought about how best to achieve and convey my own point of view. I've returned to the same subject over and over again to experiment with different compositions until I find one that matches my vision.

I process my images to reflect the emotions I felt. I make many global and local adjustments to the tones and colors of my images. I may brighten an image and emphasize the warm colors or I could darken an image and use cold tones to add suspense and mystery. With local adjustments I highlight subjects that I want to emphasize; conversely I deemphasize parts where I do not want the viewer's eye to linger.

I believe the power of landscape photography comes from the connection to a real scene. That a viewer who could have stood in my shoes would see the same subject. As such, I will not perform manipulations that fundamentally change the scene such as compositing in a sky from a different place or day, warping the image to make the mountain twice as a large as reality, or cutting and pasting a telephoto shot of the moon into a wide angle view. I will however clone and remove minor elements such as a distracting branch or unwanted lens flare.

I also place a very high emphasis on the technical quality of my images and I strive to make them the best possible. To achieve this end, I may use a variety of computational techniques such as blending multiple images to expand the dynamic range that the camera can capture, averaging identical images to reduce noise or grain, and stitching several images together into a panorama to achieve higher resolution or a wider field of view. These techniques are very natural to me given my background as a computer scientist. As always the goal is to address camera and lens limitations to ultimately improve image quality.

Stephen Bay photographing at Hospitals Reef in La Jolla