chasing sunsets in san diego
May 6, 2017
When I travel, I have a steadfast rule that taking pictures is always sacrificial to the experience. In other words, the experience is the priority, and photographing what I’m experiencing is a happy consequence—not the other way around. Maybe that makes me a subpar photographer, or maybe it makes me an excellent traveler—I’m not sure, and frankly I also don’t really care.
I sling a camera around me, choose a lens for the day, and grab a spare battery—and that’s usually it. I don’t lug around all my gear, I don’t drag a tripod everywhere I go, and I certainly don’t race around trying to reach the perfect spot to shoot the sunset. Wherever I am is the perfect spot, so long as I am enjoying myself. Sure, I am constantly hunting for interesting places and spaces, and I stop to take many, MANY pictures everywhere I go; I often catch myself viewing the world in frames—but never at the expense of experiencing people and places, or being present in the space I am in.
A few weeks ago I decided to spend a few days visiting family in San Diego. I had intended to explore the city beyond the beach, and see what else it had to offer—and I did—but wouldn’t you know I found myself on the shore anyway. Turns out it’s pretty difficult (and kind of silly) to avoid the beach entirely in that place. I mean, why would you even want to, really?
But—San Diego is also more than just a pretty beach. It’s interesting architecture, funky boutiques, and colorful streets. It’s hot pavement, cold beers, and warm people. It’s classic cars, head shops, and hula hoopers in the park. The sun shines every day, it seems, and it’s virtually impossible to be stressed out or unhappy—or if not impossible, you’d at least have to try really, really hard.
Exploring the city on foot, I felt that although I’d been there before I was experiencing it through new eyes. I thought about places people choose to live, and wondered why everyone didn’t live here—or why I didn’t live here, anyway.
On my last evening there, my cousin took me to OB Brewery, a bar in his neighborhood, Ocean Beach. We hung out and drank beers and met new people. And when the sun set, I watched from a rooftop, then broke down and ran to the pier by myself just across the street to watch the sun sink below the horizon—and I thought, oh man—I broke my own rule. But where better a place to break rules than San Diego? Nowhere—and I’m glad I did.