San Diego Skies
When you think of San Diego, many things come to mind:
Perfect weather, great beaches, the San Diego Zoo, the Padres, world-class live theater and schools, cutting-edge biotech, Comicon, the military and more. But what about San Diego's skies?
As so many of our favorite San Diego summer diversions have been spoiled by the pandemic this year, it seems we have few options other than to dip our toes in the ocean, hit a few golf balls, improve Netflix's bottom line, and turn our eyes to the heavens.
As a Tucson boy, I learned to appreciate a great sky. But Arizona made an unholy agreement with Mother Nature long ago, trading possibly the most consistently beautiful sunsets anywhere in exchange for incapacitating summer heat. Nobody goes to Arizona in June for the sunsets.
Here we have more of a mix, and San Diego's perfect summer temps come at a cost. That cooling marine layer cuts visibility, and there are days in the spring and early summer when the beaches barely see the sun. May Gray and June Gloom are well-named and reliable.
A condo building under construction pokes out of the marine layer in downtown San Diego - Iphone, 2017.
On a clear day...
As our weather patterns shift throughout the year, coastal So Cal gets plenty of beautiful clear days. But when the periodic super-dry Santa Ana winds come, you can practically see forever. These hot arid winds from the east push the moist hazy air out to sea, and the locals are reminded that we actually have mountains nearby.
(Click to Enlarge Photos)
The Santa Ana winds lift the curtain of moisture from the often-hazy and obscured coastal views. This image looks south from downtown San Diego. The Coronado Bridge is featured in the foreground, with the Imperial Beach Pier to the south. Beyond that you can see details in the buildings and terrain of Tijuana, Mexico, almost 20 miles away. Even the Monumental Plaza de Toros (Bullring by the Sea) is clearly visible, top left of center. - April, 2019
This image was taken with a long telephoto lens from the ocean 2 miles southwest of the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Fifteen miles away you can see the white cross atop Mt. Helix, and 30 miles beyond that the Cuyamaca Mountains and Mt. Laguna - March, 2020.
Snow doesn't last long on the few days a year the local mountains get a dusting, and we were lucky to get clear skies after this winter storm. - Feb. 2019
Send In The Clouds...
Mad Max meets Waterworld. These altocumulus clouds paired with this dredging barge in San Diego Bay create an otherworldly feel. - January, 2016
This time-lapse looking southwest from the 34th floor of Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego documents last year's unusual May rainstorm. As the light fades into sunset you can see a regatta of sailboats take to San Diego Bay. It's comprised of 2,400 images taken over 3 1/2 hours.
Great sunsets don't happen every day in San Diego, which makes them worth celebrating when they do.
(Click to Enlarge Photos)
Just the right amount of marine layer to keep it interesting. The NAS North Island Port and Point Loma, taken while anchored at Summer Pops - June, 2017
I couldn't resist completing the circle of reflected clouds to create this simple but cool composite. It's a mirror image, but it's hard to imagine what the the original vertical shot looked like. Click the image to find out.
Pyrotechnics! (big finish)
San Diego Big Bay Boom, with three of four synchronized fire works displays assaulting San Diego Bay, July 4, 2018
Pacific Tug's fireworks barge and crew giving Summer Pops patrons an explosive finale - July, 2019
“Smell the sea and feel the sky, Let your soul and spirit fly.”
– Van Morrison
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J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 27 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:
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