Photo Tips from
Part 1 of 2
My Signature Shot
This is the classic postcard view of San Diego. For over thirty years, I have sold this shot more than any other.
The viewpoint is from Point Loma, a 400-foot-high peninsula overlooking San Diego Bay. Notice the fabulous grouping of multiple landmarks. In the foreground are palm trees and sailboats, in the center are the calming bay waters and high-rise buildings, and in the far background are hulking mountains.
The color comes from shooting at dusk.
Photo © 2006 James Blank.
Here’s another view of San Diego, this time with the sweeping Coronado Bay Bridge in the foreground.
Postcard photos are usually from a high viewpoint. When there’s no mountain or observation tower to help, I use a helicopter. It’s a big expense but the only way to get certain shots.
Photo © 2006 James Blank.
About James Blank
With over 8,000 images on postcards, James Blank is the country’s most prolific postcard photographer. He has been photographing North America since 1970 and travels constantly, re-shooting each view to keep his images current.
Blank’s work has been used by Travel and Leisure, Travel-Holiday, Marriott, Hallmark, AAA, and Eastman Kodak. Over 4,600 of his images appear in calendars.
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Blank is now based in Chula Vista (San Diego). With his wife Marian and daughter Natasha, he operates a stock photography house called ’scenics of America.’ His office is packed with over 200,000 images of U.S. and Canadian cities and scenic areas. He is represented by Corbis, Getty, Imagestate, and RobertStock.
(His web site used to be sandiegoscenics.com but that now goes to Above & Beyond Scenic Photography by John Bahu.
Thanks for reading this article. I’ve been a postcard photographer since 1969 and I love it. There’s no better way to enjoy the classic views of our great cities.
Postcard photography is the pursuit of the perfect scenic picture. Anyone can do it. I manage to make a living from this but It’s really just about being in the right place at the right time.
I’m happy to share my experiences with fellow enthusiasts of travel photography. Please enjoy and have fun with your camera.
How To Get Clear Pictures
I have been asked many times over the years how I get such deep blue skies and clarity in my pictures. The answer is simple: I only shoot on exceptionally clear days with great visibility.
For the clearest air, shoot in winter. The views are crisp and sharp and distant mountains are distinct. From February to May, I’m madly visiting all my favorite places, building a year’s worth of stock which I’ll sell during the rest of the year.
As soon as I arrive at a location, I always check the weather forecast for the next few days. I only shoot in good weather. Many times I have stayed in a hotel room for several days before the weather was right.
I spend part of my time on “bad weather” days looking at postcard racks, skimming picture books, and exploring the area. When the weather breaks, I’m ready to get working.
Amateur vs. Professional
The one big difference I’ve observed between an amateur photographer and a professional is this: when both stop and look at a beautiful scene, the amateur will take one picture and move on while the pro will take many pictures of the same scene at varying times and exposures before moving on.
Of course, the professional has more time available. But the pro knows he or she must get the perfect exposure because their job is riding on it. It’s really simple: if a pro doesn’t bring back good, usable photography, they won’t be asked to shoot again.
Research is key to getting the best shot. Look for a high viewpoint that combines several landmarks in a tight grouping. Plan on spending ample time at your viewpoint, to get the best exposure, light, and composition. Read part 2
Written by James Blank for PhotoSecrets. Copyright 1999–2007 Andrew Hudson for Photo Tour Books, Inc. This article first appeared in PhotoSecrets San Diego. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email Andrew Hudson for permission.