Exploring the Art of Nature Photography at Crystal Cove State Park

Exploring the Art of Nature Photography at Crystal Cove State Park

In a special event involving the Crystal Cove State Park Nature Preserve, UCI’s Marine Research Station, and UCI students, two buses drove to the ocean for two mornings of observation, photography, and exploration. Selected photos will be exhibited at the “Ways of Seeing Crystal Cove” exhibit at ViewPoint Gallery, May 22 - 28, 2015. There is also an Indy.com video challenge associated with the exhibit. The program was organized by Professor Liane Brouillette and Dr. Kim Burge. Over a hundred students participated in the field trip.


Crystal Cove State Park Outing

Misha Ponnuraju, English


The world I live in is one that moves at a hundred miles per hour. With the advent of incredible innovation and rigorous incorporation of technology in modern society, there is hardly any break from a fast-paced lifestyle. Communication, education, and even leisure are not integrated into my life without a sense of immediacy--even moments of pleasure remain short-lived. This is what made my venture to Crystal Cove State Park so valuable. It is a pristine hideaway that is, for the most part, untouched by man’s influence and is timeless in nature. Watching the clouds glide through skies of endless blue and the foaming surf cascade through the rocks and sand allowed us to pause. We were stripped out of the burdens of tomorrow and think only about the organisms nestled in the tide pools and the history buried in paintings of the sand.

The lessons I learned there were plentiful. As an avid appreciator of art history, I traveled to Crystal Cove with a basic understanding of the Impressionist movement of the mid-1800s, and the technological implications that allowed such a stylistic era to exist. Artists were compelled to capture moments in time, especially with the growing influence of photography on the visual culture of modernity, and were allowed to do so because of the new way to put paint in tubes. The Illuminations field trip introduced the plein air movement in a place where it was so heavily practiced. In any art history class, it is easy to forget that there was a world beyond the paintings in the textbook, and that these artists experienced nature firsthand. It is also easy to forget that stylistic movements do not have expiration dates. Plein air painting is not limited to Monet’s “Haystacks” or Van Gogh’s “Olive Trees.” The pressing desire to paint outdoors spread from France to the beaches of Southern California, and thus the California Impressionist Movement begun with the influx of new artists in the early 1900s.

The beauty of this adventure is that it combined a wonderful aspect of technology to help us appreciate the natural world and the world of the past. By using my fairly modern piece of technology (my handy Canon Rebel T3i), I was able to relish a world that found its meaning beyond the phone or television screen. My fellow students and I were able to record the history and science of a beach village lost in time. It was an incredible experience, and I hope to return to Crystal Cove and gaze upon the blue skies and waters again.


Additional news about this event from the School of Education.