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PHOTO GALLERY: Balboa Park by Candace Van Assche


A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues stumbled across a blog post that included a fascinating panoramic image of Balboa Park. The blog linked to a Flickr photostream of Candace Van Assche, a local photographer who had dozens of photos in her Flickr collection from Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. She has captured everything from Zoo pandas to the Critical Mass bike rides in new, compelling ways.

Through an email exchange, I discovered that Candace grew up in the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas and recently graduated from Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree.




Photos by Candace Van Assche



A newcomer to the business side of things, she is just now beginning to develop a website to highlight her skills. Candace agreed to take a quick break from photo editing to answer a few questions about her artistic processes.

What do you find inspiring about Balboa Park?

Every bit of Balboa Park is gorgeous, so it is easy to take good photos there. I often like to go there to test out new photographic techniques. Even if I completely mess up while testing something out, at least I'll still have a nice day at the park.

What were you trying to capture about the Park in these panoramic images? How long did it take you to create them? What do you enjoy about the process?

It is hard for me to gauge exactly how long those two images took because that was the first time I tried out that particular technique. I would guess that each image required slightly less than an hour to set up and photograph all of the necessary photos, but then it took several frustrating days at my computer to process them all. I'm much better at it now, though, and I'm way more efficient. Now it takes me about 15 minutes to photograph the 90 images that I use to make these and then about an hour at my computer processing if everything goes smoothly.

My favorite thing about doing these kinds of shots is that composing the image is completely different than anything else. Normally a photographer has to only think in terms of what they can fit into the viewfinder of their camera. So you can take a photo of a breathtaking sunset over some mountains, but completely hide the fact that the photo was taken beside some dumpsters behind a fast food joint. These photos are complete 360 x 180 degree panoramas so nothing is hidden. For these images, I need to find locations that are visually striking no mater which way I look. So this process works great in Balboa Park.

This coloring is so captivating. How did you get the pink color in the leaves?

Most of that effect came from the camera that I was using. I actually got a second camera body and took it apart and modified it to photograph into the infrared spectrum.

When I tell most people that I have an infrared camera, they think of thermal infrared like with night vision goggles, but this is different from that. It behaves (for the most part) like a normal camera except it photographs using light that is invisible to people. It can really make everything look remarkable and unearthly. Just Google "infrared photography" to see some of the amazing things people can do with this process. One of the most notable things about photographing with infrared cameras, is that vegetation looks white or very lightly colored. It is an extremely fun technique to work with.

How long did you watch the pandas to get these shots? Did you learn anything about them in the process?

I was very lucky to actually see them playing and eating that day. It seems that I only ever see them while they are asleep. There was a man beside me that was also taking photos and he said that he had been going to the Zoo several times a week for years and he had never seen them so active.

Even though they were being active and playful, they were moving much slower than I expected. I always imagined pandas playing to be like any other bear playing with lots of running and tumbling. Instead it was more like watching clumsy kittens playing in slow motion. It was extremely adorable.

I love this nighttime shot. What time of day do you prefer for taking photos in the Park?

I like to go to the park whenever there aren’t a lot of people. I enjoy feeling like I have the Park all to myself, and it also makes it easier to take photos when I don't have to wait for people to get out of my shot. Most of the time I take my photos in the early morning, after sunset, or while it is raining.