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Manhattan Beach Photographer Launches 'Photowalks' TV Series

Mar 08, 2021 09:10AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A veteran Manhattan Beach journalist and photographer has launched a new TV series called "Photowalks," which features walks through scenic places from around the world, coupled with strategies for getting that postcard-perfect shot. 

Photowalks is directed and shot by Manhattan Beach resident Jefferson Graham, who is perhaps best known as a longtime tech columnist for USA Today and host of the Talking Tech audio and video series.

Graham, who is also a skilled travel and portrait photographer, has plenty of tips for how to improve anything from a casual iPhone selfie to a spectacular sunset shot. (See more on his tips below.)

In each half-hour "Photowalks" episode, he explores a scenic locale and points out the best spots and strategies to take great pictures. Starting from West Coast hot spots such as LAX, Downtown L.A., Catalina, Balboa Island, and the Central California and Oregon coasts; the show continues to exotic and far-flung destinations such as Hawaii's Big Island and Portugal (Porto and Lisbon). While visiting each place, he chats with local experts who share helpful insights about the location.

Graham said that he created Photowalks because traditional travel shows tend to impress viewers with beautiful pictures of places they’ll want to visit, but they never slow down and explain how to get those pictures.

"They give you a travel brochure version of what a town is like, but you rarely hear from the people who live there about their insights," he said. "I wanted to share my love of exploring the outdoors on foot and show what’s possible with a smartphone and a camera that’s within anyone’s budget.”

"Photowalks" originated as a website (The Best Photowalk) and YouTube series, where Graham documents his visits and photo strategies to inspiring locations all around the world.

After joining up with producer Peter Spirer of Rugged Entertainment, he expanded the YouTube travel photography show into half-hour TV episodes (with more anticipated for the future).

All six episodes of "Photowalks" are now streaming for free on Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service.

Photography Tips For All

Whether you're planning to travel to an exotic destination or staying home in Manhattan Beach, Graham has tips for any photographer. His top five tips include:

1. Timing is everything. "When you look at promo photos for any tourist destination, 99% of the images are taken during "magic hour," meaning pre-sunset or post-sunset, because that's when the best colors of the day occur," said Graham. "As an exercise, try shooting photos during those times for a week, and then coming back to the same location and shooting them at two in the afternoon. You'll see a huge difference. Early mornings are great for photographers because there are fewer people. Think of the great landscape photos by Ansel Adams and how awful they would have looked with a crowd in the image. In the mornings, you can get your solitude."

2. Hold your phone steady. "The newer smartphones are great, with image stabilization, but you can help the cause by putting both hands on the phone," Graham said. "Alternatively, you can use everyday tools to your advantage, like leaning the phone on a railing or desk. What's the difference between a blurry shot and one that's tack sharp? People won't pay attention to the blurry one."

3. Keep moving until you get it right. "If you're shooting a portrait of someone, and you don't like the way it looks, move," he advised. "Change positions. Go left and right, north and south, until you like what you see. Odds are that one of these will work for you."

4. Be careful to obliterate the clutter. Graham notes: "No one likes to see a telephone pole sticking out of someone's head, or a bathroom on the side of the image. Edit while you're taking the shot."

5. Go tight and experiment. "If it's a portrait, come in a little closer. And go wide. And medium. Try multiple angles until you find the one you like," advised Graham. "On portraits, even though it can seem awkward with the phone, don't fret about it, just move a little closer and get a tighter image. It's the face we most want to see."

Taking Pictures in Manhattan Beach

Graham, a 25-year resident of Manhattan Beach, has taken thousands of pictures in the city. Nevertheless, he has a few favorite places in town where he always returns. His top spots include:

On the south side of the Manhattan Beach Pier at sunset: "When you stand at that angle, you can get the sunset with the pier as a backdrop," he said. (His "worst" place to capture the sunset? From the upper pier parking lot on the north side of the pier. "Those two palm trees get in the way and kind of interrupt the shot.")

Halfway down the Manhattan Beach Pier, facing south: Graham said that the view looking south from the pier offers a nice panorama of the shoreline, plus the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Facing the other way, you see the smokestacks from the power plant.

This tends to be the best place to capture the sunrise as well, with the best angles looking over the Hermosa Beach skyline, he said.

Under the Manhattan Beach Pier: The Manhattan Beach Pier is unique in that its pillars are widely spaced apart, so it offers good lighting, especially for portraits. "Being down in the sand, shooting under the pier, it's just the best," he said. "It just makes you so happy."

The exterior of the The Kettle in downtown Manhattan Beach: "It's a great nostalgia shot," he said. "Everyone loves the Kettle."

To learn more about Graham and his projects, visit him at For those who are on Facebook, Graham is also a moderator of the lively Manhattan Beach Residents' Forum.

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