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A Photo Location That's Overexposed

O.C.'s Little Corona beach draws lots of pros shooting clients. Now, an ordinance requiring permits is enforced.

July 21, 2006|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

As Joel Olivares trained his video camera on the lovebirds perched on a rock along Little Corona beach, the couple kissed and waves crashed behind them -- the perfect backdrop for a film the couple plan to show at their wedding next month.

"Stay a bit longer with the kiss," Olivares instructed the 24-year-olds, Elizabeth Delgado and Daniel Navarro of Los Angeles.

Take two was a lovely shot. And both were illegal.

For years, photographers have used the inspirational bluffs, rocky coastline and picturesque arch of the pocket beach to frame life's treasured moments: wedding shots, anniversary poses, multigenerational family photos.

But now officials are cracking down, handing out citations to professional photographers like Olivares who fail to buy a city permit. The move comes amid increasing complaints from beachgoers and residents in the ultra-tony Corona del Mar neighborhood who say a growing number of photo shoots are infringing on the tiny beach's calm and are damaging sensitive tide pools.

"At times you can find 10 to 15 photographers down there ... sometimes more. We've had verbal exchanges when one photographer is staking out their plot and they feel other photographers are infringing," said Glen Everroad, Newport Beach revenue manager. "We felt we needed to get a better handle on this."

Some blame digital technology, which can make one with a point-and-shoot look like a pro. Greg Figge, whose family has run a commercial photography business in Newport Beach for 34 years, says the surge in popularity of Little Corona as a backdrop in recent years has forced him to take clients elsewhere.

"It's kind of a circus down there," said Figge, who recently witnessed two photographers getting into a shoving match while jockeying for position in Little Corona's tide pools.

While the ordinance requiring a city permit is similar to those in other beach towns and has been on the books since 1968, it has rarely been enforced, Everroad said. Shooters with a Newport Beach business license pay $149, out-of-towners without a local business license $408.

In recent days, 10 professionals pointing a camera without a permit have been handed $100 citations and many others have been given warnings, he said. A second offense costs $200, while a three-striker is out $500. Eventually, the city plans on moving to an online reservation permit system to control the number of photo shoots at Little Corona.

"The fees they want to charge are substantial," Figge said. "It's about half of what we charge just to go there. To double our fees, people will probably balk at it."

The big trouble in Little Corona is most prevalent around sunset, when the warm, soft light sparkles off the beach's azure waters and puts the rocky coast in sharp relief.

Todd Teach, who frequents the beach and has seen plenty of soon-to-be newlyweds tramp through the sand, is more amused by the scene than bothered.

"It's kind of fun to watch and poke fun of some of the stupid poses people make," said Teach, who was catching rays Thursday. "One guy was doing push-ups in the sand to get himself all pumped up before he got into the water with his girlfriend for a photo. It was bad form."

His fiancee-to-be, Elizabeth Todd, said she knew where she wanted her wedding photos taken: anywhere but Little Corona, which she said had become a local cliche.

"Everybody and his dog gets their picture taken here," she said.

For Olivares, who regularly suggests Little Corona to clients who don't have a special spot of their own, Newport Beach's crackdown will probably force him to find another free public studio.

"Risking a ticket -- it's not worth it," he said as his clients embraced on a rock. "I'll have to call some friends and see where else guys are going. Get some suggestions. I heard of a place in San Pedro that's nice."

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