The Power of a Decade: 10 Signature Photos That Defined Latitudes Gallery's Artistry
After 10 years on Main Street in Ventura, we look back at the top 10 images that they felt were their turning points, biggest lessons, and favorite captures.
Two photographers. One vision. To create photographs that immerse viewers in the beauty of nature, the way they see it.
Stephanie Hogue and Steve Munch's very different eyes for photography, makes Latitudes so well balanced. Steve's bold images contrasted with Stephanie's softness and sparkle, creates the yin and yang that makes a stroll through the gallery feel so complete.
Together, they show the beauty hiding right in front of us, if we slow down long enough to see it.
"Foamy Flute" by Steve Munch
Always intrigued by the fascinating split-second flash of sea foam cascading onto the shore, Steve spent 20 years trying to capture it. “I knew there was something amazing there, but never made an image iconic enough to print, until this one. Once I caught the moment the way I knew it was meant to be, I stopped. I knew there was no other way I wanted to tell this."
Steve often approaches images this way. A photographic bucket list. He keeps trying different angles and versions until his vision comes to life. All that work prepares him for the perfect conditions. And once mother nature, his vision, and pure luck coincide, magic is made and he is ready for the next challenge.
Part of the fascination of this foamy wave photograph is that the fleeting beauty goes unnoticed by most but the photograph allows us to study and enjoy every tiny beautiful detail.
Iconic and graceful, this masterpiece is a favorite in both galleries and is one of the most recognized and award winning images at Latitudes Gallery.
Featured on the television show "All American", it sometimes steals the scene as we have been told by those who discovered it on the show and were motivated to track down its artist, Steve Munch.
"Emerald Seas" by Stephanie Hogue
Photographing the seashore in Cabo San Lucas with stormy sunlight was a serendipitous moment that perfectly encapsulated the dramatic beauty of nature. The interplay between the black rocks, teal waves, and the burst of sunlight created a “breathtaking scene that I couldn't resist capturing,” reminiced Stephanie.
“Stormy Sunlight” as Hogue calls it, is her favorite kind of light for photography. "The stormy sunlight that unexpectedly burst through the clouds created a fleeting and ethereal moment. It's the kind of light that adds depth and drama to a scene, transforming an ordinary seashore into an extraordinary spectacle."
This image represents the awe-inspiring beauty of nature's elements coming together harmoniously. The black rocks jutting out from the sand, the teal waves crashing on the shore, and the stormy sunlight piercing through the clouds—it's a captivating dance of light, color, and texture.
"Mother and Child" by Steve Munch
Another of Steve's photography bucket list images was a mother and child dolphin caught in mid-air, perfectly in sync, but it was a happy accident and another image, Pelican Troop, that taught him to break the rules to create this epic image.
Stephanie and Steve had been photographing in a cave and upon emerging, a pair of pelicans flashed overhead. He hadn't had time to change the manual settings on his camera, there wasn't time. He snapped the image as quickly as he could. When he returned home and was editing the files, he stumbled upon the shot. Pelican Troop was perfect, right out of the camera. “I saw it and it was so spectacular, I wasn't even sure when and how it was taken. It was Stephanie that reminded him of the moment.” Steve recalled.
"Normally shooting directly into the sun is taboo in photography, when you deviate from the fundamentals when using film it's very time consuming and costly. It was Stephanie's wedding photography that taught me how beautiful and artistic it could be.
Mistakes can result in some really creative stuff. The key is to analyze it, understand it, and then apply it when you are shooting. And that's what I did.”
Steve started implementing the technique of exposing the camera on the wildlife he was photographing at the ocean, not the entire scene. Before long that practice and patience paid off when he applied it to another technique: never put your camera down.
With fast moving subjects, like wildlife, it was his career in motorcycle racing and sports photography that taught him how to catch a moment you would miss if you blink. He said “always look down the barrel of the lens, and keep your camera and your eyes in position. Once the moment comes, you won't have time to lift the camera and catch it.”
It was this fantastic collision of decades of self-taught skill that allowed him to master these images and established Steve as a wildlife photographer.
"Strie Seas" by Stephanie Hogue
“I love spending time at the ocean and am always in awe and enchanted by how different it looks everyday. I am always content and fulfilled when I am there.
This particular day I was experimenting with some shooting styles and I was looking for a way to convey and capture the sense of peace and calmness I felt that day. The tide was low and calm and the small waves were rolling in so slowly and beautifully.
I love this photo and I think it resonates with people because it is dreamy and abstract. Though you recognize it, it sort of takes you away to that beautiful escape that the ocean provides. Taking you away from all the worries and distractions of daily life. It is rejuvenating and serene." - Stephanie Hogue
"Cathedrals" by Steve Munch
“When you come down the Na' Pali Coast, no matter how many times you have gone, there is just something so spiritual and grand about the cliffs. I wanted to give it the attention it deserves.” Munch says. Just like so many of his images, he photographed it so many times, and it wasn't until “Cathedrals” that he felt the reverence was expressed.
The view of the entire coastline is spectacular, but “once you get closer to each individual cove, you feel as if you are witnessing the awe of God's creation.” Steve reflected.
We would have to agree. Named by many the most beautiful place in the world, we can see why. With it's rich burnt orange soil, dusting of fine greenery across the cliffs, and lush tropical plants at the base, Na' Pali coast is a wonder.
"Pismo Butterflies" by Stephanie Hogue
When the monarch butterfly migration season lined up with a trip through Pismo California on the way to her family lavender farm, Stephanie took a detour to get a glimpse of one of her favorite creatures- en masse.
“I was captivated by the breathtaking sight of thousands of butterflies clustered on the eucalyptus branches. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that I couldn't resist capturing through my lens,” said Stephanie.
As a photographer and new farmer, this photograph holds a special place in her heart. "It beautifully combines my passion for nature, the beauty of butterflies, and the connection to my own family's lavender fields.”
The image represents the delicate balance and harmony between nature and its creatures. It symbolizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and reminds us of the importance of preserving our environment. 2023 is the second year in a row that the coastal California Monarch population has increased, much to everyone's relief. “This photograph has become a meaningful representation of the cycle of life and the fleeting beauty that surrounds us. It serves as a reminder to appreciate the small moments and find inspiration in the natural world,” says Hogue
She isn't the only one enamored by the butterflies. This spring we celebrated the butterfly image in the gallery and combined it with a downtown event. Guests were delighted by the image and each got to take home their own little paper butterfly. The admiration for the butterflies hasn't slowed down. Stephanie said "Seeing this photograph displayed in the art gallery and witnessing the positive response from viewers has been incredibly rewarding. It's gratifying to know that others can share in the sense of wonder and awe that I experienced when capturing this image."
"Wooden Pier" by Steve Munch
"Wooden Pier" was captured just after dawn. This black and white photograph instantly brings you a cool breeze and peaceful contemplation.
Any shot from this 150 year old pier is classic enough, but there were things about the standard capture that just didn't sit right with Steve. "I didn't love how the island blended into the end of the pier.” recalled Steve, so he worked, shot after shot after shot, until he figured it out. “Once I made that separation, it was exactly what I was looking for.”
One of the things we love about it, is how endless the pier feels. The planks look like you could just step out onto the pier. This nostalgic image captures the hearts of viewers everywhere. There is just something so transporting and mesmerizing about it that draws people in and they can picture themselves strolling down the thick splintered planks, with nothing but the sound of the sea and birds in the distance.
"Playful Pack" by Stephanie Hogue
“Photographing the majestic Horses of the Camargue in southern France was an awe-inspiring experience that touched my soul. The sight of these powerful creatures running together in the water was a visual symphony, and I felt privileged to capture that moment.” says Stephanie. It had long been on her photographic bucket list, and when she finally was able to bring that vision to life, we celebrated with a giant party in the gallery.
"This photograph represents the essence of our vision for Latitudes Gallery. It embodies our passion for exploration, discovery, and sharing the beauty of the world with others. The horses in this image symbolize the freedom and untamed spirit that we all yearn for." says Stephanie.
The horses of the Camargue have become an iconic symbol of the region, some believe they are the oldest breed of horses. Their stout muscular bodies and short legs evolved to living wild in the marshlands and capturing their grace and strength in motion was a true testament to their beauty. The photograph not only captures their physical prowess but also sparks conversations and ignites curiosity in those who see it.
Stephanie recalls "Witnessing the collective power and unity of the white horses running together in the water was a humbling experience. Through this photograph, I hope to convey the sense of wonder and awe I felt in that moment, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the magic of the natural world."
The image of these remarkable horses has the power to evoke emotions and ignite conversations. It serves as a gateway to deeper connections with nature and the desire to explore the untamed beauty that exists in our world. It is a reminder of the limitless wonders waiting to be discovered.
"Waterman's View" by Steve Munch
"I wanted the iconic california wave image, with golden sunrise light, but I never had the ideal position of a wave, with the sunrise in the center of a curl, until that moment." Said Steve. But even with years of planning and practice we almost didn't get one of the gallery's favorite wave images.
"I was in the water at 4:30 am and it is very dangerous to have big swells by a pier, and I got swept through the pier by fast moving currents, two or three times. I was finally in perfect position and ready to throw myself over the wave and get destroyed, when the first dark, cold wave came, and I pulled back, but in that moment I saw the shot I was after. I knew this was my chance, and had to pump myself up. I knew what would be worse than the beating I would take in the wave, was knowing the shot was there and I didn't get it. As the next wave came, I body surfed into it, as it picked me up and threw me through the air I took my shot." Steve crawled to the shore, and looked through the images. Finding “Waterman's View” in his captures was his reward.
Steve emphasises “When you are photographing nature, if you aren't ready when the moment something amazing presents itself, you could be chasing that moment for years. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
It is this unique view of a surfer's sunrise that fans find particurally captivating. A view many of us only get to experience through Steve.
"Two Trees Sunburst" by Stephanie Hogue
The first night Stephanie and Steve photographed together is one of the best comparison's of the artist's view of the world. Steve's, a bold purple sky contrasting with vibrant green grass in a larger than life image. Stephanie's emitting a more idylic view of the city we hold dear. “Capturing the image of these two trees standing proudly atop the mountains above Ventura was a profound experience for me. It was as if they were guardians of the city, symbolizing resilience and strength," says Stephanie.
"The juxtaposition of the two solitary trees against the backdrop of the channel islands and the dramatic swirling blue sky created a visually stunning scene. It was a moment that begged to be captured and shared."
"As a photographer, I strive to capture the essence and emotions of a place. This image represents the intertwined relationship between nature and the city of Ventura. The trees, now gone, were once a symbol of pride and resilience. The setting sun casting its rays of light onto the channel islands added a touch of magic to the scene. It was a fleeting moment of beauty, reminding us of the transient nature of life and the importance of cherishing what we hold dear," says Hogue.
One of our most popular images at Latitudes Gallery since the beginning, this photograph serves as a nostalgic reminder of the blue gum eucalyptus trees that once graced the mountains above Ventura. They stood tall, representing the city's pride and connection to its natural surroundings. The trees have since been replanted, and we look forward to our new guardians taking shape upon the skyline again.
"Inspiration Point" by Stephanie Hogue
There are so many reasons that this photograph is special. The combination of all the elements coming together; the yellow coreopsis blooming, a beautiful low tide and a clear day with early morning light cascading across the rock formations make it an iconic and quintessential photograph. Even more fun is the story of how she was able to get to an unihabited island before sunrise.
Hitching a ride on a fisherman's boat leaving in the darkness before dawn, Stephanie arrived at the island with the surging tide in the small cove making it impossible to dock. With some impressive boat maneuvering skills, the boat captain got her close enough to jump up onto the steel rung ladder with her camera bag and tripod on her back. Dangling from the ladder of the cliff island, Stephanie still had to get up and then climb 157 stairs to get to the top.
The beauty of arriving to the island at sunrise was Stephanie had the whole island to herself for hours, on a wild island adventure.