Carmel Valley photographer puts focus on San Diego County from mountains to shores


From the panoramic coast to the picturesque mountains, it’s hard to capture the beauty of San Diego County in one book. But that’s what Carmel Valley photographer Steve Gould set out to do with “San Diego, California: A Photographic Portrait.”

“These aren’t snapshots,” Gould said. “I tried to create each image as a piece of art.”

Published in May, the 128-page book features 185 photos taken by Gould, along with a narrative written by Sara Day.

The book follows Gould’s two self-published books on the Southern Ocean and Iceland, released on Blurb in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

A year later, in August 2013, Gould was contacted by Massachusetts-based Twin Lights Publishers, which has brought the beauty of America to readers through its “Photographic Portrait” series for more than a decade. He was asked to capture San Diego County.

“It was a total surprise — and a delightful one — when they got in touch with me,” Gould said.

From September 2013 through August 2014, Gould explored the county with his camera, as far north as Palomar Mountain State Park and as far east as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The bulk of the book, Gould said, captures Carlsbad down to Coronado.

At the end of that period, he provided the publisher with 300 photos from his approximately 15,000 pictures.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Gould, noting his expertise is in landscape and wildlife photography. “A lot of the images are ones that people will be very familiar with, but they’re my take on what those locations look like. I had a lot of fun finding places and shooting in ways that I normally don’t shoot.”

In addition to the county’s scenic coastline and striking landscapes, such as the San Diego skyline and Del Mar Powerhouse Park, Gould also captured iconic attractions, buildings and institutions.

Among many other locations, Gould shot photos at Hotel del Coronado, Petco Park, Legoland California and SeaWorld San Diego, as well as at San Diego’s three major universities, the University of San Diego, San Diego State University and UC San Diego.

He also took photos at several local events, including the races in Del Mar and sand sculpting competition in San Diego.

Gould said he hopes the photos show people “what a fantastic place we live in.”

“We are so lucky,” he said.

Gould has lived in Carmel Valley since 2002.

A New York native, Gould was 10 years old when his family relocated to the West Coast, settling in Los Angeles. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCLA, and a doctorate in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He worked as a chemistry professor at the University of Connecticut and then at Oregon State University for a combined 23 years, but always pursued his love of nature and photography.

After a few years in the pharmaceutical industry, Gould began a full-time career in photography in 2004.

“I call this ‘life after life,’” Gould said. “It’s a new, fun career.”

Gould’s work can be found in various corporate and private collections, including at Kaiser Permanente Carmel Valley and Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. An award-winning photographer, Gould’s work has also been featured at Gallery 21 in Spanish Village several times.

He has an upcoming December show at Gallery 21, at 1770 Village Place in Balboa Park. From Dec. 2-14, “Polar Opposites” will feature Gould’s images from Alaska and the Southern Ocean.

“San Diego, California: A Photographic Portrait” is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and locally, at Warwick’s in La Jolla.