Where: Los Angeles, CA
Our son had an audition recently to attend the renowned classical guitar program at the USC Thornton School of Music. While we live in Upstate New York, as a native Valley Boy I was thrilled that he may be headed back to my home town.
As we were planning the trip to USC, I carved out time in our schedule to show him my favorite places in LA from Venice Beach to the Original Tommy’s. But he told me he really wanted to spend as much time as possible at USC and anything related to it’s music program.
I was kinda disappointed. I wanted to brag a bit about LA and take him to places few in LA even know of, but quickly realized this was a very good sign. For those who move to LA from the East Coast it can be tempting to ease into a more relaxed lifestyle, lose focus and chill-out a bit too much. I knew at that moment that our son was dedicated to the instrument he loves and would not be looking for every chance to sneak out and hit Zuma.
Fortunately during our visit there would be an opportunity to attend a concert by a USC Orchestra at Disney Hall. Well at least I could show him Disney Hall!
It was mid-day when we arrived at the Hall and in LA that often means bright and sunny. While all were reaching for sunglasses due to the reflections off that amazing building, I remembered this photograph I made right before the Hall opened. It was 2003 and I had a free hour before one of those classic meetings. I remember driving around my old hangouts like Angels Flight and the Triforium when I saw Disney Hall for the first time. I was stunned by the way it stood out from the Downtown LA I knew as a kid.
While walking around the structure looking for the best angles I remember being hit up by two panhandlers and a hooker. This was par for the Downtown LA I knew as a teenager. I also remember my retina feeling a bit burned-in because the metal was intensely reflective.
A few years after the Hall opened, it was decided that the metal was indeed too reflective and the high gloss was buffed out. While there are many images of Disney Hall, it’s no longer possible to experience what I captured because the exterior has a different reflective nature. And as Downtown LA itself has a different nature with a rejuvenated sense of place, there were no encounters with the before-mentioned, usual suspects.
The pressure is now on as we just learned that our son will be attending USC this Fall. So since the school is not far from Disney Hall, I have to reflect on how to make a better, but less reflective picture.
Where: New York City
I was on my way to the New York Photo Salon in Tribeca when the sun peaked out from the clouds.
It was towards end of the day and the metal of this pre-war building started to glow.
I waited for the right person, wearing the right clothes, with the right gesture to come out through the revolving door. But nothing. That door seemed like it was on lock down, but soon the perfect person walked by in front of the door vs coming through it. To my delight he stopped and waited for a bus.
When I saw the letter P on his hat was a similar hue as the glowing metal, I moved my position just a bit so that the P was in the the middle of a dark rectangle within the revolving door.
I don’t remember where I shot this.
But I do recall thinking, that something wasn’t quite right.
Where: New York City
While walking through the Garment District, I saw a person with an interesting gesture.
It’s as though he was drawing attention away from a shirt pocket mishap.
Where: Long Beach, CA
I was driving into the office and saw a car wash on PCH that was beautifully lit in the morning light
Several people were likely wondering why I parked my car and then walked into where the cars were actually being washed. But they couldn’t see the interesting abstract shapes I was seeing of an automated brush with soap passing over a door handle on a white car.
Where: East Jesus, CA
After a recent meeting in Palm Springs preparing for the Palm Springs Photo Festival, I made a run for the border. But I had no intention of crossing into Mexico as on the way to the California border with Mexico is one of my favorite places, Slab City.
It difficult to describe Slab City. I simply think of it as a living Mad Max environment with a discriminating mix of people living off the grid. Make that way off the grid.
Photographed at East Jesus http://eastjesus.org/
At the very end of Slab City is East Jesus. The broken glass shrouding a typewriter inside the piano, which I assume illustrates the shared concept of keys, is only one of several images I made in East Jesus. It indeed speaks, per the East Jesus web site, of “… low-tech solutions, unresolved theories, non-linear advancement, and creative reuse.”
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Back in Vegas for another trade show, this time WPPI.
With a few free hours the afternoon before set-up, I headed to Fremont St.
I often don’t shoot on Fremont but its a place taxi drivers are comfortable going to. For me the best shots are usually several blocks east of the Fremont Experience.
With the light pouring through a bus stop illuminating the red, yellow, blue and green shapes, I simply waited for a some people to arrive for the next bus.
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago for the ISE trade show.
When traveling East over an ocean, in this case the Atlantic, I feel the jet-lag. Going West is never an issue but I often have hazy moments the first couple of days going East.
I had a few free hours and headed to an area where I knew there was some interesting graffiti.
I remember composing this scene, and I remember waiting for the right person to walk by, but due to the jet-lag I just don’t remember making the shot. I must have been on Auto-Pilot.
Where: Toronto, Canada
Just walking through a Toronto neighborhood vs the usual sights on Yonge St.
I was in a mood for color but all I saw were the neutral tones of the brick apartment buildings.
By finding the apparent focus of reflecting color on the glass of a bus stop, I made the color more abstract and a bit more interesting.
Where: Vancouver, British Columbia
After a meeting with London Drugs I was lucky enough to have beautiful Sweetlight.
Knowing the directional light that was providing great dimensionality would soon evaporate, I looked within in a block of where I was for something interesting and found 4 mannequins in a shop window.
The light made the mannequins glow as if carefully lit in a studio but 4 is an awkward number of elements.
It was a busy street so I didn’t have to wait long for a fifth element to make a more pleasing design.
Where: Fairport, NY
When I saw these two twins wearing the same outfit, I knew there had to be a shot somewhere.
When one of the twins kicked off his shoe, that interrupted the symmetry for a more interesting picture.
Where: 30,000 Feet Over Somewhere
Sometimes the most common and mundane makes for simple elegant images.
From one row behind, the middle seat ahead of me reclined.
It revealed a nicely lit ear whose shape reminded me of the center of a flower with the seat backs acting as the outer leaves.
Where: Pasadena CA
In my native LA many rave about the amazing Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.
Beautiful floats made of flowers and a clear skin Beauty Queen and her Royal Court waving to the adoring audience without a worry or care.
Kinda makes me queasy. To counteract the nausea I think about the Deathmobile in Animal House used to disrupt the Homecoming Parade, but one year I attended a parade tailor-made for Dano, The Doo Dah.
The Doo Dah is the anti-parade held in Pasadena featuring all who would be forbidden to be in the Rose Parade! No prizes, no rules. My favorite float was a pick-up truck pulling a trailer with 6 guys on broken chairs smoking cigars entitled, “Men Relaxing”.
I shot this before the parade started. I’m not sure if its a woman or man, but it’s the Doo Dah and it really doesn’t matter.
I was in New York last week with my colleagues from LA for meetings in Midtown. It was typical January weather with a couple of cold nights due to the wind chill.
Living in Upstate New York I’ve grown accustomed to winter and just sorta deal with it. But I watched my colleagues from LA suffer, complain and downright whine about the inhumanity of a January climate in the Northeast.
At the end of the day we would head outside on Lexington Ave into the normal rush of commuters walking to Grand Central Station. It reminded me of this image I captured of a January commuter about to enter a T Station where the window had not been cleaned since the summer.
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
We were in Amsterdam for a meeting at one of Epson’s offices in Europe.
After the meeting, my colleague from Epson America and I went out to check out the sights.
And this was quite a sight at a building site right by the Centraal Station.
Where: Pittsford, NY
A couple of years we volunteered as a host family for the Fresh Air Fund.
The Fresh Air Fund is a program designed to give inner city children from New York City an opportunity to experience life in Upstate New York.
When Fukwon arrived he was a furnace filled with energy and excitement. But I was able to capture this moment of quiet reflection when he was taking in the simple but peaceful view from our dining room. By taking a low angle, I eliminated distractions in the background which enhanced his profile.
To better capture the mood, and also help the highlights, I added some simple split-toning
Where: Beijing, China
Several years ago I traveled with Greg Gorman to China where we did custom Epson Print Academy programs.
This was in the early days of the DSLR when the technology was new and exciting, but also limiting and confusing.
During a break we went to the Forbidden City. It was a dreary day and it was right after the SARS scare so there were not a lot of tourists e.g. it was perfect for negative space images. When I saw five men pass through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, I tracked them through the viewfinder until I had the best Fibonacci outline then composed for the upper third.
I captured this with a whopping 6 Megapixel Pro Level sensor (which was 2x the size of the more ubiquitous 3.3 Megapixel sensors in the market at the time). Due to the low light levels I tempted fate and pushed the ISO up to 640. Today ISO 640 is almost grain-free, but 12 years ago the noise was like cracked pepper.
While I liked this image, I didn’t do much with it because of the high noise level and how it printed. But as my Photoshop skills have improved along with recent breakthroughs in printing technology, I’m now able to bring my early DSLR images up to acceptable levels of exhibition quality.
Where: Mumbai, India
India is one of the largest producers of motion pictures. The industry’s nickname is Bollywood and the number of films made is proportional to the large number of Indians who go the movies. Some would say a movie theater is an escape from the day to day reality of Indian life, but others say Indians just love the movies.
I came across a crowded line of people waiting to enter the cinema and found this boy sandwiched while waiting to enter the theater.
Where: New York, NY
After a thunderstorm sped over Manhattan, the air was suddenly clean and almost felt sharp.
But the light itself was harsh and crunchy.
Then I noticed large puddles of water left by the storm reflecting into the sides of cars. At the right angle, the black paint on this car door looked like polished silver.
While the primary light was ugly, the reflected then incident light was brilliant.
Where: Chicago, IL
I was in Chicago to tape a video with my old friend Jeff Schewe. I lived in Chicago in the 1980s but had not been back for a long time. After the shoot, I set off for Grant Park to see how things had changed and also see the famous Bean.
When I arrived The Bean looked just like every image on the web, so I self assigned myself to do something different. I forced myself to not immediately start shooting, but to walk around The Bean and look for different angles.
When I put my nose on the bean and looked up, the incident angle completely filled the foreground making the silver Bean look like a cloudy blue ocean.
Where: Benicia CA
We were taping a video at Bambi Cantrell’s studio in the wonderful town, and one of the early wandering California Capitals of Benicia CA.
I wanted to capture B-roll of Bambi working with a model to enhance the video. While we were prepping for the shoot I saw one of the dresses the model had brought, hanging on a water pipe out in the hallway.
There was beautiful window light falling on the dress, and I was drawn to the incongruity of the elegant dress against the more humble surroundings.
Where: Delhi, India
I was very fortunate in high school to study under the legendary Warren King.
One of the assignments he gave us was to illustrate confusion. It was an exercise designed to teach us that the key to making a great confusing picture, is to incorporate a simple non-confusing element.
During a free day in India between Epson Print Academy programs, I came across this confusing scene and remembered that high school assignment. I looked around for a simple, non-confusing anything. In India one does not have to wait long before people appear and when clicking on this image for full screen, it’s the small image of a person in the left corner that brings harmony to the confusion.
Where: Lake Forest, CA
Photographers know that dramatic weather makes for more interesting pictures. As Jay Maisel says, “I’m from New York, I don’t trust any air that I can’t see”.
On a scout for a video shoot a few years ago in the suburbs of Los Angeles we experienced something quite unusual in Southern California, clouds. Make that Old Testament looking clouds.
Because it’s relatively rare to have interesting weather in sunny LA, when it happens, it’s a major and embarrassing news story. But I ignore how people are reacting to the weather and go looking for images.
It was end of day, light was streaming through breaks in the dramatic sky, and I was quite upset at being in the modern and boring looking burbs of Orange County. With only minutes of light left, I looked around and found a nice incident angle on a parking lot light.
Depending on one’s perspective this image can be seen as a religious symbol, or maybe it’s just a parking lot light against a biblical looking sky.
Where: Tijuana, Mexico
Young people from San Diego used to head to TJ on the weekends.
I don’t recall why these four teenagers were lined up, but I loved the diversity of body types and standing styles.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
I was walking to a meeting at Epson Hanbai (Hanbai means sales and Epson Hanbai is the sales office for Japan vs manufacturing in Hirooka).
On my walk I came across a fire station where the fireman were lined-up outside as part of a drill.
At this particular angle I was able to show 4 distinct waistlines.