Nana beauty portrait Chateau Marmont Los Angeles

 

“I’m staying at the Chateau…maybe we can shoot?” So went a message I received a few weeks ago from my friend and frequent collaborator Nana, who had suddenly found herself staying at the famed Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood for a few days. Following a fun shoot last year at the downtown Ritz Carlton, the thought was that maybe we could keep these hotel shoots going. Naturally, I said yes and met her the following day. And so a series was born, tentatively titled “Nana lives in hotels.”

Here are some of the favorites from the shoot. Unlike the Ritz shoot, in which she was jumping around and laughing, this room lent itself to a quieter set of images. There’s a sense of history and seclusion there that didn’t inspire loud, high energy photos. I had brought lights, but ended up leaving them in the bag in favor of the soft, natural light pouring into the suite. Incidentally, according to Nana the the suite she was staying in was the one Helmut Newton stayed in at the time of his death. I couldn’t find anything to verify this, but he was in fact staying at the hotel when he died in a car crash in 2004. Regardless, if you’re going to shoot nudes in a Hollywood hotel, even believing you’re shooting in Helmut Newton’s room doesn’t hurt. We had a fun time shooting and catching up, as always. Can’t wait to see what hotel we end up in next.

Nana beauty portrait Chateau Marmont Los Angeles

Nana_chateau_marmont_model_portrait

 

Corporate Portrait Photographer Los Angeles

Editorial Magazine Corporate Portrait Photographer

 

 

With corporate editorial shoots sometimes you have to work with what you’re given, which often amounts to about 5 minutes in a 12×12 foot, white-walled conference room that’s 75 percent occupied by a large, round table. Fortunately, when your subject works at a successful investment company the conference room – or in this case break room – at least comes with a pretty nice view. I was recently assigned by Financial Advisor Magazine to photograph DoubleLine portfolio manager Jeffrey Sherman for an upcoming profile. The original plan was to shoot in the firm’s well-lit, modern looking lobby, situated on the 18th floor of the Wells Fargo Building. This sounded great. And then we got bumped. The time scheduled for the shoot ended up coinciding with an important meeting in an adjacent conference room, meaning we had to move down the hall so as not to be a distraction. The view helped keep it interesting at least and Mr. Sherman was very friendly, giving us a good 15 minutes to shoot before he had to head out the door to catch a flight. The time allowed us to knock out 3 quick set-ups, two of which made the cut as seen here. Maybe next time we’ll get to shoot in the fancy lobby.

Donuts in parking lot at the Trona Pinnacles - Nissan Xterra

Though visiting the desert when the needle’s pushing 107 degrees can be unpleasant, it does have its advantages. The primary one being that there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself, which, assuming you have the right vehicle, permits you to whip up a mini dust storm doing donuts in the parking lot. That was how we saw it anyway on a recent outing to the Trona Pinnacles in early June. We had come over to the odd desert landmark after a couple nights camping along the Kern River, just south of Sequoia National Forest. After two days swimming in the river and hiking among the towering trees, we changed it up and drove east to check them out.

The pinnacles are a unique looking cluster of tufa (calcium carbonate) spires that formed at various times between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago under the water of what was once the Searles Lake. Now a dry lake bed, it feels quite literally like being in the middle of nowhere on an alien planet. If you’re a sci-fi fan you might actually recognize it as such, as it’s been featured in numerous shows and films like Lost in Space and Planet of the Apes. It is basically in the middle of nowhere, situated in the middle of a few thousand acres of BLM land about ten miles south of the small, borax-mining town of Trona, itself a fitting location for a zombie movie. I was excited to finally visit, having passed the site numerous times on my trips to Death Valley. But the heat proved too much and our visit was short. After a quick bit of fun in the parking lot, we got out and hiked around until we were all half-baked — probably about 20 minutes — and headed out to find ice cream and air conditioning. It turns out there was a reason no one else was out there.

Along the way, we passed the future dry lake bed (assuming the drought keeps up) of Isabella Lake, pictured below in the black and white panoramic. After making some images I looked up the lake on my phone and was amazed to see just how low the lake is right now. Much of what can be seen in my photo was covered in water just a few years ago. It’s a scary contrast and a visual reminder of how much those of us in California and the southwest need to conserve water right now.

Trona Pinnacles California Landscape

Trona Pinnacles California Landscape

Trona Pinnacles Garbage

Lake Isabella California Drought Panoramic Landscape

Camping at the Kern River Valley

 

Wall Street Journal Clip

A 2012 PRCA Clown of the Year belt buckle is one of the items rodeo clown Justin Rumford always keeps in his bags.                   Decorated rodeo clown Justin Rumford shows us the contents of his Bucks Bags rodeo bags during the Woodlake Lions Rodeo in Woodlake, Calif., on Sunday, May 10, 2015. Rumford, a barrelman clown and winner of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) 2012 Clown of the Year Award, is able to fit quite a bit into his bags, a necessity considering he is on the road traveling from rodeo to rodeo for much of the year. Some of his must have items include his 2012 PRCA Clown of the Year belt buckle, cowboy boots, clown makeup, huggies wipes, baby powder, batteries, an iPad and iPhone, a wireless microphone, a rope belt, a toothed australian hat, his cowboy hat, baggy jean shorts with suspenders, and costumes, including a gorrilla suit, spiderman suit and Evil Knievel suit, all of which are incorporated into his act. CREDIT: David Zentz for The Wall Street Journal                 FIXBAG_rodeo

Rodeo Clown Editorial Feature Wall Street Journal

Can you say culture shock? A day after returning from two weeks in Thailand I was back on the road, driving three hours north to Woodlake, Calif., to attend the annual Woodlake Lions Rodeo for a feature assignment for the Wall Street Journal. The piece was for their ongoing “What’s in your bag?” series, which profiles various professionals and asks them to share the contents of their totes, brief cases or what have you. The subject this time was Justin Rumford, an accomplished rodeo clown who kindly agreed to let us open up his two Bucks Bags rodeo bags and see what’s inside. What is inside, you ask? Some of the items I found included jumbo clown jean-shorts with suspenders, a leather belt with a 2012 Clown of the Year belt buckle, an iPad and iPhone, a microphone headset and extra batteries, Spiderman, gorilla and Evil Kneivel costumes, white makeup and a black grease pen. You know, clown stuff. It’s generally everything he would need to head out to a rodeo on short notice. Rumford, a resident of Oklahoma, spends much of his year on the road traveling from rodeo to rodeo, whenever possible living in his cozy RV. I also spent the day with him, shooting a few portraits as well as shooting him in action as he emceed, dodged bulls and generally clowned around in the arena. A barrelman clown, Rumford’s job is to assist with hosting the event, keep the crowd entertained between competitions with gags and stunts and to narrowly dodge bulls by diving into his custom-made barrel or hopping over the fence to safety. He does not run around in front of the bulls, antagonizing them to keep them away from the cowboys. That’s what the bullfighters are for. Still, it’s a dangerous job requiring him to intentionally draw a charge to his barrel to give the bull riders and bullfighters time to escape. The assignment was a fun break from the norm – if there is such a thing in this line of work. Click on the Continue Reading link to see more from the shoot.

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The Andaman Sea Thailand longboat at night

The Andaman Sea, the Andaman Sea, oogly boogly, the Andaman Sea…” – Fishing with John, Episode 5, 1991.

Alone under the moonlight, our long-tail boat cuts through still water, transporting us from the city of Krabi to the shores of the island of Koh Jum. Hearing each other is difficult over the sound of the wind and the constant hum of the diesel motor propelling us to our destination, so we speak little, taking in the stars, the treed outlines of other nearby islands and the flickering light on the water’s surface. We smile at each other as we sit on our wooden bench at the center of the boat, realizing we had made the right decision. It is a much better arrival to Thailand’s south than the one we’d anticipated.

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Pang Mapha Cave exploration

thailand wedding in a cave pang mapha

Hustling down a wooded path along the Mae Lang river, we’re hoping to find the mouth of the Tham Lod cave before it’s too dark. Half an hour earlier we’d arrived by motorbike taxi to our teak bungalow in the woods after a 4-hour van ride on one of the curviest roads in the world, which from a map looks like a scrunched up worm stretching from the city of Chiang Mai to the rural district of Pang Mapha to the northwest, where we now found ourselves about 12 miles south of the Myanmar border. As quickly as possible we checked into our hut, transferred a change of clothes into a backpack, and spent a moment doing the best we could to primp. As she braided her hair and fashioned for herself a headdress using purple flowers she purchased from a market that morning, I walked out to our balcony, from where I could see the river poking through the trees, and composed photos of our rings using a bunch of the remaining flowers.

After a half-mile of hiking, wondering if we’re headed in the right direction, we arrive at the mouth of the cave and quickly pick the spot where we’ve decided to have our “ceremony,” a term we are using loosely as we’ve forgone having an officiant or any witnesses. This is fine though, as Thai law requires no ceremony to consider a wedding legal. The actual act of marriage is performed in a sparse administrative office in one of the major cities, a lengthy process we had initiated before this leg of the trip and would complete after returning. Before beginning, we take turns changing into our wedding outfits in a nearby, dark recess of the cave, in case any visitors should happen upon us. Hers is a beautiful, flowing white summer dress and sandals she’d picked out for the occasion. Mine, a blue shirt and grey shorts. I had pants too, but it was too hot and she gave me permission to stay in my shorts so I wouldn’t look like a wet rag for the pictures. Few words are spoken. We take out our rings, and I begin to joke “With this ring, I thee wed.” She stops me there. Short and sweet, we both say “I do,” and place the rings on each other’s fingers before sealing the deal with a kiss. We spend the next 20 minutes taking photos and amongst the stalagmites and stalactites and upon some bamboo rafts anchored in the river before a heavy rain begins to fall. Fortunately, it only lasts 10 minutes, freeing us to return home from the cave before nightfall.

That was it. April 29th, 2015. We were married. Well, almost. The legal side of the equation turned out to be much more complicated than we’d read beforehand, and an itinerary that kept us on the go combined with a couple federal holidays kept our legal marriage in limbo until the very last day of our trip. We managed to get it done though, signing the papers and having the official documents stamped and translated back to English with about 12 hours to spare before flying home from Bangkok. It was a relief to finally get it done and to know that we weren’t going to have to lie to people for the rest of our lives about how we got married in Thailand, when in reality we’d done it in an LA courthouse.

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Bangkok China Town

Bangkok Silom red light district

The Tiger Balm burned my skin and eyes, mirroring the burning sensation in my mouth still lingering from the chili pepper I’d bitten into moments earlier while eating breakfast in Lumphini Park in 90-degree, muggy weather. It was only 9 a.m. on the first day of our visit, and so far Thailand could be summed up best in just one word. Hot. Only 24-hours earlier I would have probably passed on all three of these circumstances — receiving a massage from a stranger in a park, eating spicy street food for breakfast and willingly sitting outdoors where the temperature and percentage humidity seemed to compete to be the first to reach triple digits. But as the saying goes, “When in Bangkok … sure, I’ll try that.”

It was late April and we’d arrived in Thailand the night before to kick off a 17-day trip around the country. It was the first time for both of us visiting Southeast Asia, and we were excited to see as much as possible, heat be damned. We’d chosen late April through early May because it was the shoulder period between the high-tourist season and rainy season. The tradeoff is heat, but we thought it was still the best option and had the added incentive of lower travel prices. The trip started in Bangkok and from there we went to Chiang Mai and Pang Mapha in the north, followed by Krabi and Ko Jum in the south and back to Bangkok to fly home. While the travel itinerary was pretty tight, we only had a few major objectives. See as much as we could, eat as much local food as possible and, last, but certainly not least, get married.

Mission accomplished on all counts! Though the last objective turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, I am happy to announce that on April 29th we officially tied the knot! I’ll get to that story later though, as too much happened to include it all in one post.

Bangkok is a bustling, dirty metropolis. In some ways, it was my favorite leg of the trip. A visual smorgasbord of signs, power lines, vehicles, people and markets teeming with things to buy, it’s a street photographer’s paradise. It also doesn’t hurt that the king himself, whose visage is plastered on numerous walls and billboards throughout the country, is known as a hobbiest photographer to the point that he is pictured on the 1,000 Baht note holding a camera. I was a little disappointed that it was overcast much of the time we were in Bangkok, but there would be plenty of color to be found later in the trip. We covered much of the city on foot, managing to wind our way through a number of areas including Chinatown, Bo Bae, Wat Pho, Silom, Khao San Road and places in between. Each had their own flavor, and often, the places in between turned out to be more interesting than the intended destinations.

When we weren’t walking, we found relief for our aching feet on the modern BTS train system or by taking an incredibly affordable water taxi up the Chao Phraya River. The air was surprisingly cool on the water and offered a unique view of the city.

While the food was amazing through most of the trip, Bangkok gave us some of our best experiences. While we stopped for meals, it was often just to take advantage of the restaurant’s air conditioning and to rest our legs over a water or ice cold Singha. The abundance of great street food allowed us to snack our way through the days. Khanom khrok, kuay tod, khanom bueang and moo ping, (to name a few foods whose names I’ll never remember) followed by copious amounts of water and iced coffee, kept us going through the afternoon. Dinners would often be something along the lines of tom kha kai soup or a noodle bowl and a Chang. One night we splurged at a high-end restaurant, and while it was amazing, were were often just as happy with the quality of the street food we found at a fraction of the price.

After a few days in the city, it was time to head north to Chiang Mai and to the caves of Pang Mapha. I’ll pick it up from there on the next post. Lot’s of photos after the jump!

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Off the Boardwalk – ©2015 David Zentz

Venice Art Walk Open Studio Tour

Series on display at 1320Main Studio during the 2015 Venice Art Walk fundraiser.

Creating this collection of portraits featuring people I met on the Venice Boardwalk is a project I’d been wanting to do for some time, and finally had the chance to execute in early February. You can see the BTS time-lapse video a few posts back. While shooting environmental portraits on the boardwalk can result in some great images, it’s something I and others have done many times. I thought it would interesting instead to remove the context of the boardwalk and focus on the people that make it interesting. After all, while the beach, palm trees and graffiti are a draw, what separates Venice from any other beach up and down the coastline is the eclectic group of people that you find there and an anything goes mentality. There are few better places on this planet for people watching. Though it was possible to invite people one at a time to come visit me in the studio, I knew that individually approaching people and asking them to leave the boardwalk to follow me a block-and-a-half inland to shoot in the studio would be a slow and arduous process to say the least. In addition, those that took part would have time to prepare and the portraits would sacrifice a sense of spontaneity and “realness.” So, a couple of months ago I decided to flip that concept and bring the studio to the people. After a few days spent jumping through hoops I obtained the necessary permits and went to work, setting up a white backdrop at the heart of the boardwalk, where Windward Avenue meets the beach. Over the course of two days, and with the help of two great assistants managing recruitment and release-signing, I was able to photograph over 140 people representing many, if not all, walks of west coast life. Our selection process was easy. If you wanted to be photographed, you were in. Some people we stopped as they passed by. Others stopped by themselves, curious as to what we were working on. From there I edited the shoot down to around 75, which I printed and displayed recently during the Venice Art Walk open studio tours benefitting the Venice Family Clinic. Shown here are 40 of my favorites arranged in pairs. While I tried to have fun pairing the images as you see them above, the best way to see them is in a random array as pictured at the studio. Unfortunately that arrangement isn’t very web friendly. From here I intend to print them in a book and continue displaying them as a gallery show. I’m working on finding a new place to display them, but for now future locations are TBD. This was tons of fun to produce and I met a lot of great people in the process. Thanks for looking!

 

I’m very excited to be showing work during the 2015 Venice Art Walk’s Open Studio Tours this year. It’s a great event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to help the Venice Family Clinic provide medical care to 20,000 low-income, homeless and uninsured patients. If you’re in the LA area please join us at the 1320Main Studios (1320 Main Street, Venice, CA) between 12-4pm. Again, big thanks to my sponsors, Printologie, who printed most of the show, and Venice’s Universal Art Gallery, who did an amazing job framing! Please visit them for any printing or framing needs.

Hope to see you Sunday!

2015 Venice Art Walk

Diana Garcia Los Angeles Artist Portrait - Venice Beach

Diana Garcia Los Angeles Actress Portrait

To add to my ongoing series on local artists, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the multitalented Diana Garcia at her home in Venice. Being an accomplished actress, model, artist, animator and entrepreneur, she’s a busy lady, so I appreciated that she was willing to give me some time on this unusually hot day in February as she was preparing for an event in her home country of Mexico. While she’s appeared in numerous films, commercials and magazines, what I first recognized her for were her playful street art drawings of octopi and her “UNIWOLFCHEETAH” hybrid which began popping up a few years ago on walls around the city, most notably on the building exterior and menu of the notable local restaurant Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Blvd. Her pieces are imaginative and fun, and are frequently accompanied with the phrase “Be What You Dream.” In addition to her Los Angeles installations, she has shown similar work throughout Mexico and in Miami, New York and Austin. In one medium or another, I’m sure you’ll be seeing much more from her in the near future. In the meantime, hop over to her website to see some of her great work.

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