Aug 142016
 

1966 Shelby Mustang GT350

1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 Editorial Portrait Palos Verdes

“Let me know if I’m making you uncomfortable!” John Saia said over the roar of the engine as we careened around a bend above the Palos Verdes cliffs. I was having so much fun and was so focused on getting the shot that it hadn’t even occurred to me that we were in any danger. And really I don’t think we were, given that Saia has been taking his 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 on spins like this at least once a week since he purchased the classic vehicle in 2002. Still, it was nice of him to ask.

I had met up with Saia to spend a couple hours photographing him and his classics, the other being a 1965 Daytona Cobra Coupe replica, at what he has coined “The Shelby Garage,” named after legendary car designer Carroll Shelby, at Saia’s home in Rolling Hills Estates for the Wall Street Journal’s “My Ride” series. Saia, a retired technical training manager for Toyota, is a lifelong lover of Shelby designed cars and related artifacts, which he loves to share with the public at weekend car shows and on his website, ShelbyGuy.net. We spent some time there shooting the car and some of his large collection of memorabilia before taking it out for a spin and stopping by his favorite overlook facing south over San Pedro to shoot some more. Between the beautiful lines of the car and the stunning scenery it was almost too easy making beautiful images.

It’s safe to say I’m not a “car guy,” (I drive a Hyundai), but I always love these opportunities to ride along with someone who is. Not only is it a fun way to spend the day, but I always come away with an appreciation for what it is they see that I’ve been missing. In addition to the photos here and below, I took a moment to shoot some footage as we drove along Palos Verdes Drive. The rumble of the engine is hardly picked up, but hopefully this gives you some sense of the experience.

 

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Aug 082016
 

Howard Shu Olympic Athlete Portrait

Howard Shu Olympic Badminton Portrait
Howard Shu Olympic Athlete Portrait

After my shoot with Howard Shu, the country’s number-one ranked mens badminton player and, as of this week, first time Olympian, he asked me if Instagram annoyed professional photographers because everyone now thinks they’re a photographer. I thought about it for a second and, without going into the myriad ways the digital revolution has positively and negatively affected my industry and people’s perception of photography, told him that it was probably similar to everyone he’s ever met who’s played a drunken game of backyard badminton telling him they’re also pretty good at the game. I think he got my point.

Unfortunately, like cell phone photography, I think backyard badminton is probably the extent of most Americans’ experience with this sport, which hasn’t had much in the way of mainstream success here as it has in other countries, such as China, Korea, Britain and Sweden to name a few. So it was an exciting opportunity for me when I recently got to enter the real world of competitive badminton to photograph Shu for the Wall Street Journal‘s ongoing “What’s in Your Bag?” series. The shoot took place on a Monday morning at the Los Angeles Badminton Club in El Monte, about 18 miles east of downtown LA. A cavernous gymnasium with fluorescent lighting, it was a difficult location to light, but I had fun shooting a variety of portraits, details of the contents of his travel bag, and him practicing with his training partner, as other club members played and practiced on neighboring courts. He was a nice guy and very easy to work with. According to the article, the U.S. has never won a medal in the sport, which is largely dominated by China, but I’ll be sure to watch this week and am wishing them the best. Click below to see a few more photos from the shoot!

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 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Aug 032016
 

Contestants take part in the AARP/ESA Social Connection GameJam finale at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, Calif., on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Los Angeles Portrait Photographer - GameJam

In June, I had a fun time shooting production stills and behind the scenes images of the AARP/ESA Social Connection GameJam finale, which took place during the 2016 E3 Expo in downtown Los Angeles. Taking a cue from Shark Tank, the show pitted the top three groups of contestant teams against one another as they took turns pitching the video games they’d invented to a panel of  judges. Most of the judges held some standing in the world of gaming, such as Robin Hunicke, Sid Meier and Freddie Wong, which I’m sure was very exciting for these young developers. Not a gamer myself, I was more excited that the celebrity judge was the none other than John Ratzenberger, the creator of everyone’s favorite bar know-it-all, Cliff Claven, and who also happens to have voiced a character in every single Pixar film to date. I realize, unfortunately,  that despite being a spry 37-year-old, being excited about this puts me in the category of people AARP was trying to appeal to by adding him to the panel. I doubt most of the contestants, who are current college students, knew who he was, as they were — if even born yet — probably crying in their cribs on the Thursday nights I was watching Cheers with the family. I’m sure they recognized his voice at least. Anyway, I didn’t let that thought bother me and enjoyed watching the students sweat it out in front of the cameras before the winners, Trainwreck Games from UC Santa Cruz, were presented with their $10k prize. Click Continue Reading to check out more images from the shoot.

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Jun 242016
 

Corporate Portrait - Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Corporate Portrait - Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Corporate Portrait - Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

On a torrentially rainy afternoon in March, I found myself inside a nondescript hangar in Culver City shooting portraits of Dirk Ahlborn and Bibop Gresta, founder and COO, respectively, of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies for the German business publication, Digtator Magazine. They and their company are one of two contenders in the race to create the world’s first Hyperloop, a high speed transportation system that aims to hurl passengers between major metropolitan hubs at speeds of up to 760 MPH. That’s about 8 MPH shy of the speed of sound… as I write that I can visualize the skin on my face peeling back as we reach top speeds. The reality though is that the passengers would be seated in long, pressurized, cylindrical pods that would move quite smoothly through low-pressure tubes, possibly running alongside major highways. As long as the acceleration is gradual I doubt you’d even feel like you’re moving. It reminds me of that thing you put your deposits in at a drive through bank. Slightly bigger though. As a kid that was always one of my favorite parts of running errands with my mom. I would reach across the seat and stretch out the driver side window just to drop the canister into the machine, close the door, and watch it zoom away to the teller. If this is anywhere near as fun as that I’m sold.

The competition was initiated by none other than Elon Musk, who, in 2013, with his company SpaceX, open-sourced the idea to any company willing to take up the challenge. The two major contenders are Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop One. While Hyperloop One has already done a public test run of its technology in the Nevada desert, HTT has been slower to unveil the goods. This is in part due to the fact that their approach has been to crowdsource the engineering of the design and technology first before building anything, with volunteers, consisting of some of the best minds at NASA, Apple, etc., donating about 10 hours a week from the comfort of their homes in exchange for shares of stock that will hopefully hold some value once the company is fully funded. Their competitor, meanwhile, went the traditional startup route, raising lots of capital and building as they go. HTT’s approach makes sense once you realize that Ahlborn, before starting HTT, founded JumpStartFund, a crowdsourcing platform for startup companies. The downside for me was the lack of actual machinery available to photograph during my visit aside from a fancy looking vacuum pump. The cylinder you see them seated in is nothing more than wood with some airplane seats, so I took the unusual (for me) step of gelling the background light to help make things look more interesting.

Nevertheless, they say they are still on track to create a test track in California’s Quay Valley later this year and later aim to open their first operating Hyperloop system in Europe, connecting Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. It will definitely be interesting to see how these companies develop and what the differences are. I have to say the appeal of getting between major cities in a matter of minutes, and without burning fuel, is something to look forward to!

Click ‘continue reading’ to see additional images from the shoot.

 

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Jun 062016
 

Lachlan Patterson Comedian Portrait

My comedian friend Lachlan Patterson recently found a xylophone abandoned by a dumpster outside his Venice home. Unable to believe anyone would discard such a treasure, he adopted it and soon started to incorporate it into his act. Seeing this, I thought it was funny but also realized that I hadn’t seen too many photos of handsome men holding such an instrument. So I decided to invite him to make some portraits that would fill that void. Fortunately for me he obliged, and a couple of weeks ago we met up at Elektrashock Studio. If you’re not familiar with Lachlan’s comedy you should be paying better attention. He’s been touring for a number of years and was the runner up on Season 8 of Last Comic Standing. I got to know him recently on his regular guest appearances on my friend Eddie Ifft’s Talkin’ Shit podcast, but he also has a comedy podcast of his own, The Kooks of Comedy, which he co-hosts with comedian Joe Praino. My understanding is that he also has a big special that’s about to be released, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the near future.

 

David Zentz is an editorial and commercial portrait and documentary photographer based in Los Angeles, Calif. For bookings reach him at dz@davidzentz.com.

May 312016
 

Manhattan, New York, Street Photography

Coney Island, New York Street Photography - handball courts

I made a quick trip to New York and DC last week to take meetings with editors and art buyers and also made a quick stopover in Lancaster, Penn., to visit with family. I never have enough time to really shoot anything of substance on these trips, but I did stop here and there while hustling around to different appointments. I did have one free afternoon in New York though and decided to spend it by taking the Q train to the end of the line to walk around Coney Island. I’ve lived a block off of the Venice Beach boardwalk for nearly 8 years and was interested to see how the east coast equivalent compared. Few of the businesses and none of the rides were open, apparently due to something the east coast refers to as “seasons,” so I can’t say got the full picture. However, I thought it was quite nice and seemed to be much improved since the days of the Warriors. I’ll have to go back sometime in the summer. Lancaster and DC were also fun. While the rain somewhat limited what we could do out in the country I was fortunate to only come across a brief moment of rain while walking around DC. Between meetings there I spent an afternoon in the National Portrait Gallery and the Renwick Gallery and also made time for drinks with some editors and photographers off of DuPont Circle. A good trip overall. More photos from the rest of the trip are below.

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