Walk in the wildflowers – Ojai, Calif.

Ojai Wildflowers - Los Angeles Photographer

Lizard on a Rock - Los Angeles Photographer

Light through the trees - LA Photographer

I had a very busy start to this year shooting a variety of corporate, commercial and editorial projects, but as little of what I’ve shot has published yet I have practically nothing to share! So, let’s take a nature walk while we wait. Last week we joined some friends of ours for a weekend of camping and hiking in the Los Padres National Forrest outside of Ojai. The original plan was to go out to the San Bernardino Mountains, but a bad weather forecast had us looking for last minute alternatives. Our timing couldn’t have been better for where we ended up. We found a fantastic campground in the woods and on an afternoon hike ended up finding an amazing stretch of deerweed in full bloom along the Maricopa Highway. One patch had grown over the trail so thick it felt surreal pushing our way through them. I tried to capture the feeling w/ a slo-mo iPhone video I’ve posted below the jump. I also shot a video showing the seemingly endless stretch of them as we wound our way along the road. I’ve probably said this before, but one of the great things about California is that it’s so large that in our 8 years of frequent traveling and camping outings we rarely repeat experiences. We’re constantly amazed that we’ve found yet another gem of a spot and wonder how we could have missed it. I’m looking forward to more discoveries!

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Death Valley National Park for National Parks Magazine


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Above is a spread from a recently published project I shot on Death Valley National Parks for National Parks Magazine, as well as a gallery showing a wider take of images from the project. The shoot took place over two fantastic trips at the end of 2012. The goal of the assignment was to create a mix of imagery showing not only the stunning landscapes the park has to offer, but also showing people actually using the park. Both turned out to be challenging tasks! I knew from the start that I was going to have to make two trips for this assignment, as I could only go for a few days at a time and knew the park was going to be impossible to cover in only 3 days. Death Valley NP is 3.3 million acres with some destinations taking several hours to reach by off-road vehicle. I committed to the idea that the first trip would primarily be exploratory as I tried to figure out what would be necessary to get the shots I wanted.

On my first trip the weather was gorgeous  – topping out in the 80s when it was supposed to still be in the high-90s – but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, leaving me mostly with a palate of tan earth and stark blue skies to work with outside of the hours surrounding sunrise and sunset. The scenery was still magnificent, and having a few stark photos would work, but I really wanted more color. Photographing people also proved to be challenging since despite there being a fair amount of them visiting the park, most were doing the same thing. That is, driving to their destination, hopping out of the car to take a photo with their point-and-shoot or cell phone, and then getting back into the car. You can make a photo from this – one made it into the spread in fact – but not a very interesting one. In addition there were very few kids in the park as school was still in session. I knew one of my best bets was to join a tour, so headed up to Scotty’s Castle to join one of the only tours available at that time of year. (Rather than go into detail here about the history of the seemingly out-of-place Scotty’s Castle, follow the link at the end of this entry to read the online article by Scott Kirkwood.) Finally, after a couple days of wandering around looking for anyone doing anything active in the park beyond taking photographs I came across a group of graduate students as they piled out of a van at the Mesquite Dunes, a popular attraction located in the center of the park. The group was at the park doing geological studies for a course at UT Austin and had arrived at the dunes to blow off some steam before heading back to Las Vegas to catch a flight home. To my delight, they were in a playful mood and started jumping from the low dunes, doing handstands and tossing a football around. They weren’t the rugged hiker photos I’d envisioned, but it yielded some fun photographs that I thought could be part of the final piece. That night I left the park happy with what I’d shot, but knowing I’d be back in a couple months. Fortunately, the magazine had given me a 3-month window to complete the assignment! A rare luxury.

In December I returned with my girlfriend Erinn to keep me company and possibly stand in as a model should I need a body in a far-off location. As a trained journalist only comfortable staging photos when shooting portraits and commercial work, this felt weird. But this was a travel piece, not straight journalism, and the editor was all for whatever made the best images. Mostly out of pride of being able to find photos where none seemingly exist, I made up my mind that I would shoot what I could find first and only resort to photographing her as a last resort. Two photos of her made it into the magazine. We arrived in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both holidays are apparently peak tourist season, but there’s a deep lull in between. So, even more than my last trip, we had the park to ourselves. The weather, however, was a bit more cooperative. There were clouds! This added some much-needed drama and color to my shots, particularly one early morning, where from atop Dante’s View, overlooking the entire Death Valley, the clouds turned into magnificent tufts of pastel-colored cotton candy. On this trip we also rented a Jeep from Farabee’s, located in the center of the park by the Furnace Creek Inn, in order to make the 27-mile, bone rattling, off-road trek to the famous Racetrack, known for it’s mysterious sliding rocks. This is probably the most amazing spot in the park and well worth the Jeep rental and the three-hour trek! The Racetrack is a dry lakebed surrounded by mountains that has a perfectly flat surface of lightly colored, cracked mud. The cracks form nearly identically-sized shapes across the entire 3-mile long surface. We arrived at sunrise – which required waking up at 3:45 a.m. – and were the only ones there for the first two hours of the day. Only here and in White Sands, New Mexico, have I ever felt like I was on another planet. In the far right corner of the lakebed is where you’ll find the rocks, slowly creeping away from the crumbling hillside they have fallen from, leaving long trails behind them in the dried mud. The biggest shame was coming across a number of trails in the mud that had no rocks at the end of them. Some wonderful people apparently think these rocks, which take many years to move across the mud, make great souvenirs. It’s apparently common enough that the park service has adhered metal plates to some of the rocks reminding people to leave them be. Fortunately, there are a lot of rocks still in place for those who care to make the trek.

In the end I was satisfied with what I’d been able to shoot over the course of both trips and am happy to finally see it in print. There were still missed opportunities though, so I’m actually heading back to the park again next week to keep shooting. I’m hoping to see some spring blooms and just to enjoy the park one more time before it gets too hot! I’ll be sure to post some favorites after my return.

Check out the online article here

Happy birthday to me – Catalina Island

Camping in Catalina Island

Kayaking around Catalina Island California

An amazing birthday was had last weekend when my girlfriend Erinn treated me to a trip to Catalina Island. We’ve been meaning to go since moving to LA and finally had the opportunity this year. Our site was boat-in only, so we rented kayaks in Avalon, loaded up our gear after wrapping it in double trash bags, and made the 6-mile trek to Goat Harbor on the northeast shore. Since it’s past the prime camping season, we were especially fortunate to have our own private beach for our entire stay. A few photos from the trip, the first of which being of the light coming from the Huntington Beach area to the east from our site…

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Quiet scenes from Tucson and the Salton Sea

View from Mt. Lemmon
View from Mt. Lemmon
Salton Sea chair
The Salton Sea

Erinn and I had a great trip to Tucson for the Thanksgiving holiday. Along the way I took numerous photos that had a rather quiet tone to them. Thought I’d pull them together for this post. While in Tucson, Erinn and I had a great time feasting with my sister and friends, trying out local breweries and visiting some pretty amazing locations, such as Ted De Grazia’s Gallery in the Sun and Mt. Lemmon. On the drive home we cut north on Rte. 86 for a very brief visit to the Salton Sea, which neither of us had visited in our three years living here. Only having seen images of decrepit trailers and short clips from the film Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, I was surprised to see how many people lived there, primarily in the town of Salton City. We drove up the north shore looking for interesting sites and came across an interesting mix of abandoned furniture, dead fish and numerous birds. The chair I’d seen photographed before in different locations. It must be moved around as needed by the numerous photographers who have visited the site. The dead fish, it turns out, are a result of the ever increasing saline percentages in the water, which are making it harder and harder for the fish populations to survive. We had to stay on schedule to make it home by a certain time that evening for the arrival of some house guests, but I’d like to look into this area more. In addition to the eccentric people who live in the area, there are apparently some significant ecological issues going on there.

More photos after the jump!

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Ocean on fire

Fine art photo pacific ocean
Flames in the sand, Venice, Calif., 2011.

I was browsing through some photos and found this miscategorized gem in a folder from a portrait shoot I did in January. Erinn and I apparently went out for a walk that evening and came across this cool pattern in the sand just north of the Venice Breakwater. I loved the suggestion of flames where the water recedes, and all the better that the flames were accentuated by the warmth of the setting sun. Lesson learned to either stay more organized or at least go looking through your old photos from time to time to see what you missed.

A hike in the clouds

Charmlee Wilderness Park Malibu sunset
Sunset from Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu, Calif.
Hummingbird at Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu, Calif.
A crazy dive-bombing hummingbird takes a breather

I’m frequently reminded of how much I love living in Southern California. One recent reminder was being outpaced while heading south on the 5 near San Onofre by a 70-plus-year-old woman driving a black vintage convertible Volkswagon. Pushing 85 m.p.h. I still couldn’t catch her. A week before, I was also reminded while on an amazing hike at the Charmlee Wildnerness Park in Malibu. While having all of the benefits of city life, I’m occasionally surprised by just how close we live to some pretty amazing natural environments. Together with our new friends Jason and Kylee, we piled in the car and made our way an hour north along the PCH. The visit was a first for all of us, though Erinn had previously raved about her excursion at the nearby Point Mugu State Park, just a few miles north from our spot. I had read good reviews of the views from this spot, but we weren’t expecting much as we had nothing but overcast skies on the way there. However, as we ascended to the parking area, we found ourselves rising above the cloud layer, giving us an unusual combination of sunshine and a point of view from above the clouds. And so we hiked in the sunshine, encountering along the way a variety of wildlife, including the peculiar desert headstanding beetle and a crazy dive-bombing hummingbird that repeatedly rose to 30 feet above a bush, then swooped down on it before suddenly pulling out of the dive while simultaneously letting out a single, shrill chirp. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m thinking something was either intruding on his bush, or he was trying to impress a lady. We made our way through a long meadow and past fields of blooming wildflowers before coming to a pretty amazing overlook of nothing but clouds and shoreline mountains, where we watched a pretty amazing sunset. Following that, we made our way back, catching the moonrise along the way. The outing was a great reminder that we don’t have to go all the way to Joshua Tree to see some pretty amazing views.


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