Jun 282017
 

Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - George Fischer - Paintball

Action - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

Portrait - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

I didn’t need a reminder that I made the right choice early on not to pursue a career in combat photography, but after feeling the sting of a paintball against my skin for the third time in only a couple minutes, despite several layers of protective clothing,  I remembered that it was indeed the right call.

Earlier this year I found myself out in the middle of a field seventy miles east of Los Angeles following around paintball enthusiast Justin Sorenson for Georg Fischer’s Globe magazine. Justin is a field service engineer by weekday, avid competitive paintball player by weekend and a really nice guy to work with. They were featuring him as part of a regular series they publish highlighting employees’ passions and pastimes outside the workplace. I had only played paintball once in my life, with some friends as a teenager. Being the new guy, they put me out front. I was quickly shot and went back to the house to hang out until they were through. So given my limited experience it probably goes without saying that I was unprepared when I suddenly found myself on the edge a battlefield where ten guys were raining hellfire upon one another with paint-filled balls of gelatin.

Justin and I had shot some portraits before things started and, when it was his team’s turn to play, made our way onto the field. He told me more or less where to shoot from to avoid being shot, but once play begins it all happens very fast. Starting at their home base on opposite ends of the field, upon the referee’s signal each of the five members of each team sprint in different directions, simultaneously scrambling for cover behind large bunkers while also shooting rapidly at anything they see moving on the other side of the field. The goal is to eliminate everyone on the opposing team by “marking” them with a splat of colored paint. You’re hit, you’re out. Last team standing wins.

Standing in the mud along the sidelines with nothing but a camera it feels a bit chaotic at first. The bunkers, inflated vinyl balloons, make loud thwaps each time they’re hit. I see Justin take off and immediately move so I can get a clear view of him in action. What I don’t see is one of his teammates crossing in front of me, which immediately draws fire from their opponents. Any shots that miss him, which was more than a few, have a good chance of hitting me.

The first one hits me right in the keister and stings like hell. I try to move along the edge toward the middle of the field where another team is watching. His teammate heads in the same direction and leaps behind a bunker. Paintballs whoosh by my ear. As I turn sideways one hits the side of my camera, ripping through the bag I’ve secured around it for protection as if it was Kleenex. Fortunately it hits a solid part of the camera body causing no harm. But I realize I should have brought a water housing. A moment later the referee yells to stop play and I let down my guard. Another paintball smacks me in the foot, stinging my toe even through the leather cleats I’m wearing for traction. What the &#*@!? The teams exit the field so the next teams can take a turn and, a little frustrated, I assess what I’ve shot. Not much. Besides spending most of the round trying not to get myself shot, Justin had taken a route up the middle of the field keeping him out of view, so I’d essentially taken all that fire for nothing.

Fortunately round two is better. I quickly learn to watch not only my subject but also to look out for anyone else running anywhere near my direction and to not get behind them. This time Justin runs an outside route toward my corner and I’m able to get a clear shot of him while also staying out of the line of fire. I’m shot only once more over the course of the afternoon and am able to get numerous images of him running, firing and diving for cover. Knowing I have what I need I decide to get myself, and more importantly my gear, out of harms way and call it a day. As for Justin, he intends to play for several more hours. Having watched them play I could see why. It’s a strategic, fast-paced and adrenaline pumping game that I’m sure is addictive once you get started.

As crazy as I may have made it sound, it was actually a great time and a really fun assignment. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Saturday. Even if most of them are less painful.

Here’s a video showing my POV from an iPhone I mounted to my camera. See below for more photos from the shoot!

Paintball Photography POV from David Zentz on Vimeo.

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May 032017
 

Editorial Photographer Tear Sheet

LACC Jazz Band - Editorial Photography

 

Late last year I photographed the Los Angeles Community College Studio Jazz Band for the Chronicle of Higher Education as they rehearsed for the following night’s concert. The story was about how the school had just received a $10 million grant from the Herb Alpert Foundation, which would be used to make tuition free for all music majors. Alpert, a jazz musician who founded A&M Records, and his foundation already had a history with donating to the school, but last year decided they wanted to give a legacy donation that would make a big difference in the lives of LACC students. The story reminded me of an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast that I listened to a few months ago in which he discusses a man named Hank Rowan who, in 1992, decided to give a $100 million donation to a local community college in order to create an entire engineering department. The podcast argues that more donors should think this way rather than only giving to the top Ivy League schools, which today have endowments in the multiple billions of dollars, but generally educate people who are starting with a lot of advantages. Thus the money doesn’t really do a lot for them in the way it would for the underserved students attending the small schools. It appears the Herb Alpert Foundation had a similar mindset. It was great to not only meet some of the beneficiaries of the foundation’s generosity, but also sit in on what felt like a private concert put on by a talented group of students.

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Sep 092016
 


 

“Want to buy a cookie?” a group of voices asked in unison, startling my wife and me. This was a few months ago and happened just as we were strolling home along Windward Avenue in Venice. Looking just to our right we saw a couple guys smiling through a rectangular hole in a whitewashed fence. On a platform above them, seated in lawn chairs were a couple young women in shorts and tank tops. After living off the boardwalk for so many years and regularly being approached by many random people asking for many random things, our initial instinct was to say no thanks without missing a step. Something about this was different though, and two steps after saying our rote “No, thanks,” we both stopped. “What was that?” I asked as we turned around. A blonde, long-haired surfer-looking guy named Kyle gave us the pitch from behind the counter.

“We’re farmers from Michigan, and we’re selling vegan, organic cookies using the wheat grown on our family farm,” he said, pointing to a display of four, slightly round drop cookies situated in front of him while holding up a glass jar full of whole grain wheat. “This is my apartment, and we do all of the prep and cooking in my kitchen. Want to try a sample?”

“Uh, sure,” we said. Why not? I could think of a couple reasons. However, they also informed us they were operating legally under a recently passed cottage food industry law that allowed the sale of l0w-risk foods, such as baked goods, to be prepared in people’s home kitchens and sold directly to the public. Another blonde, long-haired, surfer-type, who we learned was Kyle’s slightly older brother Wes, dropped back into the darkness and returned a moment later with a plate of small, pie-shaped samples of all of the cookies. We tasted as we talked.

“Where are you from in Michigan?” Erinn inquired. The cookies were good. Not incredibly sweet, but not bad for something described as vegan and organic and cooked by a couple of dudes in a studio apartment. They were from Custer, a small town of less than 300, halfway up the western side of the mitten. We told them Erinn’s brother-in-law was from Hart, only a few miles from there, and that we were going to be visiting her sister in Grand Rapids in just six weeks. “Cool beans,” Kyle said. Wes mentioned that at least one of them was going to go back in a month to help their dad with farming duties. We finished our samples, and they asked if we wanted to buy anything. I felt obliged at this point, but neither of us were carrying cash and the cookies were $3 a piece. “It’s okay. We take cards,” Kyle said with a shrug. I bought an oatmeal raisin and a peanut butter.

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Jul 152015
 

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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Jun 152015
 

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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Mar 122015
 

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Late last year I spent a roller coaster of a day with two groups comprised of some very passionate soccer fans. The groups – the Union Ultras and Black Army 1850 – were two cheering sections for the now defunct Chivas USA soccer team and the event we were all there for was the final game of the team’s existence following the announcement that the owner would be selling the franchise back to MLS, who in turn would be shutting it down for good. Chivas USA soccer had occupied much of these fans’ lives for the past 10 years and was moments away from vanishing into thin air. But the fans were not about to go quietly into the night.

The assignment was for Howler magazine, a beautifully produced quarterly publication focused on all-things pro soccer, who just published a great article by Mark Edward Hornish that tells the back story of the franchise and the two fan groups. Therefore I won’t go into too much of the history of the club or why there are two fan clubs instead of one. But I will say that being there was quite an experience.

The day started out generally calm as the two groups gathered in their respective areas on the northern exterior of the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif., to tailgate before the game got underway. There was plentiful beer and homemade food, including a pot of homemade birria, or goat stew, that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. They were so hospitable, I of course had to try some. Everyone was in fairly good spirits considering the knowledge that this would be the last time they all gathered for this tradition. But as the game got underway things quickly intensified. For the next 90 minutes there was a constant clamor as the groups banged drums, waved flags, tossed streamers, cheered and chanted through the entirety of the match. The fervor spiked when the Chivas scored a goal against their opponents, the San Jose Earthquakes, late in the first half, giving them the chance to go out with a win. With my eyes on the fans, I had no idea what was happening in the game, but could get a sense of the action by watching their faces. As the second half progressed, the energy and the cheering continued to swell, coming to a crescendo in the final minutes and punctuated with the release of two smoke bombs that engulfed the Union Ultras in a pink cloud of sulfuric smoke. Between the breathless singing and the cloud of fumes it’s a wonder no one passed out. Finally, the final whistle blew and the bubble burst, sending many of them into uncontrollable, cathartic sobs that continued until the teams had left the field. The Chivas had won, ensuring them a tiny victory in that they would not finish the season in last place. Many of the players stopped by the fans’ sections to thank them and sign autographs on their way out. A weird combination of sporting event and funeral, it was a unique experience, both exciting and heartbreaking to witness.

Following the match the fans seemed resilient as they gathered to eat at a post-game barbecue the club hosted for the fans. Those I saw afterward seemed to have left it all on the field and were now calm and resigned to the fact that it was all over. Smiles returned to their faces as they joked and enjoyed their food and friends in the afternoon sun. There was already talk that the MLS might be creating a new team in LA, but no one knew for sure at that moment. The next day the MLS did in fact issue a statement that the team was officially shut down. In the following weeks there was also an announcement that a new team would likely be coming to LA in the future. The article goes further into this, but at least there’s hope that they may soon be able to cheer for a new team. Most of them despise the Galaxy, so that’s out of the question. Whatever happens, the next object of their enthusiasm will be very fortunate. Here’s hoping it’s not long before they find it.

 

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer