Escape from LA – Kanab, Utah

Road Trip Paria Kanab Utah
Tourists Social Distancing Horseshoe Bend Arizona
Toadstool Hoodoos Kanab Utah
Milky Way Stars Power Lines Kanab Utah

The last few months have been trying in so many ways. We have spent the majority of the pandemic doing as we ought to, but enough was enough. No, we didn’t start refusing to wear masks in public or attending large backyard barbecues. Instead, we took a road trip to Utah. Kanab to be exact. It’s a small town in the Southwestern corner of the state just north of the Arizona border, about a 7 hour drive from LA. At least, that’s what the map says. Though it doesn’t appear to account for traveling with a 1-year-old and a dog. So, a 9-10 hour drive from LA. There we rented a small house nestled against a towering red wall of sandstone where we could isolate as a family and took day trips to some of the numerous incredible, wild landscapes in the surrounding area. Some of the better known sites in the immediate area include Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We didn’t hit any of those. While it was possible to visit them, we opted to avoid them due to various COVID-related restrictions and spent most of our time visiting some of the other gorgeous sites nearby. Perhaps they weren’t as amazing as the National Parks, but they were more than sufficient. Frankly, what we saw wasn’t even that important, so long as we were anywhere but home. Beyond that was gravy.

Once there it was very easy to keep our distance – from 6 feet to several miles – from others and remain generally safe. The town, however, did have many more maskless individuals than we are accustomed to here at home, which was frustrating to see. Grocery stores, which were pretty much the only public places we went indoors, seemed to be at about 60/40 compliance. This felt very odd coming from LA, where it’s a very rare occasion to pass a maskless person indoors. Why so many people don’t seem to care about the welfare of themselves or others is beyond me. Though it’s easy to see what, or who, is influencing them. Nevertheless, we were largely able to avoid the issue and otherwise enjoy the simple pleasures of not being home and not paying attention to current events. Okay, paying less attention.

While we didn’t hit those fancy National Parks, some places we did visit include the Toadstool Hoodoo’s, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Paria Canyon, home to an old Western town movie set we never did find. Kanab calls itself Little Hollywood due to the vast number of films and tv shows shot there over the years, from The Lone Ranger to the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes to various scenes from HBO’s Westworld. The landscapes make the ideal backdrop for anything calling for scenes in the American West to Mars. The week we happened to be there coincided with a heat wave – in August, go figure – so our hiking hours were somewhat limited to mornings and evenings. Most days we’d rest at home in the middle of the day, but were able to cool off various times at a neighborhood pool, a nearby stream and one day at Lake Powell, an ecological disaster but a beautiful one at least. It was a great getaway overall and nice to discover a new area to visit within a day’s drive. I’m sure we’ll head back over the next few years to pick up on the things we missed.

Whether it’s COVID, racial issues or natural disasters leading the day’s conversation, it’s been frustrating to see all of the senseless problems this country is going through while feeling like we are unable to do much about it in any direct sense. As we come into the homestretch I hope that common sense, justice and the greater good of our national character emerge victorious and that we can begin to heal ourselves and our planet. Until then, please stay safe and keep your heads. While it’s more important than ever to stay tuned in and fight however you can for the various causes and dilemmas we are currently facing, it’s also good to take a break. If you can’t get to a majestic as fuck location like Utah in order to do that I hope you can at least get to a park or maybe just turn your phone off for a day. Anything helps.

Olivewood Bees

Los Angeles Beekeeper - Portrait and Lifestyle Photography
Los Angeles Beekeeper - Portrait and Lifestyle Photography

A few months back I spent some time shooting Lia Navarro at the apiary she runs from her home in La Tuna Canyon, a rural area on the north side of Los Angeles. After moving to the property with her husband a couple years ago she fell into the hobby of beekeeping and it quickly became a passion. In short time she grew her apiary, which she named Olivewood Bees after the many olive trees on the property, eventually keeping several colonies comprising around a million bees on site. She is now in the process of forming a non-profit dedicated to rescuing and protecting honeybees, as well as educating the public about their value to nature and society. She also offers a tour of the apiary as an AirBnB “experience.” Her love of bees is contagious and it was really fun spending time there and learning more about them.

In addition to photographing her amongst her hives I accompanied her on an educational outing hosted by a synagogue and on a rescue in which she saved a rather large hive whose occupants did not care to be saved. The immediate swarm they formed around us upon being exposed tipped me off to their sentiments. If you’ve never been swarmed by hundreds of angry bees, it’s not something I’d recommend! It was overwhelming enough that I had to put the camera down and walk away to get them to leave me alone. For the most part though, I learned that bees are generally docile if not aggravated and was comfortable working up close with them throughout the project. In this case she was able to calm them down with her smoker and soon enough was able to get in and remove the hives.

One of the things that drew me to this project was the knowledge that bees continue to die off in large numbers every year in a phenomenon generally known as colony collapse. While it’s not entirely known what the causes are, the main culprits are global warming, use of pesticides and an infestation of parasitic varroa mites. It’s a sad situation, but also quite concerning as about 1/3 of all food humans consume rely on pollination.

While this is an ongoing problem, this post is even more timely as a new threat has entered the picture…MURDER HORNETS! In fact, I just heard a piece on the NYTimes’ The Daily podcast today. Murder hornets, aka Asian giant hornets, are large predatory hornets that recently made their way to the state of Washington and are known to decapitate honeybees by the thousands in order to eat their thorax. So far it’s a regional problem, but if not contained could be a major threat. One interesting thing I learned from the podcast is that bees in Asia have developed a defense in which they swarm the murder hornets, forming a tight ball around them that creates enough heat to literally cook the hornets to death. Pretty amazing. Bees here, however, don’t yet know that trick and are thus vulnerable. Check out the podcast here as well as this recent article from The Guardian to for general info on colony collapse if interested.

If you’re in need of a bee rescue, want to adopt a colony or are just interested in finding out more about Olivewood Bees the best way to find her is to follow Lia’s Instagram at @olivewoodbees.

Manny Scott

Public speaker corporate event photography

While here staying #saferathome I’ve been looking through previous work and was reminded of an interesting series of shoots I did in 2018-19 that I’ve yet to share here. So, time to share!

A couple years ago I was contacted by the assistant to a man named Manny Scott, who would soon be speaking at a local high school in the San Fernando Valley. At the time I didn’t know who he was, but in retrospect I’m glad I got the call. Over the next two years I ended up traveling with Scott on several occasions to presentations he was giving in Boston, Monterey and Honolulu. It was a great experience getting to see the impact that he has on people, as well as getting to know him and his wonderful family, who typically travel with him as he tours the country up to 300 days a year.

Scott is a well-known speaker in the world of primary education, bringing an inspirational message and practical advice to both students and educators around the country. As a teenager, Scott was in the Long Beach classroom that inspired the 2007 Hollywood film, The Freedom Writers, about a group of underprivileged students who were inspired by their teacher, played by Hilary Swank in the film. He went on to study at UC Berkeley and later launched a successful career as a speaker and author, traveling the country to speak directly to students and educators about the power of education and having the will to overcome your circumstances.

When I first heard what he did I didn’t know what to expect and was even a little skeptical, never personally having had much interest in other motivational speakers. That opinion changed immediately after seeing his first presentations. Twice in a day he filled the auditorium at a school full of “at-risk” youth, all of whom sat in wrapt attention as he discussed his own troubled youth, plagued by abuse, crime and drugs and how he then rose out of those circumstances to lead a fulfilling life. I was surprised to see so many students in wrapt attention throughout the program. Many of them were in tears as he related his stories and several lined up following his speech for a chance to meet him and tell him their stories, to which he listened before offering his embrace and words of encouragement. It was obvious watching them that what he was doing was having a profound impact.

We enjoyed working together and after that event I went on to shoot a large education conference in Boston, another in Monterey and another school event in Honolulu. Despite the differences in venue and audience, in each case he was very well received and made an impression on everyone in attendance.

As I sit here now it’s obvious that large speaking events are not in the cards for a while, but I do recommend you catching his program once normality resumes, particularly if you are involved in education or have school-aged children. In the meantime, I see he has posted some advice for distance learning on his site that is worth a look.

Below is a fairly wide edit of some of my favorites from each of the events. Thanks for looking and stay healthy!

Women of Impact project for Pillsbury

Working Mothers Pillsbury Law Partners

Late last year I worked on a great project with the Pillsbury law firm that highlighted several of the firm’s partners who are also working mothers. As a working parent, and someone whose wife is a working mother with a very busy career, I was very much behind showcasing these hard working women. The project featured eight partners from LA, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York. My role was photographing the three partners in LA and also compositing and retouching all of the final images, the others shot by photographers from their respective cities. It’s great after all the hard work to see the images now featured on their homepage. You can check out the full piece here.

Working Mothers Pillsbury Law Partners

Corona life

Los Angeles Nature Landscape Sunflower

For those of us who need to be around people to work, this has been an epically slow period of time. What to do? Hunker down of course. Also, take walks. Many, many walks. We are fortunate to live near some expansive natural areas where we can get out of the house while maintaining more than adequate social distance. It’s helping to keep us sane while caring for our 1-year-old and a very active pup.

A huge thank you to all of you who continue to work through this to keep us all afloat! Particularly front line workers risking their lives and those of you who keep stores supplied with food and other necessities.

We are all hoping we get through this sooner than later, with as few casualties as possible. In the meantime it’s been inspiring watching everyone step up where needed. Even congress!

These are from a recent outing to one of our favorite local spots after a rain. Stay sane and stay healthy!

New work for the Chronicle of Higher Education

Late last year I worked on a couple assignments for long time client the Chronicle of Higher Education. The first piece was about the issue of schools failing to accommodate students who are among the growing number of young adult family caregivers. To illustrate the issue we took a day-in-the-life approach to telling the story of a former Cal State Northridge student named Andrew Rahal, 27, who is the primary caretaker of his 77-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth, who suffers from Alzheimers and dementia. While he’s happy to do it, the time taking care of her demands caused him to fall behind in some of his courses due to regular tardiness and missed exams. Inflexible to his situation, his professors wouldn’t allow him to make up for missed time, which of course led to poor grades. There are an increasing number of young adults in his situation. Some 10 million young adult family caregivers between 18 and 34, many of them students, are taking care of a loved one due to a number of factors, including an aging baby boomer population, a caregiver shortage and the prohibitive cost of long term care. The two were incredibly sweet to one another and Andrew works incredibly hard to make sure his grandmother is well taken care of. It was a pleasure tagging along as they went through their day, which included getting ready in the morning, working on memory and physical exercises and then hopping around town to doctors appointments, with a stop for lunch at a favorite diner along the way.

The second story was about an expanding on-campus student rehab program called the Haven, which is at a number of schools around the country. My part focused on Sophie Pyne, the national director of university programs for the program at USC, who, while a student a few years ago, was also a client. Sophie was very open about her personal story and very accommodating during the shoot at the facility, which is