Scott Kelby, The Metro, and The Ranch.

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metro rail by iphone.

So was a pretty good last few days. Did the whole Scott Kelby’s “Shoot Like A Pro” workshop/seminar here in Los Angeles on Friday, and I’ve got two thoughts:

One, he’s the MAN! I learn more from a one day session with him than I can on my own in months. He simplifies things so much to the point where you start asking yourself, why the hell did I ever think that was complicated to begin with? I had a great experience at his Photoshop seminar last Winter, was hoping for the same with this one, and I got it.

Two, WHY DIDN’T THE METRO RAIL EXIST WHEN I LIVED IN LOS ANGELES!???? Damn…parked my car in Culver City, made it down to the Convention Center in 20 minutes on the train, and just as easy on the way out. No traffic, no rush hour, no gas, no driving, no cell phone ticket, no 20 dollar parking, no hassle. Frickin’ insane. Right in my stomping grounds…L.A. almost felt like a (gasp!) real city!

Anyhow, after spending 8 hours in the workshop and trying to absorb as much as I could, I figured I’d try out some of the new techniques the next day. Had an opportunity to grab a Nikon 18-200 for SUPER cheap from someone in San Diego that didn’t know what they were doing, so had my cousin pick it up, who lives down there, and figured I’d make the journey down on Saturday to pick it up, hang with the family a bit, and play with the new bugger. Love it!!!! And as if that wasn’t enough, my cousin’s husband is a working professional photographer, so he was able to provide me with many inspirational and valuable tips as well.

So here’s a bit of what happened around the cousin’s Lakeside property using a mix of Scott Kelby techniques/ideas and my cousin’s husband’s wisdom, all rolled up into one neat new remove-everything-else-from-my-camera-bag lens, the Nikon 18-200 VR.

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the yurt.

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I almost didn’t do it, but I’m sooooo glad I did.

So every now and then, I shoot photos for Airbnb.com, the vacation rental website where people can rent out their unused spaces for extra income. Sometimes it’s a guest house, sometimes it’s a room in a house, sometimes it’s a tent on a roof of a house. Luckily, since I’m in Topanga Canyon, my radius of 30 miles for assignments covers some of the most ridiculous places ever. I live in a 600 square foot shack of a house, but the hills around me are surrounded by Malibu, Pacific Palisades, that sort of thing…so you don’t have to work your imagination too hard to understand what exists in these parts.

Anyhow, this time, my assignment was a yurt on a property in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains. It was described as a ‘yurt on an organic farm.’ Intrigued…so I accepted this gig. It’s our responsibility as photographers to reach out to the property owner to set up and schedule a shoot, so when I reached out to the woman who’s property this was, she invited me to spend the night in the yurt and cook breakfast for me in the morning. Now this is the first time something like this has happened, and at first I thought she was just doing it to be nice and there’s no way I could take her up on the offer, but she kept insisting. I figured I’d never been in a yurt, I may never have an opportunity like this again, so said screw it, let’s do this thing. Drove out to the property late last night, made it around 9pm, and walked into the thing and I was insanely surprised. I could live in this thing. It was like a round studio apartment with bamboo flooring. Read a little, passed out, not knowing what to expect as I hadn’t met the owners yet.

I woke up at 8am to a call telling me breakfast would be ready in 15 minutes, so I hurried down, washed up a bit, and walked up to the main house. This property was incredible. In the middle of a gorgeous canyon with an ocean view and chickens and roosters and plants and trees and that sort of beautiful madness. I ran into her husband on the way up, a nice fella who introduced himself on his way out and told me to head up to the house for breakfast. We chatted for a bit, he was interested in that I was a photographer because he’s a well-accomplished Director of Photography on big films, told me his wife was a photographer, and sent me on my way.

I went up into the house, and there she was…a lovely woman pouring me a cup of coffee with freshly baked scones, and eggs prepared that were just picked this morning from the coop out back. She set up on the deck overlooking the ocean and sat me down and fed me and we chatted and and chatted and chatted. I felt like I was on vacation. She had written two photography books, both based in Africa around eco-resorts and structures and sustainable practices in Africa, long before any of these were even buzz words. Anyhow, after we finished a nice hour long breakfast, I figured it was time to…well…work?

So I headed down, she offered herself as an assistant and told me to boss her around, which I felt weird about, so didn’t, but I went about the next 4 hours or so photographing her two rental units, the yurt being one of them, and another room in the main house that overlooks the canyon and the ocean. I was wrapping up and getting ready to go when she told me to head back upstairs and just relax on the deck…I had worked hard enough she said. I couldn’t do it. But again, she insisted, so I sat on the deck, she brought out a salad for lunch, and fed me yet again. We chatted about similar interests, everything from publishing, to photography and ate.

After lunch, it was finally time to leave. The wonderful part was, and it took me all day to accept this, that I wasn’t imposing…she actually wanted to do this. This was who she was. And I left happy to know that that exists. I hadn’t felt that sort of hospitality…perhaps…ever. And here was a complete stranger letting me into her life in such a beautiful way, without expecting anything in return other than mutual respect.

She vowed to be in touch, offered me the yurt whenever I wanted so long no one was renting it, and off I went.

I do not remember the last time a day like this happened, and I am so grateful for meeting her and taking the chance and heading out there and everything the day brought with it. It was incredible and throughout it all, there were so many moments where I would normally have just left or felt uncomfortable, but that moment never happened today. It just came, and then disappeared, and I was grateful throughout the entire process. And it felt good.

Basically, I had a genuinely good day, and that is something I have needed for a much longer time than I’d like to admit.

Anyhow, if you’re ever in the Los Angeles area, and are looking for a place to stay, use Airbnb, search for yurt in Malibu, and make sure the host is Bibi.

You will not regret it.

Guaranteed.

Today…

 .              …was a good day…

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Twice In One Week!??

a slice of yosemite layer cake.TWICE IN ONE WEEK!

This is crazy exciting for me on the inside…so earlier in the week one of my favorite photography podcasts picked one of my images to critique. That was my oak tree image that I was using to bring attention to the non-native borer that is threatening to rid california of all of it’s oaks. It was featured on the April 1 episode of the Digital Photo Experience podcast and that blew my mind.

Well, earlier today, I was sitting here editing photos for work, listening to another of my favorite photography podcasts, this one is the April 5 episode of Frederick Van Johnson’s ‘This Week In Photo,’ and all of a sudden, at about the 51:04 mark, I hear my name (butchered, but they gave it a good effort) when they announce their first ever photo critique on the show. They picked my image ‘a slice of yosemite layer cake,’ and they dug it. They had professional photographer guests Jeffrey Totaro & “Fro Knows Photo” Jared Polin all give their thoughts, and it was all positive. Frederick went so far as to say that he could see the image printed large and framed on a wall with a nice light. I mean, I can’t think of a higher compliment.

I know it may sound like I’m boasting or whatever, but I’m not. I’m just genuinely hyped. Please understand, this is the first time in my life that I’m doing something that I actually feel I’m supposed to be doing. Like everything I’ve done before has been leading me to that thing that just feels right and it’s starting to come together that way, and at age (almost) 36, that’s pretty damn exciting for me. While the next steps once, very recently, felt ridiculously daunting, they’re all of a sudden starting to feel exciting and encouraging instead.

It’s always been an ultimate goal to help people that need it and be able to lend my skills to try to help make things even a little bit better than they are for those in unfortunate situations and regions and areas in life, and I feel that I’m getting closer to a point where that can become a reality. Using the skills I’ve honed over the past 15 years – video, writing, publishing, and photography – and somehow bringing it all together into something that actually makes some sort of a difference. I don’t know exactly where and what this is going to lead me, but for the first time in perhaps, well, ever, I feel like at least a path, albeit a rocky one, is being laid out in front of me. So long as I don’t think about it too much and just keep paying attention to doing what I feel is right in the moment – right now – perhaps, perhaps, the rest will sort itself out.

There I go thinking about it too much again. Ah hell.

DP Experience

watching.So I’m kind of hyped. The new episode of one of my favorite photography podcasts was released today, and every week they choose a few photo posts from their Google Plus community and talk about and critique the photos. This week, they chose one of mine, the second time that’s happened, and I couldn’t be happier about which one…it’s the oak tree from the earlier post about Malibu Creek State Park and the borer that’s threatening California’s oaks. Any attention I can bring to that I’m happy about…it would be an incredible tragedy if we lose those iconic oaks.

Anyhow, check out the podcast, it’s called Digital Photo Experience (http://dpexperience.com) and it’s hosted by two extremely well-respected names in the photography industry, Rick Sammon and Juan Pons. If you download it, I highly recommend listening to it all, it’s the April 1 episode, but if you just want to skip to the photo critiques, they start with mine at the 1:02:45 mark.

beware the borer!

watching.

So after all that, they didn’t even remember to have us present our projects…but that didn’t stop me from moving with it. Not because I felt I needed to prove anything but because I truly want to do what I can to help out the park system. Budget woes are apparent all over, but that’s driving the passion of the volunteers, myself included, to make sure people are aware of the parks and these public spaces. They’re frickin’ insanely beautiful and they’ve basically saved my sanity and I know that anyone that shows up will feel the same. It just does that. So I created a Google Plus page for the Malibu Creek State Park Docent program, started posting to it, and plan on getting it going. So if anyone’s reading this and is on Google Plus, add us to your circles. If you’re not on Google Plus, well, you should be…just sayin’.

Also began the process of making some prints of some of those shots that I posted in the gallery on that Google Plus page that I can present at the visitor center on the park grounds to help bring up to date some of the shots hanging in there now.

While you ought consider yourselves warned…there are plenty more Yosemite shots coming, in the spirit of the first week of spring, I’ll break from those for my Spring 2013 shot. Solstice Canyon, California. There’s a reason it’s an oak tree…and that reason comes from something disheartening that I learned last weekend at the interpretation…apparently, not only are the budget woes getting worse for the park system, but now there’s a non-native pest that is threatening to literally take out all of California’s oak trees, and it’s no joke. The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer. This thing has already started attacking trees around California, including an iconic oak at the Huntington Library Gardens grounds, and is causing sequestration of a lot of these infected trees.

Anyway, ok, enough of the hippie me for now. Hope you enjoy the shot…

at the end of the tunnel.

rolling in.
So started a new gig this week. It’s just a part-time thing, and I’ve only been there 3 days, but I must admit, it’s kinda nice to be doing something robotic that I know how to do and an competent in. I’m the new photo editor for a boutique-home rental website, so basically editing and sizing photos of rich people houses around the world. Does nothing for my extreme wanderlust other than add locations to the list, but perhaps it’s getting me closer to that goal of making a career of traveling and making photos and telling stories. Who knows.

Cool crew, cool location in the hills of Topanga, the hours and everything about it are extremely flexible, the bosses are avid travelers and artists and have made a life and career of it, and from what I can tell so far, super cool and down to earth, so can’t complain.

I can also get a vibe that the bossman knows I have more to me than just being a robot-drone at a computer, so it should be interesting to see how he decides he can utilize me and where and how tightly I can fit in. But not going to get ahead of myself. Just keep stepping on each stone that’s put in front of me and see where the path leads me I suppose.

Ok then, today was a light one. But I’m tired. But not to worry, won’t leave you without another image. This one, as you have probably already guessed, is from this month’s winter trip to Yosemite as well. My closeup take of tunnel view.