Santa Monica Pier, Promenade, and Farmer’s Market, May 31st, 2014

Stuart and I found ourselves available on a Saturday morning without our third (Ed Conde), so we decided we would take a trip to Santa Monica Pier and shoot the vicinity. We wanted to arrive early enough that we caught some of the “behind the scenes” things that happen before the shops and amusement park opens, and to see the beach before it is packed with beach-goers that we were convinced would pack the place by 9:00, so we arrived by 7:30. It was surprising how quiet the area around the pier was, so we shot some topside, then headed underneath the pier to decide if it were interesting enough to justify the effort.

The morning light underneath the pier

The morning light underneath the pier

After we stumbled over drunk bums under the pier for a while, we came back out into the light just as folks started to arrive at the beach, virtually directly in front of us. I looked and was struck by the thought “Everything you could possibly want in a Southern California beach photo – girls, bikinis, an old guy in a speedo, kelp, a sea gull, and foreign tourists. It’s like I hit the Lottery…”

Everything you could possibly want in a Southern California beac

There is only so much you can shoot with so few people before you really start standing out, so we headed up off the pier toward the Third Street Promenade (via the long way since it was so early still). As we walked along the side streets, there is a point where you find a huge bunch of bright stainless steel balls mounted as a decoration on the side of a building. It looks better than it sounds, and the opportunities for reflections was something I couldn’t pass up. You can see Stuart and I in each one of the reflecting balls.

Giant shiny metal balls on a building

Giant shiny metal balls on a building

One sight we ran into isn’t something you see every day. There was a guy at the bus stop across the street with a full-sized harp getting ready to get on the bus. I yelled across to him asking “Are you going to drag that harp onto the bus?” He smiled and yelled back “Sure!”.

You just don't see a guy getting on the bus with a harp that often...

You just don’t see a guy getting on the bus with a harp that often…

As we reached the Promenade, the light was great on this giant topiary triceratops. Topiary dinosaurs… My grandson would love this place. While not the nicest of these topiaries on the promenade, this one had the best light at this time of the morning.

Topiary dinosaurs still walk the earth (or at least the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica...

Topiary dinosaurs still walk the earth (or at least the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica)…

One of my all-time favorite photographers was Saul Leiter, the iconic color street photographer who recently passed. His work in NYC and Paris shot through windows, and of subjects caught in window reflections always draw me in, so I look for them wherever I go. This is the front of the Apple Store on the Promenade.

Reflections, shadow and light

Reflections, shadow and light

At the far end of the Promenade there is the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market (on certain Saturdays). We walked amongst the shoppers and followed the antics of produce shoppers everywhere.

Produce shoppers crowd the Santa Monica Farmers Market

Produce shoppers crowd the Santa Monica Farmers Market

Walking through the maze of people and stalls led to a few interesting finds (and some amazingly tasty fruit). I saw this sign and decided this is where I always shop for fruit and vegetables.

This is where I always buy my produce...

This is where I always buy my produce…

There were a few buskers along the side trying to make a buck. I had to give this guy credit for imagination. Having seen hundreds, this guy turned my head and got a buck just for panache. This guy was really from Texas, but when you are trying to make a buck on the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, you have to be inventive…

Will Marry for Citizenship

Will Marry for Citizenship

We had finally reached the end of our allotted time, so we headed back via Palisades Park. Do you remember Freddy Cannon and the song “Palisades Park”? In an odd twist of fate, there is a cannon in Palisades Park. Makes all of the jokes about “open carry” pale into insignificance.

People are packing here in California

People are packing here in California

The Santa Monica Pier area is really quite pretty, and the angle from the near edge of Palisades Park is about the best spot to shoot it from. The bald skies detract, but it is a nice view…

It is getting to be summertime when Santa Monica pier is starting to get packed at 10:00 am.

It is getting to be summertime when Santa Monica pier is starting to get packed at 10:00 am.

Since we were running out of time, we headed down the final few hundred feet of old “US Route 66” (yes, THAT route 66), and headed for the car. Even at 10:00, the pier, and the adjacent beach was not packed. It proves that people (particularly the younger crowd) still isn’t in summer time spirit yet.

Ten o'clock on a Saturday, and the pier wasn't packed.  You can tell people aren't into Summer yet...

Ten o’clock on a Saturday, and the pier wasn’t packed. You can tell people aren’t into Summer yet…

It would have been nice to grab an early lunch at Bubba Gump’s on the head of the pier, but we had places to be. A nice day, lots of good shots, $12.00 for parking at the pier, and a couple of bucks for fruit in the Farmer’s Market. Another cheap photography “date”.

Los Angeles Flower District – May 24th, 2014

Ed, Stuart, and I were looking for an interesting spot a little different to shoot early on a Saturday morning. We had discussed our dilemma with a fellow street-shooting colleague at work, Nancy Lehrer (http://inancy.wordpress.com/) and she mentioned that she was meeting a friend or two in the flower district, and that we were welcome to join her. “Flower District?” Hmmmm. That sounded interesting. It is one of the myriad of “districts” in downtown LA, so we planned to meet her down in the district early in the morning.  As always, it starts off with a ride on the Metro, originating from Universal City this time….

MORE TRAINS MORE OFTEN

MORE TRAINS MORE OFTEN

The Universal City station is similar to the other stations in the LA Metro system, but it has unique art (all of them are distinctly different in their art). I was playing with point of view as we waited patiently for the train and made this image of the fellow in front of me on the escalator reaching a point where it was easy to imagine him sticking straight out horizontally instead of straight up. I rather enjoyed the effect.

Folded perspective

Folded perspective

Since we weren’t at the end of the line, there were the trains headed the other direction to study, and I enjoyed a chance to look at the rate of change of the motion in the train cars when I was viewing them at an angle. The near side of the car is blurred, but the rear of the same car (traveling at the same speed as the front) is not as blurred. I remember dreading these sort of word problems in calculus class so many years ago….

How is some of the image in focus, while other parts of the same object at the same time are not?

How is some of the image in focus, while other parts of the same object at the same time are not?

Once safely ensconced on the subway, we enjoyed our peaceful ride downtown. I rarely shoot on the subway, but I decide to get a shot of Ed listening to tunes, checking out his camera. His “neighbors” looked interesting. I don’t always like the effect a 24mm lens shows on people, but this angle came out fairly nice.

Go wide, or go home

Go wide, or go home

Getting off the Metro Red Line at Pershing Square (5th and Hill) leaves you with a mild walk to 7th and Wall and you are in the heart of the Flower District.  (If we ever meet, ask me to tell you the story of the crazy lady we met on the walk this morning.  It is amusing…)

Once you arrive, there are blocks of low buildings (2 or 3 story) that cover the entire block, filled wall-to-wall with flower and florist supply shops. They are friendly toward photographers and ask only that you not photograph the prices specifically (it is ok to get them incidentally, they are just trying to stop “industrial espionage”). From their early opening time, florists from more than a hundred mile circle converge on these few blocks to grab their shops stock for the day. Most of them shop virtually every day.

Florists grabbing their day’s haul at the Central Los Angeles Flower Market

Florists grabbing their day’s haul at the Central Los Angeles Flower Market

There are street-type shots to be had all over the Central Flower Market, so Nancy and Ed were in their element, but I am not a wide-angle, up-close people shooter, and I actually spent hours shooting things, not people, and finally got to some off-the-main-drag shops where I could shoot something more like street portraits. Ibarionex Perello has mentioned to me several times to find something you genuinely enjoy about a person’s distinct appearance and compliment them on it.  I said hello to this guy and admired his hair and asked if I could shoot. I shot other things in the shop until he returned to his work and stopped concentrating on me. I consider that more street portraiture than street photography, but both of us were happy in the end.

The beauty of asking

The beauty of asking

I took this shot as we started to head back out of the Flower District and saw the scene, envisioning the composition immediately, and played with it for a few seconds to wait for Ed to be at just the perfect place in the scene to be exactly the right amount of “out-of-focus-ness”.

My favorite shot of the day from a walk in the Los Angeles Flower District.

My favorite shot of the day from a walk in the Los Angeles Flower District.

As we left the area, I saw a perfect little vignette of street-life as the guy on the bike asked for directions from the fellow in the cart.

Asking for Directions

Asking for Directions

As we left, we decided that the Flower District was definitely worth a visit, and that this was a place we could bring our wives and allow them to look for inexpensive flowers while we shot. I would go again. Walking out, we saw the sign for Santee Alley and the Fashion District (not too far away), but we had other commitments this day.

The Fashion District

The Fashion District

The walk back t the metro station was quite a bit more interesting. It was still morning (late morning), and there were more people on the streets this time of day as we walked back to the Metro Station. One of the things I noticed were some steampunk shops, and some craftsman shops, such as this one that had the old sewing machine in the window.

Seen in front of a shop on 7th Street

Seen in front of a shop on 7th Street

Crossing through the Jewelry District, we passed by one of my favorite sights downtown. In this old section of Los Angeles, along Broadway, is this old theater (The State) that has been converted into a Spanish Language church, the Cathedral of Faith. The subtitle below looks like an idiomatic “Jesus Christ is the Man!”, but is actually a more traditional Spanish version of “Jesus Christ is The Lord” (or “Jesus Christ is Lord”). The linkage of Spanish cultures with Catholicism is a fascinating topic, and permeates much of the culture here in Southern California….

Cathedral of Faith

Cathedral of Faith

We inadvertently hoppbed onto the Purple line instead of the Red Line, and ended up changing from the Purple Line to the Red Line at the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. Each of the LA Metro stations was done in the work of a different artist, and all are distinctly worth stopping and taking a look at. This mural by Francisco Letherier is titled El Sol / La Luna.

LA Metro Station Murals

LA Metro Station Murals

In the end, we made it safely back to Universal City station to pick up our car and car-pooled back to Calabasas.

Rise to the surface

Rise to the surface

Short, interesting, inexpensive is the way we run these type of outings. $5.00 for the subway day-pass, a few dollars for a bacon-hot dog from a street vendor, and a few dollars worth of gas. I highly recommend this sort of outing for the weekend shooter…

Cinco de Mayo on Olivera Street in Los Angeles and on Hollywood Blvd

My constant shooting companions, Ed and Stuart, and I decided to go downtown to Olivera Street in the historic El Puebla de Los Angeles. The authenticness of the Cinco de Mayo celebration there would make for a good evening of shooting after work.  First the rush from the office to the Orange Line stop in Woodland Hills to charge our TAP cards and board the express for the Metro station in North Hollywood. I have posted images of this station’s entrance before, but at the time I took those photos, I had no appreciation of the artistry represented by the tile work there.

Entrance to the North Hollywood Metro (subway) station

Entrance to the North Hollywood Metro (subway) station

The ride on the Red Line from North Hollywood to Los Angeles Union Station is fast and easy, but provides a nice amount of time to do a quick gear-check and get ready to shoot as soon as we come up from the Red Line platform. A quick trip through the beauty of the station and into the real world.

The ever-changing waiting room at Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS)

The ever-changing waiting room at Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS)

Crossing the street to Plaza Park we merged into the crowd and did a quick circle to get a feel for the festivities. There was the normal shopping proceeding undisturbed on old Olivera, but the Plaza was packed with a crowd awaiting the arrival of a band to the bandstand and officials were giving some sort of speech, but it was inaudible over the sounds of the crowd (at least to me). They finally surrendered to the music and the crowd broke into Dancing at several spots around the bandstand. This guy was low, slow, and smooth….

Dancing man

Dancing man

The site I enjoyed the least was these two kids dressed up for the celebration, and one of them (at the very least) was not enjoying himself. They had even drawn a “soul patch” and moustache on him in what looked like Sharpie. Hopefully his day improved…

The ways we dress up our kids is kind of cruel...

The ways we dress up our kids is kind of cruel…

I am a tad bit agoraphobic and took a quick break by ducking into the far less crowded shopping area on Olivera street and taking a moment to look at the Dia de los Muertos skulls and masks. For the large fraction of the world that celebrates the Day of the Dead, these skulls are not scary, nor are they meant to be. They celebrate the a time for loved ones to visit dead children’s souls in the graveyard on Hallowmass eve bringing Marigolds and small ofrendas of their favorite foods and drinks.  In Mexico, the 1st is referred to Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”).  I find the concept utterly fascinating.  Time is made the next day, All Souls Day, to visit with the souls of adults.  The 2nd of November is the actual “Dia de los Muertos” in Mexico. 

Dia de Los Muertos masks

Dia de Los Muertos masks

Skulls are a common decoration, but masks are sometimes shown instead of the skulls. Most are artfully done, and frankly beautiful. I am not sure how practical they would be to wear…

The masks of Dia de Los Muertos

The masks of Dia de Los Muertos

After the break, it was headlong back into the crowd where the scene was getting interesting at points. There were a lot of personalities from the local Latino TV and radio stations there, and they were playing to audience. This lady was evidently some sort of media personality and had her own entourage of still and video camera crews following her and recording her antics. Interesting to watch, but I was happy to be a little way back.

A Cult of Personality...

A Cult of Personality…

By this point, the sun was low in the sky and we wanted to be able to shoot on Hollywood Boulevard by sunset if we could, so back across the street to Union Station, and back onto the Redline to Hollywood Boulevard.

The tunnel between the two sides of Union Station in a lull between trains

The tunnel between the two sides of Union Station in a lull between trains

One thing I always love to watch on the subway is that there are at least two distinct classes of riders. Those that are in a hurry to get to wherever they are going next, and those that are not in a hurry. They even stand apart on a photo of the platform. The bustlers rushing out ahead of everyone else trying to make their next appointed round….

People running from the train to make their next appointment.

People running from the train to make their next appointment.

The next stop was the Hollywood and Vine station. This famous intersection is one of the more unique stops on the entire Metro system. Each station’s art is unique, and intended to highlight the history or culture of the area surrounding the stop. This station has old movie reels covering the ceiling, and is decorated with old carbon-arc projectors. Having had a high school job as a projectionist, I remember these beasts and when the carbon rods broke during a movie, we put on asbestos gloves and fought to pull the 2000+ degree stubs from the holder and thread new ones on and get the movie rolling again.

Carbon Arc movie projector in the Hollywood and Vine LA Metro (subway) Station

Carbon Arc movie projector in the Hollywood and Vine LA Metro (subway) Station

Coming up out of the underground station, you seen the ever-present homeless. The cops chase them away during the day, but by evening, like moths, they return to the light of the streets. They are not a “blight”, nor a source of horrific difficulties, but they are ill-served by the places and situations they find themselves in, and many are in need of substantial medical and psychiatric help. The best folks like me can hope for on a evening forray like this is that we can do something that makes their existance a little nicer without making their situation worse.

Life is still tough at Hollywood and Vine

Life is still tough at Hollywood and Vine

Up out of the Metro station and into the night air we emerge directly across from the old Pantages Theater. This beautiful old landmark has been here since the early 1930s, and hosts traditional theater productions like Lion King, Wicked, Oklahoma, Phantom of the Opera, etc., plus music concerts (Shakira, Foo Fighers) and as a set for movies (Stop Making Sense).

Theater of Dreams

Theater of Dreams

The Hollywood Blvd scene is a visual feast, day or night, but not everything is the stuff of post cards. The neighborhood is developing with lots of upscale bars and night spots, but there remains a section of seedy, older places back when this was a rougher neighborhood. Both can be great to photograph, you just have to make up your mind what you are shooting this night. Tonight was the nicer side….

What's inside mixed with what's outside

What’s inside mixed with what’s outside

The Cinco de Mayo “Hollywood Blvd Pub Crawl” was supposed to have started at the Pig ‘N Whistle, so that is one of the first places we headed for. It was not clear whether the pub crawl had come and gone yet, but the place was busy, and the streets were beginning to fill.

Pig 'N Whistle

Pig ‘N Whistle

The crowds waxed and waned as we strode up Hollywood Blvd toward the Chinese Theater and finally reached respectable density by the time we reached Highland.

Into the thick of it

Into the thick of it

After miles of walking, and tons of making images, we finally decided it was time to get headed home. Fortunately, the Hollywood and Highland Metro station was right there and we were able to start the long ride back to the car.

Finis - time to go

Finis – time to go

In the end, this was a long evening, and we were tired, but all of us came away with quite a few “keepers” (I finished the night with 17 picks in my LR folder for this evening. The ride home was uneventful, and four the cost of a $5.00 day fare on our tap cards, we got in a LOT of shooting. I highly recommend it….

Surfer’s Point, Ventura California

My regular shooting partner Ed Conde and I decided on a dawn shoot at Surfer’s Point, across the street from the Ventura County Fairgrounds, in Ventura California.  This is about 30 miles from where I live. Ed is an ex-surfer and was very familiar with the area, while it was totally new to me. I love dawn at the beach any anywhere, and being here where the surfers were near enough to capture easily was a nice treat. We arrived before the sun and were able to capture some great silhouettes before there was too much light in the scene.

Couple silhouetted against the sunrise

Couple silhouetted against the sunrise

Capturing images in the dim dawn light was a challenge at first, particularly of the moving targets. I quickly got into the groove and caught some interesting shots like this ghostly image of two surfers trying to decide where to enter the water. They looked like a cross between the ghostly apparition of Jacob Marley and laid-back vibe of Bob Marley. An oddly-fun mix indeed!

Ghosts of surfers past

Ghosts of surfers past

The beaches in Ventura are all eroding quite heavily and the County is undertaking a project to “nourish” the beach with cobble stones from grapefruit-sized up to nearly the size of bowling balls. These large rocks protect the beach from erosion, but they are quite exciting to try and cross barefoot as the surfers must. They tend to shift quickly and can smash a toe or even a whole foot, so the surfers have to make their way precariously across the carpet of cobbles to reach the waves. Their slow, careful procession makes them easy to capture.

Ready to launch into the surf

Ready to launch into the surf

Not all of the boards are long boards, but the surfers here seem to favor them. I remember tremendously tall narrow boards in Hawaii 30 years ago, and they aren’t in that class, but they are not the shorter boards I see farther South in Santa Monica, Oceanside, and San Diego. Also, these photos were taken in mid-March, and while everyone pictures California as a place that is always warm (it usually is), the Pacific Ocean along the coast of California is fed by waters that come straight down from the Gulf of Alaska, and the water is downright chilly. Everyone is in a drysuit to avoid hypothermia.

Looking for a path through the rocks

Looking for a path through the rocks

Besides just the cobbles, some of the beach had rocks already there the size of washing machines and down to the size of the cobbles being added, so there were rocks of every size. Stones smaller than the cobble were fewer since the pounding surf smashed the rocks together, and the smaller rocks would soon be reduced to sand. It is all a cycle. Yet another cycle the surfers have to take a minute to get in tune with is the cycle of the breakers. It pays to walk out when they are at a lull between sets so you take less of a pounding near the rocks. Falling and being washed back into those by the breaking waves before you could stand would NOT be funny at all.

Getting in synch with the rhythm of the sea

Getting in sync with the rhythm of the sea

My shooting buddy Ed has a different shooting style, post-processing style, and shots different kinds of cameras than I do, but we enjoy each other’s work. Ed shoots low and inside, usually with wider-angle primes, while I shoot higher, with wide-to-normal zooms. Visit his about.me/edwardconde page and jump to his Flickr stream to see his style. Some interesting stuff in there, particularly if you like “retro-looking” processing reminiscent of old film images. Of interest, his entire workflow is mobile, based on his iPad and a distinct sequenced workflow of apps that cover his images from capture and upload through processing, posting and backup.

Capturng the elusive scene, surfer and wave

Capturing the elusive scene, surfer and wave

I liked this shot of the couple above the rocks. The woman is handing him his cell phone for him to take a last-minute call before heading out surfing. An interesting thing about the surfers at Malibu and farther North, they average dramatically older than the surfers further South. I am not sure what cause this demographic shift, but it is interesting to note. It isn’t uncommon to see folks heading out into the dawn surf that look to easily be in their late 70s or early 80s, but age is not precisely easy to guess among beach-goers. The action of the sun ages people’s skin and can lead you to over-estimate people’s age.

You have a call...

You have a call…

As the morning wore on and the temperature rose, more beach-goers arrived to have their turn at the surf. Since it wasn’t so chilly out of the water, the late arrivals were not dressed quite as warm, but you could see them “jump” when they hit the water. Even though the air temperature was 15 degrees warmer than just three hours before, the water was exactly the same 52 degrees it was at midnight….

Surf's up!

Surf’s up!

One of the other things that never ceases to amaze me is how far away you can tell a man from a woman in a wet suit. You would have to be pretty observant to miss the difference up close, but at long range, the thing that stands out (at least among surfers) is the difference in size. At first I thought it was fathers and daughters because of the incredible height difference, but that wasn’t the case. Surfer girls tend to be lean and trim, and for some reason are short. I can’t say why, just that I am curious as to the reason. Perhaps I’ll talk in greater depth with the surfers and investigate the cause…

Cute couple launching

Cute couple launching

Another thing not too hard to predict was that there would be some exercise fans out early. I wasn’t disappointed, but they were in the minority in comparison to the surfers. Runners were far more common, but far less interesting, or at least images of them would be. Most were headed away from me, and shots of people from behind are not my bag.

Decline pushups are just the thing to start the day...

Decline pushups are just the thing to start the day…

When the temperatures are lower, the mist rising from the beaches must be amazing, but this morning they were enough to be nice without obscuring any of the coastline. They added some interesting atmosphere, but still allowed the low-angle sun to warm the beach down to the pier instead of becoming a blanketing fog.

Lonely is the pier at sunrise

Lonely is the pier at sunrise

Ed loves his 9mm Body Cap Lens (BCL), so much so that he created a flipboard magazine  and Google+ Group for people to post their BCL shots called “F8 and Be There” (after the famous Arthur Fellig [also known as Weegee] quote).  These lenses are fixed aperture f/8 lenses that provide an inexpensive, but fun look for MFT shooters.  I wish there were an equivalent for the Nikon full-frame cameras.  I can get something very near with my 20mm Nikkor prime, but the effort makes it different.

Looking for just the right point of view

Looking for just the right point of view

Something that has taken the coast by storm over the last few years has been the SUPs or Stand-Up Paddleboards. These wide, long, high-buoyancy boards are a not as maneuverable, but they are safe, and apparently amazingly good exercise. I see them touted as great beginner boards for the frail elderly to get on the road to recovery of their senses of proprioception and core strength. Another great thing about them is that they ride even the smallest of swells like shorter, narrower boards would a perfect pipe. Since they are also able to ride smaller, slower swells, they come in like a high-speed riverboat chugging in toward the beach. Their riders pierce the waves with their paddles and use them to steer like a tiller, and it is fun and relaxing to watch.

Using the paddle as a tiller

Using the paddle as a tiller

I’ll close with this shot of a silhouetted rider bringing his SUP in using what looks to be the most fun and relaxed posture I saw all morning among the surfers.

Relaxing ride in

Relaxing ride in

Enjoy your day on the beach, and try to beat the sun here. Even in mid-March, there was plenty to see at dawn, and as soon as we could see the water we could see that there were surfers already out catching waves….

Santa Monica Pier by night

My friend Ed Conde and I decided to play hooky from the camera club meeting again and wanted to shoot something interesting and local.  When Ed discovered that I had never made the trip to Santa Monica Pier even though I have lived in the area for 14 years, he knew this was the place for this night. Cirque de Soleil (Circus of the Sun) has been playing their Totem show at Santa Monica Pier for a number of months and it was preparing to leave. I am glad I got to see their tents and the show area. What a tremendous production…

The circus has come to town!

The circus has come to town!

The circus tents and their trailers are all erected in the parking lot of Santa Monica Pier, taking up a substantial fraction of all of the parking. On busy weekends, many a visitor will be glad to have the full lot available again.

Their departure will make parking easier

Their departure will make parking easier

Passing the circus tent area, you can finally enter the pier area proper near Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company.

Welcome to Santa Monica Pier

Welcome to Santa Monica Pier

Pier Burger is a pier landmark, but we had no time this evening to get our hands all greasy before shooting.

Pier Burger

Pier Burger

The Ferris wheel on the pier has an elaborate computer controlled lighting system that changes in a dazzling sequence of intensities and colors and patterns. A visual treat that makes every single photo of the pier unique since it doesn’t repeat for a long cycle.

The pier Ferris wheel

The pier Ferris wheel

Santa Monica Pier was busy, even at 9:00 PM on a Tuesday night. This was the last weeks of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem show before they moved on to the next city. One of the tents is visible on camera left (blue and yellow).

Bubba Gump's at Santa Monica Pier

Bubba Gump’s at Santa Monica Pier

The ride was closed, but the area begged to be photographed nonetheless. The hustle and bustle of the times it was open would obscure all of the beauty exposed in the lonely evening.

Even closed, the entrance beckoned.

Even closed, the entrance beckoned.

Mariasol Cocina Mexicana at Santa Monica Pier – This restaurant at the end of Santa Monica’s pier is beautiful at night, glowing like a jewel against the Pacific Ocean. Diners and visitors walk to the end of the pier to enjoy the view.

Mariasol Cocina Mexicana at Santa Monica Pier

Mariasol Cocina Mexicana at Santa Monica Pier

Right alongside the pier is the start of Santa Monica beach that runs into Ventura Beach, Muscle Beach, Manhattan Beach and such heading southward. Even at night, the beach volleyball courts called out to practitioners…

Night time volleyball

Night time volleyball

The tunnel under Ocean Blvd marks the end of the Pacific Coast Highway and the beginning of Interstate 10 (and runs East all of the way to Jacksonville Florida)

Slow Shutter and Traffic in Santa Monica

Slow Shutter and Traffic in Santa Monica

At the end, there was a treat waiting for me. Ed and I car-pooled down to Santa Monica from a Starbucks in Calabasas. I knew that there was something delicious with my name on it when we got back. Some of the Starbucks in the area have a liquor license and can serve beer and wine (they are collectively called “Starbucks Evenings Menu” stores). These also carry “small plates” meant to accompany the beer, wine or coffee. This was my favorite, crisp walnut-cranberry bread with triple cream blue Brie cheese and fig preserves. Crazy, insanely good….

The treat at the end of the trip

The treat at the end of the trip


After a short while to savor my after-shotting treat, we headed our separate ways, but we knew that we will have to come back this way again, and this time NOT FORGET OUR TRIPODS!

Malibu Pier at Sunrise

My friend Ed Conde and I met for a dawn shoot in Malibu California at historic Malibu Pier and the nearby beach between the pier and Malibu Lagoon. Since we were planning on being on the beach, I did not bring a tripod since they are a liability in the sand. By raising the ISO to 800, I was able to keep the shutter speed high enough to keep hand-held as an option. The area is beautiful, and the sun rises over Pacific Palisades down the coast toward Santa Monica.

Malibu Pier at sunrise

Malibu Pier at sunrise

Shortly after we arrived, Ed, who is friendly and outgoing, had met and greeted Charlie, who was likewise an agreeable individual. Charlie was very familiar with the area and filled us in on items of interest locally. Ed made a few photos of Charlie, but I had already come down to the beach. I got this shot of Ed and Charlie chatting.

Making friends at the beach

Making friends at the beach

The large LA county lifeguard towers are always interesting to shoot. The towers in Ventura County are fiberglass and shaped more like a complex prism than these box-like structures, so they drew my camera’s gaze. I also noted that someone had spent the night on this tower. The sleeping bag and luggage confirmed that. Whether it was a surfer (many were already out when we arrived), or a homeless person was never clear.  When we walked by later, the sleeping bag and luggage were gone.

Sleeping gear at a lifeguard station

Sleeping gear at a lifeguard station

Soon, others started arriving to catch some early hours on the beach including this kayaker who stretched some mighty stretches (which I had the good taste not to capture), then launched into the surf and paddled Northward along the coast a few hundred yards out (well clear of the surf-zone).

Stretching, before the launch

Stretching, before the launch

Looking Northward along the beach and across Malibu Lagoon, this huge barn-like structure caught my eye, then my imagination. I pointed it out to Ed and we speculated what sort of livestock might be kept in Malibu along the beach. Mermaids? Walruses? I realize it is most likely an apartment building or a McMansion, but it is fun to let the imagination roam free.

A barn in Malibu?

A barn in Malibu?

Malibu Pier itself was quiet this time of the morning on a Saturday. Only the fishermen and us photographers were up and at the pier at the crack of dawn. I found a post where I was able to rest my camera so I could shoot a three-shot HDR bracket set. I frequently am not happy with the look of HDR images, but needed to pull out the beautiful detail in the clouds that was not coming through in my single shots.

Fishermen at the pier bright and early

Fishermen at the pier bright and early

This final attraction was a beautifully maintained children’s ride with a classic-looking boat. Made me wish I was a kid again, and that takes some doing….

The Speed Queen

The Speed Queen

This was a perfect morning shoot, with plenty to see and do and capture on film (or sensor). I highly recommend the spot for an early morning outing, and if you can stand the crowds, it would be great later in the day as well.

Los Angeles Fashion District and the dos amigos

As part of our weekend shooting series, Ed Conde and I decided to catch the Metro downtown from North Hollywood and walk the fashion district.  Neither of us had made a serious “study” of the area so it seemed like a perfect place to explore.  This is our usual pattern.  We will discuss areas, look for something we haven’t done, and make plans.  Our third amigo, Stuart, is usually involved, but he had other commitments this day.  We caught the Metro Red Line down to 7th Street, Metro Center, and hopped off and started the nine (or so) blocks walk to the Fashion District.

One Wilshire Blvd, home of the one of the West Coast's largest data centers

One Wilshire Blvd, home of the one of the West Coast’s largest data centers

Los Angeles suffers the same “granite canyon” effect that caused major urban center blight in so many US cities before it was noticed. There are few ground-level businesses open to the public long hours, so the occupancy of large stretches of the city are based on whether or not it is a work day and near work hours. Otherwise, they are abandoned to marginalized elements of society – Bums, drifters, homeless, and a small criminal element that preys on them frequent the streets, and their population seems large because there is no one else there. There are beautiful buildings, but not many there to admire them. The US Bank Tower is a case in point. It is the tenth largest building in America, and the tallest on the west coast. If it had huge transmitting towers on top like the buildings in Chicago and New York do, it would be in the top five. Here, the number of people headed in and out of the building who didn’t work there could probably be measured on one hand each hour.

The US Bank Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast

The US Bank Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast

Walking along toward our destination, there were other signs of change.  Some things, like the old gentleman’s clubs (once called strip club, etc.) are on the decline.  I am not a prude, but these places attract a seedy element to the area that the locals who are forced by circumstance could do without.  People don’t want their children growing up thinking that the only jobs available revolve around prostitution, drugs, and criminal activity.

Downtown Los Angeles was once filled with these gentleman's club

Downtown Los Angeles was once filled with these gentleman’s club

The other thing on the decline is the huge series of small businesses, like tailors, shoe repair shops, bakeries, butchers, and other service establishments that added so much life and vibrancy to the downtown community. They also provided local sources of many goods so that items need not travel so far to market. There are some small signs of revitalization along the way though as we saw a few building being refurbished.  As a confessed fan of Saul Leiter’s street work, I delight in finding scenes like this where you can compose a deeply layered, image of reflections in the style of Saul’s work, and add a whimsical flare that I enjoy highlighting.  I don’t want to be a copycat, but using some elements of a great photographer’s pantheon to inspire mine is worth the effort.  Saul didn’t invent taking pictures of reflections, he added soul to it.  I add whimsy….

The mannequin dating scene

The mannequin dating scene

Mannequins started to define the area as we entered the Fashion district, and reaching to find a perfect metaphor for their role was not easy at first. People who know me often here me explain “Everything in life has a bad musical metaphor”, so I frequently put ideas and thoughts to old song lyrics. The match is rarely perfect, but one has to do what one can. These “ladies” feel right in with Cindy Lauper’s music.

Girls just want to have fun

Girls just want to have fun

I don’t want to slight the guys, since there were plenty of places catering to men’s clothing needs as well. I don’t dress fancy like this often, or I would have been tempted. The prices and quality looked good. ZZ Top would approve….

Women go crazy for a sharp dressed man

Women go crazy for a sharp dressed man

My daughters looked at my pictures afterwards and homed in on this image as though it had a flashing beacon on it. I have to admit, the vendors in Santee Alley (the main thoroughfare of the Fashion District) had a bewildering variety of shoes available. For the young (and young at heart), these are the bomb…

Not my style, but certainly colorful

Not my style, but certainly colorful

For the ladies wanting to “step out” in a more grown-up way, there were places that catered to them. These shoes say something, but I am just not sure I want to repeat it in public….

Those are some mighty high heels you have there

Those are some mighty high heels you have there

Another fixture of the Fashion District are the “Alley Dog” stands. These large franks entwined with bacon were for sale everywhere. There would often be three stands on each side of the street in each and every block. The demand must be amazing to call for that many establishments, and there were people scarfing them down for breakfast as we walked by at 8:30 in the morning. By noon you could hardly see them due to the surrounding crowds.

Alley Dog is apparently the thing to eat in the Fashion District

Alley Dog is apparently the thing to eat in the Fashion District

There were other oddities to draw startled, confused looks out of us Ed and I. This white van that had been “customized” with markers was an example. Once I saw it I thought “Genius!”, and got a belly-laugh out of it. Another artist leaving his mark on the world.

I might never have thought to decorate my van with marker

I might never have thought to decorate my van with marker

LA is also a city that embraces “graffiti-like” murals and business signs. You see them so often it is easy to forget to look at them and remember to capture them for posterity. This may be an artistic style that one day fades and becomes difficult to find, like art deco is today. I guess the “King of LA” (Kobe Bryant) is adorning the Athletic Shoe World on the ground floor, but he could conceivably be associated with the
“Suburban Noize Records” studio upstairs. Either way, the image is fun, and hits the mark on my “whimsy” meter.

The King of LA

The King of LA

After a long walk and period of struggling to find restrooms (most public restrooms are no more as businesses straggle to keep out the homeless), we headed back to Ventura County. We walked to Los Angeles Union Station to catch the Red Line back to Universal City. We frequently stop by and shoot here because the facility is beautiful, and seemingly has some new facet to explore.

This closed-off section of Los Angeles Union Station was featured on Marvel's Agents of SHEILD

This closed-off section of Los Angeles Union Station was featured on Marvel’s Agents of SHEILD

Back at Universal City, Ed had to stop for a minute and grab some shots for his “Payphone Project“.  He is a dedicated street guy and almost always has his head swiveling looking for something to add to one of his many ongoing projects.  It is good to have a number of irons in the fire, since it allows him to almost alway sfind something he can make progress on.

Ed collecting images for the his continuing "Payphone Project"

Ed collecting images for the his continuing “Payphone Project”


I hope this post gives you some ideas you might be able to use to do some exploration. Good luck, and good shooting…

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