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Eating Humble Pie — or — How I Nearly Killed a Japanese Man in the Middle of Nowhere

I’m currently engaged in a project at my day job that is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever worked on. If it doesn’t kill me, there’s a good chance I might collapse into a whimpering heap, appearing only occasionally to buy sour candy and look handsome in a tuxedo.

Since I probably won’t be able to travel until March, and since I just got a new camera, I figured I should get one last photo road trip (or phroad trip, as the scientists call them) under my belt. The new camera is significantly more light-sensitive than my previous body, so I decided to head out to the Trona Pinnacles to get some shots of the Milky Way. Turns out, I’m really bad at that, but more on that in a minute.

Regular readers know that I’m crazy for abandoned places, so in my research on the route to Trona I found an abandoned military complex to visit. Unfortunately, the place had been severely worked over by idiots prior to my arrival, so what could have been a cool time capsule was instead a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

That said, some of it was kinda cool and/or funny, like this trailer blocking one of the roads into the town. Someone loves their zombie movies.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Payphone booths, now empty.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

I’ve been to some pretty crazy places, but I still get nervous walking through dark hallways, even during the day. At times I feel like I’m one meth head away from a shiv to the kidney, so once in a great while I might have a weapon on me…

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

…particularly when there are zombies lurking about.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex "dead inside"

This is why we can’t have nice things. Not only are there tire tracks on the tile, but notice all of the holes smashed into the walls.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

The best selfie I’ve ever taken.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town

I’m no expert, but I think fire alarm quality is reduced by bird nests built inside of them.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex

One of the things I’m always amazed at when I visit abandoned places is how shot up they are. Bullet holes are everywhere, proving that many gun owners are not at all responsible individuals. In the event that you had to be somewhere when an idiot started firing into a building, this is actually a good spot to be: that door, as the entrance to a justice center, is fairly bullet proof.

Jake Reinig abandoned military town, bullet holes

It took a beating, but very little of the glass was actually punctured all the way through.

Jake Reinig abandoned military complex, bullet holes

Continuing up the road the traveler goes through Johannesburg, California, home to one of the the loneliest playgrounds in the world.

Jake Reinig Johannesburg playground


The Trona Pinnacles are the really interesting remnants of springs that bubbled up from the bottom of an ancient lake that has since disappeared. Actually, I say interesting, but they’re likely super boring unless you’re a photographer or a geologist. Visit once for sure, but you probably don’t need too long if you’re not there to take pictures.

This shot was taken from several miles away, so you can see how big the tufa formations are. In the foreground are some semi-abandoned train cars from the semi-abandoned “city” called Trona. (Fun fact: the Trona high school football team has one of the only all-dirt football fields in the world.)

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Two questionable attempts at industrial art:

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Abandoned Train Cars

Note the cars in this shot. They really show how big some of these things are.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles

As the sun sets, some of the rocks and hills take on really interesting colors.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles sunset

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles sunset

Returning back to my earlier statement about being bad at Milky Way photography, I’ll complete the story: my new camera is pretty light sensitive compared to what I’m used to, so I figured the Milky Way would practically photograph itself. Turns out there’s a lot more to it, and I did a pretty bad job of the photos.  Basically, I let in too many stars I didn’t want, and didn’t bring out enough of the galaxy that I did want.  I also didn’t do enough homework to know that by far the best time to photograph the MW is around summer, when the galactic core is visible. I’m posting these photos as evidence that I still have a tremendous amount to learn. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have the right conditions to capture some truly awesome photos.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Milky Way


Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Milky Way

So, about the Japanese tourist I almost hit with my truck: the pinnacles are in the middle of nowhere, and once the moon sets the valley they’re in becomes pitch black. The main body of pinnacles has a confusing series of roads that runs through them, and I was driving slowly in the inky darkness trying not to get lost. I drove over a rise in the road, and there, smack dab in the middle of this tiny little trail is a man with his tripod.  He was very sorry that he was in the way, but asked very earnestly if I wouldn’t mind driving my truck into the rocks so that he wouldn’t have to move his camera, which was likely in the middle of a long exposure. A fellow photographer, I obliged him, but was even more annoyed when I got back on the road to find his car (with his friends inside) turned completely across the road, blocking it again. At least I had the satisfaction of knowing that I probably ruined his photo (insert evil laugh).

Having established that I’m a jerk, I’ll close with this next photo. While waiting in my nice warm truck for the moon to set (and the sky to darken), I put my old camera out in the cold to capture a four hour time-lapse of it going down.

Jake Reinig Trona Pinnacles Moon Timelapse

Stay tuned for more (and hopefully better) photos from Trona in the future.


Cowboys and Indians (and Miners) in Joshua Tree

My brother, his girlfriend, and I went to Joshua Tree last weekend. We were supposed to do some bouldering and take some pictures. We did absolutely no bouldering and very little photography, but did end up doing quite a bit of hiking and scrambling, and even more “getting lost while hiking and scrambling.”

We also learned a valuable Christmas lesson about bringing Hawaiian rolls on a camping trip but not having butter. I’d tell you what it was, but I’m saving it for my eventual screenplay about camping and bread products.

Joshua Tree is chock full of abandoned mines and related equipment. Near Barker Dam is a neat structure called the “Wall Street Mill” which used to be part of a major operation. It’s supposed to be closed to visitors, but as you can see the barbed wire fence doesn’t work too hard keeping people out.

Wall street mill

Near the mill is an area called the “car lot” which has a number of derelict cars.

The parking lot, near Wall Stree mill

These tires have seen better days. Speaking of tires, have you seen the ridiculously sexist Goodyear tire ad from the 1960s? I’m not sure why I bring that up, but it’s kinda funny in a really horrible kind of way.

Detail of a car near the Wall Street Mill

Besides having deadly mines around every corner, Joshua Tree also has a pretty large body of native American pictographs and petroglyphs. Near the Wonderland ruins is a really cool rock that has a large, hollow cavity inside. If you climb under and into the rock you’ll discover a variety of hidden pictographs, including the noon day sun at the top of the cavity.

Indian pictographs near ruins at Joshua Tree

Here’s a lousy attempt at capturing the Milky Way from Arch Rock. I just got a new 5d Mark III, so look for these types of photos to vastly improve over the next few months.

Joshua Tree milky way over arch rock

The Hall of Horrors is large split rock site with numerous (and fun to climb) slot canyons. Here’s me being dumb by chimneying through a relatively deep canyon.  My photos on the other side were terrible, so at least I risked my health for nothing. That’s always nice.

Me, doing a chimney climb at Hall of Horrors, Joshua Tree

The next day we hiked to a remote part of the park. I say “hiked,” but really I mean “continually lost the trail and had to climb random hills and out of various gullies.” The cool thing about this particular remote area is an abandoned miner’s cabin built into the crevice between some huge boulders. Because so few people know about this place, the cabin still stands as the miners left it many decades ago.

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

Abandoned miner's cabin at Joshua Tree, Eagle Hill

One of my favorite places in the park is the rock containing the so-called “Disney” pictographs. This large rock near Barker Dam has a number of authentic pictographs and petroglyphs on it. However, in the mid-twentieth century a Disney film crew (shooting “Chico, the Misunderstood Coyote“) decided that the real pictographs weren’t vibrant enough to film and proceeded to paint and carve their own, or to paint over the originals.

Despite this stupid act of vandalism messing up the site, I still like to come and sit here at night while I do photography. It’s cool to consider that for hundreds or thousands of years, Native Americans also came here to talk and laugh and look at the stars in much the some way.


"Disney" pictographs near Barker Dam, Joshua Tree

This is valley that lays in front of the Disney rock.

Joshua Tree sunset

Around the corner at the rock and above your head is this hidden sun pictograph. I don’t know if it’s authentic, as it’s really bright still and to the best of my knowledge, all of the legit pictographs in the park are red or brown in hue. I doubt the Disney staff did this, since it would be essentially impossible to film. So, who knows? Maybe it’s modern vandalism, or maybe its hidden location has kept it safe and vibrant all these years.

Sun pictograph near Barker Dam

"Disney" pictographs near Barker Dam at Joshua Tree

Another shot of the valley.

Sunset at Joshua Tree near Barker Dam

And one last parting shot from later the same night.

Milky way from the pictograph rock at Joshua Tree

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Graveyards, Ghost Towns, and a Mountain or Two

For the first time that didn’t involve me being sick, I didn’t attend Thanksgiving with my family. Instead I headed out to the high desert east of the Sierra mountains.  As is typical with my trips, I had absolutely perfect weather for most of the trip: clear skies, no wind, and relatively warm days. Normally I consider this my curse, but since I wanted to do star photography it was an ok problem to have. It just means that my daytime and sunset opportunities were more limited.

Driving up on Thanksgiving day, the first stop I made was to explore near Lone Pine for a cattle graveyard that I had previously heard about. You know, normal holiday stuff.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it ended up being significantly different than whatever I was expecting.

Finding it is a little difficult as it’s fairly well hidden, but the scenery is incredible. Because it’s so remote, however, it’s also eerily quiet.


Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine

“Graveyard” really isn’t the right word, as there were no graves. Only the remains of dumped corpses, including whole skeletons of cows and horses.  In some places there were only large pieces of leather laying around.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard

There were also more recent additions. This one kind of freaked me out to be honest. If you’re squeamish, don’t click the photo below. Otherwise, the link takes you to the uncensored shot. The view from the other side was way worse.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Lone Pine Cattle Livestock Graveyard


I did a few other things in town and then headed out to the Alabama Hills fairly early in the day. By sunset almost all of the clouds were gone and it got cooooooooold. The park itself is really neat, particularly if you like climbing around on stuff or are into bouldering/rock climbing. Loads of movies have been shot here too, so if you’re a movie buff, you can get a movie map and see the related sights.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills

This was the extent of my sunset. At least I had the Mobius arch to myself.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills Mobius Arch

The stars were incredible, as was the Milky Way. Unfortunately, my 7d and its crop sensor aren’t the best tools for the job, so the detail isn’t quite as good as if I had a full-frame camera. If I buy one next year I’ll be sure to come back (if you have $3,000 you want to give me, I’d be happy to mow your lawn like 5 times).

Jake Reinig Travel Photography Alabama Hills Milky Way Star Photography

Because the weather was so nice, I was able to drive up the next day to the Bodie ghost town. The town is normally closed through the winter because of snow (it’s above 8,000-foot elevation), but was still open this year.

Bodie is a relatively recent boom town, and through the actions of the State and others has been fairly well preserved in the condition its former residents left it in.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Abandoned Truck

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Abandoned Truck detail

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Interior of a house

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town | Interior of a house

I wasn’t able to get into this building, which I’m assuming is the Undertaker’s residence. All of the coffins appeared to be for children.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Undertaker, Mortuary, Coffins

Another room in the building. Note the Haunted Mansion style portrait on the wall. Both of these coffins also appeared to be child-sized.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Undertaker, Mortuary, Coffins

Speaking of child-sized coffins, the cemetery had a relatively large number of kids in it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a time or place where worrying about losing your child is a normal affair.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Child's Grave, Cemetery

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Exterior of a Building

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Abandoned Safe

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Old Gas Station

Another building that they don’t want you in. Note the still working light bulb above the coffee machine.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Interior of a Store, Working Light Bulb, Coffee Machine

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  Medications

There are two roads to Bodie. One comes from the 395 to the west of the town, and one is south of the town. If you ever visit, I recommend heading in from the west, but coming out from the south. The view of Mono lake from the southern route is amazing.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Bodie Ghost Town |  View of Mono Lake

The lack of clouds meant a boring sunset that didn’t help dress up the tufa columns.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake

This tufa is part of an island of sorts, and is probably 20 feet tall.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake Tufa

The Milky Way and a few other stars from Mono Lake. Man, I wish I had that full frame camera. (I wonder if my family would be hurt if I didn’t get them any Christmas presents.)

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Mono Lake Milky Way and Stars

The next day I headed back down towards Bishop and Lone Pine, stopping at a few places along the way.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Cattle & Horses Grazing Near Bishop

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Landscape of a Tree Near Bishop

This is a shot at Keeler, which is a town east of the Owens dry lake.  A former boom town, it fell on bad times when the nearby mines gave out. It fell on further hard times when Los Angeles diverted the river that fed Owens lake and killed it. The town is in mostly bad shape but is not really a ghost town (since a number of people still live there), even though lots of the former mining equipment is still present. This very tongue-in-cheek sign reads:

“Keeler Beach – Camps for Rent”

“This beautiful setting provided by LA Water Dept.”

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Keeler surfboard

I finished the day off back at the Alabama Hills. Lots of rocks have arches in them, including this one that sort of looked like the Predator or an angry ant.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography |  Alabama Hills Double Arch Rock

Again, no clouds, but I played with the sun and various arches near sunset to try and get something interesting.

Jake Reinig Travel Photography | Alabama Hills Arch Sunset

And to wrap up, here’s the same formation at night.  While it was a little intimidating being out there by myself, it was definitely worth it. The view was amazing.

 Reinig Travel Photography | Alabama Hills Arch Milky Way & Star Photos

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Random Jazz: On the Road Edition

I’ve been shooting a fair bit lately, but mostly stuff I can’t share with you. That’s why you get two random jazz posts in a row. Also, because I saw what you did in the pet food aisle at Kmart. You don’t deserve a coherent post.

Anyways, below are a handful of photos each from a few recent trips: Seattle, East Jesus/Slab City/Salton Sea, and an abandoned waterpark.

First up: the waterpark. The slides and such are destroyed and not very interesting. However, the graffiti and stencil work left by vandals is pretty awesome.

Abandoned waterpark stencil

Abandoned waterpark stencil

P1010155-1Abandoned waterpark stencil

The previous tenants left their tumbleweed behind. I hope they don’t need it.

Abandoned waterpark tumbleweed

Abandoned waterpark graffiti


As you enter the park, there’s a road with billboards on either side of it. These artists took over each one to wonderful effect.

Abandoned waterpark stencil billboard
Abandoned waterpark stencil billboard

Abandoned waterpark stencil billboard

Oh, and here’s a picture of some Chinese lanterns just because.

Chinese lanterns

I visited Seattle for a few days. I didn’t get time to do a ton of photography, but still enjoyed it immensely.

Seattle ferris wheel

So, as usual, I had near perfect weather on this visit. Regular readers will recall that I’m cursed with good weather at most places I travel to. It’s great for just existing and getting around, but it usually makes for sort of ho-hum photos. Anyways, I drive over to this park to try taking a boring sunset photo of downtown Seattle and the very impressive and very tall Mt. Rainier in the background.  I’m actually kind of excited, because I didn’t expect such a clear view of the mountain.

I got to the park two hours before sunset so I could make sure I got a good spot, since I know this place gets crowded. Not a single cloud was in sight the entire time. However, once the light finally started getting interesting, this one cloud decided to meander in and block my view of Rainier. I’ve decided that I’m at war with the sky.
Seattle sunset


This photo probably couldn’t be more cliche, but I decided I should get it anyway. Consider this a reward for what you did in the toothpaste aisle.

Seattle public market sign


Mt. Rainier, before my enemy The Sky made his move. Fact: Zeus lives here.


This was visible on someone’s balcony whilst walking to the waterfront. Don’t ask me. I don’t know.


A shot from inside the market. Supposedly, there’s guys throwing fish everywhere. I imagined it as though I’d have to be ducking fish left and right (on a side note, are ducks known for squatting to avoid things? I wonder where that term comes from.). The only flying fish I saw were on this sign.



I was walking away from the market and this man said “hey, can you teach me everything you know?” I said “no, but you can have my hat.” And so, I gave him my hat. Also, my bucket full of balloon animals.



So long Seattle, and thanks for all the fish.

Speaking of fish, this is the Salton Sea.  It’s 50% water, 50% salt, and 50% dead fish. The air is 100% gross to smell.

It is the only place I’ve ever been, and I’m not joking about this, where the shore is literally made of ground bones.

Salton Sea dead fish

Why go there? Because of East Jesus. It’s a cool place, and much nicer than West Jesus. Slab City, which is the larger community that East Jesus is in, is…interesting.

Here’s my friend Ania, sitting in the dirt for some reason.

Anna at East Jesus

East Jesus


My brother and I thought the art installations and low amounts of light pollution would make for interesting photos. We were right. Unfortunately, we didn’t really take any. Both of us came away feeling disappointed in what we had captured.  Here’s one that I did like.

Night photography at East Jesus


A shot from the pet cemetery at Slab City. Poor Gunner.

Pet Cemetery, Slab City


And, since hummingbirds are good luck, I’ll leave you with this shot as the last of the bunch. Feel free to click on my name at the top of this page to see more of my stuff. Thanks for visiting!

East Jesus humming bird

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Random Jazz: Way Overdue Edition

I’ve been collecting photos for a while now that don’t quite fit into their own sets. So, here’s a somewhat largish collection of location and portrait work I’ve done recently.  I’m supposed to get up at like 4:30 in the morning tomorrow and it’s already 11:30 p.m., so this is almost all of the writing I’m going to do. Lucky you. :)


On the trail to Holy Jim Falls



Holy Jim Falls

Dominator wreck


A random yard chicken




San Clemente rainbow

Jezebelles Girl Rock Choir

Memorial at Holy Jim Falls

The next four are from a campaign I did for my friend’s new business Bronzed Sugar. The weather had been nice for a while, but of course on the day of the shoot it was super overcast and cold. Poor models. Fortunately, my friend also owns a marketing company, so these photos after retouching look decidedly better.

Bronzed Sugar Long Beach

Bronzed Sugar Long Beach

Bronzed Sugar Long Beach


Bronzed Sugar Long Beach
Jezebelles Girl Rock Choir





Dominator wreck


Me and a model on location.IMG_7699_1

Jezebelles Girl Rock Choir

Long Beach lighthouse

Jezebelles Girl Rock Choir


Jezebelles Girl Rock Choir


And to close, variations on a sunset at San Clemente pier.


San Clemente pier at sunset

San Clemente pier at sunset

San Clemente pier at sunset

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Paris and Beyond, Part 3: Saying Goodbye

Jake Reinig, travel photography

My original introduction has been removed, so if you read the comments you might be a little confused. Maybe someday it’ll be back. 

I have another couple of posts from France that I’ll put up, but this is the last one of a general nature. In a few days I’ll be posting about French street art and will also do a “best of” post. Until then, I hope you enjoy this last big set.

The two staircases at the Arc de Triomphe are arduous to say the least. Don’t want to go down? Sneak into the semi-hidden disabled persons elevator next to the gift shop.


Local flora at the Jardin des Plantes. In addition to the gardens, there are a number of great museums here, as well as a zoo. I don’t recall its name, but if you go skip the greenhouse/botanical museum thing. Boooooooooooooooooring.



A friend of mine is obsessed with chandeliers, so I was on the lookout for photos I could take for her (this one is at Versailles). Curiously, I’ve always found them interesting too, likely the result of staring at my grandmother’s large crystal chandelier for most of my childhood. It bugged me to no end that the candles were so crooked on this one.


Toy moulins (windmills) in a shop window near my apartment in the wonderful Butte aux Cailles neighborhood.



The Louvre is an amazing place, but: it’s unimaginably massive, and as you can see below, it’s also insanely crowded at times. Most museums in Paris close on Mondays, so on this particular rainy Monday, that meant everyone wanted to get inside the one museum that seemed to be open.


Sculpture at the wonderful Parc de Bercy.


Something about the woven mask on this mummy haunts me. I don’t know if it’s too many horror movies of monsters with missing faces, or if it’s my brain trying to figure out why there are no features. Either way, I think the funerary garments are beautiful.


The beautiful interior of Sainte-Chapelle.

Iya Traore performs in front of Sacre Coeur. Watch a video of his awesome skills here.

Sculpture at Église Saint-Louis des Invalides.

One of my favorite locks at Pont de l’Archeveche.

Disneyland Paris is awesome, but for someone who grew up within miles of the original park in Anaheim, it feels like some strange doppelganger. It seems…sterile in comparison.  Nevertheless, jump on the RER and head out if you get a chance. It’s a great place with a lot of really fun rides (make sure to go on Big Thunder).  This is a shot of “Phantom Manor,” a “scarier and darker” version of the ride than at other parks (as seen from the steamboat landing).

The animatronic dragon beneath the castle. Sorry for the junk picture; I didnt have a tripod and it’s about negative one-thousand dark in the cave.

Scary “Small World” doll is scary.

I don’t normally colorize my images much, but it’s been more than 30 years since I’ve had a “first time at Disneyland” experience; I don’t have any photos from the first first time, so I thought it only fitting I have one that looked like it.

My mom and aunts visited for a little while. They visited the souvenir shops for long whiles. Here’s two of the three in their natural habitat.

In the crypt of the Pantheon.

The Elizabeth Tower (home of “Big Ben“) in London.

Resting place of a young Parisian.

The roof and chandelier in the beautiful Palais Garnier (also called Opera Garnier)

Mass at Notre Dame de Paris.



My daily view as I left my apartment.

Parisian sparrows hold court at Parc de Bercy.


Sacre Coeur, as seen from the Belvedere of Sybil at the delightful Parc des Buttes Chaumont.

The centerpiece of the park is the lake and artificial island pictured here. The so-called “suicide bridge,” near the left of the picture, gets you access to the Corinthian-style Belvedere on top of the island.

Prayers drift in the dark of Notre Dame.

Ghost fish at the Paris aquarium.

Play time, as shot from the top of the Centre Pompidou.

Sacre Coeur near sunset.

Late night traffic at Mont Saint-Michel.

Long exposure of the Moulin Rouge. If you want a unique experience, get off the metro at Pigalle and walk to the theater. And by “unique,” I mean be the object of attention for adult store workers or drug dealers. Unless you want to be (literally) robbed, don’t go into any of the clubs here unless you’re fluent in French.

My last photo of the post, dedicated to Andrew. Thanks for stopping by, and thank you to Paris for being so good to me.

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Paris and Beyond, Part 1: 300 Miles to Everywhere

Jake Reinig, travel photography

The last day of my trip to Paris, France, was the most stressful one of the trip by far. Confusion over the navette from my hotel to Charles de Gaulle airport got me there incredibly late, leading me to practically sprint through the claustrophobic walkways of the annoyingly designed terminal 2.  Wayward children choked on their crepes and leapt from my path as I navigated a luggage cart towards my check-in counter, conveniently placed at the opposite side of the airport from where I was dropped off. Sweat literally dripping from my face, I pulled up to see the staff closing the luggage doors. I was not happy.

5 weeks earlier I had been in this same airport, much more relaxed (albeit just as exhausted) as I made my way to the RER train station. Nary a child was injured in the journey to the apartment I had rented near Place d’Italie in the super charming Butte aux Cailles neighborhood. My employers had graciously allowed me to work remotely from Paris, so during the day I got to run loose photographing the city and worked at night on a roughly California timeline.

Over the next 3-4 posts I’ll be sharing a selection of photos I took in Paris, Mont Saint-Michel, and London. In the 5 weeks I was abroad, I walked almost 300 miles and took more than 1,000 photos, most of which are complete junk. Even so, my one real regret is not doing more candid street photography, which will be rectified on my next such trip.

I got to know Paris exceedingly well and plan on doing  a practical guide  a little later. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know are planning to visit France, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line if you have any questions. I’m happy to help!

Oh, and as for the airport: I got checked in with three minutes to spare.  I’m having a terrible time readjusting to the atrociously boring pace of life in Orange County; maybe I should have done more to “accidentally” miss my flight. ;)

This is how I brought my California workspace to Paris (although the wine was consumed while I wasn’t working, I promise!).  The large monitor is actually the apartment’s TV, pressed into service as a second monitor.

A bridge in the Japanese garden at the wonderful Albert Kahn museum and gardens.

Opera Garnier is the setting for the Phantom of the Opera. The placard on this door pays tribute to the location where the phantom sat.

Self-portrait at the Pompidou modern art museum.

Headstone decoration at the aristocratic Passy cemetery.  Some of the most magnificent funerary art can be found at this small cemetery near the Eiffel Tower.

The Tower Bridge in London.

Interesting flowers near my apartment.

This Mustang in the middle of Montmartre was one of the more unusual sites I saw while in Paris.

Bookseller on the Seine near Notre Dame.

My friend Jen poses near Notre Dame while we take a break on the Seine.

“What are you looking at?” Mont Saint-Michel.



About the time I arrived in Paris, many in the Muslim world were upset about an obnoxious American film, and a week later, about some offensive cartoons published in a Parisian magazine. A small protest-turned-small-riot happened near the US embassy in Paris, and it was rumored that more of this might happen the next weekend.

Never one to shy away from danger (i.e. “Jake is often stupid”), I decided to go looking for trouble. I happened to be near Gare d’Austerlitz when I saw a huge contingent of Gendarmes (para-military police) organizing and hung around a bit. A short while later a large group of young people began thronging a nearby bridge, so I headed in their direction. Within minutes I was surrounded not by angry Muslims, but by what seemed to be a million young French revelers at the Techno Parade 2012. I have never seen so many people in my life. Dora seems genuinely surprised too.

In order not to be overwhelmed, I climbed up on top of some sort of large electrical box and shot photos for an hour or two until the parade had passed me, leaving an army of very efficient street sweepers in its wake.

Behind them came another large team of Gendarmes, decked out in riot gear.

Lots of people were doing stupid stuff (like climbing on top of bus stops and trees and traffic lights), but fortunately, I didn’t see anyone get injured. Later, however, I happened to walk by a triage facility and noticed a fairly large number of people being treated for who knows what.

This old lady was dancing like a maniac on her balcony. The crowd loved her, despite the fact that she wasn’t really very good at dancing to electronica.

This shot shows a small portion of the parade as it makes its way towards my neighborhood. Like I said, it was insaaaaane how many people there were.


Towards the end of my trip I stayed with a friend in a small, sleepy suburb of Paris. In the middle of the river is a small island (actually two islands that look like one) nicknamed “hippy island” for its eccentric populace. At one end of the island is an abandoned waterpark of sorts. Unfortunately, because the island is private I wasn’t able to make it over. Regular readers know that I’m a junky for abandoned buildings and such, so it was painful to be so close to a site like this without being able to get to it.



Dueling Eiffel Towers and a full moon, shot from the Trocadero.

Long exposure shot inside the Pantheon.

Parisian cemeteries are super fascinating for their imaginative graves and mosoleums. Someone must have managed this particular grave for a while in order to get the tree to wrap the headstone in this manner.


I like doing panning photographs, but oddly enough, only tried it twice. This was shot near the Palais de Justice and Sainte Chapelle.

I don’t recall where this was shot, and am currently too lazy to look it up in my journal. So, you’ll just have to take my word that it was somewhere nice.

Marie Antoinnete and Louis XVI were basically dumped in the Madeleine cemetery after their executions during the French Revolution. Several decades later, during the Bourbon restoration, their remains were exhumed and moved to the royal necropolis at the Basilica of St. Denis. Note: the Basilica is absolutely worth a visit, but it’s in the poor suburb of St. Denis. Be mindful of your surroundings if you do go out there and be prepared to see some sad sights, including a large corps of injured and disfigured beggars.

Note the discoloration of the queen’s boosies; that’s what happens after 200 years of people disrespecting a grave site.  Oddly enough, for as many important sculptures as there are at St. Denis (kings and queens from the 500s are here), visitors can get right up next to most of them. Some of the monuments have been heavily defaced by idiots carving initials and names into them. Marie Antoinette has been heavily groped, but appears to have avoided being carved on.

Here’s a rear shot of the memorial statue of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The face of Medusa, hanging in the Pompidou.

A section of the abandoned Petite Ceinture, not far from my apartment in the wonderful Parc Montsouris.


The king’s view, at the Palace of Versailles.

Inside Hotel des Invalides.


The London Eye near sunset.

I went to the Paris Aquarium at the Trocadero one rainy day. I have no idea why, but this little red light in one of the exhibits fascinated me. I think people were confused by why I was photographing it for like 10 minutes.

This guy (Iya Traore) puts on one of the best shows in Paris just outside Sacre Coeur (one of my favorite places in Paris).  If you’re up there, make sure to watch if he’s performing.

I love the interior of Invalides. The design of the dome and its surrounding alcoves makes for really interesting wide angle photos.

Long exposure near sunset at Mont Saint-Michel. Unfortunately, major construction is being done on the causeway, so I wasn’t able to leave it to get more shots. Even so, it was a pleasure to watch the sun set over this interesting site.

Incidentally, I say “unfortunately” above, but really, the construction is a good thing. Mont Saint-Michel used to be a frequent island when the tide rose, but since the construction of the causeway in the 1800s, water can’t circulate correctly and much of the bay has been silted in. It’s only an island during extremely high tides now. The work is being done to change the causeway into a bridge, which will allow water to properly flow once again. I hope to go back in a few years once the work has been done.

This shot of the Eiffel Tower is my last for this post. Check back in a few days for the next set of photos from Paris. Thanks for looking!


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London to Chernobyl: the Case of the Nuclear Ghost Town

Jake Reinig, travel photography

Location: London, Kiev, Chernobyl, Prypiat

One of my life’s goals has been to visit Chernobyl and the nuclear ghost town of Prypiat in Ukraine. After the disaster at Fukushima in Japan last year, the Ukranian government shut down access to Chernobyl. Following some nervous legal wrangling the site was reopened and I booked my trip almost immediately in case they closed it again.

Rather than spend two weeks in snowy eastern Europe, I started the trip off in London, hung out in Kiev for a while, and then finished off in Paris. This post has photos from London, Kiev, and Prypiat. I’ll post Paris photos in a few days.


I love the city of London, but don’t find it particularly interesting photographically. It’s got great night life and the most fashionable people on earth, but for whatever reason, it’s not a place that makes me want to shoot a ton of photos. My new friend Dr. Taylor has volunteered to show me around on a proper photographic tour, so I may take her up on that and go back sometime in the nearish future.

Anyhow, I arrived during one of the nicest weekends the city had in a while, and the flowers were out in celebration of this event.

One of my favorite historical locations is Westminster Abbey, which of course doesn’t allow photography except in one outdoor spot. This is unfortunate since Westminster Abbey holds the remains of some of the most important people in Western civilization, and is where the royals get married. Even though I didn’t get to take photos of things like Isaac Newton’s impressive tomb, I still like this photo of a rushed docent.

Another blooming tree, this one taking care of someone’s prayer.

I forget the name of this store (Anna: help?), but the storefront in Notting Hill had  like 1,000 old Singer sewing machines comprising an awesome art display.

The massive London Eye as seen from the bridge near Parliament.

Practicing parkour  near sunset.

The feeling I got from drinking all the volcanicity in this water was indescribable.

Another shot of the London Eye. Each of those cars holds 25 people.

Although I don’t smoke Heather tried to give me a lesson in rolling cigarettes, which is impossible unless you’re a wizard. I liked how direct the packaging was. 

This is the one photo that I absolutely did want to get: sunset at Parliament. I have a rare photographer’s curse of having no clouds and nice weather most places I go. *Sigh* Clouds would have made this photo so much better. 


After a few days in London I headed off to Kiev. I was supposed to arrive at 2:30 on Monday and have the day to run around, but thanks to Lufthansa–who apparently hates me–I didn’t get to my apartment until after midnight.

It was snowing all day Tuesday, Wednesday I was at Chernobyl, and Thursday I came down with a cold so Thursday and Friday were shot. The net result was that I didn’t get much opportunity to get out and take photos.

In the little amount of time that I did I have, I discovered that Kiev loves the heck out of gold-domed churches.  This is the lovely Saint Sophia Cathedral, not far from St. Michael’s golden-domed monastery.  A little way across town is the AMAZING Perchesk Lavra.  If you visit the latter, make sure to venture into the catacombs. Lit only by tiny candles, the claustrophobic tunnels hold some of Orthodox Christianity’s saints.

Artwork dedicated to the victims of the Communist inquisition.

Another shot of St. Sophia’s. The little boy was looking at this brother who had just gone face first into a puddle.

I have no idea what this is for (while I can read Cyrillic, my vocab is junk), but it cracked me up.

St. Michael’s, as seen from St. Sophia’s.

Ummmmmm…no idea?

A tribute to Gauntlet, the video game. Really.

This place was right next to my apartment. After seeing how incredibly beautiful the average Ukranian woman is, I can’t say I necessarily blame a guy for wanting to marry one.

The massive sculpture dedicated to berehynia in Independence Square.


Chernobyl and Prypiat

My love of abandoned structures and ghost towns has long made me aware of Chernobyl and its aftermath. A catastrophic explosion at reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986 resulted in the worst nuclear disaster in human history. The nearby town of Prypiat–one of the most luxurious in the USSR–was evacuated within a matter of days and has been uninhabited ever since. The former town of nearly 50,000 is an eery, amazing place.

When approaching the exclusion zone, the first thing you see besides a well armed military checkpoint is this shrine.

A sign welcoming you to the Chernobyl facility.

Along with Prypiat, something like 180 smaller towns and villages also had to be evacuated. This monument pays tribute to all of these dead towns that literally will not be safe for habitation for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Many of the towns have been buried. It’s a strange thing to be driving through the exclusion zone and see a big black sign with the name of a town crossed out, and yet, there’s no town. It’s because the town is underground, entombed by dirt and radioactive trees above.

Radioactive military vehicles on display. These were not particularly close to the disaster, so while they’re heavily radioactive compared to the environment, they’re safe to approach for a few minutes.

These personal Geiger counters set off a crazy annoying alarm when the number on the screen (in microSieverts) got over 0.30. This particular tank measured radiation 50 times over that. Because of the alarm, this photo was much more annoying to take than it looks. 

The first abandoned place we visited was a kindergarten, slowly being consumed by the forest around it. It’s weird to think that items like this learning aid have been hanging on the wall and untouched for almost 30 years.

If memory serves correct, this is the abandoned reactor 5. Being built when reactor 4 exploded, construction was stopped. The cranes and construction vehicles sit in the same place as they did in 1986. 

Prypiat was a futuristic city in its time. The engineers and scientists who lived there made the best wages in the USSR and lived in a relative paradise. Contemporary photos show a Disneyland-like utopia with happy people in a city of flowers. The void that 50,000 people leave behind is unimaginable.

Note the tree growing inside the building. The forest is everywhere now. 

A former theater, now destroyed by time and nature.

The most famous icon of Prypiat. Because of the radiation levels we were only allowed 7 minutes in the amusement park. 

A group of artists has done graffiti in many places in order to restore a sense of life to the dead town.

A sign for a youth organization.

I found this stool in an abandoned grocery store. I liked the way the ice melted away from the legs.

The numerous gymnasiums (I think there were 12 of them) must have been incredible in their day. They have enormous swimming pools and sports courts and are still impressive even now. This pool is probably 20 feet deep and descends into the first floor.

Near the end of the excursion we were taken to a facility right next to the destroyed number 4 reactor. The public relations director who runs the facility was kind enough to take time to discuss the explosion and its horrible consequences. This is a model showing the inside of the destroyed reactor. To give you an idea of the power of the explosion: that round ball structure in the middle with all the wires coming out of it is called an upper biological shield. It’s meant to contain the energy from an explosion and weighs 2,000 tons (4,000,000 pounds). It was thrown 30 feet into the air and came to rest on its side. Think about that: 4 million pounds was thrown 3 stories into the air.

I would have loved to have talked to this woman for more time, but we were kicked out when a high ranking UN delegation arrived. The  Chernobyl facility represents one of the gravest dangers facing humanity today, but because of their 26 years of experience, it also represents the frontier of securing our nuclear legacy. The UN and experts from Fukushima visit regularly.

This is an external shot of the dead reactor 4. Enclosed in an aging sarcophagus, the structure is set to get a new radiation shield in about 5 years time. Amazingly, even after they put on the new high-tech shield, work is scheduled to continue to secure the material inside for more than 100 years.

Visiting Chernobyl is one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. If you didn’t know the haunting secret behind it, the location would seem almost idyllic. The place is dead quiet, and peaceful forest is everywhere. And yet, this one building has enough poison in it to kill millions of people.

During the entire time near the reactor our detectors were in full panic mode. Radiation is a horrible mistress: something you can’t taste, touch, feel, or smell has the the power to kill you, and quite effectively at that. Scores of people died horrible deaths in the aftermath of the disaster, and something like 6,000 more have died since from the after effects. I made sure to tip a glass to their memory later that night.

I plan on visiting the site again sometime in the next year if possible, but will be exploring Prypiat more fully. If you’re reading this and want to join me, drop me a line and let’s see if we can’t figure something out.

Look for my Paris photos in the next few days!

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Livin’ Hard in the Big Easy

Jake Reinig, travel photography

Location: New Orleans Subjects: Cemeteries, French Quarter, Garden District

After my trip to San Antonio I flew to New Orleans for a few days.  I’m not a great architectural photographer, so I looked at the French Quarter as a great place to work on this. I don’t know that I improved a whole lot, but I had tons of fun!

Two quick notes: First, Bourbon Street is insane and loads of fun. Don’t bring the kids or yourself if you’re easily offended.

Second: I want to say thanks to Chris at American Photo Safari. He normally gives walking workshops in the French Quarter. In my case I hired his company to show me around and give me some background on the city. Chris is a good guy with great knowledge of New Orleans. If you’re in town and have a camera, make sure to give APS a call!

I spent most of my time in the French Quarter, but as you’ll see in the photos below, I took loads of photos in the cemeteries. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I have a background in History, so cemeteries are a fascinating place for me, as morbid as that may sound. The cemeteries in New Orleans are amazing, if not for their history, then for their numerous above ground crypts in all stages of celebration and decay.

My favorite part of the trip was walking around the Garden District. The architecture there is breathtaking and the history of the residents is pretty interesting (for example, Jefferson Davis died here, and Ann Rice lives and has set many of her novels here). Unfortunately, I didn’t do too well photographing the houses since the landscaping on most of them prevents wide angle shots. If you don’t have the money for a tour guide, numerous walking tours of the area are available on the web, and thus, on your cell phone.

On to the photos, presented in no particular order.


It’s odd to say this about a city, but New Orleans has lots of interesting shadows.  This is one from a cross on a grave.

Many of the houses in the French Quarter are in a state of moderate disrepair. I suspect that it’s intentional; the colors and distressed paint actually add to the appearance of the homes in my opinion.





Edited with Comic Sans for your amusement. Also, so my mother doesn’t get mad at me. (Found on the banks of the Mississippi.)

Apparently, this grave is one of about three reputed to belong to Marie Laveau, a well known Voodoo practitioner. People leave stuff for her and write Xs on the tomb, which represent wishes. You’re supposed to come back and circle your X if the wish is granted, but I didn’t see a whole lot circled. Either people are lazy, or Marie’s not pulling her weight.

The cemeteries in New Orleans are in terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE shape. In a way though this makes them more appealing. Many of the tombstones are broken or warped. In this case, some kind soul took the time to piece together a gravemarker that had fallen and shattered.

Everything in New Orleans is crooked. I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong, but as Chris pointed out, the whole area has shifted from being built on what is essentially swampland. Doors and windows change shape, and whole buildings tilt one way or the other.

The area around St. Louis Cathedral has a great flea market as well as some open air vendors. This was one of the more colorful displays.

One of the houses in the French Quarter has a special perch in a window for its cats. Apparently, they just sit there most of the day and check out all the activity.

Note the busted and warped grave markers. This is typical of the graves at many of the cemeteries.

These horse heads show up in many places in the Garden District. I wonder if they were originally actual horse ties? The area is certainly old enough.

Although the grave was interesting for its design, I was puzzled by the period after “Gerhard.”


Shot from across the Mississippi at Algiers, looking back towards New Orleans. I tried to catch a sunset over here twice; each day I was shut down. Note the ship: there is a ton of traffic on the river at all hours.

Exterior of St. Louis Cathedral.

A house in the Garden District. I think this might actually have just been the garage, with the main house behind this.

After Katrina hit, Banksy did some pieces in different parts of the city (I’m not sure how many). This one was near the French Quarter. Note the plexiglass over it. I admire Banksy’s pieces, but it’s a strange thing to think that graffiti in come cases gets protective coverings.

Another interesting shadow.

I’m not sure if it still is, but this garden (and the huge house behind it) was at one time owned by Nicholas Cage.

I originally planned to show this photo at a much wider angle. However, before publishing I happened to zoom in and noticed the decay. It’s more haunting this way I think. The poor girl is showing some age, although she’s still beautiful after all this time.

These last two photos are my favorites of the trip. They’re not necessarily great photos themselves, but they’re reminders that even though we eventually die, we’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

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Ghosts of San Antonio

Jake Reinig, travel photography

Location: San Antonio Subjects: Alamo, Missions, abandoned sanitorium, cathedrals, etc.

This post has something like 50 pictures, so give it a minute to load. 

I was heading to San Antonio for a conference, so as I often do I headed out early to explore the area and make some photographs. I really enjoyed the downtown area, and thought the Riverwalk was great. Locals probably hate it because of how crowded it gets, but with cool scenery and great food, it was a nice way to spend a few days.

My hotel was about 2 minutes from the Alamo (pictured above), which I didn’t find particularly impressive. It’s not the fault of the Alamo per se; it is what it is. However, the Alamo as an idea has been this larger than life thing for my entire life that to see this tiny building and very uninspired educational displays was sort of a let down. The story of the battle for the Alamo is, on the other hand, pretty interesting, so take a gander if you’ve got a little while.

As an aside, there actually are basements of sorts at the Alamo, although there’s no place to store a bike.

My New Orleans pics will be coming soon, so check back in a few days!


I have a thing for water displays, be they fountains, waterfalls, rivers, ponds, etc. The downtown area has loads of them, so that was enjoyable for me. On a “Jake’s waterway happiness scale” of 4.5 to 7.3, with 6.1 being the highest, I give San Antonio a 5.9.


This was a store display at one of the local hotels. My picture isn’t very good, but the display itself was really cool. I think the sculpture was maybe 10 feet high.

One of my favorite photography targets is abandoned structures and places. I had a little bit of spare time so decided to drive around some of the more rundown parts of town looking for structures that might let me walk in. By chance I came across this house that was recently destroyed by fire.

I wish I knew whether this was posted before or after the fire. If after, it’s sort of a jerk thing for someone to put up.

This is an overview of the Chinese Tea Gardens, which don’t actually have much in the way of gardens. This huge pond had loads of slow moving koi; I think the place could make buckets of money if they tied glow sticks on the backs of the fish and let people watch them at night.

Outside the Alamo at night.

Southton Sanitorium

My friend, whom we’ll call Shmake Shmeinig, went to an abandoned facility south of San Antonio.  Most records list it as the “Southton Sanitorium,” but it’s also referenced as a former TB clinic (probably the sanitorium bit of its history) a “home for the aged,” and a boys home.  Research has not made it super clear what the proper name is.

Abandoned but not forgotten, the facility has some seriously scary barbed wire fencing around its parameter. Next to the Krier Correctional Facility, the place is apparently well watched by the authorities.  As with a lot of these types of facilities, it’s been heavily damaged by vandals and is being slowly reclaimed by nature. Trash is found throughout, and people have set portions of the buildings on fire. With many dark rooms and passageways and lots of creaky, blowing in the wind doors and windows, the place is not for the faint of heart.

One of my favorite things about older buildings is the variety of colors used throughout. You’ll see this in a number of the photos.

Click thumbnails for a larger view:


That hole in the elevator shaft is on the outside of the third or fourth story. How it came to be there is anyone’s guess.

Click to embiggen:


This building was in bad shape. Portions of it were collapsing, possibly from a fire which had damaged large portions of it. And, since the worst damaged areas were in a basement of sorts, the building may end up collapsing someday.  Of course, since he’s stupid, my friend still explored the area.


This room was absolutely wrecked, both from fire and from the elements getting in. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the vertical beams are completely charred and in terrible shape. 

The “redrum” bit is a nice touch.

Another room with great color.

I spent a good deal of time exploring the San Antonio mission system, of which the Alamo is part. There are 5 in total, in varying size and condition. This is Mission Espada, which is the smallest. For some reason, the front of the chapel reminds me of a snooty buttler. I feel like it’s about to scold me for something.


A sign above a doorway celebrating Epiphany.  The “20” and “12” parts correspond to the year, with “C M B” meaning Christus Mansionem Benedicat (loosely, God bless this house) or alternately, representing the names of the three wise men who came to see Jesus: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. (Fun fact: the Bible doesn’t actually state that there are three wise men. However, since it only lists three gifts, Western church tradition has always held that three gifts equals only three givers. Eastern tradition says there were 12.)


I found this on the side of a building near Mission Espada (I think). I’ve no idea what it means.

According to the NPS, modern commentators didn’t know that this figure had two eyes until after recent cleaning work. I love that for possibly hundreds of years, people thought this was a one-eyed persona. Reality is a fickle mistress.

Mission San Jose (if memory serves correct) is undergoing restoration. As an homage to the history of the site, the work is being done on site using local stone materials. This is a photo of one of the artisan workbenches.


I had planned on shooting the Riverwalk more, but rain was in the cards for the day I wanted to do it. Alas, this is about the only photo I got. Since it has three water features in it plus rain, it’s probably my most favorite photo ever. :)

One of the nights I went to the top of the very tall Tower of the Americas to catch sunset. The viewing deck had lights that slowly changed color, so I dragged the shutter for a moment and got this.

Unfortunately, the open portion of the deck made for some howling winds, which in turn made it tough to get shots in the waning light. I’m sorry my photo doesn’t do it justice, but if you’re ever in town I strongly encourage you to catch this view at sunset.

Thanks for scrolling through this huge post. Look for NOLA soon!

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