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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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2011: Year in Review

Jake Reinig, portrait photographer

Yes, yes…I know I’m late. Rather than bore you with words, here’s a small selection of 2011 photos from a myriad of different shoots. Apparently, I spent a lot of time on various beaches.

In 2012 I’ve got trips planned to San Antonio, New Orleans, London, Paris, Kiev, Chernobyl, and more, so make sure to check out the site from time to time.  You’ll only be mildly disappointed!

 

 

 

 

 

I took this next picture the day my friend Bobby Villanueva died. He was a good man who brought a lot of light to many lives. He’s still missed pretty badly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I haven’t mentioned him elsewhere, I’ll mention him now: this is Dave Beck. He’s an all-around great person, cancer survivor, and soon to be an esteemed published author. You should buy him a beer sometime if you get the chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that book entitled “The Monster at the End of this Book,” starring Grover? Well, just a heads up that in about 4 pictures there’s a photo of a lovely young woman that implies nudity. There’s no actual nudity, but since you might work at the Vatican or be looking at this post with your grandfather with the weak heart, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I think it’s worth scrolling past, but I don’t want to be responsible for murder.

 

Yes, we spelled “Death Valley” wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

 

Hopefully you’re still with me. If not, I hope the Vatican pays you well, although I suppose if you’re not still with me you won’t know that I hope this.

This is my friend Dave, a world famous linguists specialist. Although this isn’t my best photo ever from a technical  standpoint, it is a nice photo of Dave. And because it’s a nice photo of Dave and because he really is world famous, this photo is my most published one to date. It’s even appeared in a newspaper article in Estonia.

 

 

 

 

 

This is another one where I think I could have done better, but people seem to like it. Of all the photos I’ve ever taken, this is by far the most popular. I think it has something to do with parents connecting to a memory of their kids at a young, magical age. Before they had boyfriends or cars or credit cards, they let their parents push them in a swing.  In life, moments like these are over in a flash. Make sure to enjoy them while you have them.

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Death Valley 2: Electric Boogaloo

Jake Reinig travel photographer

Location: Death Valley Subjects: Gold mines, ghost towns, stars, awesome stuff, moving rocks, tea kettles, volcanoes, “working girls,” other jazz

I had planned on writing another witty and urbane post about my latest adventure to Death Valley but I’m taking forever.  So instead of careful introspection and my usual brand of down home, upbeat humor that Roger Ebert calls an “American Treasure,” you instead get a ton of pictures with links to Wikipedia articles.

Maybe someday in the not too distant future, when men were men and women were willing to go on dates with me, I’ll write more.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here’s more explanation on the title.

Oh, and one last thing: if you’ve got a bit of cash to spare and want a great introduction to Death Valley, I would encourage you to join Keith Skelton’s photography workshop there in March. I was introduced to the park a few years back at one of his excellent trips and can’t recommend it enough. It’s open to all skill levels, so check it, yo!

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The photo in the header is of Zabriskie point, while this great view is Ubehebe Crater (you-be-he-be).  My friends in the foreground are a little misleading in terms of size; I think the crater is about 800 feet deep.

 

 

This is a shot of the power plant at Scotty’s Castle.  The villa is beautiful, but the Welte Organ performance at the end is one of the coolest things you’ll ever experience. In fact, you should get in your car right now and drive there.  Take both tours. Oh, and buy a National Parks passport. It’s fun and educational. 

I like detail work, and I like abandoned and ruined things.  This is a detail of an old and distressed caboose at the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada.

A shot of ruins and the valley at Leadfield ghost town, the site of a mining scam from the 20th century.

The massive “Lady Desert: the Venus of Nevada”, stands in the Goldwell Open Air Museum at Rhyolite. Strange stuff.

 

One of the nights we went to Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) to do star photography as well as light painting.  In this photo my friend Christina was supposed to write “Death” and I was supposed to write “Valley,” but we both got confused. Somehow I started writing “valley” but ended up finishing the word “death.”

One of the fascinating moving rocks at Racetrack Playa, aka the Devil’s Racetrack. The exact mechanism for how the rocks move is unknown, but scienticians think it may have something to do with winged rabbits.

A cool door at Scotty’s Castle.

 

The Mesquite Flat sand dunes. We got there about 15 minutes too late to get the light on the dunes. Visit this place for sunrise, as it’s quite lovely.

A window inside of a window at the ruins of Agueberry camp, Harrisburg.

The side of an abandoned building at Death Valley Junction. While there, try to take the tour of the Amorgosa Opera House. Reputed to be one of the most haunted places in America, they make you sign a waiver before taking you into the “most haunted” area.

The splendid Teakettle Junction, 6 miles north of the Devil’s Racetrack. Visitors, including us, leave tea kettles with various messages and gimmicks.

 

Interior of a ruined house at Agueberry camp, Harrisburg. The place is not in great shape, as inconsiderate visitors have roughed up the place considerably. That said, there’s still enough left to make for an interesting visit, including old furniture and appliances.

 

Indian pictographs in Titus Canyon.  This is a neat drive, although the first part will beat up your car a little bit. Don’t take it if you’re afraid of rough, steep, tight-cornered roads.

 

More art in Rhyolite. 

 

I shot this at the Racetrack. It’s the shadow of the hilltop, thrown in stark relief on the floor of the basin.

Detail of an old box spring at Rhyolite.

Detail of a beautiful gate at Scotty’s Castle.

A shot of the Cashier Mill above the Eureka mine and a huge valley, next door to Harrisburg.

The main house at Scotty’s Castle.

 

The Devil’s Racetrack again. Note the long, winding trail behind the stone. 

Detail of the incredible hard surface of the Racetrack.

Just before sunset at the Racetrack.

My brother Nate and Annette did this one. I’m not sure what a flower, a Mcdonald’s, and a dinosaur have to do with each other.

The grave of working girl Isabelle Haskins, a woeful story from Rhyolite.

The large Rhyolite ruins in the distance, looking out from the interior of an abandoned cabin.

 

A plaque installed in the art district at Rhyolite, it puts a Tolkien-esque spin on the place.

Interior of Scotty’s Castle.

Art at Rhyolite.

An incredible view on the road to Titus Canyon.

 

And quite literally the last photo (I ran for a quarter of a mile over rough terrain to get this just as the sun was setting), I took this at Badwater Basin as we were leaving the park. We didn’t have clouds most of the weekend, so these made the sunset much better.

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Rocky Mountain /R/oad Trip

Long overdue for a break from my day job, I took a 4-day weekend to visit friends in the Denver area. And, thanks to the good folks over at /r/Denver I had a plethora of ghosts to chase down. Weather worked against me a little, but I worked against me more. I mis-timed arrivals, couldn’t find landmarks, left needed filters in the car, and just generally avoided finding my groove. Fortunately, Colorado’s a beautiful place, so it’s virtually impossible to come away empty handed.

The advantage of nature and travel photography is that even on days when you get it wrong, you’re still amidst nature and enjoying travel. If nothing else, it’s research for next time. Not a bad way to spend time….

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Day 1  was a calm one: lunch with Brian’s in-laws (great guys!), coffee with Brian, Tracy, and new friend Kristen, and then a barbecue with more in-laws to celebrate a birthday.

Day 2 found Brian and me on the hunt for the ruins of abandoned mines, but alas, we were skunked. On the way up to the city of Idaho Springs we happened across the grave of Western icon Buffalo Bill Cody. Three thoughts came away with me:

  1. His grave was not particularly attractive as graves go.
  2. “He was a Free Mason, really?”
  3. It felt odd in this day and age to read on his grave that he was an Indian fighter. What a different world we live in.

As mentioned, we didn’t find much in Idaho Springs to photograph (besides touristy ruins), primarily because I did far less research than I normally do on an area. Fortunately, Brian introduced me to a pizza parlor that gives you honey with which to dip your leftover crust. Oh, and we also found this waterwheel and waterfall across the street, so that’s cool.


On the last day of my trip, we went to a Renaissance Fair not too far from the house. I found this guy on display at a booth for Colorado’s predatory birds.

The Idaho Springs graveyard: difficult place to drive a wide vehicle; lovely place to spend eternity.
We headed south to try and catch sunset at the ruins of the Castlewood Dam, which burst in 1933. Alas, we started the hike from the wrong spot so we didn’t make it to the dam. However, we did enjoy hiking along the bottom of beautiful Castlewood Canyon.

Day 3 found us in the neat little town of Estes Park before heading into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). This place is a real gem, so if you haven’t been I’d encourage you to go. Elk (?) are quite abundant throughout, and I spent some time stalking them. Here, a group enjoys an evening snack.

One of my favorite subjects is moving water, whether it be at the beach or in the form of a waterfall. High on my list of targets was Alberta Falls, near Bear Lake in RMNP. We got there late and the still abundant amount of snow on the trail made it a race to beat sunset. In my rush to get the shot I didn’t notice the copious amounts of mist on the lens, dust on the sensor, and the vignette resulting from stacking filters. It also didn’t help that the exposure is too dark! This is a junk shot, but it was a lovely hike and a nice way to end the evening, so I present it anyway in all its junk glory. :)
Whilst walking around the Renaissance Fair looking for subjects I paused at the numerous shows. The performers and guest in the foreground were supposed to be the real focus of the show. However, the little one in the back (did she belong to the performers?) caught my eye as she repeatedly wrapped herself in the banner and tried to stay out of trouble. How rad are the red and zebra-striped tights?

I enjoy shooting architecture as well, although I didn’t have much time on this trip. One of the shots I did want, based on recommendations from Reddit, was the skyscraper at 1999 Broadway. A desire to retain the historic Holy Ghost Catholic Church resulted in the office building going up mere feet from the church.

I wanted a high angle of the buildings, so Brian and I scouted out nearby parking structures. To get this photo, I had to climb up and stand one-legged on the skinny outer wall of a structure, some 7-stories up, and then shove my camera through railing. I was less afraid of falling than I was of someone calling the police on me as a jumper, so I climbed down post haste. An unintended consequence of shooting through the rails was a sort of fake tilt-shift effect that I didn’t notice until I got home.

Note the tiny little church just to the right of the center tower.

Here it is from a different angle. Even from this side you can’t really appreciate how close together the two buildings are.

Bear Lake. It occurred to me just now that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a frozen lake. Weird.

Local, RMNP.

Castlewood Canyon again. 

I wasn’t expecting snow on this trip, and there was still a lot of it throughout RMNP. We found this guy hanging out at around 11,000 feet at the Forest Canyon overlook.

My good friends Tracy and Brian, who put me up (and put up with me!) for four days.

Finally, another shot from Castlewood Canyon. Bloody ‘ell is that place great for photography. I’m looking forward to another trip, which will definitely need to be longer.

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Seasets VI: Loss

The text below is adapted from something I wrote last Thursday. The photos themselves are from two different days at Corona Del Mar: the first is from a session the day my friend died, while the second was done in a “make up” session this evening.

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My long time friend, Bobby Villanueva, passed away today, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters. In recent years Bobby had taken an interest in photography, and we spent a number of long conversations discussing lenses, cameras, and techniques. Like photography did for me, it opened up a new way of looking at life for him.

The quest to become an artist is not for everyone. A lot of people are content to take a simple photo, file it away, and call it a day. They’ve captured the moment, and now it’s on to the next photo. For those that paint, draw, sculpt, or photograph, I think there’s a sense that you could potentially create one image or piece in your lifetime that’s so perfect, it wouldn’t matter if you ever made another.

The issue though, is that you know you’ll never get there because real life is too beautiful, and memories too ephemeral to be corralled by a human’s coarse hands. It’s like trying to grasp at smoke. We critique ourselves, think about what we could do better, and go buy more paint, pencils, or film. What we’re trying to accomplish is impossible, but the pursuit is an extension of ourselves, and so we continue.

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In a conversation with my friend Susan today, I explained why I don’t shoot a particular subject very often: “It feels too much like work.”

I was not being very productive at the office this afternoon, and decided that I needed to be somewhere else. My conversation with Susan in mind, I headed to the beach. The ocean has always calmed me, so it seemed like the right place to be. I photographed it for a while, failing miserably to capture everything I saw and felt at that moment. This was not work though, to be sure.

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A few months back Bobby asked if I would donate some of my photos to a charity event he was doing for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. As with photography, he felt passionately about helping this organization and his daughter, who suffers from the disease. I’ve always felt like my photos just missed the mark, but for someone else to think them good enough to auction meant a lot to me. My passion was able to assist in his passion.

I felt bad for Bobby’s family, for his friends, for myself: all people who lost something in his passing. I thought about Bobby trying to create his own art, to capture the love he felt for his daughters. Passion to passion. How do you do it though? How do you possibly capture the magic of life and love with any real success?

The waves swept in and the water ran out, and I understood that you can’t. Life is in the chaos, in the brush strokes. The manifestation of love is the chase, the yearning to understand the world and the people around us. We’ll never create that single, unifying piece, because life is too big and us too small.

I tripped my shutter and froze the earth for an imperfect moment, trying to squeeze my emotions into some container that I could hold onto. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I trudged up the beach cold and sad, knowing my memories will never do him justice.

And so, I hope we all have something in life that we can feel passionate about, something that doesn’t “feel like work.” More importanly though, I hope everyone has someone else to hold onto; someone to make each of these fleeting moments as permanent as possible.

Farewell my friend; you’ll be missed.

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An Uncut Weekend

My weekend started off with an early trip to photograph the US Uncut protest in LA. Unfortunately, the group never got very large while I was there, so I opted to take off and didn’t take any photos.  On the way home I stopped off in Long Beach to take photos of my friend’s puppy Gnocchi, and then met my cousin towards sunset to capture OC from on high.

My associate and friend Bruce arrived from the frozen lands of Scranton, PA Sunday morning. Whilst in the LAX area we drove to the Getty museum followed by the Huntington Beach pier so that he could tell his friends that he’s been to Huntington Beach. Also, to take photographs at sunset. Without clouds the pier sunset was sort of boring, but it was nice to be outside and not in the office.

This first shot is from Lemon Heights.

A view from the Getty.

Shooting puppies is more difficult than shooting hyper children. About the only time you can get a still portrait is when they’re too exhausted to continue. Here’s Gnocchi, dreaming of baby tennis balls.

Without much variety in the sky, I made my own. This shot has a slight shutter drag.

A resident at the Getty.

“Buildings on Mars.” An attempt at the unusual, looking inland from the shoreline in HB.

Lemon Heights again.

You got seashells in my pier photo. No, you got a pier in my seashell photo! (Sigh, I know I’m not funny.) My favorite of the weekend.

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San Francisco, [A]Bridged

I turned 33 today and decided that I should be out of town for my birthday weekend. My day job is still too hectic at the moment to go anywhere too far away, so I took advantage of my cousin’s generosity and that of his wonderful wife Laura and crashed at their San Francisco condo.

Before heading up I made a list of subjects I’d like to cover, much of which consisted of urban exploration. That is, abandoned buildings, train stations, etc. Unfortunately, with limited mobility and time this was not to be in the cards. So, with the help of websites like this one by Thomas Hawk I reduced my list to a manageable size and prepared to be selective and patient, neither of which I particularly care to engage in very often.

Previous trips to San Francisco had resulted in tough shooting conditions, or basically “every day” in San Francisco: cold weather, fog, rain. As luck would have it, this past weekend was the nicest one San Francisco has seen in the history of always. This meant very little in the way of clouds (sort of boring for photography), and a rare heat. It may have been in the 80s on Sunday.

The reason I mention this is because San Francisco is a city that can be done on foot to a certain degree, and I probably put in about 10 miles in two days. “But Jake,” you’re saying, “that’s barely anything. Even my wheelchair bound grandmother runs 15 miles a day, surely you can handle a paltry 10.”  Ordinarily this would be true save for two facts: first, I was lugging around my gear, which weighs in at about 30 pounds. Second, if you’ve never been to San Francisco it’s hard to imagine how hilly it is, but trust me, it is. If this applies to you, imagine a perfectly straight line that goes up and down for like 20,000 feet. That’s every street in San Francisco. Add a 30-pound pack and hot weather to that, and now you can understand why your grandmother wouldn’t stand a chance.  Also, she told me that she doesn’t love you. So there.

In any event, my plans didn’t call for shooting the Golden Gate Bridge as much as I did, but I really couldn’t avoid focusing on it. In the end, this trip became a study on the bridge and less a study on the city itself.

Before I get to the bridge, let’s meet Wally and Ziggy, my cousin’s two dogs. Wally (pictured here) is small and full of energy, but knows how to chill. Ziggy is small and full of energy, but is like a nuclear explosion who’s energy just keeps on growing.

Saturday morning we started near the Presidio at the Sutro Baths. Not much is left of them, but being a sucker for ruins I was delighted to walk amongst them. Here’s a misty overlook.

Low shot of debris in a standing pool.

Although it bugs me that people tag historical sites, I can’t help but be impressed by talent.

Next, we headed to Baker Beach so that I could scout a place to shoot the Golden Gate at sunset. The northern end of the beach is nude, so it was funny to have shot the bridge and then look at the photos afterwards, only to see the occasional very pink San Franscisan hanging out in the bottom corner. I figured it was safest to post a photo of flowers. :)

Another shot of the bridge, this time from the National Cemetery at the Presidio. The cemetery was peaceful and quite pretty in its way, and has some of the oldest burials I’ve personally ever seen in the States.

Another shot of the bridge, this time near the “Warming Hut” on Fort Point. In the distance is the yacht club where I got the shots at the bottom of this post.

I decided that I picked the wrong place to shoot sunset, so I decided to try my luck at the Palace of Fine Arts. I hoofed it over there and had time to kill before the light show, so spent time figuring out my best angles. At one point I was sitting on a bench waiting for the sun to go down when this eccentric woman rode by on her pink bike with music blaring, lights on her spokes, and bubbles flowing.  As she circled across the pond and into the palace proper, I got my telephoto lens out and waited to see if anything interesting would happen. This little girl was with her family and as the lady rode past, just darted happily after her in dancing, bubbily bliss. You could tell by the way her dad was frantically chasing her that it wasn’t a sanctioned event. :)

I took a lot of the photos as the sun set, but this one is my favorite. I like the sort of mystery in the building not being fully illuminated. 

A Sunday morning view of the city (and in the distance, the Bay Bridge) from atop one of the ungodly tall hills. That tall pointy building is the TransAmerica building, which stands at over 800 feet tall. Note how relatively close I am to the top.  This was supposed to be an “easy” walk to breakfast. ;)

I opted to skip out on the Superbowl and instead get to another spot across the bay to catch the Golden Gate as the sun went down. With a car at my disposal I ended up at the yacht club on Fort Baker with plenty of time to spare.   At the top of the hill lie the abandoned remnants of Battery Yates, a former gun emplacement that stood watch over the bay.  Here’s a detail of one of the buildings that the guns once stood on top of. 

A warning from a time when the buildings held deadly artillery.

As the sun started to get low I cursed the beautiful, empty skies, and pondered how to make my photos more interesting. I decided to try two things.

First, work on a meaningful foreground. As any student of photography will have heard, the best photos tend to have a fore-, middle-, and background.  While this seems obvious, foregrounds are not my strongest suit (although I think I nailed it in the cemetery photo). As a result, I spent considerable time trying to find a spot that would give me something of interest in the foreground and line up with the more important middleground.

The second thing I worked on was color cast. Very few photographers know this, but most dSLR cameras have the ability to change color cast in the camera, including color bracketing. I don’t normally like to do it in camera, preferring instead to do it in post-processing. However, with time to spare, I played around a bit. Each of these below was touched, but actually very little. The changing light as the sun set made the biggest difference.

For those of you wanting to try this, the fastest way to do it is via the color balance settings, which can usually be changed via a button or dial. Otherwise, look for color bracketing in your camera menu.

Here’s a shot of a rowing crew coming home.

The gentleman in this photo is called Michael Feldman. I chatted with him for a bit after capturing his silhouette against the bridge.  Here’s the scene he was painting. Earlier in the day, I had sat in the same place as his subject. Perched atop the bluff with nothing but the bridge, bay and strong wind on my face, I felt very small in such a large space. I live for experiences like that, which is why I love travel photography so much.

Although this photo has the least obvious foreground of any I took that night, it’s probably my favorite of the bunch. With the bridge lights on and the gradual transition to night in the sky, this photo captures the peace I earnestly felt at that moment. If you’ve never been to this site, I would strongly encourage you to make the drive.

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2010: Year in Review

2010 was probably the most challenging year of my life, with a number of personal and work events that pushed me to the brink a number of times. But, it was also the most productive year of my life in a number of areas, certainly with respect to photography. By the time the year was over I felt that I had reached a new level in my ability to capture the world around me. Additionally, I found a new calling in life on a political and social level, traveled and “adventured” like never before, and most importantly, spent an incredible amount of time with a diverse group of amazing people. To all of you, even those who aren’t represented here, thank you for letting me into your lives during the best (and worst) year of my existence.

Even though this is a pretty darn big post, the photos below are only a small selection of some of my favorites from the year. Click on a shot to go to the full post it was originally found in.

Ireland and Italy

I traveled to Europe with my sister and cousin, stopping first in Ireland to visit my brother before heading off to Italy.

Robin and Laurie

Two incredible women who are a true pleasure to be around.

Section 8 at the House of Blues

I got to shoot my cousin’s band from the stage at the House of Blues in Anaheim. That was definitely a cool experience.

Corona Del Mar

I’ve spent a lot of time doing photography along Corona Del Mar. This photo seems to be the one people like best.

Los Angeles Arboretum

I made a number of trips to the arboretum this year. I started the year barely knowing what an orchid was, but thanks to the arboretum and Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, I’m pretty much an expert now. :)

These are from two different trips.

New York City

One of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, and I barely scratched the surface.

Studio Chaos

2010 was the year that I finally got a handle on studio lighting. I’m certainly not an expert, but this once mysterious discipline has let me in on some of its secrets. The first two photos are from some of my first sessions at my new studio. The self-portrait of me isn’t published elsewhere on the site, but since it’s the most obnoxious photo I took all year, I figured I’d include it.

San Diego Ruins

I spent a long time scouring the desert near San Diego this year looking for ruins and pictographs. I didn’t find either; instead, I found this ghost train amid some adventures too crazy to share.

St. Louis

The weather in St. Louis was hot and miserable during my trip, but the stay was one of my best photo experiences to date.

Khmer New Year

Thanks to a connection through my friend Nita, a temple in Riverside asked me to capture their Khmer New Year celebrations.

Huntington Beach Pier

The third most viewed photo I took all year. Having grown up in HB and spent considerable time there, I actually find shooting the pier pretty boring. This one afternoon with my cousin and brother, however, made me feel like a first time visitor.

Scranton, PA

Pennsylvania is awesome. If it didn’t get to negative one million degrees in the winter, I might consider living there. Thanks to Aislinn and Bruce for joining me on some fairly crazy adventures.

Lake Shrine

An unusual retreat in the chaos of LA. Take a blanket and spend time reclining near Gandhi’s ashes.

Team Chaos: Action + Danger

I’ve been single forever, so taking photos of my own kids isn’t possible, given that I have none. Luckily, my good friends have two adorable children that I’ve been fortunate to photograph on a number of occasions. The first photo shows “Danger” Declan in James Bond mode, smooth talking the ladies already. The photo of “Action” Abby in her tiger costume is one of my top 5 favorites of the year.

Christmas with the Moores

In pursuit of a Christmas card, I spent a day with my cousin Dan and his lovely bride Kim, as well as their two very big dogs. After we were done for the day and driving home, we lucked into an amazing sunset and a great place to capture it.

Trenton, my favorite photo of the year

As part of a photojournalism project, parents Wendy and John let me into their family for a few weeks as I documented life with an autistic son. I haven’t published the full set yet, as I’m still working with some other families to get a larger body of work together. For various reasons, this photo of their son Trenton, a dynamic and incredible little guy, is my personal favorite  of the year.

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