Being busy is a good thing and the fact that we’re approaching 2 months without a post just means that the three of us have full, productive lives. So, instead of a paragraph full of “sorry,” here’s a statement full of “excessively busy lives leave less time for hobbies.” While summer should hopefully give Tucker and Giacomo a bit of a respite from classes, a huge project of mine will go into production and I’ll disappear for a while. But, before then, I’ve got a trip to Hawaii to look forward to and the annual Yosemite reunion has been (significantly) relocated to Maine in late May so there ought to be some fresh sights associated with those… somewhat beautiful travel destinations.
That being said, I’m checking in again with a straightforward image from the documentary shoot in China last summer — hard to believe it’s already been about 11 months since then! I couldn’t possibly describe where in the Forbidden City this was, but I think we were in the process of being shooed out the North entrance around closing time when I saw a handful of these ornate pavilions. This one had a cool tree next to it. And, as was the case with most of our stay in Beijing, it was “sunny” but the outrageous pollution tends to sap just about all the blue out of the sky.
This is about 5 minutes before we dropped about $0.15 worth of coinage for some seriously refreshing watermelon on a stick just outside the gates: Beijing, China
Bet you’ve never been coast-to-coast in under 5 minutes. Me neither, but this post should hopefully accomplish something similar.
St. Simon’s Island has been a staple get away for my family for as long as I can remember. Growing up, summers were filled with 6 hour drives from Atlanta to Georgia’s Golden Isles to visit with grandparents. Sandcastles were built, lighthouses were climbed, and french fries were tempura-battered. Thanksgiving was synonymous with the island for a long time for me. Most years we’d use the holiday as an excuse to load up the White Chrysler Town and Country LXI and make our way down to the beach. Thanksgiving lunch was always at the sumptuous King and Prince and dinner was usually the comatose affair of living off our fresh fat reserves from earlier in the day.
Unfortunately, going to college in and ultimately moving to Los Angeles makes rocking up at St. Simon’s on a whim significantly more difficult. Thanksgiving has often been forfeited the last several years, opting instead for a longer Christmas home stay, but last year I was able to do both. To celebrate my first Thanksgiving at home in ages, we arranged for a return to the Georgia Coast. A fantastic few days of relaxation, unhealthy southern seafood, and trying to play tennis. One of the highlights of the weekend was waking up extra early the day after Thanksgiving to see a proper East Coast sunrise. I walked down past East Beach around 6:30AM and found a bench between the King and Prince pool and the nearest public beach access at the end of tiny Neptune Road.
A very peaceful morning to ease into a day full of digestion: St. Simon’s Island GA
And woosh. Fast forward three months and 2,500 miles to arrive at a sunset on the other side of the country at my other favorite beach. I must exclude Hawaii as it would be like allowing a dictionary to compete in a spelling bee.
In Los Angeles, March’s idea of coming in like a lion is a balmy 80 degrees at Manhattan Beach. Ice cream cones and beach frisbee… sounds a lot better than the snow my sister was getting in Alabama. Surprisingly, we arrived on the beach to find the ocean full of sail boats, something I’d certainly never seen at Manhattan Beach before. Unfortunately they had all moved south down the coast by the time I set up shop under the pier for the shot that evening.
I’ve seen this angle executed many times before but I’d never done it myself. Not an extremely flattering angle for the iconic pier but a textbook example of when HDR might be considered an appropriate tool: Manhattan Beach CA
Earlier this summer my family flew out for an impromptu rendezvous in Vegas. Shows were seen, pools were swum, and buffets were endured. I had always been partial to Bellagio’s trough but in another Vegas trip in late October the brand new “Bacchanal” at Caesar’s won me over. 500 dishes outputting an reported $100,000 worth of food every day. It’s so ludicrous they have a crêpe chef to help you build silly deserts on which to pile a limitless supply of gelato.
But over the summer the highlight of the trip was none other than Celine Dion’s outrageous production at Caesar’s Colosseum. With the repertoire split about half originals and half covers (including a spectacular rendition of “Goldfinger”) I really enjoyed getting to hear plenty of her early songs in French. We left with gift bags full of CD’s, playing cards, and throw blankets… but the real un-necessity was the atlas-sized coffee table book! It was an early show and, stopping by our room afterwards, I set up to nab the last fountains show before the sky went completely dark.
Probably not alone in this, but I can’t look at the fountains and not think of Ocean’s 11… Las Vegas, NV
Happy 4th! We hope everyone enjoyed plenty of picnics and fireworks on Wednesday, odds are you had a lot more fun than the poor folks who turned out for San Diego’s famous fireworks spectacular. To anyone who’s ever wondered what it would look/sound
like if you accidentally set off an entire fireworks show in a matter of seconds, whip out the Googles and watch the video.
We are, unfortunately, fresh out of gaudy, dripping-with-America Independence Day imagery but I will blame that on Tucker since he was recently in Baltimore, placing him physically and chronologically closest to the nation’s capital for the holiday and therefore responsible for representing it. TAG has dropped the patriotic ball this year so I’ll just own it and talk about China.
For the first official China entry I thought it fitting to start with something traditional. Having just returned from shooting along the Wall with a couple days left in China, we opted to take advantage of Beijing’s unusually clear weather and paid a visit to one of the most recognizably Chinese locations in the world, the Temple of Heaven. From what I remember, the complex is located is southeast Beijing and is somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 years old, or, 2.5 USA lifetimes to put that in a timely context. Full disclosure, the iconic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (below) is actually much younger since the original structure burned down and was rebuilt in the late 1800’s. The area’s ample park space is now a little bit of a tourist trap in places, but is without a doubt a beautifully serene place to just spend an afternoon soaking up the sun.
One of the more recognizable pieces of Taoist Chinese architecture, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven always attracts a mob of awestruck visitors: Beijing, China
So this time it actually has been too long since a post. So much has happened in the past month it’s difficult to believe I’ve only been away from LA for 33 days.
We’ve just returned from shooting a promising documentary with material split across Pennsylvania and China. Not really planning on plugging it here, but if you’re at all curious, look up a man named William Geil from Doylestown, PA — if you aren’t just a little but impressed by what he accomplished 100 years ago, there may be something wrong with you. At any rate, yes, there’s a ton of awesome stuff to come soon from Beijing (with impossibly, miraculously clear weather!) and remote areas of the Great Wall but while I take some time to get back in the right time zone, I wanted to share a fuller version of something I shared a few weeks ago just as we closed out the PA leg of our trip. Our stay there granted us two weekends: the first was spent gearing up for and watching the Game of Thrones finale, and the second was spent goofing off in Manhattan after a $15 train from a nearby NJ station. (If that isn’t a travel deal, I don’t know what is…) Our time was spent following bubble blowers and rollerblade performers in Central Park, making the pilgrimage to the cubic Apple store, meeting a homesick USC friend for a spin through an authentic NYC comic store, Times Square, and an amazing dinner at Southern Hospitality, catching up with a NYU friend after photos in Grand Central Station and breakfast in Bryant Park, standing angrily outside the HBO retail store as we realized we didn’t have time to browse, and finally grabbing some last minute filters and gels at the foolishly massive B&H store.
And somewhere in there the following photo was taken.
Never know what you’ll see just walking around the sidewalk: New York City, NY