Archive for the ‘7D’ Category

Grand Wailea

I was shocked to only just now discover that Tucker has a full-on monopoly on our Hawaii page. Had a monopoly.

I’ve worked up a bunch of images from my trip last May but I keep coming back to one from the hotel lobby. Ordinarily, that would be the lamest, most egregious thing to say about a trip to Hawaii, but when you see the lobby I think you’ll understand.

Most folks say Maui is the touristy island and I guess I’m inclined to agree. The southwest coast is awash with ludicrous resorts, to be sure, but I did get a chance to do some off-the-beaten-trail hiking later on that yielded other kinds of Hawaiian greatness. More to come on that front later I suppose.

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI

 

Looking back a little bit…

A couple of days ago I put together something nice from a trip to Utah last September. My earlier post was from our all-too-brief Narrows hike, but this was from a side trip to Snow Canyon State Park. It’s not often that clouds are actually the subject of pictures I take — usually they’re just up there to compliment the landscape — but this time it was the other way around.

All that to say, that’s not the image in this post. Since Tucker is still working up images from his Arizona trip and I’m sitting on Hawaii, Utah, and as it happens, still more New Zealand, I’m going with something that ought to play a little differently next to the red rocks of the American West. I was recently asked for a higher resolution copy of this post from 2011 and when I went to find it, I discovered that many of my older work files are corrupted!

Ugh. This is not what we talked about.

Ugh. This is not what we talked about.

And it gets worse: a lot of my originals from 2011 are simply missing from my Aperture library, leaving many HDR brackets incomplete! In the spirit of trying to provide a print file for this scene anyway, I scoured the bowels of Aperture and wrangled up 9  of the original 15 shots that comprise the final image. Upon closer inspection I found no bracket to be completely gone so I fired up the magic wand that is Adobe Camera Raw and recreated the remaining frames from the original nine. Ill-advised, but this is exactly the situation where that was the only course of action. What started as a simple request became a curious challenge as I realized that a full reprocessing of the scene would yield differing results from the original attempt in 2011, results that would undoubtedly reflect changes in, well, me. I am very pleased with the change in style over two and a half years’ time and look forward to occasionally looking back on old images to see more of how my tastes have changed.

Perhaps my favorite change is the small orange flowers. You can't even tell they're there in the first version: Milford Sound, NZ

Perhaps my favorite change is the small orange flowers. You can’t even tell they’re there in the first version: Milford Sound, NZ

Site links work again! Huzzah!

Hello again, it’s been a while. We’ve been recently plagued with some website coding problems that have kept the site from functioning correctly… but everything has been ironed out! We can continue posting and you can continue browsing. Thanks for sticking with us!

That being said, I thought I’d share some special images to celebrate our website’s repair. Way back when, I was a study abroad student in New Zealand and many amazing travel adventures ensued. I was lucky enough to get to drive out to Milford Sound twice in the time I was there and I hope to eventually find an excuse to go back. On both visits, the weather was cloudy and rainy, leading to some unusual clouds and a moody atmosphere. Suddenly, the sun punched a tiny hole in the clouds and shone directly down onto the water in the distance…

A truly bizarre sight. The weather seemed to have discouraged the kiwis from visiting that day and I had the sound to myself.

A truly bizarre sight. The weather seemed to have discouraged the kiwis from visiting that day and I had the sound to myself: Milford Sound, NZ

On the other trip, I turned to face the hillside climbing away from the sound to my right. The scope of the mountains running back and the streams coming down was baffling: Milford Sound, NZ

On the other trip, I turned to face the hillside climbing away from the sound to my right. The scope of the mountains running back and the streams coming down was baffling: Milford Sound, NZ

 

More from the Forbidden City

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

Beaches. I like them.

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

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year (From Vegas!)

I’m not sure what it is about Vegas but there always seems to be something interesting to photograph there… It’s a pretty crazy place I suppose, a bit heavy on the visual stimuli so I guess it’s not all that surprising that I like bringing a camera when I go. At any rate, we had a couple things that needed celebrating last weekend so we did something truly irresponsible: an evening in Disneyland followed by a midnight push up to Vegas. The drive was simple enough, doable in under 4.5 hours but we were shocked to look up and find ourselves plunging along through a desert snowstorm! We rolled up to the Hard Rock Hotel’s parking deck around 4am and passed out in the car until morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, the Hotel Tonight app is a game changer. If you don’t mind a little drama, you can wait until noon on the day that you need a room and the app will release an assortment of incredible deals for the area. In Vegas, there’s literally no telling what could come up but there’s so many amazing hotels you’re likely to find great values. A room at Caesar’s for $69 last Easter, for example. This time we pulled the trigger on a room at the very small and off-strip Artisan Hotel for $45… not bad at all for a Saturday night. With a very out-of-the-public-eye vibe, it seems to cultivate a massive after-party scene with a spectacularly dark club that really only cranks up after 2am or so. In fact, upon checking in, the front desk warned that no room in the hotel would be “quiet” that evening because a DJ was playing (loudly) up until 10am the following morning…

The Bacchanal at Caesar’s was in full form. Crab legs, veal, sushi, and I was more than happy to help myself to the lava cake and gelato on the dessert buffet. As we sat there recovering and planning our hunt for $5 blackjack at reputable casinos, I reflected on the ridiculous decor we’d seen earlier that day. Most striking were the Bellagio conservatory, always a crowd pleaser, and the lobby at the Wynn, both decked out to celebrate the coming of the Chinese New Year last Sunday. While the Bellagio had actually placed a massive boat in their exhibit, I was still won over by the Wynn’s straightforward dragon dance costume. Suspended among their light-wrapped trees under the skylight, it really made for an impressive welcome sign at the Wynn.

This place exudes lavishness. Look at this walkway. Lavish: Las Vegas, NV

And as it happens I really couldn’t decide which of these two pictures to post. Fortunately I know the site’s administrator and we worked it out where I could just do both.

The amount of detail in the costume is awesome, in particular the texture of the teeth. I’d never really looked at one of these things for long until I was working with these images… Happy New Year! Las Vegas, NV

 

The Strip

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

Arch Rock at Joshua Tree

A few weeks ago we had a birthday on our hands. Traditionally, this means a quick jaunt up to Vegas. However, on a different Vegas escapade this past spring, we got a little fresh and mixed in a couple nights of camping in Joshua Tree immediately beforehand. The resulting juxtaposition made the bottomless buffets all the more outrageous so we gave the pairing another shot. I am now fully convinced that Joshua Tree is my go-to destination for camping in Southern California. It’s not backpacking, just simple car camping and and the pleasures of building massive campfires. They’ve got a ton of campgrounds, several with 150ish campsites and the weather this time of year was WAY more comfortable than in March (when we met with rain, snow, hail, and general frigidness over the course of 36 hours). I’ll vouch for the Ryan and Jumbo Rocks campgrounds, but there’s really no shortage of firepit campsites nestled in amongst these wild rock formations in the park.
The evening before we left we asked around and discovered an easy, natural arch trail behind one of the other campgrounds…

A five minute walk from the back corner of the White Tank campground, Arch Rock and the small little rock valley it sits in make for some interesting shades of orange and blue as the sun gets lower: Joshua Tree, CA

 

Happy (slightly late) Independence Day: Welcome to China!

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

 

NYC: Rockefeller Center

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

The Conservatory at the Bellagio: Las Vegas

In a sudden burst of concentrated irresponsibility, my roommate and I decided to go have Easter dinner at The Buffet at the Bellagio. Now, there are several arguments to be had about why this was an unorthodox decision, but easily the most questionable was the fact that we were literally eating lunch at Bubba Gump’s at Universal CityWalk when the idea went from conversational joke to finalized plan in less than 10 seconds. On a whim we quickly looked into staying the night (since driving 4 hours in the ultimate food coma is simply not a good idea) and thanks to the Hotel Tonight app, we locked in a room at Caesar’s Palace for a paltry $69 less than 8 hours before check-in.

The Buffet itself did not disappoint: bottomless Kobe beef, lamb shank, sushi, king crab legs, manicotti, and beef Wellington were among my favorite items on the menu. We decided to eat until the moment when it actually becomes uncomfortable, put in an extra 20 minutes, and then headed around the corner to the Conservatory to decompress.

The Conservatory is a seasonal showcase but I have no idea what those tiny shoes are about. Stuff gets reused of course, I think the umbrellas on the ceiling actually hung above the Via Bellagio shops last year: Las Vegas, NV

Sunset in the Lamar Valley: Yellowstone NP

Road trips are amazing things. You could jump on a plane and pay to check three duffels… or you could pile ten duffels into a sedan and enjoy the drive across the country. I’ve made the LA/ATL drive twice now and each time has been a complete adventure. Two very different adventures, but two nonetheless. Unlike our first marathon-style 3-day trek two Decembers ago, we opted to turn it into a more leisurely vacation. I’ve been to Yellowstone twice before, but each was well before I was anything much into photography. This time, though, I was able to appreciate it in a whole new way. One thing I’ll always remember is getting to do the Lake Yellowstone Hotel “photo safari” one morning with my mom. She had done it the first time we visited Yellowstone (back when I was nine, I think) and it was really special for her to get to do it again but this time with me tagging along.

At some point during our stay in Yellowstone, we found ourselves driving through the Lamar Valley at sunset. (Typing this now I realize I’d like to “find” myself there a little more often.) We pulled off for a minute to climb a foothill and had no choice but to enjoy the stunning view the valley’s still water offered.

Yellowstone is definitively NOT on the way from Atlanta to Los Angeles... but I'm so glad we made silly plans and came back to YNP anyways: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Almost New Years: LA Auto Show 2011

We usually start a post by admitting fault for how much time has passed since the previous post… I’m not about to change that. Since we’re dangerously close to not having a December entry, I think I ought to slip in something I nabbed at the LA Auto Show back around Thanksgiving (on Thanksgiving, actually). We kind of flew through the exhibition and I don’t quite remember the details of the Volvo pictured below — Audi had a blindingly legit display so the e-tron and R8 GT Spyders may have distracted me — but I saw this angle of the Volvo display and loved how the glass and other reflective surfaces played havoc with the sense of space in the Convention Center ballroom. We spotted six manufacturer logos in this image; at the risk of sounding campy… can you find them too?

If not for the glass separator between the frontmost windows, this would be a really cool concept image advertising the Volvo of tomorrow, today! Or something... Los Angeles CA

Disneyland Teacups at Night

My road trip earlier this summer ended in Disneyland, home of the iconic Alice in Wonderland Teacups. It’s a pretty cool attraction regardless, but at night, it’s quite a dazzling sight. Because the motion between and during exposures would have been just too much, this is a single-shot HDR of the ride in action at nighttime. I’ve never actually ridden the Teacups, but I have a feeling they’d make me sick: bring on all the crazy roller coasters you want, but as soon as a ride devolves down to concentrated spinning, I’m out.

Stay tuned for Tucker to post the full image of the current site banner from Yosemite. It may be the most planned shot on here and is certainly the most collaborative.

Just working on this image makes me want to go back... I've got the annual pass so I really have no excuse: Anaheim, CA

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is an oddity. The geysers and bizarre geothermal features are the big ticket attractions but you find yourself forgetting about the “tamer” brand of landscape features that one comes to associate with National Parks. Really awesome waterfalls and crazy big yellow canyons would be examples of such. The next day, I went back to this lookout with a longer lens and punched in to see a bit more of the brink in a *gasp* non-HDR shot of the falls and the start of the gorge. Frankly, I’m appalled that none of my stuff from Yellowstone has made it onto the site yet so I will be working in the coming weeks to get more National Park material out of my Aperture library and onto TAG. Also, I’m working on putting together a ghosting walkthrough that should hopefully help you make sense of how to solve movement-heavy scenes in HDR (or at least how I like to do it, I’m sure there’s half a dozen different ways that work). Until then, enjoy the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park.

At the backend of the canyon lies the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, clocking in at a healthy 308-foot drop. If you view the image at full resolution, you can make out the specks of color just above and to the right of the brink -- park visitors who have braved the treacherously steep switchbacks down the far side of the canyon wall: Yellowstone National Park, WY

A more traditional take on Lower Falls... this is by no means the first time this exact angle has been taken, I'm afraid.