Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

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



LA Architecture: Bonaventure Hotel / Bradbury Building

I went on a downtown field trip with my Art History class last semester. It’s a good thing we didn’t do anything that charged admission because 4-hour parking managed to rack up a healthy $20 charge… but I made the most of it and used the opportunity to scout locations for a 4×5 project in another class.

It's a maze in there. Later that week I took the 4x5 to shoot a similar angle. I got what I needed but got so lost in there the only exit I could find was on the opposite side of the building.

We met in the lobby of the Bradbury Building and it didn’t take long to realize why it was worth visiting! It’s been used in TONS of films over the years and, inspired by the recent scene in The Artist, I set to work on combining the set I’d taken.

The stacked stairs at the far end of the atrium should look familiar. You can't shoot something in this building and not include them: Los Angeles CA

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

Lunch at the Blue Bayou, Disneyland

As our road trip came to a close this summer, Disneyland was our final stop before the family headed to LAX and made a break for the East Coast again. For us, Disneyland has a handful of very special places (not a super unique claim, no doubt you’ve got your own favorite nooks) and the Blue Bayou restaurant may just be at the top of that list. Situating its guests in a simulated New Orleans evening on a back patio, it is the end-all be-all of how to do dining atmosphere with style. I may have been here eight or nine times in my life and pretty much each time I’ve tried to take a picture of it that I liked… and I finally have one. Just after being seated, I spotted a freshly cleared table overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Knowing the table would be vacant for less than five minutes, I quickly built my tripod and framed up. I realize not everybody in the world is a 30 minute drive from the Happiest Place on Earth, but next time you plan on visiting, call ahead and make a reservation at the Blue Bayou for a classy lunch or dinner. Order the gumbo. Regarding some technicalities, the 16-35mm on the 7D is really a 26-56mm and though that means my wide angle lens is not being fully realized, it keeps me honest with my framing. Whereas a full frame body would have given me the easy option of including the entire seating area, this 26mm view allowed a “wide but not obnoxiously so” composition that I like very much.

The Blue Bayou restaurant is far and away my favorite dining experience at Disneyland (Disney World just wishes they had one): Anaheim CA

Tough Competition

With Tucker off on some gorgeous island chain in the Pacific, Giacomo and I will be hard pressed to generate some competitive material. I can only guess as to what Tucker will be posting in the coming days because Hawaii tends to be a picturesque location… In the meantime however, Giacomo and I will continue to figure out the best approach to HDR time-lapse video in addition to posting the occasional image or two. Earlier today I stumbled across a 5-shot bracket I did of Splash Mountain around sunset when I was in Disneyland a few weeks ago — why had I not processed it? Whatever the reason for my delay, I have finally sat down with it and I am really pleased with the result. California has its sunsets, yes, but that rarely guarantees anything in the sky but beautiful colors, let alone the really awesome clouds we had a few weeks ago. I give you, Splash Mountain at Sunset. I will now set up a batch in photomatix and will see the results of our latest test HDR time-lapse test shoot in the morning!

I mean, how could I have passed this one up? You've got the tripod, you've got the camera, and you're standing right here. Every time I hit Disneyland I find something great to shoot... what a place: Los Angeles, CA

Thanksgiving at CityWalk

Certainly a unique Thanksgiving experience, I slept in later than I thought humanly possible and pretty much took a shower and went to dinner. We enjoyed a fine Thanksgiving evening at Universal CityWalk, Samba was running an all you can eat for $30 and it was excellent. I’ve never done Brazilian steakhouse before but I will definitely go again. In order, their finest offerings were the Brazilian steak, bacon-wrapped chicken, turkey, peppered steak, and tri-tip. The six other offerings were also outstanding. Movie tickets were only $6 so we decided to see whatever looked most interesting and chose the new Russell Crowe, “The Next Three Days.” Just before heading in though, I tried very carefully to handhold a few brackets of the evening lights and signs decorating the place. It’s fairly painful to deliberately notch it up to ISO 800 to shoot a bracket, but I think the results are certainly worth posting.

The fountains in front of the abandoned Abercrombie and Fitch were cooperative in helping to make the woefully underlit and frankly uninteresting walkways just a little but more appealing: Los Angeles CA

Clear Sunset on Downtown

I feel like there has been a severe lack of posts recently. The problem is that this is busy season for schoolwork and outside projects and as everyone winds their way towards a well deserved Thanksgiving break, any extra chunk of spare time you find often ends up turning into a nap. Nothing wrong with that of course, unless you’re supposed to be contributing to a photo blog on a regular basis. Regardless, on an afternoon not too long ago I decided that in my two hours before my last class before break I would steal up onto the roof of a building and see what I could see from there. It rained just a few days ago so I knew the sky would be uncharacteristically clear-ish… fortunately, the stars aligned and there were also some interesting clouds hanging in the background. This never happens. I was more than happy to record a copy for myself. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Downtown from the direction of campus, about 150 feet up: Los Angeles CA

Urban Lights/LACMA

True to my word, here is a shot from earlier in the day before anyone else had arrived. A bizarre but strangely amazing exhibit,”Urban Lights” is the iconic arrangement of restored antique street lamps that serves as the main entrance into LACMA. It’s fairly surreal to stand in the middle of them and look up, especially once they are all lit at nighttime…

LACMA is on Wilshire a couple miles NW of the La Brea exit off the 10. Check it out sometime: Los Angeles CA


A whirlwind weekend for sure with two back to back days of hectic, last minute night shoots. Sony officially announced their new F3 camera on Monday morning and had tasked a small group at school with putting together a test/promo piece over the wee

kend to show it off. It’s really an amazing piece of work, opting to do 1080p very well instead of trying to play the resolution game and reach 2k or 4k levels. The sensor size is almost the size of a physical frame of 35mm film and the body is intended to be used with legitimate PL mount cinema lenses, essentially Sony’s attempt at making an affordable offering for indie productions looking for 35mm caliber images who don’t actually want to shoot on film. Very pretty picture for sure. Regardless, our story for the promo involved two young people frolicking amongst the Urban Lights exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. In between setups, our two actors were kind enough to return to their spots so I could try and come away with my own bit of imagery for the evening. I have said on previous occasion that I love getting to take HDRs when the subject matter has been intentionally lit… it’s not often but the results are amazingly satisfying. More images from LACMA to come later in the week but I couldn’t wait to start working on this one as soon as I got back home earlier tonight…

All those in favor, say aye... Los Angeles CA

Mulholland Sunrise

Today was a first… a legitimate effort to set aside time to go out with the sole purpose of shooting some new material. Well, almost. My photography class has me lugging a 4×5 view camera around (which is an amazing piece of equipment to play around with if you’re like me and have never handled large format stuff before) the city and I’ve chosen the Mulholland Overlook as my vantage spot for a final project in the class. I arrived there this morning maybe 20 minutes too late because I only just managed to set up the shots on the view camera before the sun got too high. I felt a little rushed but we’ll see what happens when I develop later tonight. Before I left though, I slapped the 7D on a tripod and let it soak up some of the view for a few minutes. It’s a fairly surreal image, but not as surreal as I could have processed it. Typically I dislike having the sun in frame but I rather like how it’s borderline overpowering on this one. The dusty path on the left, the line of bushes that jives with the lens flare, the Hollywood Bowl down in the valley on the right and the city and sun in the right and left upper thirds all combine to make me rather pleased with how this came out compositionally.

Pretty cool spot. Climb up the stairs from the parking lot, hop the little railing, and scoot past the ugly outpost thing and you've got a pretty awesome spot to watch the sun come up: Los Angeles CA


I’ve been here a couple times now and I think I just made up my mind… it’s my favorite place to eat in LA. I haven’t been very many places of course, but Tart is easily my favorite. They’re famous for their amazing outdoor atmosphere on their back patio and of course their food is exceptional as well — make sure to stop by to check for coupons, they usually have them. We lived within walking distance of Tart over the summer and I happened to have my camera with me when we came over here one night. This is a questionable final product. Typically, I really love the “unghosting” process incurred when moving objects make blurry, indistinct objects in the final composite. But for a place like this, I didn’t really have to do much with the colors to get it to turn out like this… the place really is this gorgeous out on the patio. Because the HDR process exaggerates this a little, it’s nearly impossible to do a straight-faced image of Tart… the patio atmosphere just makes it such a fun place to eat. So, in the spirit of keeping Tart’s outdoor patio lively and full of action, I am leaving Karl and Krishen to be free to move around and enjoy the evening as they may see fit. Hopefully we can head back over there sometime soon.

I am allowing myself a ghosting exception in the spirit of Tart's vivacious atmosphere... Los Angeles CA

One Shotting: Karl at Kodak Event

Owing largely to the baller nature of Photomatix 4, I have a sudden desire to go back and process single-shot images that I had always told myself “Hmm, I might come back to this eventually,” but never did. Recently I accidentally happened across this shot from an event Kodak held on campus WAY back in January… Thinking back now, it was a really cool thing of them to do and I’m really glad Karl and I RSVP’d quickly for it since there were only about 15 people who got to do it. Two guys from Kodak brought in some pretty hardcore equipment so we could go hands-on with it… just for kicks. We split into two groups, each with a camera and either a monstrous zoom lens or a fast 35mm prime and then proceeded to shoot a small scene anywhere we wanted on campus. It was pretty much an exercise in seeing first hand what legitimate 35mm motion picture cameras can do with no graded or time pressure. Unfortunately, I had to leave before it was over so I couldn’t give my contact info (they processed the film that each group shot and mailed a DVD of it later) so I hope Karl kept the DVD because I’d really like to see it at some point. Regardless, it was a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon

I like how the color of his shirt came out… but  on the whole like the B&W more. Fortunately, “both” was my third option…

Karl scopes things out at the Kodak event. I hope they come back sometime, it was pretty legit... Los Angeles CA

Something about this kind of image in B&W just makes it better... I really can't decide though: Los Angeles CA

On Set: Beverly Hills

As I mentioned in a post from a while ago, I love it when it becomes necessary to un-ghost moving objects that can crop up when processing an HDR. This happens when available light is insufficient for the overexposed image(s) in a bracket to attain a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion (unless long exposure is deliberately called for in which case you have something else entirely). However, if you are lucky, the underexposed images will be fast enough to freeze the motion. In the below image, every single person was moving to begin with. Why is there enough light to see underneath the desks but still have these people frozen in place? Ordinarily that’s impossible without a flash, but if you know a little Photoshop you can get the best part of all possible images. Each person was selectively taken from the darkest exposure of my 3-shot set (which had a shutter speed of 1/40) and masked into the initial HDR composite. Mess with their levels a little to approximate the light levels in the rest of the image and you get the below result.

And yes, like the two other “On Set” posts, this has been deliberately sparse on details about content 🙂 So you’re not completely in the dark, the three people on the left are our actors chatting about the previous take and the middle three people are (left to right) one of our cinematographers and our Key Grip and his assistant. In the white shirt is the assistant director, communicating between the camera and lighting crew behind him and the director, producers, and editors as they observe on monitors in the room behind the frosted glass. Finally at the extreme right is our second cinematographer as she steps back to take in the scene from a distance. Everyone has a job and there is a hierarchy to it… it’s always a pleasure to see an image like this where you can clearly see everyone working together to make something really cool, one of the reasons I love set photography so much.

In between takes the camera and lighting department ask to make a small adjustment, relayed through the assistant director (white shirt) to the director in the adjacent room: Beverly Hills, CA

On Set: Van Nuys

As a tribute to our dedicated production designers, I’m putting up this image I took before the room was loaded with our dozen party-going extras. I’m a fan of the tiny amount of cables, the C-stand,  and the Kino on the extreme right side of the frame and did not crop them out of the final image as a reminder that this is still a set. As much as we will be making you believe it’s actually someone’s apartment that has been dolled up for a surprise party, it’s only possible with smoke and mirrors… and a really talented camera department with an incredible gaffing crew.

I love the way the light plays with the couch... makes me want to take a nap right now: Van Nuys, CA