This is Part 2 of 3
I’m getting closer to the CAA building, but still taking my time with my 50mm to poke about.
I feel prepared to deal with strange bits and pieces that might crop up while I am here. Maybe there is something about being a photographer. I feel like I can grasp meaning from ambiguity. Or, I can take that ambiguity and make it more tangible.
Has anyone here read Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer? I feel a bit like I had read it to prepare me for these sorts of events.
Of course, Beverly Hills is a redonkulous place. Personally, I’m not much of a shopper, but I do know this is quite the mecca for people that are really into this sort of thing.
I felt a bit like a redshirt on an away mission, studying the peculiarities of the local inhabitants. The women would walk from one store to the next with a sense of purpose. Of real purpose. In fact, they had as much seriousness in their movements as I did taking photos of the scene. So I try my best not to be too judgmental, since I figure it doesn’t matter what the heck you do with your life, as long as you do it with a sense of purpose.
Everyone needs a hobby, and I guess shopping ranks right up there with other “gathering-esque” ways of spending your time. I’d argue that photography is a better and more fulfilling hobby, but maybe that is me. Of course, I am writing all of this now because I was thinking of it at the time… And I also made a mental note that I should write an eBook entitled You Need A New Hobby: It’s Photography! and then lay out inside all the goodies and the first few steps to getting started in a productive and enlightening new hobby… But who has time to write all these eBooks? Anyway, I decide to put it on my to-do list and keep moving about.
But then I am still thinking about it while I am walking about, even though I tried to get it off my mind by resolving to put it on the to-do list. I was reminded of some quote… I could barely grasp the edges… something to the effect of, “You cannot find yourself; you must create yourself.” I think that sounds nice.
Then I was thinking of another quote from Buddha that I have always liked, “It’s better to travel well than to arrive.” It’s quite tranquil, and I need to figure out a way to work that into the blog or the Stuck In Customs thing in some way. It’s a very nice little saying… maybe I’ll squeeze it in somewhere? Don’t want things too cluttered… maybe replace “Daily Photo Adventure” with that nice little quote? I don’t know… I resolve to let it simmer in my subconscious for a few more months before making a decision.
Sometimes I force decisions and sometimes I just let things work themselves out. Making decisions in the flow of time with many other moving variables can be tough. I’m not sure the human brain is great at dealing with this. I believe I grasp at the shadow of time and place and do my best to bend it around to my will. It only sometimes works.
Seeing the cars driving around the streets, I remember an interesting analogy about decisions and time and variables. I’m sure you all have experienced the following. Sometimes, you’re driving along on a pretty crowded road. You need to pop over one lane because your exit is coming up. It’s not immediately coming up, but in a few miles. But there is a car hanging out there in the perfectly wrong place. You can’t get over naturally. Then he moves along and is replaced with another car. And then that car speeds along and another car swoops in to block you. It is almost a perfect symphony of things getting in your way… as if the universe is conspiring against you. So, you begrudgingly decide just to wait a minute, perhaps change the radio station or direct your attention elsewhere for a short bit. And then you remember you need to pop over one lane. You look, and it’s wide open. It’s hard to remember exactly what made this so difficult before.
Sometimes I go ahead and force the decisions through anyway — and other times I just let them drift along until the move is obvious, calm, and almost Zen-like in execution. I prefer the latter, of course, and I do my best to help things flow in that direction.
As I’m walking through the streets, it’s beginning to get a little warm. It must be about 75, which is not traditionally warm, but I am wearing some blue jeans and a button-down shirt. It’s fairly heavy, made of one of the thicker Robert Graham designs. I have a messenger bag thrown around my back with my laptop and an extra lens. I unbutton one more notch to keep it cool.
I take photos of interesting bits, happy that I have decided on a “square” composition for everything. I think to myself I should do it more because it’s different and challenging. It’s quite tough because the viewfinder itself is a rectangle. I have to ignore what I see on the edges… this is harder than it might seem.
There is a strange sense of beauty here in Beverly Hills. Very strange. Everything is manufactured and hyper-planned to the point of undeniable beauty. No matter the store, the shrub, or the sign, the viewer is meant to be left with a feeling of awe. And it is all quite nice, but almost in an overly-manufactured manner. Like Stepford Wives. Or like a snow globe of a perfect village. People glide around inside the bubble, mimicking the beauty.
But around and through this bubble, I think there is perhaps real beauty. Bits if it here and there, and it’s as elusive and surprising to find as happiness.
I think of that wonderful promo ad made by the Discovery Channel. Have you seen it? Here is a link to the video of “I Love the World”. It is both cheesy and spot-on… smart.
I turn onto “Avenue of the Stars”. How can a road with such a silly name actually exist? More importantly, what is someone like me doing on it?
I’m just about the only one walking around. LA is a driving city. It’s pretty much just me walking around, the occasional homeless person, and drained-looking people who are walking from huge buildings to bus stops.
Soon enough, I approach my quarry: the CAA building.
The front of the building has a long driveway, filled with fabulous cars, scary-looking body guards, security personnel, drivers, and lots of black suits and dark glasses.
This is the vaunted spot where countless stars are whisked in and out of their cars for meetings with the agents inside the CAA offices.
It suddenly occurs to me that security will assume I am paparazzi, since I am walking up to star-central with a giant camera.
I get several sunglass-ed nods. I don’t know if it is because CAA knew I was coming or because I did not look the part. Either way, they did not bother me… My spidey-sense is always on high alert around people that are ready to hassle you for taking photos. Just in case, I have a rich array of oratory comebacks, ready and armed for full frontal assault. But, alas, I did not get to unleash the salvo.
What good is it to think about this stuff? I have no idea, I think to myself, as I walk in the doors…
This was Part 2 of 3
Walking through the streets of Beverly Hills is filled with just the sorts of things one might expect to see.
The entrance to the CAA building, which I would soon reach, made for interesting subject matter. The staff there figured out I wasn’t paparazzi once I started taking photos of the building itself.
The buildings that tower around the edges of my walk could be seen as rather mundane. In fact, they were quite mundane. So to find their proper edges within a frame was challenging.
Jane Goodall would be proud. I observed the youths from a safe distance. These young females, now of the age of mating, mimicked the gathering patterns of their mothers. Nearby, a richly festooned elder female sat, attended and cooled by mechanical horses.
The famous street in Century City, which lies on the southern edge of Beverly Hills. The name of the street is more interesting than the actual street itself.
Many architectural designs from 20 years ago can be eyesores. This building had a feeling of 50 years old, so it kept a certain charm. Certain designs have a timeless feeling to them, while others fade in and out of fashion… I don’t know why things are this way.
As I approach the CAA building, the drivers and cars align the driveway, waiting to whisk Hollywood stars to and fro. I’m clearly not one of those people, so they largely ignore me and give me a vibe of general disdain.
Great Photo Contest!
There is a great new photo contest I encourage all of you to join! Get the details on the OpenCa.mp page!
The prize is a fantastic metal print from Image Wizards. I’ve had many things printed there, and you will be amazed. Really. I’ll be one of the judges along with Frederick Van Johnson. So, if you don’t like the choice in the winners, please blame Frederick Van Johnson.
Daily Photo – Slipping into the Pool
This vast indoor pool at Hearst Castle is just about perfect. The only thing that would have been more perfect is if I was actually inside of it! If I wasn’t such an honorable guy, I would have stripped down and jumped in for a bit. It would have taken at least 15 minutes for security to get me out of there. But it would have been a sweet sweet 15 minutes. I could just say that I lost my mind for a bit… like Hearst Castle was Shutter Island and I was a bit loopy because of the drugs.
A friend was looking at my other photo of this pool (You can access it by clicking on the Hearst Castle category below. He remarked that he thought it was a slick, reflective floor and not a pool! I had never thought of it like that, but then I noticed… and I could also see it like that. A bit like a Necker cube!
New Limited Edition Print – The Edges of the Flatiron
We have a new, wonderful print to announce! As with all, each is a unique numbered print that is part of a series. Once they are gone, they are gone.
This one today is a bit different than the usual lot. It’s a black and white image of one of the most famous buildings in New York City: the Flatiron Building. I’ve always wanted a photo of this building, so I went here, day after day, waiting for the light, traffic, and pedestrians to be just right.
Daily Photo – The Mysteries of Rodeo Drive
I have a long-format piece coming up about something very cool in California. While I was putting together that whole piece, I made some time to get out at night for some HDRs.
There’s one very strange and mysterious store right in the middle of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Who can figure out what is happening in this photo?
Site of the Week
We made the coveted Abduzeedo Sites of the Week! Pop over there to see some of the other winners too.
Daily Photo – Into the Sea
I wonder what percentage of photographers live on the West Coast versus the East Coast. Of course, the west gets all the great sunsets over the ocean, and the east gets all the great sunrises. Given that most sane people are asleep at sunrise, and given that most photographers are insane — I am not sure! What do you think?
This one was taken at sunset on the beautiful San Clemente pier. The sunset was coming on, and it was a high-pressure time to get up onto the pier and find a good spot.
New Book on Book List!
As some of you know, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Matt Ridley and his wife, Anya Hurlbert. I knew of Matt previously because I’ve always been a fan of his unique science/genetics books; these have delightful and unexpected hooks into economics, anthropology, history, and critical thinking. And then I found out his wife was also of a different sort of scientist, with a concentration in Visual Neuroscience. If you saw my Google Talk, then you’ll know that is also a big interest area for me! Follow her link above if you want to read more.
Anyway, here on the site, I have “Trey’s Book List“, that has all sorts of suggestions. There is surely something for everyone in there!
Bonus Book Suggestion!
I just finished listening to the Audio Book of Daemon. You gotta get it! I haven’t heard anything this good in a while… and, as opposed to most books, I really do recommend the audio version. Jeff Gurner does an amazing job with the voices, and hearing the computer voices talk is more than entertaining! The author, Daniel Suarez, really knows his stuff. And, I would not be surprised if he has read some of Matt Ridley’s books — particularly “The Red Queen”.
Daily Photo – Sunset at Hearst Castle
Maybe people in California get spoiled by good sunsets. Not living there, I don’t know! But, when you are sitting up high on a mountain, in a castle-mansion, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, how could you not get spoiled?
And this isn’t even the main castle. This is just one of the guest-houses. Hearst had several guest houses there, each one as stunning as the next.
If you are enjoying these Hearst photos, I’ve now published six so far. You can see all the Hearst Castle Photos. Note: These are also accessible via the “Categories” down on the right side of the page.
New eBook now Available to Newsletter Subscribers!
Issue #14 will be flying into people’s email boxes some time this Sunday morning. Note that I made a big mistake yesterday! I had the signup form on there, but the “Submit” button did nothing! I can’t believe it… that was so dumb of me… I think a ton of people put in their info and clicked submit, and just assumed it worked!
But now it is fixed… you can sign up below, and, after confirmation, you will get a Welcome email that has a link to the new Newsletter #14. It’s the prettiest newsletter in the world! Thanks again for forwarding it to all your friends, family, and other loved ones!
I haven’t updated this in a long time… I need to… but a few hours after we opened up the Newsletter, you can see how many people subscribed and where you all are from — cool!
Daily Photo – Secret Meetings in Hollywood
This photo was taken in Los Angeles (Santa Monica to be exact) after I got finished with one of those Hollywood Power-Lunches you always hear about. I’m not yet ready to talk about it… but I just wanted to put out a little teaser for you. I’ll be sure to put out the full story when it is ready to be told.
So, anyway, after the meeting I took my camera and tripod across a few streets over to the beach. I’m not sure, but I’m fairly certain this is where they filmed the opening to Three’s Company. It’s burned into some deep layer… strange bits of my 70′s brain were firing away as I was walking down the coast. The palm trees and the blue sky — they were so LA — so I set up to grab a shot.
Any Problems with New Server?
We’ve recently moved over the entire website to the Rackspace Cloud. This was done because our traffic is growing like crazy, and we wanted things to be nice and speedy for everyone. Also, from time to time, Twitter can cause big surges in traffic that brought the whole thing to a grinding halt.
Let me know if you see anything is awry. It’s hard for me to test anything, and there are always niggling little problems… Like, for example, I found out that Firefox didn’t work because of some silly Facebook <iframe> code that still broke it even though it was commented out!
I’ll put together a full review on Rackspace soon enough… along with a whole list of all the backend stuff that keeps the site humming along. I know we have lots of technical people that come to the site, and we all like geeking out about the specs and “how things work”!
Daily Photo – Hearst Castle in San Simeon
Did you know that Hearst Castle is only a few hours north of LA? If you ever end up in LA for a trip, be sure to set aside a few hours for a trip up to see this place. After you get out of the LA city-scape-area, the terrain totally changes – so does the “feeling”.
Towards the end of the day, all the tourists had left. I had an escort with me for most of the day. This gentleman was a retired LAPD officer who spends a few days per week working up at Hearst Castle. There are several of these guys and gals that help keep the place secure. They take the job pretty seriously, as you would expect from any LAPD-type. After a few hours, I was able to wear them down with humor. I found they responded very well to anti-lawyer humor, btw. So keep that one in mind in case you ever get in a pinch.
Everyone there was extremely nice, and I loved the opportunity to capture Hearst as it is meant to be captured. I kept returning to this fountain time and time again — until the skies and light was just right…
New Interview with Matt Brandon
Matt is a really nice guy, and I enjoyed our time together for the interview. He runs a website called The Digital Trekker, and he has just recently posted the interview at that link. His podcast is called “Depth of Field”, so be sure to check it out!
Want to know something really strange? We were on the same flight from Tokyo to San Francisco a few weeks ago, and I didn’t even know it! I found out about this later via Twitter — he walked by me, and I was deeply engrossed in something on my laptop!
Daily Photo – Under the Docks in California
Some of you remember the great photowalk we had down in San Clemente. I really had a good time there. On my photowalks, typically I stop from time to time and tell the assembled crowd what I am doing. Well, I finally got a chance to process this quintet!
I felt fortunate to have a good friend that had an amazing condo that overlooked this same beach. Frankly, after a long day and night of shooting, I felt spoiled and happy just taking a few more steps to my pad… grabbing some cool drinks… opening the patio doors to listen to the surf… good times!
Update! I got to spend a whole afternoon with Hans!
To get that full story, see “Hans Zimmer in His Studio.”
First Round – Hi Res Versions Now Avail
When I first got to Hans Zimmer’s Lair, I posted a few photos, but only one had the hi-res link. I know sometimes people like to click through to see the huge size and check out all the details.
Now, you can click through all of them here below. To see the full size, click on the photo, and then click on the “O” for “Original size” at the top of the SmugMug page. It’s a little hard to see there – it’s right beside the “X Large” text at the top.
Daily Photo – Hans Zimmer’s Studio
It takes me a long time to process these photos, as you guys know by now. This is good and bad… One side-benefit of the “good” is that it allows me to leave many open threads and story-lines that are continued for months and years on end (much like Lost, where certain bits get lost forever). For example, I know everyone is waiting to hear about the dead body I saw in Indonesia… people love dead body stories. But you have to wait for the next Indonesia street shot for that! Hehe…
Today, I have three more photos from the studio.
The first is his massive bank of monitors that almost circumnavigate his keyboard. His team blanked out all the monitors so I could not capture his next secret project (which is not nearly as cool as his secret project with me, which is, indeed, so secret that Hans does not even know about it yet).
The second photo is of his grand piano where I assume his plans many of his compositions. He had a very cute photo there of his son, like any good dad. I normally don’t re-arrange scenes, but I did move that photo to protect the privacy of the family.
The third photo is the serpentine wiring system that keeps all the electrons flowing in the right directions. Seeing this, I’ll no longer fret the next time I need to go re-wire my home stereo.
Upcoming Guest Blogger
In not too long, I look forward to featuring a surprise guest blogger sometime this week. I have the whole article ready to go, and we will spring it on you soon!
You might enjoy these previous guest bloggers, for something a bit different:
- Miss Aniela – a photographer friend in the UK. Maybe I can talk her into stopping by the workshop!
- Kook Ewo – with a name like that, he’s gotta be cool!
Daily Photo – One Plane Alone at the End of the Night
Here we are at Santa Monica Airport deep in the night. It was quiet. And peaceful.
I spend a massive amount of time at airports. I’m usually totally alone, and, most of the time, this is perfectly all right. I’ve developed an ever-changing internal dialog that keeps me mentally stimulated at all times. I’m glad no one can read my thoughts… surely they would find the cacophonous chorus to be the height of lunacy. And then, when things finally bubble over, well, it is nice to have a kindred spirit around.
Update! I got to spend a whole afternoon with Hans!
To get that full story, see “Hans Zimmer in His Studio.”
I Approach my Quarry!
Six days ago I was up at 3 AM, listening to Hans Zimmer while editing photos, and then I had an idea for a project with him, so I made a blog post. Now, less than a week later, I was in his studio in California!
For those of you that don’t know who Hans Zimmer is, he’s, like, the Liger of composers. He did the soundtrack for The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes, and many more! In fact, back when I was in college and had a double major in Computer Science and Geophysics (I dropped the Geophysics bit after a fight with the professor), I commandeered the SGI machine in the Geology department to make a computer animation, and I set the whole thing to one of Zimmer’s songs from Backdraft called “Burn it All”. So, in short, I’ve had Hans Zimmer’s music in my head for about 20 years.
The Story of How I Got Into Hans Zimmer’s Studio
It’s because of you! We have millions of visits here on the blog every month, and you all know how thankful I am for your repeat patronage. It’s tough to get a pretty photo up every day, and I thank you for all your feedback! So, when I put out the call in my newsletter, I got a ton of responses. My math-guess was that I was one or two degrees away from Hans, especially since there are many creative-types that are regular visitors.
Also, many of you hyper-active types (like me!) talk to me, ask questions, and follow me on Twitter — thank you for being responsive to real-time requests and news.
About an hour after I sent out the newsletter at midnight, I got a response from a German gentleman (name private) who is friends with Hans! In fact, he told me he was going to see Hans the next day at his studio near Hollywood! He did a few things to help out, and, although I could not meet Hans today, I did get an amazing opportunity to take photos of his studio. I knew I could make his studio look the way it feels — I had a sublime confidence I could make it happen. Anyway, I was like a kid in a candy store. I got a ton of shots… I only had time to process four of them.
Hans Zimmer’s Studio
I don’t know if words do it justice, but I hope these photos do.
The studio is even bigger than I thought, and I was reminded of the Crimson Lounge in Chicago. In fact, I pulled up the image on my laptop there on the table to compare textures and light. I thought everything worked well together — the decadence and richness of the decorations integrated with the technology. I don’t know if there is a word for such a look… It’s something out of a Phillip Pullman novel, somewhere between Steampunk and Techno-boudoir. Again, words fail.
The first two photos I have placed on Flickr. You can click on them to go to Flickr and then zoom into the full-res size. Amazing details — especially in the chair photo. I’ll post more in coming weeks, months, and years, as usual. So, stay tuned… my ongoing quest continues!
More photos from the studio…
I put these in a later blog post… and came back to post them here too.
Synthetic Happiness and Photoshop
I have a strange array of answers I give when people ask me questions at book signings and stuff. I recently met a cool guy named Casey Berner, and he asked me if I ever “go back” to a photo after I am done to work on it again. I told him no, and then referred to a TED video from Dan Gilbert. Most of the time, I say this stuff and people just nod… but I don’t really know if it sinks in. But it did with Casey – in fact, he wrote a whole blog post on it and included the video I mentioned!
Coming to California
I’ll be coming out to California soon… to both LA and Northern California. I’ll be sneaking into a few bookstores here and there to secretly sign books. I hope things are warmer there than here!
Daily Photo – Sunset Under the Pier
We had a great time at the workshop today! After a sunset dinner at the Oasis, we came back to the Driskill and I offered to let people watch me stay up late and process photos. Everyone came but Cliff Baise who was probably drunk. (Actually, during the workshop, Cliff uploaded this cool pic to Flickr).
I processed three images, and I had a bear of a time with this one from Manhattan Beach. It was a class “HDR Problem” shot that had ghosting in the waves, a dirty gray sky, and unfortunate artifacting. I showed everyone how to fix these problems, and I hope some of it sunk in!