My Hollywood Adventure, Part 2 of 3

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.

They don’t.

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.

  • Pingback: My Hollywood Adventure – Part 1()

  • casusan

    What?? Only three parts?? I think this could go to 5 6 or 7 parts!! Your musings are great – so much like many of all of ours – the pluses and minuses of each situation and our surroundings – like how you always remember the day something terrible happened – guess it is like this too for ‘good’ things! Waiting and waiting for part 3!

  • You have a great talent for writing, i find it hard to read but i have managed to stick through and real p1 + p2 come on p3! It is also kind of suspenseful, not knowing what the story is leading to.
    And again love the photos!!

  • Maybe a whole other section of ‘Stuck In Customs’ should be dedicated to stuff similar to your trip to Beverley Hills. It’s interesting reading and the photos are excellent however I think I would be sad to see the ‘Daily Photo Adveture’ be changed – to me getting up and looking at your daily HDR stuff in the morning is more important and way more inspirational and motivating than watching the news or reading a newspaper. You get to see the world without, wars or politics as it REALLY is through your work!

    As for ideas for a future ebook – I saw a great idea in amongst your musings that I would definitely buy – it would be called ‘Spidey-Sense, a compendium of oratory comebacks to jobsworth anti-photography enforcers’ by Trey Ratcliff – cool or what?

    Anyway here’s one of the posturing, alpha-male paparazzi guys I encountered at the golf recently with his bazooka-cam :-

  • Hello again,

    One single conclusion: BRAVO 🙂
    Also I would suggest you to write more because you have an absolutely unique style and you could complement your tribulations with some more words. I know you write a few words before each photo-of-the-day but you could begin a whole new section of this blog where the dominant part would be your written opinions, or a even a new blog.
    I guarantee you would have at least one follower 🙂

    Carry on,


    Will we find tomorrow why were you at CAA ? 🙂

  • Cruzing

    Hi Trey,

    Looks like to travel the world… any plans to travel down under?

    I’m sure you can find hundreds of things to keep you busy walking, taking photo’s & processing like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, the Rocks, Blue Mountains etc…

    Love the passion and drive, keep it up you are a true ambassador.


  • Gail in Montana

    Ok, I’m ready for part 3. At least I’ll have more time tomorrow morning, maybe, to read it tomorrow. If we end up going to Yellowstone, I won’t read it until I get back. Waiting to hear from my friend working down there in one of the campgrounds. So I may or may not be in suspense a bit longer, yikes!!!

  • Thanks for the comments…

    Cruzing – yes we will be in Australia for sure. It’s on list for 2011 !

    Gail – hehe okay – well no worries it will be waiting for you. I’m afraid I’m building up to something that is bigger than the billing..!

    casusan – hehe no time to do a 7 part series with these 3 kids!

    Alexandru – thanks! Well… I would really like to do that actually, but it takes so much time. I will do it on occasion though… I don’t want to get burned out!

    Andrew – thx for the thoughts and the flickr pic!

    NIck – thanks – hope it is not like the ending to Lost !

  • i used to work across the street from there. even though i’m from LA i’m still amazed at all the cars lined up in the CAA building…

  • Waiting with baited breath, Trey. I do like your processing a lot.;-)

  • Really enjoyed both parts so far. Don’t normally spend that much time reading longer blog posts but yours are fresh and captivating. Still haven’t warmed up to the idea of only using a 50 but I guess I can’t really knock it till I have tried it. Can’t wait till pt.3. A Fellow Texan, Mike
    ps hot at 75….give me a break

  • Love hearing your musings, your mind working, the thoughts that came to you while walking around. Oh, and the photos are awesome too. 😉 Looking forward to part 3!

  • The ramblings of your mind bring a big smile to my face, as your images to to my mund!!

  • LOVE Neal Stephenson! I’ve read just about everything he’s written (esp the old stuff). Loved Diamon Age, SNow Crash and esp Cryptonimicon. As an IT geek that one was the coolest. Go Bletchley Park!

  • Great to hear… sometimes I worry about writing too much about my thoughts, feelings, etc etc… I guess I am gun-shy about being overly solipsistic — but I can do more of this stuff… thanks again!

  • The square format is a personal favorite of mine, probably because medium format was where I got my start in photography. BTW, I downloaded the trial version of Topaz today, and if I’m not mistaken, I think I see some of those effects used here 🙂 That plug-in is a definite keeper!

  • Jennifer – yes – Topaz touched a bit of those – so did the one from Nik — you’ve seen that review here too maybe?

  • You know, I haven’t checked out Nik software in a long time, Trey. Yes, I ‘ve noticed your review here :), but in the past, I’ve always looked at their examples and said to myself, “I can do that in Photoshop”. Topaz, on the other hand, totally bowled me over; gave me that “can’t live without it!” kinda feeling. But, given your enthusiasm for Nik, maybe I should give it another look!

  • I really enjoyed your musings about the trip to Hollywood. I have traveled there several times for business and found it an interesting place to stroll. I especially enjoyed your photos from the trip. Your HDR photos are wonderful, but it’s great to see some of your other photographic techniques. I think it provides balance to your repertoire.

    It was also great to find a fellow Neal Stephenson fan. Diamond Age is one of my favorite books of all time.

    Keep up the great work. It’s nice to be able to count on a daily update.

  • Arlene

    Trey, enjoyed your pictures, your writing and your passion for life and sharing your experiences with us! You are inspiring!
    I stayed at the Century Plaza years ago when I was doing consulting work and one of the chambermaids told me, an Arab Princess was staying on the floor above mine and booked the whole floor and tipped them $500 each! I enjoyed my stay there, they have become international and serve Japanese breakfast with miso soup! Write on!

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