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Velodrome Portraits

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

For those of you who don’t know what a velodrome is, it’s a track for cycling. Basically, it’s a banked oval track for bike rides to go really fast around. As it happens, there’s one in Balboa Park near my home. Tuesday is race night. It’s great to go sit in the stand, watch some fun racing, drink beer and have an evening picnic.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve also brought my camera for some portraits of the riders. I especially love photographing the kids. They’ve got such great personalities.

John

Cambodian Countryside

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Unfortunately, I got stuck an extra day in Phnom Penh. Ugh. I reserved a plane ticket for the morning - but because of the new year holiday, I wasn’t able to pay until the morning. By then my reservation had expired and the plane sold out. Bummer. The next flight was that afternoon so I filled my time with getting caught up on blogging and downloading images.

My advice to anyone traveling to Phnom Penh is to stay there for one day. Tick the sights and then leave. More than one day, regardless of what your travel agent says, simply isn’t necessary to taste the unremarkable flavor of this capital city.

The flight to Siem Riep was short and comfortable. The plane, a puddle jumper, was nearly empty but super clean and brand new. The flight took about 35 minutes - barely enough time to watch that episode of Entourage that I had loaded onto my iPad.

The next morning, I joined Peace of Angkor guide Dave Perkes and driver Kimleng on a two hour drive out of the city to some ruins way off the beaten track. The last hour of driving was over serious off-road trails where we would have easily gotten lost but for the local guide that we picked up along the way.

Now, I should add to all this that I’d picked up a cold in Singapore that I’d managed to fight off - until today. At the same time, I picked up an intestinal bug in Phnom Penh (another reason not to like that city) so I was ready to run to the outhouse at any given moment - not a pleasant prospect in Cambodia where their idea of a developed toilet is often a ceramic ditch into which you pour water from a nearby container to flush it. That and the heat sapped my strength something ferocious. Basically, I was a semi-lifeless wreck trying to make do as we hiked through the jungle to find some interesting but probably-not-worth-the-effort sculptures of elephants and tigers.

In fact, the stuff that we looked at wasn’t nearly as interesting as the people that we met along the way. These kids allowed their curiosity to guide them as they followed us around at our first stop.


So I mentioned that I had this intestinal bug. Well, I should add that Cambodia is notorious for having millions of land mines still in place from its long civil war. Every year, children and farmers are blown up from treading in uncleared areas. Anywhere near the tourist areas is not a problem, but we were many miles off the beaten path.

Thus I wasn’t too surprised to hear that there were land mines in the area of our adventure. Now I don’t know if they were pulling my leg, but I did take the prospect of getting my legs blown off seriously. Where this fact and the fact that I had a serious case of the runs intersects is in that I was now afraid to leave the trail to go to the bathroom (and of course there were no actual bathrooms around).

Dave, my guide, assured me that so long as my poop weighed less than 22 kilos, the minimum weight needed to set off a land mine, I’d be okay. Ha ha. As Fred Flintstone would say, “so droll, so very droll.” The joke was even less funny considering that defecating under the influence of a tropical third-world intestinal bug does not result in anything resembling solid. But I’m telling you more than you care to know.

As I put a smiling face on my discomfort, we visited a cave known for it’s large bats. It also served as the home for a hermetic monk. Here’s his home.

Here’s a portrait of our cave guide in his two-hut village.

Afterward, we stopped by a river popular with the locals. There’s a waterfall that was perfect for a cool soaking. One great thing about Cambodia is that few, other than children who just jump in naked, bother to get out of their street clothes when they go for a dunk. So I went in too. Man it felt so good! The misery I was feeling just washed away - and because my clothes were wet, I stayed cool for a good while after.

There’s no public transportation in Cambodia so people just jump aboard the local third-world pickup. These vehicles are a common sight in the countryside. Consisting of nothing more than a generator with a flywheel hooked up to a long steering bar and four wheels, they noisily transport all manner of goods and people from village to village.

For many farmers, the age old ox cart is still the preferred mode of travel.

Our last stop of the day was a relatively small temple complex not far outside of Siem Riep. Finally, my reward for leaving Phnom Penh! The reason I opted to travel to Cambodia was because I’d heard and seen fantastic photos of Angkor Wat - a grandiose ancient Khmer Temple. But in reality, the area contains dozens of temples, both restored and crumbling. So finally putting my camera and my creative eye to work amidst the elegantly sculpted rock of the temple was a welcome task.




These local kids came out to entertain us with their jumping skills. Of course, they both asked for “one dolla” afterward. I gave them some cash for their performance. A buck for me isn’t much, but it goes a long way for their families.

Then it was back to the hotel for a cold shower and food. I shuffled next door for some tom yum soup then shuffled back to my room. I’m fully cooked and hoping that tomorrow will bring with it new energy and better health.

John

Dirtbag: Climbers and the Climbing Life

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

To most people, being called a dirtbag is an insult. To climbers, it’s not only something they do, it’s a point of pride.

Dirtbagging is actually the fine art of throwing one’s sleeping bag in the dirt without worrying about the all the niceities of civilization and/or camping. I can’t count the number of times I’ve happily tossed my sleeping bag on the gravel of the desert or the dirt of the mountains. It’s home to me.

Climbers are an inventive lot. They’re used to making do with very little in order to live most of their lives in the places where the rocks are plentiful and the climbing good. Miles, the climber below, has rigged his VW Bug so that he and his girlfriend can slip in through the back window and sleep in a custom made bed.

I used to live for climbing. I actually got my start in photography in shooting rock climbers climbing impossible routes. These days, I’m lucky to climb once a year. I’ve come to realize that, as much as still enjoy climbing, I appreciate the people and camaraderie even more. My mission is to document the people; I think they’ve all got great stories to tell.

At some point, I’d like to collect these images into a book. My working title for it is “Dirtbag.”


A climbers version of American Gothic.





Then there’s the climbing. Steep rock and splitting cracks are the stuff of climbers’ dreams.



All images were shot in a RAW format and imported into Lightroom. The black and white images were converted using the Toolkit Preset Kit Bitchen B&W conversion. The Warm Tone preset was added along with the Heavy Vignette. Three clicks and done!




The VW van, the consummate climber’s vehicle.



When I used to climb, climbers lugged their gear in legitimate backpacks. Now, folding pads are the rage. The idea is that when you’re climbing small boulders, they give you something to cushion your fall. They makes people look a walking domino though.

There’s a popular climb in Joshua Tree called Right Ski Track. It’s right in the center of the campground and in front of the parking lot. The climb is not easy though. Whenever I see someone starting on it, I always like to head over because I know there’s some exciting sports action coming up. Here’s Mike from North Carolina logging some flight time on it.

The agony of defeat.

Next door to Right Ski Track is… Left Ski Track. Here’s a climber contemplating the steep route.

Dick Cilley, yes that’s his real name, use to sell gear around Joshua Tree 30 years ago when I first started climbing. I hadn’t seen him for 20 years. Then I ran into him hitch-hiking up the road into the park. The day was cold and raining, but that wasn’t stopping him.

And Tucker Tech, another ubiquitous character in the climbing world. Though he’s done more than his share of dirtbagging, he’s now graduated to caretaking a 100 plus acre ranch inside the park. An unlikely exit strategy, but an effective one nonetheless.

John

Speakertext Startup Team Portraits

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

My younger brother is the CEO of a Silicon Valley startup company called Speakertext. One day soon, they may be big! Until them, I’m one of their chief investors, the chauffeur, company photographer and the guy that buys pizza while they work late getting ready for a big tech conference for which they’ll be providing services.

Well the last three have been my roles during my visit with them over the past few days. Seeing as how only one of them has a car and money is scarce, I help where I can.

Here’s Tyler. He’s actually the most mild-mannered of the team. Not only does he do the coding for the client interface, he also does dishes. Were it not for him, the “Speakercave” - the frat-like apartment where they live and work - would probably descend into complete disaster.

“M2″ is the other Matt in the operation. He does the speech recognition and back-end work.

Matt, my brother and CEO. He’s the mouth of the operation.

The three bro-skies all gussied up for their photo. (Anyone who is cool is a brosky.)

All images were processed through Lightroom using the Photographer’s Toolkit Superpop preset.

John

Portrait of a Baby

Monday, August 24th, 2009

One of my past wedding clients gave baby boy just over a week ago. I love getting photos when the baby is still fresh and newborn. I decided to play around a little with this one. The client laughed when they saw it - they said something about me being “really creative.” Actually, I can’t take credit for this look. I did this as an homage to Nadav Kander. It’s similar to a look he uses for many of his editorial photos. I just thought it would be fun to play around.

John

Ashley & Jamie - Engagement Shoot

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

I’ll be photographing Ashley and Jamie’s wedding at the Grand Del Mar coming up in October. Today, I did an engagement session with the two. At this point, I think that most folks who follow my blog know that I like to do things a little differently. I like to capture personality and tell a story. Ashley and Jamie met in acting class are both expressive and not afraid of the camera.

Before the shoot, we came up with the idea of a mid-century theme. We had fun doing a little thrift store shopping before the shoot. We picked up the coffee pot, cup, jacket and turtle neck. I loved Ashley’s outfit! Not only was it perfect for the occasion, it came from her (stylish) grandmother.

I shot a bunch of other photos of the two of them goofing around, having fun and being all lovie dovie. I’ll try and post some of them later.

John

A Portrait of a Family

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

John

Bridal Portraits - San Diego

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I photographed Galiya and Derek’s wedding at the Darlington House back in December. I guess she didn’t get enough of being in front of the camera so she asked me after the wedding if I’d be interested in doing a “trash the dress” shoot. I like to think of it as a just a plain ol’ bridal portrait, though definitely not your mother’s portrait session.

We started out in the industrial area just south of downtown. I liked the idea of contrasting the beautiful bride against the busy commercial background.


Somehow, I got the idea of having her smoke a cigar so Derek picked one up from the Cuban cigar factory in the Gaslamp. This shot’s one of my favorites. I guess it’s just so un-bridal.

Towards the end of the shoot, it started to drizzle. The evening air was cold enough so that the ocean water seemed warm by comparison. We were both pretty much soaked, but the water actually kept us warm. It was only once we got out that the cold and the water and the sand got to us.

In the photo, it looks like you can see light from the setting sun. That’s actually my flash. Without it, these shots would have looked looked as cold and dreary as the evening actually was.

John

Baby Iris

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Just got back from New York City last night. We flew just south of some amazing - and scary - thunderstorms. The weather report said they were generating tornados. Seeing the lightening flash nonstop out of a monstrous vortex was an awesome experience. I was glad to have my feet back on the ground though.Today, I helped Ashley with a baby shoot in the studio. I’m testing a new camera so it gave me a chance to play around.

John

School Photo Day

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I was recently asked to do the school photos for the graduating class at the La Jolla Children’s School
in, where else, La Jolla. I’m their unofficial artist in residence and go to photographer. At first, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought doing the school photography. Visions of crappy backdrops, cheap combs and bored expressions left me inclined to pass on the opportunity.

But then I got to thinking, what if I made this an assignment for the kids in that the photo should tell something about who they are? I stuck with the idea of the backdrop, but decided to take it down to nearby La Jolla Shores beach. Instead of just cropping in on the seamless paper, I captured some of the background to give the shots a sense of place. I used a strobe to provide the soft light on their face.

And finally one with the whole class. I only wish my school photos were this cool.

John