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Party on the Boardwalk - Fourth of July 2009

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This is the third year that I’ve been out on the boardwalk of Pacific Beach/Mission Beach in San Diego. What can I say, I love it. The scene has changed over the years. Unfortunately, drinking is no longer allowed on the beach. The big public party scene is over. Gone.

Instead, the private parties at the beach houses ruled. So, in pursuit of documenting this important day in the life of thousands of San Diegans, party crashing I went. Actually, half the people that I met were from Arizona. (Thank you AZ for keeping the patriotic beer bong spirit alive.)

There are those who party, and those who watch.

Everyone has a story. This fellow was sitting on the wall that separates the boardwalk from the beach. He was looking at everyone partying and having fun. He’s from AZ but going to school at the University of San Diego. USD is kind of San Diego’s version of USC - wealthy and white. So I asked him about that. He said that he’s there on a basketball scholarship.

Seeing him watching the partying going on seemed like a metaphor for something bigger. Why was he sitting on the sidelines watching? I don’t know, but I have my guesses.

Do I need to say how much I love this shot? I mean, a tongue, a tattoo, two girls and the American flag all wrapped into one decisive moment.

I have to say that this isn’t as easy as it looks. Getting these images takes dedication, hard work and tequila. I showed up with my van at 6:30 in the morning to grab a parking spot. Then I engaged in a steady diet of Newcastle beer followed by tequila. Which was in turn followed by plenty o’ cheap party beer. I generally start training in May so that I’m ready for the big event.

I like to go by myself. It’s easier to crash a party when you’re just one guy with a camera. If I was with a group of guys, I don’t think people would be so welcoming. Besides, I like to just float around and not have to worry about whatever anyone else is doing. I sort of feel like this Zelig character melding with my surroundings and the crowd. I’m fortunate because I look young (enough) and can fit in (sort of). In reality, I’m probably as old as some of their parents.

This is me with a girl who confused me for the guy from Girls Gone Wild. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he’s in jail.)

I can’t do my craft and create my art without people willing to open up and allow me to photograph them. To all of you, thanks! I’m also thankful to everyone who let me crash their party. To those that kicked me out, screw you.



Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Before I became a photographer, I was a rock climber. It was my life. I traveled around the country in search of the ultimate climbs and even to France where I lived for a few months. To this day I never feel as home as I do in the mountains. Although I don’t do much climbing anymore, it still defines who I am.

My photographic career actually began with me photographing my friends as they attempted some of the best and hardest climbs in the world. Often I lived in a tent or in a house with a dozen other climbers. Looking back, those moments were some of the most blissful in my life. Today, when I show up in Camp 4 in Yosemite or traipse through the oddly rounded boulders of Joshua Tree, I may not know a soul, but I still feel as though feel surrounded by long-lost friends.

In years past, when I’d aim my camera towards climbers, I’d focus on the steep rock and physical beauty of the scene. These days, I’m more interested in the people. It’s what I call the other side of climbing. Even though I don’t climb much anymore, I’m still a climber through-and-through. It’s part of my essence and my language. This album of images tries to capture that.

The following images are presented in the context of the printed book in which they appear.

The guy on the left is John Bachar. The impact he’s had on my life is indescribable. He was at one time the undisputed best rock climber in the world. In college, I had posters of him climbing - without rope - vertical granite walls that I only dreamed of. Awhile back, the sport changed and John went in his own direction. Still he remains an icon.

Which is why it’s fitting that I placed his portrait next John Long’s, another giant in the world of climbing. (The first one day ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan ranks as one of his great achievements.) I first ran into him when I was just starting to climb. My partner had taken a long fall to the ground - screaming the entire way down. Fortunately he was mostly ok, though shaking and babbling.

Largo - as John Long is known - came over to see if he was okay. Jeff, my climbing partner, still scared from his experience quickly perked up at the sight of this climbing legend. Jeff mumbledĀ  something about this being the end of his climbing career. Largo responded in his trademark booming voice, ” Ho man! Don’t give up the sport!”

Those words still ring in my ears whenever giving up begins to feel like an option.

These two fellows are brothers, Alex and Thomas Huber. Understanding what great climbers do is difficult for nonclimbers to even comprehend. These two climbed the 4,000 feet of vertical to overhanging rock of El Capitan in Yosemite in two hours and 45 minutes. To put this in perspective, it takes most people about four hours just to hike that distance. Imagine climbing a 4,000 foot ladder with most of the rungs missing (and death the certain consequence of screwing up) and you’ll have an idea of the stamina and fearlessness required for the feat.

For those interested in the technical details, the portraits were all shot with my 4×5 view camera using a 150mm lens. The film I used was Polaroid Type 55 - now discontinued. The borders you see are inherent in the film - they’re not some digital effect. With a 4×5, there’s no ability to focus when shooting. I instruct he subject, who’s about two feet from the camera, to stay absolutely still while I load film, close the lens and snap the shutter. The focus is so shallow that any slight move will ruin the image.

Still, there’s a look to the images that can’t be duplicated with anything else. The Polaroid produces a negative which I scan and then print from the digital file. The other images were either shot with my 1d MII or my 5D.

John Mireles

Advertising Shoot for Odyssey Golf

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I got a call from the agency for Odyssey golf putters last week to shoot an ad for a new line of putters. They were looking for something kind of fashion-ish to target women golfers. I showed them some recent work and they ended up hiring me. We did the shot at the Balboa Park golf course in the middle of the day.

The agency “comp” (short for composite - which is the drawing or dummy layout of the proposed ad) called for a shot of a woman looking strong and kind of heroic. They wanted all sky in the background and she needed to be looking to the right since the ad will run over two pages. I gave them a variety of shots to choose from. Here’s three different looks that I came up with:

golfer 3

golfer 2

This one is my favorite. They won’t be able to use it though since it’s not a vertical. Still, I’ll use it in my portfolio.


Advertising work is so much different from shooting weddings. We took all afternoon to get one shot. I think I took over a thousand images for just the one ad. With weddings, I’m lucky to get five minutes for one shot. You really have to think on your feet. That’s part of what makes them fun too.