While I’m not far away from an old, creepy mansion, much of my small town on the outskirts of LA County goes all out for Halloween. This is a fairly recent development, and for the first time I took the Leica M240 out to capture some of the ongoing decorations. I’d kinda love it if my town became known as Halloween Town.
The first month of the year has been eventful in many ways. For me it hasn’t been very eventful photographically. I’ve had jobs cancel due to pandemic worries. I’ve found myself once again preoccupied with household chores and projects that somehow never got finished during the actual lockdowns. The camera has been down.
Last night, however, the Santa Ana winds came through–hard. I was born and raised here in Southern California, and never have I experienced winds like these. Gusts of over 60 mph blasting through my quiet little suburban enclave nestled up against the Angeles National Forest. I didn’t sleep well as I witnessed helplessly the winds tear apart my backyard, moving furniture and toppling pottery. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that on the hillside below our home are very old and very tall trees that protect us from the elements. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window during the storm to see that several had fallen into a neighbor’s property, damaging their fence and crushing their patio.
In the morning, all seemed to be still as I woke up from a few hours of sleep. I photographed the fallen trees above.
Today meant a lot of clean up and some rest. I heard crews around town cleaning up the destruction from last night. Later on I stopped by an old park that I often photograph. Several large old pines fell in the winds, completely uprooted. Several folks stopped to see the massive roots shoved above ground.
I lost my stepdad to cancer a few years ago, and besides being a huge guiding force in my life, we did a lot of photography together. He left behind a trove of cameras and gear, including a few film cameras that were loaded with film he’d already used for a few shots. One of these was a Leica M7. It took me awhile (it seems a little too long, now) to finish the roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 that was inside. I actually had no idea what film it was until I had finished it out.
With the recent passing of legendary photographer, Tom Stoddart, I’ve been spending time thinking of some of the most celebrated masters of street photography (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Elliot Erwitt, Vivian Maier) and how mundane they might have felt their everyday lives might have been. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve struggled with creative stagnation during this extended time in pandemic. How did they stay so close to their work and still keep it interesting?
Walking about with this loaded M7 was a change up. It felt like driving blind. I’m old enough to remember shooting film, but never with manual settings. What film was in this camera? What lens do I use? Am I going to completely mess this up while unloading the camera?
Turns out I actually did completely mess up a roll of film in another camera my stepdad had loaded. Not my greatest of moments. The world will never know what photos he’d gotten there. The shots he’d gotten on this roll were either blurry or completely gray. I’ll never know the when and the how there. But I did find a small local photo lab that processed and scanned the shots managed to get. I have to say, I’m enjoying the results way too much.
I think of these as mundane, but close to my mindset. The solitude of the times meeting my prolonged grief meeting my creative mind searching to keep photography interesting to me.
The days in November seem to quicken as they go by, probably since they do. And this is made worse by the coming of Standard Time (the fall-back time change). People seem to love the extra hour of sleep, while I bemoan the shortened days. The sun sets around 4:45 p.m., and I can’t get anything done. I do revel in the changing light, though. Everything starts to become tilted and surreal. Dali-esque shadows stretch lengthily across streets and sidewalks.
I’ve been busy with client work since the world as started to reopen again (thank you, vaccines). I’m grateful for the work, and it reminds me to get back to shooting personal work again. I’ve been creatively depressed during the various lockdowns and, while I can’t stand the crowds back out again, I’ve been taking the few extra moments to go on photo walks with whatever camera I have on hand.
I have to admit that finding any sense of creative flow over the last eight or so months has been a challenge. The summer was hot, arid, and felt long. The remnants of “pandemic brain” have slowly started to recede as I find I have things to look forward to once again. As the world seems to surge back to activity. As my COVID vaccine does its job, allowing me to be in a world to some extent.
A short visit to my weekly local farmers market. An exploration of tone.
These are my fall colors thus far.
An early heatwave hit Southern California and for some reason I thought it a good idea to hit the desert for a weekend in Palm Springs at a friend’s house. This is normally calm, relaxing, and fun with plenty of libations flowing by a cool pool.
It was somewhat challenging this time around. The temperatures lingered around 116 degrees all day. It was so hot, the pool water resembled a lukewarm bath. My friend lightly burned his bare feet on the hot patio, and we even had a few power outages.
Still, as pandemic worries slow down steadily, and as the world starts or reopen, it was nice to walk around (yes, in hot noon sun) with the Leica TL2 taking in bars full of chattering patrons under the palms of Palm Springs.
I realize my posts are pretty heavy on the black and white images, when normally I enjoy vibrancy, bright colors, lots of contrast. The truth is the last few weeks have been a doozy for me personally. Much of where I’m feeling mentally has been marked by a sense of melancholy. The bleak skies of Southern California during fire season. The tilt of the earth as seasons change and shadows lengthen. On a fairly decent day, one that was still blazing hot, I took my camera out near my old hometown of Ontario and snapped this vintage bowling alley, Bowlium. Only to realize of course that the Bobcat Fire had sent up a new plum of smoke and seemed to be heading toward my home.
All is well at the moment. My main objective in a very chaotic time is still a lot of self care.
Most of my photography began with taking street photos. I had just moved to NYC and had a small point and shoot camera, this was long before smart phones.
My stepdad, also a photographer, saw some snapshots I’d emailed him and insisted I keep shooting, and eventually gave me a hand-me-down DSLR.
The pandemic hit right as several years of my photography work with clients was starting to pay off. I’d spent a long time building a decent portfolio of work doing corporate events and portraits, and wasn’t doing much street photo work.
Like many freelance artists, I struggled with what to do as I faced an entire half of my year of canceled shoots and plans down the drain.
I have a few cameras I shoot with now, some that I’ve inherited. One being a Leica Q, which I’ve been taking out as often as I can during an intense summer of heat and California wildfires.
Safety is, of course, my priority. And while pandemic fatigue sets in and people on social media are posting group events forgoing masks or social distancing, I think people are still home and lonely. Loneliness isn’t exactly a bad thing to me. I hope I can convey that in these shots.