May 5 – Quick desert escape before the Fair

Took the opportunity to escape to the desert house out on the Colorado River for a few days. It’s already hot enough in Parker, Arizona, to feel like summer. I wanted to relax a bit before the actual summer activities of the area begin–mainly boating, beaching, and day-drinking in the scorching hot sun. The area becomes a family vacationers and swimsuit-clad party animals looking to get tanked. I like to escape to the quiet.

We’ve been a part of this little desert community now since the early 1990s, when my grandparents bought what eventually would become their post-retirement home. When I was a kid, it felt like we were being dragged out there. The weather on the weekends we’d go out there would be unbelievably hot and my grandparents wouldn’t allow me and my siblings to watch TV. We were, of course, instantly bored and saved only by the prospect of going down to the water to go swimming. As an adult, I appreciate the little family house we have here much much more. It is both a refuge and a gathering place for raucous family gatherings.

My mini-cation was short-lived, as I had to book it home to start my month-long engagement with the LA County Fair. This is my second time with the Fair, though I’ve done many events with the Pomona Fairplex since. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and I feel privileged to be one of three photographers on staff for the month. The fairgrounds covers whopping 487 acres, making it the largest county fair in the nation. What I remember the most is feeling like this was an endless visual feast, quite literally sensory overload. I grew up going to this Fair, and somehow I still wasn’t prepared for the amount of stimulation. Thankfully, we started out with a Fair food preview day to ease into the experience.

Once the food preview was over, we headed into the first Fair weekend. What’s amazing is that this massive event is created and organized by a rather small office of staff. And of course, there’s a practical army of food and shopping vendors, sanitation staff, volunteers, security, artists, and many, many, more. I can’t show much of what I’m photographing here out of respect to my contract. After clocking in about 17,000 steps on my first day back, I am reminded that for some reason I really enjoy working these gigantic events.

April 21 – A Dutch newspaper, the Dodgers, street photography, and the Pasadena Playhouse Gala.

I found out that some of the work I did for the Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was featured in a Dutch newspaper. Hidde, a friend and colleague, sent me a photo of the paper. I also found the article online, if you speak Dutch and want to get past the paywall.

A friend of mine invited me to a Dodger game. I took my Nikon F3 loaded with Kodak 400 T-Max. I took a few shots. Haven’t developed the roll yet. This started me carrying a smaller 35mm camera with me to more places, something photographers talk about all the time but I sometimes find a little burdensome. Carrying a camera around the grocery store, to the gas station, the post office…it seems a little odd. Then again, the great street photographers carried cameras and film with them always. They’d either roam the streets all day, or shoot in any spare moment they had.

More and more, I wonder about street photography. My stepdad had introduced me to the idea years ago, and we even attended one of the first exhibits of the work of Vivian Maier in Los Angeles. It seems like over the last six or seven years, especially on platforms like YouTube, street photography became more about content creation than actually decent photos. Content churner-outers are more emboldened to stick cameras in strangers’ faces, the idea of consent goes out the window fairly easily. The mystique of street photography lies in photography books. The now-forgotten names of the faces in the works of Vivian Maier, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus, they peer out at us from another time. It’s easy to forget that they may not have consented to having their photo taken, while these were also eras when cameras weren’t so ubiquitous. No one was making content from street photography, because street photography didn’t pay. I’m not so sure it pays now since it doesn’t seem to be for anyone now, but for generations to come.

I’m in a swirl of photo editing from my steady stream of clients this month. I’ve been really happy with how much of the work has turned out, especially some of these shots from the Pasadena Playhouse annual gala. It was almost rained out, save for a set of elaborate clear catering tents. I put a prime lens on my DSLR and took advantage of the shimmer all around me from the raindrops falling on the enclosure.

April 7-13, 2024

This has been one of the busier weeks of the year for me. Event photography is my main business and it tends to be seasonal, so now is when many spring gatherings and galas tend to be underway. Starting out there was the California State Thespian Festival, an annual gathering of high school theatre students from across the state. There are competitions in acting, singing, dance, and technical theatre. There are dozens of workshops, performances, and leadership opportunities within the California State Thespians.

This was a favorite festival of mine back in high school. In fact, my theatre teacher has since retired but is still highly involved in the Educational Theatre Association, which helps theatre educators continue to provide good programs to their students. She is one of the several familiar faces I got to see there. I saw many more friends and colleagues who were teaching workshops during day two of the festival.

Anyone who knows me knows that my background is in theatre. All my artistic endeavors seem to start there. And I can’t emphasize enough just how important arts education–particularly theatre arts education–is for young people. This isn’t just a chance for kids to express excess energy. This is hands-on learning skills that apply across all career fields, including those elusive “soft” skills that are so hard to teach (empathy, listening, being present, etc.). A particular bonus is all the technical skills learned in the theatre arts. It truly is a head start in a rapidly changing world.

There was that little eclipse thing. There wasn’t much excitement here in SoCal. I noted the little crescent moon shadows in during peak eclipse time, then watched the live coverage on TV. I agree with many others that there is something nice about thousands of people coming to view such a major event.

The rest of this week has been essentially a marathon of photo days. (I resist the term “shoot” more and more as I continue working in this profession.) I could say more, but out of respect for my clients, I try to keep quiet until I’m done editing photos and delivering them. There are so, so many to edit and process. Thankfully, I’m pretty fast in that department.

This has been such a change of pace from the first few months of the year when all is essentially dead. When I seriously begin to doubt my choices while the days are still short and spring still seems far away. It’s definitely a good reminder of the seasonality of life. Right now is more of a harvesting season, as I see the fruits of several years’ work of planting seeds, nurturing relationships, developing best practices, and following through. Come summer, the harvest will slow and I’ll have to embrace a new season.