I've grown up around racing. Every weekend my brother, dad and I were either at the track or watching whatever racing was in season on TV. I'm not the biggest race fan... maybe I'm jaded from being around it so much my whole life. But I do have a soft spot in my heart for the sport. And I will almost never turn down an offer to spend a day at the track.
Recently my work had presented me the opportunity to spend the day at Pomona Raceway with an All Access Pass to take photos of Angie and Matt Smith, some long time dear friends of our brand. I couldn't say no.
I don't do much press photography nowa days. Most of my shooting is in a controlled environment where I can manipulate the lighting however I'd like, so this day was a bit more difficult than I imagined, mostly because they didn't hit the track until high noon. Which most photographers will agree is the most dreadful time to shoot. And I was a bit out of practice. But unfortunately the NHRA doesn't schedule their races around the best times to take pictures. So I had to make do.
The key here was trying to be mindful of where the light was coming from and positioning myself accordingly. But at high noon, this means the light is coming from almost directly overhead which means that no matter where you shoot from, its going to be awful. And unfortunately I don't have any neutral density filters for the lens I was using. Luckily, drag racing looks cool no matter what time of day it is. So thankfully, although they may not be perfect, I'm still pretty stoked on how the photos came out.
Some of the perks of working from a big name brand is getting to do things like this. I've grown up watching these events from way up in the grand stands or on TV. But the Smith team treated me and my co worker like family from the second we stepped foot in their pit until the minute we left. They showed us around, gave us the grand tour of their trailer, and let us sit there and watch them take apart and rebuild two bikes in less than an hour. And then walked us right up to the start line while they raced.
Ill tell you this, watching racing on TV can be brutally boring. Especially if you don't have any idea whats going on. But standing ten feet from a dragster when it takes off is an experience I will not soon forget.
Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
Recently, Michelle and I had our first anniversary. We decided that renting a little A-Frame cabin up in Big Bear for the weekend would be the best way to celebrate. For the three days we were there, we turned our phones to airplane mode and isolated ourselves from the interwebz so that we could take in every moment. And it was wonderful. We hiked with my dear old friend Lucas to the top of Castle Rock. Michelle took me to a rock formation near her old family cabin where she used to sit all the time. We even did some long exposures over the lake. Here are some photos that I took both with my Nikon D4s (Digital) and my Nikon FA (35mm film) inside the cabin, and out on our adventures.
The other day Michelle and I were looking for something to do to try to help get rid of a sickness she was feeling coming on. We thought it would be fun to hit this trail 10 minutes from her house that she had always passed by but never cared to venture out to. It was perfect.
We went right as the sun was starting to go down so there was a nice breeze and an even better view. The trail all in all (we didn't do the whole thing) took us about 20 minutes. We went as far as we wanted to go before it got to dark and then we headed back to the car. It was and fun little thing to do to enjoy a beautiful California sunset just before the rain hit to get out of the house for a bit. Sometimes we take for granted what's in our own backyards.
In the early 60's a Greek freight liner named The SS Dominator ran ashore on the Pales Verdes Peninsula while lost in thick fog on it's way to The Port of Los Angeles. After two days of the Coast Guard trying to recover the ship the crew abandoned it and let the heavy seas and wind push the ship further and further up onto shore. Over time the tides and rocks broke up the ship leaving only twisted heaps of rusty metal scattered along the peninsula shore. So we decided to go check it out.
Nothing like an early sunrise hike. No matter where you are, or what hike you are doing, doing it as the sun comes up can make it a most beautiful journey.
This particular hike was relatively easy. Hard to find, but it was short and easy. The majority of the trek was just a long a rocky beach. We found ourselves more focused on being mindful of our footing than the view around us. But with our eyes to the ground we noticed the ungodly amount of trash scattered along the beach.
Being so wrapped up in my Orange County bubble I had always heard about the trash pollution in the ocean. But my local beaches have always put a lot of effort into keeping the beaches clean so I've never really seen it with my own eyes. It's truly heartbreaking.
The hike is only about 2 miles long. Its mostly in the shade if you go in the early morning. The ship is cool. Or whats left of it. It's mostly unrecognizable twisted heaps of metal. The real pay off is the cove just past the wreckage.
All in all, a great way to start a beautiful Sunday.
So before I dive into my wonderful trip to Hawaii, I'll give you a little back story:
Growing up I didn't travel much. My dad is a workaholic single father of two that owns his own business so time for vacations and travel was hard to come by. The most traveling I ever did was for hockey which consisted of a few days at a time in suburban cities in states no one cares about where the team was not allowed to leave the hotel without supervision. And we never really left the hotels except to go to the rinks, the gym, and to eat.
Every so often we would take my dad's old Benz up to Northern California to visit is girlfriend at the time but again, we very rarely left her property. Though, there wasn't much need - she lived on two acres of land deep in Simi Vally. But at the time I was too young to appreciate the view.
The longest vacation we ever went on as a family was to Daytona, Florida for NASCAR's Speed Week which was a 10 day trip. I don't know if any of you have ever been to Daytona, Florida but there is not much to do there other than hang out at the track. It was a great time... Being that I was raised on racing, but it's not much of a vacation destination.
My point is that my dad has never been one for grand vacations. He has always told me stories about hitchhiking to Canada when he was younger but he's never been to Europe (to my knowledge) and has never seen New York. He travels a lot for work but this normally consists of getting a cheap but comfortable hotel for a night or two and doing his job and going home. His idea of a vacation is taking his girlfriend to his favorite villa in San Diego or taking my grandpa to a big race in Indianapolis. We are not the conventional suburban family taking summer vacations at the river or winter vacations to Mammoth. When I was younger we would share a cabin with The Harringtons up in Big Bear for the weekend once a year but that tradition was ended around age 15 after a few major snowboarding injuries.
I have always wanted to travel. But like... really travel. Backpack through Europe. Iceland. Spend a week or two in New York. Hike and camp my way through Zion. I have had the privilege of seeing most of the west coast and a lot of our beautiful country through touring. But the problem with touring is that you seldom spend more than 24 hours in one place at a time. So while you do get to see a lot of amazing places, it is only at a glance.
A few months before Christmas Michelle told me that this year for everyones Christmas presents, her parents got everyone plane tickets to Hawaii to visit her brother and sister in law. And to my pleasant surprise they were nice enough to invite me to come along with them. And with Hawaii being one of those bucket list destinations, I decided to bring my cameras and document the trip.
Here is my story... *KONG KONG*
We woke up at the ass crack of dawn to catch our flight on saturday morning. I had preloaded my iPad with the first season of Falling Skies hoping to pass the time on the plane. I hate flying. Not because I'm afraid of crashing, more-so because I don't like having to sit (without smoking) for long periods of time. I've never had to pleasure of sitting next to a pretty girl on a flight before though. Turned out to be surprisingly comforting.
We landed at Honolulu International in the late morning and walked out to the curb with all of our luggage. The rest of Michelle's family left to get their rental car while we stayed behind to wait for her brother to come pick us up.
After a few minutes of sitting, taking in the humidity and interesting decor of the airport, her brother pulled up with his wife and we scurried to his truck to meet them. After some awkward hellos (I had only met them once before... at a bar) we hopped in and off we went. We were to settle in at their house and then meet the rest of her family at Zippy's for lunch. Zippy's was described to us as the Hawaiian Denny's.
Driving through Honolulu for the first time was breathtaking. I'm sure I looked like a little kid at Disneyland for the first time. I didn't even take any pictures because I was too busy trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. I spent many weeks before the trip looking at photos on the internet and getting excited, but just like in every other distention, theres nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes.
I love culture shock. Going to new places and seeing how culture and life for locals is different than mine. It's so fascinating to me. This is one thing I was not expecting to find in Hawaii being that it is such a popular vacation destination within the United States. I figured it would be just like Southern California. I was VERY wrong.
First thing I noticed: You can't smoke ANYWHERE! There are no smoking signs everywhere you look. The few places you can smoke are small little areas far, far away from humanity. Unfortunate for a chain smoker like me.
We arrived at Matt and Lauren's house and much to my surprise is was a cozy little beach flat on the second story of a 2 unit building overlooking the water in Ewa Beach. We grabbed all of our crap out of his truck with their help and made our way to what we would call home for the next 8 days.
After we settled in and spent a little time breaking the ice with our wonderful hosts, we made our way to the Zippy's down the street to meet with the rest of her family for a late lunch.
While I grew up on high quality food and would never tell my dad that my first Hawaiian meal was at a place referred to as the Hawaiian Denny's, I was very surprised by how good my meal was. I'm sure some of that had the do with the fact that I hadn't eaten since the night before, but in any case it was still a good meal for what it was. While browsing through the menu I came across a waffle that was covered with fudge, caramel, and ice-cream... I swore to myself that I would find a way at some point in the trip to come back and devour this beautiful creation.
After we ate we went back to Matt and Lauren's to enjoy the sunset from the brake wall and swiftly passed the hell out after a long day of travel. We planned to wake up early and hike the next day so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of rest. Michelle and I both had the same feeling of urgency though. We wanted to do all the things all at once. See Pearl Harbor, hike the hikes, see the beaches, snorkel with the turtles, and we felt like we didn't have enough time to do them all. It hadn't quite sank in that we were going to be enjoying the fruits of Oahu for 8 beautiful days.
I started listening to Emarosa when I was about 16. It was right around the time their first EP was released and I loved it. Of course, I was young and listening to a lot of bands in the same vein. But once Johnny joined the band... Well... let's just say I moved on. Didn't care much for his voice or him as a person.
Over the years I didn't follow much of Emarosa's activity, other than the various headlines that Mr. Creig would make from time to time. So when Alt Press asked me to help interview the new vocalist along side the great Matty Mullins, the 16 year old me decided to give them a second chance. I was not disappointed.
These dudes put on a hell of a show. Being an opener on such a diverse lineup can be tough for a band still finding it's legs after a frontman change. But these dudes killed it. Arguably put on the best show of the night. And contrary to my every interaction with Mr. Creig, Bradley was a very humble and genuine dude. I didn't run out and buy their new album, but I will be keeping my ear to the ground with these dudes and maybe they will win back my affections.
Here are some of my favorite shots from that night at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA.
I met Devin a few years ago. He was friends with a dear friend of mine by the name of Kobi. I was just starting out with audio engineering and had just started up a little recording studio at my house. Kobi was a locally known hip hop artist and quite a popular figure at our high school where he played football with Devin. They struck up their friendship when they discovered a common liking for pop punk music. Devin being a talented guitar player and Kobi being an aspiring singer, they met up after school a few times to jam some cover songs and found that they didn’t sound half bad.
I came home from work one day to find Kobi sitting on my driveway with this pale, lanky kid and an acoustic guitar. As soon as I pulled in they started playing a cover of a song by Hit The Lights. I was pretty impressed, as Kobi had never mentioned to me that he could sing, and I had no idea who this other kid was. I asked them if they wanted to come upstairs and record a quick demo and they eagerly agreed.
At first, Devin and I didn’t get along. I had an ego, and he was younger and much less experienced in music than I was. But Kobi swore up and down that this kid was awesome, so I continued to work with them. I gave them a band name and helped them start up what would soon after become a semi successful band called Meaning In Masterpiece.
Fast forward a couple years…
After recording their first full length, I had all but lost touch with the MIM boys as they had grown past the point of my aid and experience. Kobi was a dear, childhood friend so he and I continued to hang out. He would call me for relationship and music advice often but I rarely talked to the rest of the band, including Devin. But Kobi’s priorities were all kinds of out of whack to say the least, and the band decided to part ways with him. It broke my heart to see Kobi split with the band after so much hard work had gone into making that band what it was. But being a musician myself, I understood the bands reasoning behind their decision and I told Kobi that if he wanted back in, he would need to make some serious lifestyle changes.
A few months later, Kobi passed away.
It was devastating to everyone. Devin was no exception.
I reached out to Devin because I was having a hard time dealing with the loss, and I figured that if I was having a hard time, Devin was having a hell of a time. We met up a few times in my favorite 711 parking lot just to vent. Talk about life, where we were going, what we were doing, and just be someone to not be alone with. We became very close. Funny how grief can do that.
The band continued to record, but after Kobi passed, they decided to change the name of the band. Most of the original members left the band over the course of the 2 years it took to finish the production of the record, including the drummer Aaron. At the time, I was playing for a band called Taylor Collins, so I had no interest in joining the band, nor did I get an invite.
But then my band broke up, and my girlfriend of 5 years left me. Back to pit of devastation and despair I went.
I had no idea what to do with myself. I had never been through a breakup like that and I didn’t have my one crutch that I always relied on to get me through emotional turmoil - music. I pushed away a lot of my friends and started to let myself drown in depression. It felt like I had nothing left.
I got a call from Devin. He just wanted to check and make sure I was okay. So I headed down to my favorite 711 parking lot and sat in my car with him and vented.
He asked me to join the band. At first I refused. I just wanted to sit in my sorrows and let my life swallow me up. I was in a lot of pain and struggling to just get up and go to work. The last thing I wanted to do was join a band. We hung out several times after that, just the two of us at 711. We got closer and closer with each congregation. Eventually, I realized I needed to do something with myself if I was ever going to get out of the slump and move on. So I reluctantly agreed to join the band.
Over the proceeding months, I dumped everything I had into this new band. I had nothing else to put my energy into and it felt good to get out a lot of my built up anger and aggression. We worked tirelessly to put together Moderne. And with the help of Devin and many other dear friends, I finally jumped the hurdled and moved on.
I’m sure that in those horrible months I was not good company. And I’m sure I damaged, and even ruined a few valuable friendships. But there was Devin, and a few others that stuck around. They cared enough, they knew that wasn’t me, and they knew that the storm would eventually pass. If it weren’t for Devin and his garage, and endless nights in the 711 parking lot, I’m not sure were I would be right now. He believed in me. He knew that I had something to offer and he wanted to give me the chance to share it. He never gave up on me. He stuck by my side and helped pull me from the depths of hell. And for that I will be forever grateful and I will never forget.
I met Kevin 5 or 6 years ago. He was in a band called The Messenger and I was friends with his drummer Zack. They were in need of some cheap demos at the time and I was in need of some clients with a name for themselves. So I agreed to record the pre-production for their sophomore release for next to nothing. When he showed up at my studio for the first time he gave off a… not so humble vibe. So right off the bat, we did not get along one bit. He was the guy in the band that wrote all the music and recorded all the parts. He had to be in control of everything and it drove me insane. At the time I was a young producer and engineer who thought he knew everything there was to know about producing a record, so when Kevin came along and basically said “thanks for opening the door, I’ll take it from here” it did not go over well.
Long story short - we never finished the pre-production and they ended up recording somewhere else. The sad part was that the songs were actually sounding pretty good being that they were just demos essentially. Kevin and I naturally did not keep in touch, but over the next couple of years he and a few mutual friends of ours developed what would become This Wild Life. Since I didn’t much care for Kevin, I didn’t really follow the band much other than what I heard through the grape vine. I know this story is kind of a downer so far - I promise it gets better. I’m starting to realize actually that a lot of my closest friendships started off with bitter hatred. Fascinating….
I don’t remember exactly what brought Kevin and I to a reconciliation point. But I’m sure it had something to do with video or photo. The earliest I remember having a civil interaction with him was when we filmed their cover of California. Which I remember being really awkward for me.
Shortly after that Kevin asked me to show him some basics on video editing because they were about to head out to Florida to record Clouded and they wanted to film some stuff while they were there. So I met him at a Starbucks to give him some quick tips and pointers and chat over a cup o’ joe. A liaison I thought would last no more than an hour.
We ended up sitting at that Starbucks until they closed and long after, sharing music, and talking music business and his plans for This Wild Life. I remember him being pretty unsure of the future of the band and kind of putting all of his eggs in Clouded’s basket. They had already been turned down by a handful of labels and their booking agent and management were not really working out. But his advice to me in my career’s journey, and secrets of the trade that he shared with me that day are still things I lean on today. To me, he was just another dude in a local band, just like me. With high hopes and brilliant strategies.
Since then, Kevin and I have been very close. He went off to record Clouded and they got their offer from Epitaph and off they went. I’m not sure what it was that humbled him up. Or what humbled me up. But he was not the same person that day that I knew years before.
He was there for me in some of my darkest times during the following year or so. He had gone through similar things, and had a lot of valuable advice to lend. And surprisingly, never lost interest in our friendship.
I thought with Kevin’s new found success he would leave me in the dust, like so many of my other friends had done in the past. But he didn’t. We remain very close still to this day. Every time he is home from tour he takes the time to grab lunch with me and shoot the shit. He continues to be a genuine friend.
Being in local music for so long, I’ve grown accustomed to making friends in the infant stages of their career. I do everything I can to help them along the way. And then they get their big break and all of the sudden they don’t need me around anymore. I’ve lost quite a few friends this way. And I thought for sure Kevin would be no different. But I was wrong, thankfully.
There is something to be said for someone who can stick by the people that were there when he was nothing. Stay loyal to his roots and the people that will be there if he falls back down to the bottom again.
The things I have learned from Kevin and the times that we have had together will be held dear to me for years to come. I am proud of his accomplishments and his humility. And I am of course proud to call him a dear, dear friend. See you at the top buddy.