Yesterday night that gorgeous sunset drew me and my drone out. I had my safety beacon on so I lingered above my house a little longer, because I could not take my eyes off this. I think Redondo by night has a wonderfully rich vibe. It’s not the unmistakably Californian beach city is it by day. Once the Beach Boys store their surfboards, Redondo dons two completely different souls.
Looking South, it looks more Mediterranean than ever. Almost a busy Greek city, close to Athens, or Crete, with the Palos Verdes Hills adding to the Hellenic flavor.
Looking North, it’s totally different. It’s Urban, it’s Hard Boiled as Redondo fades into the rest of the South Bay and into Los Angeles, further away. It looks like intrigues and nightlife and warm drives in a slow but nervous traffic. A song started playing in my head, B.B. King’s “Into the Night”.
As some of you may know, the song introduces a John Landis’ movie by the same title, and the opening scene is an airplane approaching and touching down at LAX at night, as the song begins.
I’m curious to see what these views inspire in you, what they remind you of, what they make you feel like?
I biked to my Friday breakfast burrito at Joe’s, so I could detour by the Pier on my way home. It’s not a heroic feat, but it did take a little motivation to ride my bike at 5:50 instead of just slipping into the Mustang whose engine would have hummed a smoother transition from sleep to wake.
(The recommended soundtrack to these images is Chet Atkin’s album Sails).
The motivation paid off, I think. I love the Pier at any time of the day, but especially in the early morning when it’s all half asleep and pink and light blue.
The endless skyway has been a constant source of inspiration in the past few weeks. The Western monsoon clouds, flying my drone in Arizona and Utah, yesterday’s serendipitous encounter with the flight to Seoul… and this morning I took my drone up here at home, in Redondo Beach.
Two sunny mornings in a row? After a very gloomy beginning of summer, this might be the end of the No-Sky July? Waiting to find out, I produced a little video to celebrate the beauty of a summer morning where everything is green, golden and blue.
I brought my 100-400 lens to the beach earlier as Anne-Claire and I ordered pizza from a new truck on the Esplanade. A few minutes ago I was looking at my idle captures, I zoomed in, and I realized I could see it was a Korean Air Boeing 747.
I looked it up among the LAX departures. It was a long haul headed to Seoul. It was more than half an hour late.
I don’t know. If I was to be in the air for thirteen and a half hours, I would be really upset about the delay. Or I would cherish half an hour longer on the ground. Or maybe I would not care.
I developed a strange attachment for this flight. Tomorrow morning I will check what time they landed. Maybe I won’t but right now I like to think that I will.
I am wondering who’s flying. Are they flying home? On a business trip?
Such a long time with a mask on, they must barely have a face when they arrive in Seoul. I barely had a face last time I flew to Italy.
I am not looking forward to any thirteen-hour flight.
But a thirteen hour drive, just give me a sign and I’ll be on my way.
In the past few weeks my photography has been very Redondant: that does not mean that I always photograph the same thing, but rather that much of my work revolves around Redondo Beach and the immediate surroundings.
On the cusp of Spring and Summer, our Western skies turned into a kaleidoscope of gorgeous displays, some offering a foretaste of the heat to come, other reminiscing of colder months.
A few days ago, I got this classic afternoon vibe.
And the view was amazing from Malaga Cove as well, with a flock of pelicans heading my way. It’s actually rare to see the mountains so well in the hotter months.
This is a similar view but shot from higher up, precisely from the Queen’s Necklace Overlook in Via Del Monte.
The Redondo Beach Pier has been offering some very rewarding sights, too. I love to get cozy with the timeless impression you get down there.
And every image becomes dense with the emotional recollection of Kodak Chrome.
But what you see from the Pier is most magical and awe-inspiring, too: consider this morning view of Redondo, Torrance, and Palos Verdes shot from the southern side of the pier. The sky looks like a cross-seasonal patchwork mixing marine layer and scrambled cotton candy clouds.
Since getting my FAA Part 107 license in April, I’ve felt the growing lure of the endless skyways over the South Bay (at least where they are not restricted by LAX and Torrance Airport).
Thanks to the drone, I can see how lucky the hawks and the seagulls can be as they soar high above our beautiful shores.
And if you go up high and look to the north, the view is not shabby one bit.
The drone has often become my go-to for driveway photography. Meaning, all I have to do is go to my driveway, unfold the propellers, and climb to the allowed clearance. And this is what I see.
You know as they say, work smarter not harder. Once upon a time, whenever I saw a dramatic sunset in the making, I would grab my gear and run to the Esplanade. Sometimes I would get there in time, sometimes it was a bust. Now, when I see some promising sunset, I can just release the drone and have a look from up high. This does not only let me catch more sunsets, but also affords a new framing of the sunset into the geographical and esthetic fabric of our city.
And I can embrace all of the beauty in the space of a single gaze.
But do not worry, some special accents of our Redondo State of Mind can only be captured by being there, boots on the ground: so you will still see me with my camera in hand trying to frame that perfect sunset, although I know very well that the best shot is always yet to come.
I love how the drone helps me put everything in a new frame. I’ve always been a sunset-chaser. “I really hate sunsets”, said no photographer ever, but before the drone, the sunset was a piece of its own. Now, through aerial photography, I can frame the sunset into a broader narrative, for instance the sunset and the city.
I caught a glimpse of the Sun setting over Redondo, last night. Summer solstice was just a couple of days ago, which means that the Sun sets at the most Northern point. From Redondo, the Sun is basically setting behind Malibu. That was quite a show.
I’ll try to keep this short, as a postcard. My first batch of postcards have arrived!
I don’t see them simply as postcards: to me, they are mini-artworks. If you are old (or hipster) enough, you will recognize the inspiration. Notice the editing, the kitsch lettering, the color palettes, the iconic views from the air and the rounded white bezel surrounding the image: I tried to recreate the feeling of the “golden age” of postcards.
I place such age at the apex of mass tourism, just before the appearance of low-cost flights (when trips became too frequent and too short to allow for postcards). In other words, postcards belong to summer holidays. Most of my childhood spanned over the Nineties. I learnt to write in the fall of 1992. In the summer of 1993, I started scribbling my first postcards.
Before the appearance of smartphones, tablets and the ubiquitous data connection, time was a different experience altogether. Vacations were a peculiar mental space in which boredom was welcome, and we garnished it with games, books, naps, and postcard-writing sessions. We would send postcards to our grandparents, to aunts and uncles, and to a carefully curated handful of schoolmates. Some were just a greeting and kisses, others were short novels packing as much information as a thin handwriting could inscribe in a couple of square inches – paying a sacred attention not to trespass into the holy field of the recipient.
Maybe it’s because, in Southern California, hardly a day goes by without someone saying that “we live in a postcard”. Maybe it’s the forced immobility of the past year, which made us long to travel and recall all of the special experiences surrounding our journeys that we would so easily take for granted. And maybe it’s my drone work, producing several aerial landscapes that kept my mind running back to the dozens of postcards I had sent as a kid.
Anyway, here’s my postcards!
These postcards are for sale at $2.50 each, or 10 for $20, mix and match (any selection you want, one of each, 10 of one, 5 and 5…). If it’s convenient to you, I am happy to add US (36 cents) and international stamps ($1.20) with no markup.
Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get them ready for you! I have most of these designs in stock. If you’re local, we can meet. Otherwise, shipping is an option.
Please come back to this page periodically, as I will keep uploading new designs as I create and have them printed!
Update July 26, 2021: Two new designs arriving next week! The Point Vicente Lighthouse in Palos Verdes, and a dreamy sunset view of Redondo Beach!
To me, schools in the summer are one third peaceful, one third harmless, and one third sad.
After all those years, the sight of a school in June still whispers “September” and I frown a little bit.
Even a school that has no relationship to my past, and that is six thousand miles away from where I grew up, such as the Malaga Cove school in Palos Verdes Estate.
I have a bit of a difficult relationship with schools. I have a PhD, I have a strong drive towards teaching. One of my favorite things over the past year was when school-buses got back in service and I saw kids going back to school. At the same time, I was the not-so-popular, high-achieving, often lonely and sometimes bullied kid from elementary school till halfway through high-school. Every time I see a school, old Tom and young Tom kind of clash: aspirations, ideals, and memories forming an interesting cocktail ranging over a curious mix of emotions.
But I think it’s nice to put all of this into photographs.
It’s been a long day. I finally gave in and ordered postcards (I spent the whole afternoon editing them). I got a new Aputure light with a Fresnel lens, I’ll use it tomorrow and I haven’t even got it out of the box yet. I framed the first print of Coyote for some friends of mine, as a housewarming gift.
This is Coyote, short for Can’t catch me, Coyote. It’s one of my favorite photographs. I shot it while driving a van from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. Those on the left are the Vermillion Cliffs.
But I digress: I do all this, and my right eye is acting weird. I was preparing to enjoy a nice dinner (some chili that my neighbor cooked a few days ago) with some French wine (La Vieille Ferme red, harvest of 2019, one of my favorites), when I look out. And I see something grand is happening out west. It’s been cloudy all day, but the day had a happy ending for all of us light-chasers.
My best bet was to grab my drone and fire it up asap. Scramble! Scramble!
First, it looked like this.
And like this:
I was happy, I got back inside. Ate dinner, drank some wine. Then my eye starts acting weird again and I look away from the screen to give it some rest. And there’s the Sun, showing up just five minutes before the curtains fall on today.
And then it went like this and my heart melted a little bit and I landed. Happy.
Last week I passed the FAA exam to be a commercial drone pilot. I can’t wait to receive my badge. The theory you get tested on is interesting. As this great video study-guide tells you, at least 75% of what you have to learn is not directly relevant to you flying a drone, but the FAA wants you to “appreciate the complexity of flying.” And you sure do learn a lot of fun facts: one thing that really blew my mind was to discover that the numbers of the runways are not randomly assigned, but correspond to their approximate orientation with respect to the true North: Runway 18, for instance, is oriented 180º, so it heads South. Crazy, right? Runway 22 is headed Southwest, and so on and so forth.
Anyway, as it often happens with this kind of things, over the past month I spent much time studying and basically no time flying, so today I rewarded my self with a nice flight over Buff Cove.
As much as the drone is a fantastic flying photo camera, it would be a pity not to explore its video capability as well, so I recorded and produced a two-minute flight over the cove. Whenever I take this kind of video, I am positively amazed. Not at my own work, but at how easy it is to record this kind of video now: just fifteen years ago, I guess that a helicopter would have been the only means of capturing the footage I recorded today.
If you like my videos, don’t forget to like and subscribe to my YouTube channel! There’s only a handful of videos right now, but I plan to grow my collection fast, so stay tuned!