Art, beach, california, Creative, Drone, los angeles, Nature, Night Shots, Philosophy and Photography, Redondo Beach, South Bay, travel

La Couleur Locale

This is a small study into the colors of Los Angeles. When you think of Los Angeles, and Coastal Southern California, you think of a warm mix of yellow, turquoise, purple and blue. And, basically, very little words.

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Art, california, los angeles, Nature, Sensor Fresh, travel

Euphoria

Euphoria signifies a “a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.” This word kept coming back to me as I climbed the Josephine Peak trail this morning, and as I walked down. You will understand me, because this is what the world looked like to me between seven and eleven in the morning.

I am lucky, because the trail leading to Josephine Peak is one of the favorite of Anne-Claire and of her Trail Running Club. Today they went for an 18 miles loop, while I just hiked to the peak and back. For me, it was four miles up and four miles down. I will not elaborate too much on the fact that it took us exactly the same time. Know that I took my time and took 126 photos and sang my heart out on my way up and my way down and played the penny whistle to the hawks before the saddle and the harmonica to the beat of my feet on my way down.

Josephine Peak is a feast for the senses at any season, and it changes month by month. From the sizzling summer to the snowy winter, it’s one of the rare places where you can appreciate Fall within a half-an-hour drive from DTLA.

What’s the most magic about Josephine Peak is how the environments change. As you climb the south face, it’s desert mountain. Agaves, desert brush, lizards and hawks.

As you get to the saddle and cross to the northern side, it’s a totally different wonderland. It’s a forest with pines and oak trees, and the weather gets noticeably cooler as soon as you initiate the final ascension towards the peak.

The peak and the view from the peaks are almost… Lunar. I must have hiked to the trail half a dozen times by now, and every time I can’t help thinking “I’m sitting on top of the world.”

Only one word for this.

Euphoria.

All photos were taken with my FUJIFILM X100V, which is the quintessential hiking camera. It’s also the quintessential everything camera, but having such a small object that packs such a big punch lets you use your energy to move around and not to carry stuff around – hence its importance on any situation involving some degree of mobility.

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Art, california, los angeles, Night Shots

Coyotes are liquid (…and other things I learnt as I waited for the Sun to rise at Griffith Observatory)

On Sunday morning I was out and about pretty early, and I was to pick up a Polaroid from a friend in Silver Lake at nine, so I decided to make the most out of my trip to Los Angeles and be at the Griffith before sunrise.

In the best movie ever made about Los Angeles, Harry Telemacher (Steve Martin) says these words in one of his many aside: “As far as I’m concerned, there are three mystical places in the world. The desert outside Santa Fe, the tree of life in the Arab emirates of Bahrain, and the restaurant at Sunset and Crescent.”

Watching the Sun rise over Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory is another mystical time and place.

The first thing I learnt is that it’s popular enough not to be scary, but exclusive enough not to feel crowded. I was actually afraid there would be parking restrictions until a certain hour in the morning, but being a popular hiking destination (a gateway to the park itself) there were no restrictions (except for the meters starting at noon on weekdays, and at ten on weekends). Some people were preparing to hike or bike, others were already hiking or biking, some worked out, some did tai chi, some were just there for the view. I must have counted about fifty people around the observatory. Being all there, so early in the morning, on a Sunday, created a beautiful and soft sense of kinship – no matter the purpose.

That’s when I learnt that coyotes are liquid. That’s probably the biggest takeaway. No one was afraid, it’s as if they were part of the Fellowship, too. A few people, me included, warned a lady who was walking a small dog but she didn’t seem much bothered, nor the coyotes did pay much attention to the pooch.

If you’ve ever seen a coyote, you must have noticed this fascinating dissonance: a coyote is a bit like a dog with the presence of a cat. Coyotes don’t walk: they seem to glide on the land. They make no noise with their muffled paws, the only sound you hear is the rustling of the brush they move through. They are liquid, they are little squirts and faintly colored splashes that emerge out of the darkness into a spotlight and melt back into the night they came from.

Overall, there was a big La La Land feeling. Even more than at Sunset, or at night. Because of the glimmers of dawn far away to the East, out of the Sierras and the desert.

The Sun warms the dreams of the nation and the wind blows their scent all the way to the Griffith. The smell of Griffith Park is unique. It smells like a perennial midsummer’s night. Dust, plants, flowers, hopes, a faint whiff of airplane fuel make the olfactory experience almost akin to that of a non-place.

The view… ah, the view from the Griffith, on a clear night giving space to a clear morning, it’s everything you would expect it to be. Different from Kenneth Hahn, different from Baldwin Hills, different from Palos Verdes. One of the reasons might be that you are on top of LA.

Fun fact, I’ve always thought that the cover art of Frank Sinatra and Quincy Jones’ L.A. is My Lady (1984) was a view of DTLA from the I-110, looking north, but it’s actually a perspective similar to the view from the Griffith, just a little bit less elevated and more to the west. Maybe from Runyon Canyon?

Now comes the part where you just stand by the parapet and look at the Sun do their thing. You will be surprised to notice to what extent dawn precedes the actual Sunrise. It was already this bright to the East, but the Sun wasn’t due to appear for another half hour.

The closer the Sun, the rosier the dawn. And you really get what Homer meant and you become rosy-fingered too as every push of the shutter release makes you more of a poet and less of a photographer.

When the Sun finally appears, it’s as if the tip of a hill was suddenly ablaze.

I thought that DTLA gave her best at sunset, as the last rays of our daily star make her glimmer and shine, but now I am not so sure anymore.

Right?

And now, ready for another day of Sun.

And to go get that Polaroid, so that we can soon explore the esthetics of intimacy and affection.

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American West, beach, california, Drone, Nature, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, travel

California 1, Part 2

The road after Monterey was new and exciting to me. Every panel and exit sign looked like a page from Steinbeck’s novels. Monterey, Cannery Row, Salinas, Moss Landing, Santa Cruz. The land I drove through was just as literary as agricultural. A city slicker with a fast car and a Western heart, I glided down the California 1 looking to my left and to my right, trying to guess what was the name of the crops grown along the road.

When the fog clears, Moss Landing is a fun sight to behold. It somehow reminded me more of the purpose-driven landings of the Northern Pacific coast than what I usually see in Southern California. Also the fact it’s called Moss Landing and not Moss Marina must be indicative of some difference. If the fog does not clear, you can still hear the clear calls of the sea lions who welcome themselves on the piers and pontoons.

After the busy bypass of Santa Cruz, the solitary wilderness becomes once again the most faithful companion of the California 1.

A few miles north of Santa Cruz I had to quickly pull over for what instantly became my favorite road sign west of the Mississippi. Someone had painted a capital red HAVE FUN on a white wooden board. Maybe I needed the reminder, the explicit injunction to have fun and enjoy the moment. That made me wonder if sometimes we are so absorbed in doing what we like and doing it well to the point that we forsake the importance of having fun.

Had someone asked me, “are you having fun?”, I would have enthusiastically said yes, but it’s also true that the road had not been devoid of overthinking. Primarily about where to stop and whether to stop and what photos to shoot which ones could or should be taken another time maybe a better time what does the future holds I remember when I was a child and this was the kind of trips we’d take with my parents from Portland, OR to San Francisco and where have all the flowers gone long time passing.

That sign cleared my mind as an instant mantra. Make sure you are having fun and quite literally enjoy the ride, and all the rest will come naturally. I smiled and took a deep breath, sat down, rolled down the windows, turned off the radio and put the car in gear.

I knew this was going to happen at some point, because most of the peninsula boasts some impressive mountains, but I did not expect the 1 to climb so abruptly as the gentle shore was replaced by humbling wind-swept cliffs. I stopped frequently, carefully crossing the road and carefully peeking over. I have a mixed relationship with heights but holding a camera usually makes me bolder – probably because of our usually unjustified exchanges of confidence between unrelated domains.

The California 1 descends to kiss the Ocean again at Waddell Beach. It appears to be a pretty cocktail of Ocean spray, wind, sand, and mountains that make the Beach a popular destination for hikers, kite surfers and hand-gliders.

One thing struck me since the very first miles past Santa Cruz: the extremely young age of the people I would run into. Now, I’m not that old myself but I am way past the age of college. At most gas stations, state beaches, parking lots, all I would see was college kids going surfing and enjoying the beach driving old Ford Explorers. I was not surprised, given the number of Universities scattered around the Bay Area, but it was amusing to feel as if I was really tapping into the cliché.

Such thoughts was I musing on when I saw another road-sign. “Slow for pie”, it said, in a neat cursive writing. That was not as good as “HAVE FUN”, but it was a refreshing change from the usual moralizing panels instructing drivers to slow down for kids, pets, cattle, trucks, pedestrians, bikers, horses, deers, bears and more horses. I slowed down indeed, I pondered it in my mind for ten seconds, I made a U-turn, and reverted back to the farm to which the sign belong. It was the Pie Ranch. I’ll keep it short, because if you go there, it’s worth a stop, while if you don’t plan on going there, I will only make you envious. The Pie Ranch is an educational farm south of Pescadero on the California 1. Among many wonderful things that they do, they bake pies out of amazing ingredients that are virtually all seasonal, local, and organic. I drove off with a blackberry peach streusel pie that gave us two wonderful breakfasts in San Francisco.

More miles. My eyes were on the road, my mind was on the load (the newly adopted pie). More beauty made me stop. The part of the road between Santa Cruz and Pescadero is overall astonishing and I’ve made many mental notes to come back and dedicate more time to each place.

Pescadero is incredibly magic. You’ll find some big rocks jotting out into the ocean, beaten by the wind and the waves.

Notwithstanding the gusty winds, the shore was too gorgeous not to attempt to frame it from above. I had one more full battery in my drone, and it quickly took off. It’s always interesting to notice how those little guys handle the wind far better than we think they would.

Look at the second jetty, if I can call it this way. There are two tiny black spots: those are people, and this should let you figure out the impressive magnitude of this natural work of art. My flight didn’t last long, because a flock of seagulls quickly caught eye of something braving the wind as well as them, and quickly moved over to have a closer look (and repel the aggressor). Out of respect and out of fear, I don’t take chances with probing birds. I landed right away – and a few seagulls followed way too close for comfort until the very touchdown.

At this point… my plan changed a bit. My original idea was to follow the California 1 all the way to San Francisco, park at the Golden Gate lookout, look out at the Golden Gate, and then meet Anne-Claire at the hotel. Truth be told, I had been on the road for more than eleven hours and I was feeling a little tired. I drove through San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, and fancy Pacifica (I finally understood why the Chrisler car was called this way). In Half Moon Bay, a street, Ruisseau Français Avenue – literally meaning French Creek Avenue – caught my attention and I promised to enquire during my next trip. Why French creek? Did some French explorer come and baptize the place “French River” and his colleague said “Jean, let’s be realistic, this is more like a French Creek”? Maybe. We will never know. Or we will.

Anyway this was my intellectual level when, close to Daly City, I saw the sign for San Francisco via the Interstate 280 and I said “Alright, let’s bring her home”. I feel a little bad, because I cheated myself out of my original plan for a handful of miles, but they might have prolonged my trip by one full hour easily – and I knew I didn’t want to cross urban San Francisco from North West to South East at rush hour with twelve hours of driving on my back. I was happy to find out though, thanks to Wikipedia, that the Interstate 280 is “referred to as one of the most scenic urban freeways in America”. It was scenic indeed, and the elevated winding road got me away with a few nice captures of San Francisco during my final approach.

There I was, tired and happy. More than 450 miles, twelve hours and twenty minutes and two meals after leaving Los Angeles International Airport. This had been a mighty trip, a day to remember. A day of slow driving and windy roads, a day of fun and pie ranches and elephant seals and foggy mountains. A day of blue highways.

Supplement

I meant to dedicate the following day to taking photographs of San Francisco, but unlike the day of my arrival the air was hazy with local fog and smoke carried from distant fires.

The only worthy image I could capture is this skyline of San Francisco from Treasure Island, monochrome for obvious reasons. You can go on my Instagram and see a detailed version of the same panorama in ten photos.

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Art, beach, california, Creative, los angeles, Our World, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh, South Bay, travel

KE8208 Korean Air to Seoul

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.

Los Angeles + 13 hours, where would that get us?

Au revoir, à Seoul.

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beach, california, Drone, los angeles, Nature, Redondo Beach, South Bay

Redondant Gallery

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.

You can see more of my photography of Redondo Beach and the South Bay on the dedicated page in my website or on my Instagram.

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california, los angeles, Our World, Philosophy and Photography, South Bay, travel

My LAX kind of feeling

I am not a big fan of flying. First, I’m sort of heavy set and each time I sit in an airplane I wonder if they got even smaller or I gained more weight (and I usually delude myself into thinking it’s a bit of both). Second, I don’t do well with turbulence: I am rationally aware and persuaded that they won’t cause the plane to crash and that they are a little bit like driving on a bumpy country road at dusk with poor headlights, still my body doesn’t like them. For a couple of years, even a gentle rumble would make my body brace for a Tower-of-Terror-style drop: not having flown for a year and a half, from October 2019 till March 2021 kind of eased that feeling – my body did a bit of a reset. More importantly, I love to drive. I love my car. I love to stop, I love to own my itinerary and be able to make last minute stops and detours.

And yet, I love airports. I especially love LAX. At night, we stand on the Esplanade at look into the North and see the flashing red lights of the surrounding structures. For us, that is the connection with the rest of the world, especially with Europe. That’s where family and friends come from, and return to their homes. To me, it’s like a Stargate.

I especially love picking up people at airports. I smell the excess fuel dumped by incoming aircrafts. I hear the the tourists crossing each other, some arriving, some departing, trolleyed around by the nightmarish car-rental shuttles. I rub against the Stargate, feel its overwhelming potential to take me anywhere and I politely decline: “No thank you, I’m just picking up”.

The light, the clouds, and the mood were just perfect when I picked up Anne-Claire last Thursday, and I was really glad my nimble Fujifilm X100V was at my side on the passenger seat.

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california, los angeles, Palos Verdes, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh, South Bay

Let me show you the sound of a school in the summer

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.

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The beauty of living by the beach is that even when you’re just going to pick up groceries at Smart & Final, you can still take the long way and walk by the beach. The beauty of being a photographer with a compulsive gear acquisition disease is that there’s a good chance you’ve got the tool for each situation. A few months ago I gave in and bought the camera I had wanted for the past five years, the camera that had actually brought me to Fujifilm but that first I could not afford, and then I could not justify. Last September I could finally afford and justify the Fujifilm X100, in its fifth edition (V). Long story short, it’s the perfect camera to fit in the pocket of my new REI jacket that keeps me super warm in the 20 cold days we have in California.

I walked down to the beach and this is what I saw.

The sand had been smoothened by the wind. No footsteps. No tracks. Just sand. It looked like a pure desert. I stepped closer to the sea. Another angle? Okay, because it’s just too beautiful.

For a second, I considered walking back up to the Esplanade. Not so much because I was defiling the carefully polished sand – yes I gave that some thought to be honest – but because of the sand whipping my bare legs at every gust. Con gusto. I also thought that my lens would probably like it as little as my calves. But hey, we all serve some greater purpose. Drive on and look at the texture of the beach.

The sea looked like this: it was a swirl of mint and blue and ice and foamy frosting.

As usually, I lost track of time as I strolled South. I was witnessing Redondo at its best, when the R ends up standing for Rapture. Rapture Beach.

In the end I got to Avenue H, and I decided I had taken in enough beauty. I was elated. I felt as if I had attended a thousand masses from a thousand churches. It was time to step back into life.

Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh

Rapture Beach

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