May 12

First Look :: Aerials from the Cinestar 8

It’s been about a month since the first flight of my new Cinestar 8, and since then I’ve logged enough flight time to feel somewhat confident enough to actually try and shoot some cool stuff.  I packed the helicopter up for our Utah climbing trip (trip reports – part 1 and part 2), and got a few good chances to fly, first in Indian Creek and then two days later in Moab at Fisher Towers.

Indian Creek was a little scary at first (a running theme when flying this thing with a 5d mkII strapped to it) – I flew at the base of Generic Crack from a somewhat flat-topped boulder, with about a 5 ft x 5 ft takeoff/landing zone.  Given that I’d previously only really flown in big (soft) grassy fields, it was quite the transition – precision was of the utmost importance.  Also new was trying to frame all the necessary elements (climber, belayer, scenery, etc.) from the air – I haven’t hooked up the first-person video system yet, so it was all essentially blind.  In any case, I think a few of the shots turned out nicely, and all from an angle (as far as I know) never seen before…

Back in Moab, I planned to shoot my friends Jake and Luke on a sunrise ascent of Ancient Art at Fisher Towers.  If you’re unfamiliar with Ancient Art, here’s a shot from a week prior of me on the final pitch and Jason Smith on the summit.  The Fisher Towers area is mind-blowing, and the Corkscrew Summit of Ancient Art is no exception.  So yeah, I had big plans to shoot those guys on the summit, and I had this image in my mind of what it’d look like, but pretty much everything went very, very wrong.  In short : the Cinestar has a very powerful GPS waypoint mode where you can plug in coordinates that it’ll automatically follow, and as I flipped it into GPS mode, it went violently wobbling away at about 900 mph, directly towards a cliff and CERTAIN DOOM.  I was 100% sure it was going to crash, so I flipped it back to manual control, gave it a ton of throttle, somehow avoided smashing into the wall, and flipped it into “come home” mode (yes, it does that too).  By now it was about 300-400 feet above me (higher than I’ve ever flown), though in a happy, stable hover, so all I had to do was bring it back down to me and land.  I’m not sure what exactly went wrong, probably a camera gimbal balance problem, but suffice to say that it was quite terrifying.  Either way, the heli came home safe, and the one decent image is still pretty cool, even though I originally planned on flying much closer to the climbers.

So here are some photos, a bunch from Indian Creek, and the one from Ancient Art – the climbers are just tiny little ants, so there’s a 100% crop for reference.  Next up, if the weather cooperates – City of Rocks, Idaho.

Jun 11


Way better on blu-ray… Buy it on Amazon or something.

Dec 10

Viva la Revolución

There’s really too much to say about this show that’s up (until tomorrow) at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, so for now I’m just going to snag a snippet from their site and post a bunch of sweet photos.

From the Viva la Revolución page:

For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in urban communities. The urban setting and its corresponding lifestyle are major sources of inspiration in contemporary culture. This is an historic revolution in visual culture, in which the codes and icons of the everyday—found on the streets in graffiti, signage, waste, tattoos, advertising, and graphic design—have been appropriated and used as an integral part of contemporary art-making. The urban landscape inspires and serves as both a platform for innovation and a vehicle for expression for many artists. The city itself, its buildings, vehicles, people, and advertisements, are not only the surface where the art is applied. The city fuels the practice.

A multifaceted exhibition that explores the dialogue between artists and the urban landscape, Viva la Revolución: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape features works both in the Museum’s galleries as well as at public sites throughout downtown San Diego.

The exhibition includes a diverse range of 20 artists from 10 countries that are linked together by how their work addresses urban issues — Akay (Sweden), Banksy (U.K.), Blu (Italy), Mark Bradford (U.S.), William Cordova (U.S.), Date Farmers (U.S.), Stephan Doitschinoff [CALMA] (Brazil), Dr. Lakra (Mexico), Dzine (Puerto Rico), David Ellis (U.S.), FAILE (Canada), Shepard Fairey (U.S.), Invader (France), JR (France), Barry McGee (U.S.), Ryan McGinness (U.S.), Moris (Mexico), Os Gemeos (Brazil), Swoon (U.S.), and Vhils (Portugal).

Viva la Revolución: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape is curated by guest curator Pedro Alonzo and MCASD Associate Curator Lucía Sanromán. The show runs through 1/2/2011.

A few of the day’s photos:

Aug 10


Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains.
You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their
fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and
muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of
the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back.
Not to be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were
older than man and they hummed of mystery.

-Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Jul 10

Monument Valley to Jackson

Decided midway through the Grand Canyon stay that I really wanted to see more of the AZ/UT desert, especially Monument Valley and the Moab/Arches area, so I figured what the hell, why not make a stop back home in Jackson for a few days too before heading back to California.  Both Monument Valley and Arches were super crowded with summer tourists, so I only camped one night in Monument Valley and made the big drive through Moab to Jackson the next day.  Tons to see and even more that I just blazed past – I’m definitely planning on spending more time around these parts in the future.  Here are a few photos from along the way:

Jul 10

This Desert Life

I’m kinda struggling to find the right words to describe my past week and a half here at the Grand Canyon, so I’ll probably leave this pretty short and just add some photos.  The Grand Canyon is incredible, which I’ve already written a little about in a previous post, so I don’t really need to go down that road again. The more time I spend in this part of the country, the more I’m loving the desert landscape.  The most that any of us see of the desert is at 80 mph from an air-conditioned car, windows up on the highway, missing everything.

But actually exploring desert America is a wild experience.  It was 115ËšF in Needles, CA, so hot that one sweats profusely just sitting still, though not nearly as hot as it could (and does) get. So far I’ve passed two surreal aircraft graveyards and several cryptic US government signs adorning barbed wire fences, warning dire consequences for trespassing.  In Marana, AZ, I found an abandoned LGM-25C Titan II missile silo, a relic of the cold war and 1960s nuclear arms race.  In Yucca, AZ, the highway frontage road, once Route 66, is now home to abandoned buildings from a once-thriving 1950s community, doomed by the construction of I-40 in the 1970s.  The Arizona monsoon, active most of the summer, has made for incredible afternoon thunderstorms and evening sunsets.  The desert is deeply mysterious, unrelenting, unforgiving, fickle, and stunningly beautiful.  Just like bacon.  What isn’t there to love?

A few photos from the past week or so:

I’d also like to recommend a book about the desert – one of those books, in the spirit of Catch-22, that I’m very proud of, even though I contributed nothing to its creation, nor do I even own it.  It’s Desert America: Territory of Paradox, and it’s great.  Who wants to buy me a copy?

Jul 10

First Trip to Yosemite

I just got back from nearly a week in Yosemite National Park – four days working for Canon’s Photography in the Parks Workshops, and two days of running around on my own. Yosemite has been a focal point for environmental conservation and protection for almost 150 years, and it’s easy to see why. Yosemite is, in a word, spectacular.

John Muir, the famous 19th century environmental advocate and founder of the Sierra Club, said of Yosemite “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” Ansel Adams, seeing Yosemite for the first time at 14, wrote “the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.” Indeed, Adams would go on to marry into a Yosemite family and business (the gallery is still in operation today) and make some of his most famous photographs while living in the Yosemite Valley for some 30 years.

So just a bit about the Canon program – if you’re in the Grand Canyon, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, or Acadia at any point this summer, be sure to check it out.  They let you try out Canon camera bodies and lenses and give a bit of instruction, all for free, and run a photo contest for images taken in the National Parks.  It was my first foray into teaching people about photography and how to use their cameras better, and I got to use some funny lenses that I probably wouldn’t otherwise own (17mm tilt-shift and 100mm macro).  The link above has a whole lot more info.

Anyway, enough of that, here are a few photos:

I also made the hike to Half Dome one morning, and it ranks up there with a few trails – Angel’s Landing in Zion, South Kaibab in the Grand Canyon, and a handful of hikes in the Tetons and Yellowstone – as an all-time epic.  It’s 7-8 miles and nearly 5,000 vertical feet from the Happy Isles trailhead to the summit.  The trail passes two massive raging waterfalls (317 ft Vernal Fall and 594 ft Nevada Fall) on the steep, wet Mist Trail, traverses up and around the back side near Little Yosemite Valley, and then makes a final, precipitously exposed ascent up Half Dome with the help of cables installed by the NPS.  All of these are from my Canon G9 point and shoot, and I rarely convert images to black and white, but I think these turned out quite nice:

I also made the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, which is the largest waterfall in the US at 2,425 feet, but I’ll save writing about that for another time. Thanks Yosemite, I’ll be back soon.

May 10

Bryce Canyon – Zion – Grand Canyon

With two weeks off from work, I got in the car to head south and then west through Utah, Arizona, and eventually out to the central California coast, with stops in Bryce Canyon, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Big Sur.  Considering I’ve been in Jackson for four years now and I haven’t seen any of the west, other than random trips to Idaho Falls and Salt Lake, it seemed like the right way to spend my time off.

I drove south through Utah on I-15, which was a bit of a mistake in retrospect, not knowing that I could have taken US-89 the whole way.  Can I nominate Route 89 as THE single most amazing road in the US?  Starting at the Canadian border next to Glacier National Park, it goes south to Yellowstone, through Grand Teton and Jackson, on to Salt Lake, and then south all the way to Bryce Canyon. After passing Bryce Canyon, it continues past Zion, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and then on into Arizona, where I would eventually leave 89 to head west.  Had I made the connection, I would’ve driven 89 all the way from Jackson, skipping I-15 altogether.  Next time…

I won’t dork out too hard on the geology of the whole trip, but the crazy eroded rock formations at Bryce Canyon are, at just 50-70 million years old, the youngest part of the Grand Staircase, a supergroup of rock formations on the Colorado Plateau that chronicles about 2 billion years of geologic history.  BILLION! Think about that for a second… The oldest formations in Bryce are the youngest in Zion, and the oldest formations in Zion are the youngest in the Grand Canyon.  Though I really know very little about geology, other than vague memories of elementary school, it’s all incredible and pretty overwhelming to see it in person and think about just how old the earth is, and how much history is on display.

I was lucky enough to see the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater at sunset, under a full moon, and a slowly painted by an amazing sunrise.  I drove to Zion the next day, and somehow had no idea what I was in for…  Flowing, crazy, almost liquid red and yellow and green and black rock slab formations, HUGE cliffs and canyon walls…  I had time for a hike up Angel’s Landing, arguably the best – and most intimidating – hike I’d ever done to that point.  Zion is fairly small compared to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but it’s is an incredibly rich sensory experience.  I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed by Zion.

I hopped back in the car and spent the night at Lake Powell, and made it to the Grand Canyon by about noon the next day.  I made it onto the South Kaibab trail by about 2:30 pm, hoping to make it to the Colorado River and back before sunset.  The NPS has warnings posted all over the place about the foolishness of hiking all the way down to the river and back in a day – it’s about 5,000 feet down and the temperature tends to rise the whole way down and can be 20-30 degrees warmer than temps on the rim.  Like mountaineering, the summit (in this case the canyon floor) isn’t the only goal, it’s getting back out that matters.  Going DOWN 5,000 feet isn’t that big a deal, it’s getting back out…  Anyway, I made it to within sight of the river, at Panorama Point, before I turned around in time to make it back up for what proved to be a stunning sunset.

Like Zion, I don’t really have enough space to expand on how amazing the Grand Canyon is.  It’s… different. Where Zion is beautiful and condensed and towering and somewhat easier to comprehend at first glance, the Grand Canyon is vast, a massive expanse, carved by nature over literally billions of years.  I read somewhere that every step down the South Kaibab trail takes you back another 100,000 years.  I mean, that’s just absurd.  It’s so amazing that it defies all rational thought.

I eventually made it to the central California coast, to camp among the redwoods next to the Big Sur River, very satisfied (if I may indulge in a drastic understatement).  There was something new to discover at every step of the trip, in increasing levels of magnitude and wonder along the way.  There’s no doubt that I’ll be going back to shoot at all these spots in the future…

More shots, at higher resolution, are on my site here.

Apr 10

iPhone Japan

There have been lots of iPhone photos floating around lately, and for good reason. It’s a great little camera, and gets even better with the hoards of sweet apps out there. I have a few – Chase Jarvis’ Best Camera, Camera Bag, TiltShift, Hipstamatic, some generic self-timer… yeah, they’re all great. Even though I brought my 5d mkII setup to Japan, I ended up shooting about 250 iPhone photos too. Here’s a quick gallery of some of the shots:

Lanterns, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Shinjuku, Tokyo Boat, Miyajima Torii Gate, Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima
Daisho-in Temple, Miyajima Pagoda, Miyajima Torii Gate at low tide, Miyajima Koi fish, Miyajima
Mt. Misen, Miyajima Ryōan-ji, Kyoto Tree at Ryōan-ji, Kyoto Flowers at Ryōan-ji, Kyoto
School Kiddies, Kyoto Bamboo Grove, Sagano Arashiyama Random sign, Sagano Arashiyama Beer vending machine, Sagano Arashiyama
Creepy? Hotel Taiseikan Hotel Taiseikan Sign Hotel Taiseikan Tram Sign
Closest I got to Mt. Fuji Road from Hakone Shibuya, Tokyo Sunset over Tokyo Bay

Apr 10



I just got back from an 11 day trip to Japan with my cousins, and I’m finally getting around to posting the photos.  I’ve wanted to go to Asia for a while now, and it wasn’t a very hard decision to go when we started talking about it last fall.

Japan is – by my judgment during this very brief glimpse – a country defined by extraordinary contrast, a rich history, and deeply rooted sense of place.  Bullet trains – the shinkansen – speed by rural fields, ancient castles, sacred mountains, and massive cities at 300 km/h.  The people we met were curious and eager to share their country with us – many wanted to know where we were from, why we were in Japan, and a few even wanted their pictures taken with us.  The Japanese are very serious, hardworking and efficient, but mostly full of humor and quite often absurdly hilarious. Our itinerary was packed, taking us from Toyko to Hiroshima and back, with stops in between in Miyajima, Kyoto for a few days, and Hakone.

There’s really too much to try to try and go back and talk about, so here are a few photos from the trip.  The full gallery is posted here.



Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima #2

Kiyomizudera roof, Kyoto

Bamboo grove, Sagano Arashiyama

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Fushimi Inari Torii Gates, Kyoto Kyoto from Fushimi Inari
Buddha statue, Daishō-in, Miyajima View of Hiroshima Bay from Mt. Misen Torii Gate, Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima
Tourist Photos, Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Dragon carving, Daishō-in Temple, Miyajima Odiaba Ferris Wheel, Tokyo
Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower Tokyo skyline from World Trade Center Observatory View of Shiodome, Tokyo