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New Work: The Side of the House

Side of the House in IrvineAll Images Made on Ilford Delta 100 Film
With a Mamiya RZ67 Medium Format Camera
Click Any Image to Expand

These pictures may not be what you typically expect from me. I'm most known for my large sweeping landscapes of coastal, desert, and mountain scenics. Most of my photos require long treks or at least moderate hiking to get in to position. But these photos here...they were taken in the side yard of my parents' house in Irvine.

I expect that these photos will not have a big impact on you. They'll probably elicit a "meh" response from a lot of my readers. And I'm fine with that (I can't always create masterpieces!). But these photos mean something to me, so that's why I'm sharing them with you today.

I've often said that it never ceases to amaze me what pictures people like and which ones they won't care about. You've probably experienced this. You have a great, amazing, beautiful photo you took that you just love. You're proud of it. You want to share it. You put it out to the world and the response is, well, deflating. Then some other photo you took that you don't much care for - in fact you almost didn't even post it on your blog - everyone swoons over it. I've sold photos where I'm thinking in my head "Wow, you want that one? That's some of my worst work." But then I try to sell a photo I'm really proud of and it feels like I'm trying to sell snow cones in Minnesota in January. Well I'm guessing these photos will fall in to that category.

I have really fond memories of my parents' home. It's where I grew up. So that alone makes these pictures special to me. But it's more than that. It's not just that it's my parents' home and that I have a lot of memories tied up there, it's more specific than that. I don't know how well I can explain this, but I'll try.

You know how certain times of day at certain locations will create a very specific feeling inside you? It's a feeling you really only get from being in that exact location at that time and it can't be articulated in words. For me, my elementary school at night has a particular feeling to it. It's probably rooted in the evening open house where we all got to run around the school in a very unusual setting - it was at an unusual hour, you could go anywhere, the normal rules and bell schedule weren't in force, and everyone's parents were there. It was so...weird...but somehow exciting.

Los Angeles at sunset, McDonalds just before dawn, my childhood friend Michael's house at high noon on a summer day, my mom's old minivan in a heavy downpour on the way home from school. Each of these time-place settings create a very specific sensation in me that I enjoy.

Well, the backyard and side yard of my parents' house in summer is the end-all be-all for what I'm talking about here. Especially on a warm evening just before sunset on a Sunday...oh man, I'm getting all tingly just thinking about it. I love that feeling. It's indescribable yet incredibly specific. That's why I like these photos. For me, they are snippets of that sensation that I can't put into words. Many people will simply see a boring photo of a fence, but I see one of my most valued emotional responses for which words don't suffice.

It's easy to get caught up trying to make photos that everyone else will love or photos that will get more sales or clients. I'm terrible about that. But it was nice to take some photos for a change that I knew would only matter to me. After all, that's possibly the finest reason you should ever take a photo.

Side of the House in Irvine

Side of the House in Irvine

Side of the House in Irvine

Side of the House in Irvine

Some Sweet Abandoned Buildings

We had some cloud cover coming through Orange County a couple weeks back that have really made some nice sunsets. I went to my usual spot of Quail Hill one day and I considered hitting up the beach, but when I went out on the 21st, I was itching for some new material. I didn't care if it was nature, urban or a mix, I just wanted some new subject matter for a change.

Anyone from Orange County will know how hard this is. You can only shoot the same beaches so many times and battle the track housing for so long before it gets old. Orange County's nice, but it's no Washington state. If I wanted new material, I knew it wasn't going to be anything fantastic if it was within a 50-mile radius. So, I decided to explore.

They recently opened up this hot-air-like balloon that takes people above the future "Great Park" on the former El Toro Marine Base. I'd never been before, but I thought I'd try exploring around there. Well, I'm sure glad I did, because I found some amazing old buildings on this retired Marine Base.†

I drove along an empty road, waiting for some cop or barricade to stop me from going any further, but nothing did. So I kept driving until I got to a deserted building that looked like it used to be some sort of utility building (there were a ton of circuit breakers and pipes and warehouse rooms and stuff). Windows were broken, the asphalt was cracked and overrun by bushes, doors were left open - it looked just so awesome. All the textures and character of this place were screaming to be photographed.†

That afternoon I managed to get some pretty good landscapes of this dilapidated building at sunset. The entire time I was shooting, no one came to kick me out, no one was around, I was completely alone and having a great time. Here are the resultant pictures:

Then I went back a second day to scout around inside the building. This was a little more creepy but just as awesome. The big, cavernous rooms were dark and bare except for some serious spider webs around the doors and a few tumbleweeds. I snapped off a few self-portraits while I was there:

Unfortunately, though, the all-too-bored Irvine PD came and kicked me out on the third visit there. Good thing, too. Us pesky photographers are always getting into trouble, defacing property and putting otherwise unused property to good use.†

The moral to this story: Exploration is a fun and important technique to finding good shots, almost as important as remaining discreet when doing it.