Venice Skateboarding With Jason Cordova by Andres Tardio
Venice is known for many incredible things, but skateboarding is usually one of the first things that comes to mind when you hear about the city. History behind skateboarding is deep in Venice, of course, so when looking to photograph the city’s beauty, it’s hard to avoid skateboarding and its culture.
Jason Cordova, known as @jsun217 on Instagram, lived a block from the boardwalk for years. He’d been photographing Venice for a long time, sometimes taking on the skaters. One day, Cordova posted an image of Sean Johnson, a skateboarder that impressed him, on Instagram. Johnson tracked him down and off the strength of this post, a friendship grew. The two would continue working together on a series of images that highlight the awesome and inspiring skate culture by the beach, something Cordova has become passionate about capturing.
“I love the process of shooting skateboarding,” he says. “It’s definitely a huge challenge. The style, action, speed, movement; trying to be at the right spot at the right time, understanding each skater’s style, composing and capturing that single moment while also trying to tell the whole story.”
While some of these challenges may present themselves, they don’t outweigh the positives here.
“The Venice park is great,” Cordova explains. “The beach back drop, the sunsets, the crowds, the energy of that place can get really crazy and play a big role in the shoot.”
Portraits are beautiful. They tell a person’s story in a moment, a snapshot of a lifetime. The joy, pain, the thrills and fears, are all in the portrait, which is why it’s such a beloved type of photograph. But there’s also something about mystery that intrigues us. That’s why silhouettes carry such beauty in photography also. This is how my #portraitsilhouettes work came about.
My wife and I were flying back from our honeymoon in Italy. After an extremely long flight, I woke up, stretched and realized we were landing. Once solidly in L.A., I turned on my phone and looked to my left. My wife had opened the plane window. The light was blinding. And then my wife came to the rescue, as she often does. She shifted in her seat, blocking the light from hitting me. This was relief. And it was beautiful. I asked her to wait there. I took a shot with my phone and left it in the camera roll.
When I looked back at images from Italy, I had – as you can imagine – a lot of fun. Venice, Florence, Rome and a ton of other places in between? That’s beauty. But one shot struck me and inspired the #portraitsilhouettes series, the shot of my wife by that plane window. Eventually, I realized it was influencing other shots I’d take. That’s where the series began.
I also fell in love with this idea because it reminds me of my childhood. I don’t know if I was in first or second grade, but at some point in elementary school, every kid in the class had to do an art project using a silhouette of our side profile. These images remind me of that project. To me, these images offer something about the subject’s story, a snapshot of their lives, but it also provides some mystery and intrigue. Here are some of my portrait silhouettes.
In November 2013, Luis Merlos decided to take a short trip to Seattle, Washington; a trip that would inspire him to revisit memories of his past even though he had never been there before.
“Seattle has always been a place of interest for me because growing up in Los Angeles, I took a liking to their Grunge music and I have to admit, I enjoyed watching the Seattle Supersonics,” Merlos, who goes by @deadpool167 on Instagram, says. “Also the Space Needle is cool.”
Merlos packed some bags and hit the skies with Cynthia Casillas, who goes by @cynn33 on Instagram. He says he enjoyed “having someone help you explore and kick around ideas.” Plus, he adds, “She also didn’t mind me bugging her to be the subject in a few of my shots.”
Once in Seattle, Merlos found what he’d long been hoping for, the Space Needle. Perhaps the city’s most photographed landmark, the Space Needle stands at 605 feet high. Built in the 1960s, the Space Needle has become a symbol of Seattle, one that Merlos found a compelling challenge to photograph.
“I think taking a picture of the Space Needle and editing that image was the most gratifying,” he says. “I know it can be a cliché shot to take, but I wanted to challenge myself and provide a fresh and unique take on it and I was happy with the result.”
The result finds the Space Needle behind a portion of architect Frank O. Gehry’s EMP Museum. To add flare to the image, which already features two architectural marvels, Merlos captured three birds in flight through the grey Seattle sky. This tone, the mood of the image, is characteristic of many of Merlos’ Seattle-based photographs, a quality he appreciates.
“I think Seattle provided a perfect playground for subdued images,” he says. “Even though I enjoy shooting vibrant long exposure images and sunsets, I prefer darker images because I feel they add a sense of mystique and story.”
This atmosphere is precisely what Merlos was looking for. “I envisioned the grey skies providing a perfect contrast in my shots,” he says. “I shot pretty much at any time which is something I don’t do in Los Angeles.”
Being away from Los Angeles also provided several unknowns, so Merlos looked to locals for guidance.
“I asked [Seattle-based photographer] @jeko_1 via Instagram while I was in Seattle about a couple locations and he offered to show me around,” Merlos says. “That made my stay complete. Wouldn’t have found some of the gems of Seattle without him.”
Meeting @jeko_1 allowed Merlos to see another angle of travel photography, one that local guides can help provide.
“If you can meet up with someone in their city I believe you should,” Merlos says. “You can Google and research on your own, but every city has great locations that visitors can easily miss.”
Some of those gems included a drive through the city that featured a view of Kurt Cobain’s old home, another nod to Merlos’ appreciation for the city’s Grunge scene of the 1990s. From the Space Needle to the details that many Seattle visitors often miss, Merlos’ short trip to the North West has left a lasting impact. The trip, he says, made him eager to see new places.
Meet Pete: Pete Halvorsen by Andres Tardio
A few years ago, Pete Halvorsen decided to take his daughter for a walk. Is there a better place for this than the nearby pier? The sand, the ocean, the beauty and the freshness give you a calm sense of joy. Perfect for a father-daughter stroll.
The pier also happens to be perfect for photography, something Halvorsen understands quite well. Since those first walks with his daughter, Pete has crafted some of his greatest works under and on that pier. His eye for the pier is a sharp one, and that love for photography has extended from the pier to other countries. His photographs, ranging from stunning landscapes to striking portraits, continue to impress.
AT: How did you get started with photography?
PH: I’d always been drawn to photography as a medium to tell stories. It wasn’t until 2010 when my eye began to be develop and sharpen that I decided to commit myself as a full time photographer.
AT: How has your life and perspective changed since you started working with mobile photography?
PH: In this image-based world a single snapshot has the ability to say so much. As an early adopter of Instagram I saw first hand how well non-tranditional (mobile) snapshot photography was received. From traveling around the world to walking down to the beach, I began looking for quick moments to share with my iPhone. Those moments wouldn’t have been as organic or easy to share before I had mobile photography as one of my weapons.
AT: Your work is pretty diverse. How do you approach portraits differently than you approach landscapes?
PH: I try to use the same approach to both; I strive to catch a real moment and freeze it. If it’s a sunset or a portrait of someone laughing, these are both experiences that can be felt if captured in the moment. I try not to over think it when shooting either, when I start “trying” to be creative it becomes inauthentic and that translates in the image.
AT: You’ve also done some humanitarian photography. How did you get involved with that initiative?
PH: A friend of mine was involved in a non-profit called Kusewera based out of Los Angeles that made humanitarian service trips to an orphanage in Malawi. She approached me travel with them live in the orphanage and document their work. I was also able to lead a mobile photography class for the kids. It was such a life changing experience not only professionally but also personally.
AT: Of course we have to speak about #pierpressure. How did this start and what do you think inspired that original spark?
PH: I was a stay at home dad to my daughter when I first downloaded Instagram, I live pretty close to the Manhattan Beach Pier and would take her on walks down to the pier almost daily. Two of my first Instagram friends Julya (@obscuralucida) and Greg (@leggomygreggo) would join me in providing hilarious puns on each others photos. I had noticed that posting a picture of the Pier at Sunset would get the most reaction of any photo I’d post. So one day I made the joke that I was giving in to the “Pier Pressure” of getting likes by posting another photo of this pier at sunset. It became a thing.
AT: A lot of people shoot the pier, but what advice do you give photographers to make their pier shots more creative?
PH: Piers all have such interesting personalities depending on the time of day or the time of year. From empty mornings during the winter to packed sunsets of summer there is always something different. I’d also recommend you go to geotags of whatever pier (or any location for that matter) and see how other people have shot it that you love. There are always images that pop off the screen to me and new angles I’ve never seen. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, I enjoy the work of Peter Lik and saw one of his shots under a pier, this inspired me to slap an Olloclip fisheye on my iPhone and shoot a similar shot. I still remember the feeling when that image went to the Popular Page and got over 200 likes (that was a lot for back then).
The other advice I’d give is something that I’ve been working on myself. Turn around. So many times recently I’m shooting and do a 180 to look for the first thing that catches my eye. More often than not it’s a better shot than the one I had originally set up for.
AT: You’re also pretty involved with meets. What do you enjoy most about meets?
PH: Meets for me are a way to give back to this Instagram community that has given me so much. I feel blessed to have the platform I have. If it weren’t for the early Instameets I went to my network wouldn’t have grown like it has today.
AT: Which meet would you consider your favorite and most memorable thus far? Why?
PH: Great question – They are all so memorable for different reasons – #foggypierpressure because of its amazing climate change within 2 hours #givingpierpressure because of the amazing donations we were able to put together at Christmas time. #brodeotree was a religious experience with some of my now dearest Instagram friends. But you never forget your first Instameet. Mine was in San Francisco back in 2011. It was put on by Laura Lawson (lauralawsonviscontti) & Michael O’Neal (@moneal). I met so many amazing Instagrammers that day at the now infamous #gandhigram
AT: Meets can also bring some negativity sometimes. For example, people may be upset when a person they meet doesn’t follow them on Instagram after the meet. Or someone may not like another’s attitude or whatever. What conflicts have you seen at meets. What do you think people can do to resolve those conflicts?
PH: The follow aspect of Instagram adds a different dynamic for some. A few of Instagrammers I know who large followings won’t go to Instameets anymore because it becomes more about them being there than taking photos. For me, that high follow number has given me the ability to help organize our local southern California instagrammers. They’ll always be a few who aren’t there for the right reasons, but that’s life. The majority of the people at my meets (we had over 150 people at the #dogtowninstameet) are amazing people and photographers. The reward of the great people I’ve met is worth the risk of running into a few bad apples.
AT: When you go shooting, what are some things you are always mindful of?
PH: Story, story, story. What story am I telling with this image or video? Focus isn’t a bad thing either…of course you can always tag it #bluronpurpose and call it art.
AT: What apps do you recommend photographers use?
PH: I’ve been through a lot of different Apps but I keep coming back to a handful – Snapseed is normally my first stop for quick tweaks, I just like it’s interface. Then I usually go to either VSCOcam, PicTapGo or Afterlight if I want to play with tones or moods. I used to shoot with Camera+ but since I got the iPhone 5s I am only using the native camera to shoot with because I shoot so much video too.
Behind The Photographs
Pete Halvorsen also shared five of his most prized shots and discussed the photographs with some details. Those images and Halvorsen’s descriptions can be found below.
PH: While I was in Malawi I ran up and shot this while the kids were playing red light green light. While I was shooting all day with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, this quick snap with my iPhone captured the essence of life within the walls of the orphanage.
“The Griffith Observatory”
PH: One of my favorites I ever took with my 4s. I’ve had good photographer friends of mine that couldn’t believe I shot it with an iPhone and I had to send them the original file so they’d believe me.
PH: I shot this of my daughters shadow on the playground, it was featured by Josh Johnson back in the day and was the first image that increased my following beyond the friends/family in my circle. I shot it with Hipstamatic and just rotated it because I thought it looked cooler.
“You’re Never Too Young To Dream Big”
PH: A street snap that caught a great moment of youth and art. This Banksy art on the side of the wall was across the street from where she was born (Cedars Sinai), so once again for me it held even more significant value of the message and the image.
PH: In this Chris Ozer portrait in New York, he and I were walking in SoHo just north of where the World Trade Center had stood…So to me, this flag which looks like it had been hanging for 10-plus years had a story.
Lost & Found In Los Angeles by Andres T
“20 years in the same city, still don’t know my way around,
I still get lost inside of my thoughts.” –Eyedea, “Weird Side”
I have a confession to make. I get lost. All the time. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I’ve finally come to terms with that disappointing fact. Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t really care about directions.
Some people are awesome with directions. “Where are you going?” “Los Angeles.” “Oh. Perfect. Head South here. West there. East on this highway. Go North for a mile. Jump on this other other highway. Head South for 3 miles. Bam, you’re there.” Never cared about that stuff.
So, I can’t really give you a guided tour of these streets. I wish I could tell you to hit Spring Street or 6th Street, but I never really remember exactly which street is which. I kind of know how to find myself in these streets, but it’s hard to name them. As a photographer, that has been an interesting fact to deal with. GPS became incredibly handy, but sometimes, I toss that out the window too. I just rely on the wind and instinct to guide me.
Four Corners Of Architecture
That was the case on this calm morning. It was colder than usual for Los Angeles and the clouds looked like they were decorating the sky. I drove to where I usually go for peaceful Saturday or Sunday morning shoots and since I don’t really pay attention to street names, I can just say that it’s really close to the steel-palace that is Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Concert Hall’s website says it’s on Grand Avenue and that’s really close to the new Grand Park, so that makes sense. Anyway, near there, a really cool architectural gem stands above the street. One day a couple of years ago, I was driving to school nearby and thought I saw this. It was unbelievable. I hadn’t seen any pictures of it before because I wasn’t following too many Los Angeles photographers. I didn’t know I would find this there. I just stopped my car in the middle of street. Thankfully, it was an early morning class and no cars were coming. It’s not like I cared anyway. Instead, I just looked out of my car window towards the sky. There it was. Four buildings. Perfect. So, I went back to this spot for this photo journal because it’s still a really cool place, especially when the weather allows for this type of light. The original photograph is still my profile picture on Instagram and I’m not sure if that will ever change. Constantly reminds me to look around, look down and look up when shooting. Here’s a more recent shot I took at this place…with the Nokia Lumia 920.
Walking For Peace
After taking this shot, I thought I needed to park. I usually park in the same place because I’m a creature of habit. Plus parking in Los Angeles can be a painful journey. But, I park somewhere behind this pretty cool fountain and walk around. Because it’s usually early in the AM, I don’t have to pay the arm and/or leg that I normally would need to shell out for parking. So, after parking, I head over to that cool fountain, which is “Peace on Earth” by Jacques Lipchitz, according to a little Google search. The piece is pretty cool and it’s one of my favorite parts of Downtown L.A. I remember seeing it a few years ago and I loved how the water created an interesting contrast. You can see a shot of this below.
Walking Around Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walking around Walt Disney Concert Hall is almost always interesting. Nearly every time I walk around this space, I find a different angle, a new perspective for my shots. Sometimes, I replicate a shot, but the weather always changes the effect of said shot. In this case, the clouds really added some depth to everything. The light was just right. Having the Nokia in my hand also gave me a different way to see this space because I had never shot with this phone before. The display on the phone is large so I could see what I was shooting differently. Changing up the tools to shoot with can have that effect and this definitely served as a great eye-opener this morning.
Driving Around Downtown
People in Los Angeles usually drive. We walk around a bit (see above), but we generally like to drive. So, I usually do that around Downtown. On this day, I drove around unusually empty streets. That morning, I stopped whenever I got the chance and shot whatever I really wanted to. Usually, traffic really puts a dent on that, but for whatever reason, traffic wasn’t much of an issue on this morning. So, I drove, stopped, shot and drove some more. Since you just have to tap the screen on the Nokia, it made for a pretty excellent point-and-shoot experience for the drive-by shots.
Ever since I started shooting, much of it has been about self-discovery. Some of that self-discovery has been accidental and some of it intentional, but all of it life-altering. That’s why I no longer mind getting lost in the art, lost in photography, lost in the city. By getting lost in all of this, I’ve actually been able to find pieces of myself. The journey continues.