I first moved to California in the Summer of 2007. I had been once before, my senior year of college to visit a cousin who was living in SoCal. I never had California ambitions growing up, it always seemed like a great place but I didn’t feel a California pull like so many others before me had.
In 2007 I needed a career adjustment, I was working in an aviation adjacent industry but I wasn’t close enough to the action. Through my network I landed an interview at a large Architecture and Engineering firm in Los Angeles. I was hired and started anew in the Golden State.
It was the first time I felt I had absolute freedom to go anywhere, my introduction to photography may have started in Montreal, Canada, it really took off in California.
I’ve driven and flown around the state, often with friends, too many times alone. Its a state that has spawned hopes and dreams, but beyond the superficial veneer of beauty, there’s an even greater beauty too often not seen.
Big Sur is a “passage obligé” for anyone visiting Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sure you can fly between both cities, but your soul would be fed by the trip through an amazing coast.
The central coast is often forgotten and a pleasure reserved almost exclusively for Californians. The idiosyncracies of this area only really make sense if you live out here. I usually stop by Old Spring Tavern to grab a Tri Tip Steak Sandwich in Los Padres National Forest.
Joshua Tree & the Salton Sea
The drive between Joshua Tree and Los Angeles takes between two and three hours. Once you get there though, it feels like you’ve landed somewhere else way further than three hours away. I remember the first time I went to Joshua Tree, coming over a hill; Joshua Tree revealed itself, it felt like I was on another planet. Each Joshua Tree seemed like an extraterrestrial animal, roughly the earth equivalent of an elephant standing still.
The Park is a refuge for Angelenos tired of the inevitable bullshit that comes with living in a city that amplifies the beautiful and ignores the rest. A way to get grounded. And if you come to the almost inevitable conclusion that civilization may not be for you, you may find yourself at home on the shores of the Salton Sea. A sea that really isn’t one, it was created by mistake and seems to be inhabited by people sometimes haunted by their mistakes or the mistakes of their unchosen civilization. There maybe a social contract, they never signed it. Its a refuge for those who don’t want to conform with the obligations of structured civilization, or at least the one we have now and find a measure of peace by living on the edge here, where life is harder, but forgotten by the simple masses.
Los Angeles is almost unique in how in one place you can find mountains, ocean, forests and deserts reflecting light waiting to be captured. Beautiful women asking for the moment to be captured. A density of professional photographers whose skills you can borrow and learn from. Finally a large group of fine-art collectors willing to invest in your vision.
All this in one place, Los Angeles, and here I was.
This city is a narcissistic exhibitionist, just wants to show all the sides of her, good, the bad but always good looking.
The North coast is California’s lost coast. A place for me that has more to give than Big Sur, fewer people know about it since its on a road to nowhere but itself and that’s just fine. Everyone else can stay absorbed in the cities or in between. You’re still in California, but no bikinis and Palm Trees, this coast is unforgiving in its strength that makes it beautiful.
The area to the north of Los Angeles in many ways is the anti-Los Angeles. Its a doorway to the other California, just as important but as prosperity flocked to the cities, the periphery lost out. Its a place where the tools of globalization, aircraft, find their final resting place. However it is also the place where the future takes shape with prototype spaceflights. Angelenos can’t get enough of the California Poppies when they come in bloom here.
Route to Vegas
Driving between Las Vegas to Los Angeles the old fashioned way on Route 66 is like being a drive-thru archeologist. You drive through the history of the United States, seeing reminders that prosperity is fickle and fleeting. The abandoned buildings are a testament to the ones that were left holding the bag of their hopes and dreams as time left them behind.
Travel my way
Take the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
San Diego is a city that, despite its strong Military heritage doesn’t take itself too seriously and is in no hurry to get anything done. It’s about taking in the sun and sea. Though a wall runs through it, San Diego wouldn’t be complete without Tijuana and the Mexican back country to the South, it grounds San Diego in reality, offering at times a necessary counterpoint.
A western attempt at a European metropolis surrounded by an incredible beauty of topography. The city itself refuses to abide by pleasant Californian weather norms and is almost in perpetual state of unknown weather conditions making it difficult to dress appropriately.
The first time I drove through Inyo county on the 395 was for ski trip at Mammoth. We left Los Angeles early to make it to Mammoth in time to hit the slopes and drink. I didn’t fully realize until a few years later that route up there was more interesting than the destination.
The Inyo Valley has some of the most stunning scenery that often goes unnoticed. The worlds’ oldest trees can be found in the Bristlecone forest, Death Valley is where absolute heat and the lowest point in North America can be experienced. The Alabama Hills has nothing to do with Alabama and everything to do with a strange scenery that draws you in. It is too easy to drive through and not know what you are missing.
I had gotten a new car, it was German princess that devoured asphalt with glee. Being a photographer and speed aficionado, I looked for an empty stretch of pavement where I could give the car a little run. As a scoured the interwebs I stumbled across an abandoned army airfield near Manzanar, just north of Lone Pine. Once I looked up Manzanar, it was a moment of reckoning as an American I had to have; a reckoning with choices made long before I came to exist. Manzanar was an American Concentration camp, one of ten built to forcibly displace 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent in 1942. Over 10,000 Americans were held in one of the most inhospitable areas in the country. Their homes, their lands taken away.It was not until the 1980s that the official act of contrition from the Government came. Today not much is left, of the camp, of the many dozens of barracks, only one remains. Like many things, a choice to forget seems to have been taken.