Unsaturated Phat

Twice in the past month I’ve been tagged by friends on Facebook to participate in a black-and-white photograph challenge. Post 5 photos in 5 days. Pretty doable, as far as challenges go. So I’m in.

It’s been a great excuse to go spelunking through my collected photographs stored in the caverns of Google+ Photos. Just one click drains all color out of the most spectacular sunset or the most riotous bloom. The black-and-white result, at first, can seem flat and boring. But then…

In the absence of color, other aspects of the image step into the spotlight. Structure. Texture. Light. Shadow. Line. Almost the way an x-ray reveals what the eye doesn’t normally see. What’s left once you’ve removed the green from the grass? the aquamarine from the pool water? It’s an interesting second act for a photograph. Here are the dozen or so snapshots I chose for these challenges. (And a couple of wild cards at the end.) For those of you who love taking pics, this might send you running into your own albums on a hunt for buried treasure. I’ve discovered that I even prefer some photos as their b/w alter egos.


Twin Palms, Palm Springs



Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood



White Rose, Beverly Hills



The End of the Road, Venice Beach



“Fish in a Barrel”  –  Summer Snap Peas, West Hartford



Los Angeles City Hall – from Grand Park


Swimming Pool, Chamberlain Hotel, West Hollywood

Swimming Pool, West Hollywood


Date Palm, Rancho Mirage, California

Date Palm, Rancho Mirage


The Silvery Sea, Santa Monica

The Silvery Sea, Santa Monica


Burlwood Heart, Sculpture by Anne Shutan

Burlwood Heart, Sculpture by Anne Shutan (


Winter Grass, Rancho Mirage

Winter Grass, Rancho Mirage


Century Plaza Towers, Century City, California

Century Plaza Towers, Century City


Then I started to play around with some sunsets. One I took recently at the beach in Santa Monica. One taken by my friend Jenn at Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. They’re just not very interesting in black-and-white. Lots of gray. The sky’s reflection on the water is such an integral part of the beauty of these scenes. But, what if…


Unreflected Sunset, Santa Monica


Distilled Sunset, Santa Monica

Distilled Sunset, Santa Monica



Unreflected Sunset, Tod’s Point, Old Greenwich (original photo by Jenn Myer Trainer)



Distilled Sunset, Tod’s Point, Old Greenwich (original photo by Jenn Myer Trainer)



What Comes After ‘Billions And Billions’?

When the Universe takes a selfie, it uses the Hubble Space Telescope. This tiny sliver of sky reveals many thousands of galaxies, untold billions of stars.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


Click on any galaxy to go to NASA’s Hubble page


Meanwhile, coming to a red state near you…

ark theme park

Sadly, this is an actual link to a real thing…


The End (so far)

[089] Skydiving Into Gotham

There are images that stop me in my tracks, and this is one of them. I just came across it in my Twitter feed. It appears to have been taken from a vantage point several thousand feet above NYC. The lines of perspective are exaggerated as the eye moves out from the center point, in a way that emphasizes the urban oasis that is Central Park – and gives you the feeling of falling into the picture. Geronimoooooooo!


Even with the distortion, though, the clarity is remarkable. I see buildings I lived and worked in, a long time ago. And the places in the park that I loved. Still do. Just haven’t been to them in awhile. The jogging track encircling the big blue Reservoir. The softball fields behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we could let Remi and Jesse romp off leash. Bethesda Fountain on The Lake. The roadways inside the park that were closed to traffic on Sundays in favor of walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, breakdancers, etc. Thom and I lived just four blocks behind the Guggenheim on East 89th Street and I’d rollerblade into the park and skate the great circle from midtown to Harlem. Listening to my Walkman. (FYI: this was after 8-tracks and before CDs.) Wearing only wrist and knee guards. I wasn’t young enough (even then) to justify that feeling of invincibility – but I was lucky.

And there’s the Great Lawn of Sheep Meadow where I saw the epic Simon & Garfunkel concert in 1981, and the ill-fated Diana Ross concert in the summer of ’83. It was a sweltering summer evening and a massive thunderstorm fired up just a half-hour into the show. Miss Ross was having none of it, though. She kept going in the driving rain, wind whipping that huge mane of tight curls, her flowing garments billowing like a runaway spinnaker… Ain’t no mountain high enough! A biblical downpour. No one left. It was insane. Half a million people could have been electrocuted where we stood… Ain’t no river wide enough! It was an amazing moment. And then the Motown Diva acknowledged Mother Nature’s superior forces and said she’d be back the next night to finish the show. I remember being swept along in a river of humanity exiting the park that night, soaked to the skin, everyone running for cover into the office building lobbies and hotels along Central Park South and around the Plaza. It was part disaster movie, part carnival. I don’t think they did many free concerts in the park after that. But what a night!

And you know what I love about the internet? I just found a clip from that crazy washed out concert!


An extraordinary image of an extraordinary park in an extraordinary city. If you know me or have followed this blog for more than an hour, then you know I love life in Los Angeles. But seeing this image and the memories of people and places and events that it triggers… reminds me of my first home, and my first love. It will always be true…


Day 089 #100happydays

The End (so far)

We Are Super heroes

When we were kids, our mothers told us to “Go outside and play!” So we did. My friend Jenn was especially good at this. She liked to pose her Barbies in life-threatening, damsel-in-distress situations. Dangling from a tree branch. Buried neck-deep in sand. Good, wholesome stuff that would prepare her for a career in… teaching. Children. I know Jenn will appreciate this “Adventures of Miniature Batman” series of photos from the tormented (insanely creative) souls at hovercraftdoggy blog. If you like it too, then perhaps it will comfort you that you are not alone… (P.S. Be sure to click VIEW ORIGINAL at the end to see more mini-Batman in action!)


Batman Rémi Noël (2) Batman Rémi Noël (3) Batman Rémi Noël (4) Batman Rémi Noël (5) TinyBatman08 TinyBatman06 Batman Rémi Noël (6) Batman Rémi Noël (7) Batman Rémi Noël (8) Batman Rémi Noël (1)

The secret life of miniature batman – French artist and photographer Rémi Noël takes a classic ‘Batman’ 1989 movie action figure on a tour of the American Southwest in a fun and surprisingly moving photography series.

This post is part of our second Theme Week where since last Friday, you the public had the chance to choose between 5 themes/inspirations for each post this week. Yet again you chose probably the most challenging theme we had listed: ‘Miniature’ Hope you enjoy… 🙂

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[047] The World at 1 mph

Steve Martin’s 1991 film “L.A. Story” takes the piss out of Los Angeles and the curious ways of its inhabitants. There is a scene where the people in a typical neighborhood get in their cars and drive 25 feet to their mailboxes at the end of their driveways. We know this is a spoof because it is choreographed and set to music. Otherwise, there is a sad degree of truth to it. I have a friend who lived six blocks from his office in Santa Monica. He drove to work every day. Why? There is no why. If you’re going somewhere in LA, you drive. The phrase “walking distance” would elicit blank stares.

I swim every day in a pool that is about 1 mile from home. I drive there. They validate parking. I drive home. I’ve decided to throw in a little walking to augment the swimming regimen, and today was a beautiful day to stretch the legs. You know it’s been a warm, dry winter in Southern California, and spring started springing here weeks ago. My walk took me down some side streets that would be out-of-the-way in a car but are shortcuts on foot. And I noticed flowers blooming everywhere. So I started snapping away. Not always in focus, but what the hell. It’s better than shoveling snow, eh?



After my swim, I decided to take a more leisurely, circuitous route home – and went on a real meander. I’ve lived in some great walking cities: New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco. After more than three years living in West Hollywood, I finally went on an extended stroll through my neighborhood. And I discovered some of the things I miss when I drive past them at 40 mph. Here’s what my world looks like at 1 mph. Enjoy!

IMG_20140222_170216 IMG_20140222_165921 IMG_20140222_170452 IMG_20140222_170852

IMG_20140222_171408 IMG_20140222_171738 IMG_20140222_172202 IMG_20140222_172430 IMG_20140222_172745 IMG_20140222_174607 IMG_20140222_175138

Day 047. Slow-walking my neighborhood. #100happydays

Century City from the Hollywood Hills

Photo by Steve Rosenberger using Paper Camera app

Photo by Steve Rosenberger using Paper Camera app

[025] Apple Store Selfies

My first job (or, the first job that didn’t require me to push a lawn mower or dab zinc oxide on my nose) was in an ad agency perched high above the Plaza on Fifth Avenue. The General Motors Building gmbldg.cornerwas (is) one of the most prestigious business addresses in New York City, anchoring the southeast corner of Central Park – directly opposite the fabled Plaza Hotel, and flanked by the Sherry-Netherland Hotel and Bergdorf Goodman. It is a soaring, 50-story skyscraper in vertical stripes of blazing white marble and smoked black glass. Most people will recognize it from countless media images of that corner of the park. The building’s shape and stripes always reminded me of a pack of cigarettes upholstered in seersucker.

One strange thing about this magnificent office tower on the Plaza with all the swanky neighbors: the lobby was a car dealership. Of course, it was the General Motors Building… but it was just bizarre to be walking through this cavernous white marble lobby, surrounded by all these Chevrolets and Buicks and Cadillacs. And it was a working dealership! Eventually, FAO Schwarz took over most of the vast lobby as the flagship of its toy empire, vacating a space across 58th Street that was taken over by Bergdorf Goodman for its Men’s Store.



Another weird bit was the sunken retail space in the wide plaza between the building’s facade and Fifth Avenue. I think it was meant to echo the sunken space at Rockefeller Center (where tourists skate on a rink in the winter). There was an old barber shop down there where I’d go for my regular haircut and shoeshine. I still love old-fashioned barber shops. The person I now entrust my hair to here in LA is not an old-fashioned barber. His name is Atila. Nicest guy. He was the official hairdresser of the punk movement in Hollywood in the 80s. He has hair the color of a robin’s egg, and he must die of boredom granting my unadventurous hair wishes. But that’s another post.

The subterranean retail space of the GM Building on Fifth Avenue where I used to get my haircut was repurposed in 2006 to become the flagship Apple Store in New York. It is accessed by glass stairs or glass elevator through a now-iconic 32-foot glass cube at street level (à la I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramide, but worse).

Which brings me, at last, to the topic at hand. A couple of years ago, I invented a brand new cultural activity called Apple Store Selfies. You can do it alone or in a group. As with most things, it is more fun with a friend or two. It is simple. Whenever you find yourself at an Apple Store, anywhere in the world, go to any of the iMacs or MacBooks. Open the PhotoBooth app and take a selfie, saving it to the desktop. Then, open the Mail app and send yourself an email with the photo attached. (Don’t send it to someone else directly; the email will come from a weird numeric email address ARS023.050 or something like that, and will inevitably end up in a spam filter.) I should probably start an Instagram / Twitter hashtag for #applestoreselfies. Feel free to take the initiative.

Here are some of the selfies my friends and I have taken in Apple Stores. Now it’s your turn.

Apple Store at The Quarter in Scottsdale

Apple Store at The Quarter in Scottsdale

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store, South Beach

Apple Store, South Beach



Apple Store Selfies make me happy.
Day 025 #100happydays

[016] Snapping Janus

In November 2012, The Weather Channel (note: not the National Weather Service; but that’s another post) decided to begin naming winter storms, after the convention for hurricanes. I suspect this had something to do with the arrival of “Super Storm Sandy” in New York a few weeks earlier. Sandy brought catastrophic damage over a wide area. It was a named storm because it was a tropical system occurring before the official end of “hurricane season” on November 30th. But what about non-tropical storms… that slam into us in January? 

go away ireneI can understand why TWC wants to talk about storms by name. These massive meteorological monsters threaten us; we perceive them as living, breathing entities. They are unpredictable, fascinating, awesome, frightening… real. Naming a storm puts a label on our mental file-folders where all of our individual and shared experiences can be stored. A hurricane or blizzard is not a person, but these storms do get personal – whether they are delaying your flight halfway across the country, or submerging your neighborhood in seawater, or temporarily transforming your familiar gritty cityscape into a white, fluffy meadow. When a potentially deadly storm is bearing down on you, it helps (somehow) to be able to tell it how you really feel (on the plywood you just tacked up over your windows).

And so, New York is now buried in the remnants of Winter Storm Janus. A combination of powdery snow and frigid temps (Polar 20140120_TWC_JANUSVortex 2.0) has transformed Gotham into a thousand small towns. Having lived in NYC at several junctures along my own timeline, I know that you live in your neighborhood, for the most part. You might live uptown and work downtown, but your staples are within a few blocks of your nest. The dry cleaner, Korean market, gym, Chinese take-out and the bagel place on the corner. When Mother Nature slows things down, your neighborhood becomes your whole world, for a little while. And no matter how much kvetching goes on about the tragic inconvenience of it all, the truth is: most New Yorkers secretly (or openly) love the change of pace. If The City That Never Sleeps is forced to take a nap, well, who are we to argue? Janus did it.

That’s also the difference between a hurricane and a snowstorm. Heat is energy, and that is what makes a hurricane such an energetic, dangerous event. Not that a blizzard is without danger.

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

But our language betrays how we relate to the snow. It blankets us. It brings a hush. It creates a winter wonderland. (Unless you’re homeless or without heat; but that’s another post.)

New York in the snow is a phenomenon most easily appreciated by a New Yorker. Snow slows you down the way nothing else can, and that’s when you see a million details that you miss at the normal speed of life. Horizontal lines emerge in the vertical cityscape: tree branches, power lines, fencing, awnings, rooflines. Everyday objects become cloaked with visibility. You never notice the fire hydrant on your corner, but you know that’s what’s under that 3-foot lump of snow. The sapping of energy from this most energetic of cities is most noticeable at night. Snowfall in the woods seems natural. Hearing your boots crunch in the snow (and no other sound) as you walk down the middle of Lexington Ave… that would be unnerving if you weren’t so full of the wonder of it.

The NYC photos posted here were taken last night by Vivienne Gucwa. Google+ thought I’d be interested in her work, and put it in front of me this morning. So I am enormously grateful to that algorithm – and to Ms Gucwa. Here’s a link to her blog post on Janus, where you can find her galleries on Flickr. I’m somehow resisting the urge to start clicking because I know I’ll never stop, and I have a little work to get done now. I hope you’ll enjoy her work, whether you are a New Yorker, an ex-pat or anyone who appreciates the frozen romance of the American Metropolis.

New York City in the snow – and Vivienne Gucwa’s artistry with a camera – make me happy.
Day 016 #100happydays

[013] The Photo You Don’t Take

The last call of the day for lap swims on Sundays is 4:30–6:00pm, and for once I was early. It’s nice to be able to do a marathon instead of a sprint; it’s just a different kind of workout.

The West Hollywood Swimming Pool is located in the newly redone West Hollywood Park, with parking at the adjacent West Hollywood Library. (And now you know why we shorten it to Weho.) Well, there was bit of a traffic jam at the 5-story parking structure, with a car just sitting in the entrance. I walked over to see if the driver was having an issue with the “Press This Button for Ticket” dispenser. Turns out, the maximum number of cars had entered the structure, and the smarty-pants automated dispenser was waiting for a car to leave before permitting another to enter. Makes sense. I’ve just never known a parking structure in LA to fill up! A sort of vertical gridlock. We all just patiently waited another minute or two for another car or two to leave, and our god-given right to park was restored.

I guess that’s all by way of saying what a gorgeous day it was to be in the park. The sport courts were full of people playing, uh, sports. The lawns were full of sunbathers and frisbee throwers and dogs a-fetching. The playground and picnic areas were packed with kids and their parents. Have you ever watched a bunch of kids in a playground? They’ve never met before, but one or two bossypants get everyone organized and they make up games and rules and play and have fun. And someone ends up crying. Just like real life. It’s similar to a dog park, where dogs of all shapes and sizes just… get along. Adult humans seem to lose this cooperative instinct somewhere along the way. (But that’s another post.)

As I walked from the parking structure into the park, I saw more than a few people pointing their smartphone cameras upward, and my eyes tracked along that trajectory. All those photos that were sunday cloudssnapped at that moment will never do justice to the skyscape that caught everyone’s attention – but here’s one anyway. (Little did I know that this was the before shot.)

Fast-forward an hour, as I’m slicing my way through the water. (I may actually be plodding through the water, but it feels like slicing. Let’s go with slicing.) The pool lies on a north-south axis, so every odd-numbered lap (on my way to 90 today; just sayin’) gave me an eyeful of western sky. And on one of those southbound slices – Holy Vesuvius, Batman! – the sky had burst into flame! It was breathtaking, luminous, blood red. So intense that for a few long moments I considered that Something Very Bad had happened to produce this effect. Like a meteor strike… or the Hawaiian Islands had gone off like volcanic Roman candles… or maybe Google had found a way to turn the sky into a high-def screen.

Then, for another long moment, I contemplated getting out of the water and drying off sufficiently to reach into my gym bag, pull out my phone and snap a pic of these artistic atmospherics. But I just kept swimming. With every other lap, more color had drained out of the sky until it had cooled to a dark ember of a cloud. The whole passion play couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. But what a show!

I don’t have a snapshot to share with you. But I can close my eyes now and experience what the setting sun did to those high, white clouds. It’s more than a visual; memory can function this way as a sixth sense. Or a sense in all five dimensions. Instead of looking at a static photo, my mind is reconstructing the entire experience, including the view through my goggles… the sound of the water splashing around me… the smell of chlorine… and tagging this memory with the thought I had that, sometimes, it’s the photo we don’t take that stays with us.

The photo I didn’t take today makes me happy.
Day 013 #100happydays

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just taking dictation…

My eagle-eyed editor, Tiger.
My eagle-eyed editor, Tiger.

[001] #100happydays

Moon Over PDC

Moon Over PDC

I have a South African friend who lives in Oman. Lois grabs life by the horns – and anything else she can get her hands on. She goes off on adventures to India, to Nepal, to Vietnam, to wherever is next… journaling her experiences and snapping the most captivating photography.

Lois just posted her participation in this #100happydays project.

I’m in, too. And I hope you’ll join us. Snap a picture of one thing that makes you happy each day, for 100 days. It’s not a competition or a contest. Everyone wins. I’m drawn to this because I want to pay closer attention to the easy-to-miss moments that make me smile or laugh or appreciate something or someone… that are over before they begin. And it may be a challenge to capture some of this with an image. Which makes it fun.

I’ll share each day’s photo on Twitter, and expand on it a bit here. I posted today’s photo at the top of this post. A few hours ago I was playing around with one of the filters on my phone camera, getting shots of the colorful Pacific Design Center here in West Hollywood. That made me happy. And off we go.