My garage, oh how I love thee. Your 3 stalls of wonderful space and all of the fun things I've done in them. Yes, I love thee. I have shown you to many people who have embraced you as I have. Please don't ever leave me, for I will be sad. Happy times is all I want to remember, happy times such as these:
Skateboarding, music videos, chillin, sparks, flames, beer drinking, welding, talking smart, BMW motor scooters....my garage has seen lots. This little blog is dedicated to my compatriots that have graced the concrete floors of this reasonable space. I salute you my friends!
Ludlow. That's the name of this hollow corridor of the old route 66. This used to be a prominent rail stop. The center of the economic stability in the region was mining. Main street populated by your staple businesses: post office, union office, town hall and concrete poured mercantile structure which is the only building still standing on main street, although earthquakes have shook the insides out of it.
Later on in the 50's and 60's the town became part of the Atomic Energy Commissions project area. Project Plowshare mission was to find peaceful uses nuclear explosions. I am up for that, but I can't figure out how radioactive fallout could be reclassified as peaceful. Near the town, they planned to use 22 bombs to blast a path over the Bristol Mountains for the railroad and the I-40 freeway. Thankfully that never happened.
Stories of a girl that went missing down a mine shaft abound in this little town. They suspect foul play by a miner named Dan Dan. His crazy scratchings can be found in these slip shod shacks. “If you want to disappear, I can help you”
Here's what is left of this dusty pit stop, you can't really call it a town. It does have a gas station, cafe and motel. It's patrons are mostly I-40 travelers looking to fill up on gas station coffee, Cheetos, and mini California license plates with your name stamped on them. Ludlow is dry, meaning that no alcohol is sold in the cafe or gas station, but that don't keep some of the local folks from stashing some 'shine under the back lid of their toilet. There is nothing to do in Ludlow and thats the way they like it.
Around the turn of the century, nearly 1000 people inhabited this the relatively small area of the Mojave seeking riches from the Earth in the form of borax, sulfate, talc, copper, silver and gold. Now a days in this Red Rock area you won't find any miners, pick axes, slag or stamp mills operating out here, but you may stumble upon the remains of equipment, tanks, foundations and trash of those hardy folks who tried to make a go out there in the desert with no water, crops, paved roads or much in the way of mechanized vehicles. 2 folks in particular have made a legend for themselves with out really knowing it or trying. Walt Bickel and William Henry “Burro” Schmidt were 2 friends and neighbors that just operated in their daily lives trying to get by and praying to strike it rich!
William Henry Schmidt was a miner who got the nickname “Burro” because of his obsession with hand digging a half mile tunnel through a mountain. Walt Bickel operated a small camp and a hub in the area for miners to come get supplies, take a bath and have their tools sharpened or repaired. There are probably enough rumors and stories about each of these men to fill a rock quarry. I can relate to my man Bickel, from a tour of his camp it is plain to see that this ole coot was pretty darn handy. He built a well drilling machine out of 2 car frames, a motor and some large tubing. He was a welder, machinist and all 'round desert steampunk factotum.
“Burro” Schmidt, it seems, was one who adhered to a more single minded task: mole a hole through a mountain. I wondered what he was looking for? Some sources say that he was looking for an easier path to bring ore to the local stamp mill. Others say he was out to get some gold. Many believed that ol' Schmidt was just crazy and became obsessed with getting a hole punched through that mountain. Any way you dig at Schmidt it is plain to see that he was compelled to tunnel through. He began his excavation in 1900 and punched out the other side in 1938. I was told by the Bickel camp caretakers that he would work on it for part of the winter season and take time off in the hot summer months. Still 38 years is dedication – he made a career out of it! A plaque at the entrance of the tunnel testifies to Burro Schmidt's “determination and perseverance”.
Image a day out there at Bickel's camp in the dry, but busy Red Rock desert. I can see Schmidt hiking down to Bickel with some worn out mining bits that need sharpening. “Afternoon Walt” Schmidt might say. “Need my bits sharpened”. “Will do Burro, making progress?” Walt would reply. “Same as usual, say, got that new pick axe in?”. Walt shakes his head “no” while he cranks up the foot powered metal grinder.
It's not hard to image these two friends going about their daily lives in hopes of making their fortunes in this desert. I am not real sure how savy Bickel and Schmidt really were, neither of them appear to have struck it rich and grew their businesses beyond the Mojave, regardless, both men are legendary in the area for their perseverance and mechanical skill.
What is so special about a mount of dirt and clay in the middle of the desert with paint on it? Some folks don't get it. They don’t understand passion and drive. They don’t understand the quiet activity of the desert that provides peace of mind and peace of soul. Salvation mountain was created out of one mans desire to get a message to the people.
God is Love. I heard him say “Keep it simple”. Leonard Knight is that man who tried to launch a hot air balloon into the sky to get message of love to the people. Why did he do it in the middle of the desert where there are few inhabitants, I wondered. I speculate that Leonard felt the presence of God in that wind ravaged dust bowl of Niland California. I too could sense the quiet whisper of God in the winds as it blew across the sand. There is very little distraction out there and it allows a man to commune with God rather easily. I can see the attraction.
After Leonard’s hot air balloon attempt failed, he set out to make a mark for God using concrete. Close to 40 years later, Leonard has crafted a mecca of sorts. I would say it's more of an enormous art project that was created using materials found in the desert and second hand paint. Yet, it draws the people here to this place in the middle of oblivion. Heck, it may as well be. There is no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, yet several hundred people live near here in Slab City...perhaps they feel the peace of the Lord also.
Salvation Mountain is inadvertently a work of art. It is named on the National Historic Register as Folk Art. That designation is what helped protect it from the bureaucratic, red tape lovin', slimy government employees that tried to tear it down in the 90's calling it an “environmental nightmare”! Really? Out there in the middle of East Jesus? Justice prevailed when the good guy Leonard Knight was able to continue his passionate mud slapping and recycled paint sloppin' because the results of soil tests came back in his favor.
You won't find Mr. Knight out there these days, no, unfortunately he will be in a wheel chair for the remainder of his life (or until DARPA can get those robotic legs perfected). Heard tell from a solid source out at the Mountain that Leonard lost his leg due to an infection. Shame. But, regardless, Leonard has created a legacy, one that might not last long since the materials are mostly made from earth and over time they shall return to the earth, peacefully. Don't take my word for it though, take the trip yourself to the middle of the desert and find your own peace....maybe you'll find the love of the Lord while you are there...it's what Leonard is hopin' you find.
I've attended the wind blown dunes and extensive beaches of Pismo Beach several times. Each time I go, I am amazed at the natural wonder of this 8 mile long beach that extends inland for another mile or more. I wish I was a “Dunite” a someone who spends their time wondering the dunes and contemplating life and spirituality, but honestly, I just want to rip these puppies down with 400cc's of 4 wheeled power underneath me. Regardless, I feel the presence of the of the spirituality in those Dunes, especially when I yelling out to God to save my butt as I fly over another dune expecting to die.
While we are out here riding our gas powered earth crushers, this area has not always been inhabited by beer drinking, beach camping gear heads. Apparently this beach has been occupied by Indians during the pre-history of California. According to Wikipedia, the Indians called area Pismu which was their word for tar that they used for their seagoing canoes. Years later when the white folk took over, artists, nudists and spiritualists camped in the dunes and said that the dunes brought about their creativity and inner peace. Well, those dreams are shattered.
Pismo is currently a recreational area, one of a few in california where you can drive your cars, RV's, 4x4's and ATV's on the sand in true American style. When we were there this place was packed with campers, RV's and people just looking to have a good time with their petro fueled sandrails, ATV's and other wheeled vehicles cutting their way through the sand at high speed.
Our little group are a bunch of part timers or beginners, but that didn’t stop us from having major amounts of fun out there in those ancient dunes where many people have found their creative muse wandering around. We found some fun, but maybe we where going to fast to pick up any of those creative spirits. Who knows, hundreds of years from now, maybe those spirits will have this place all to themselves again, but for now we'll rip these puppies down!
San Pedro is an industrial city and a beach city. There are surfers and there are oil workers. There are port authority workers and there are vagrants. There are police and there are skateboarders. So you have a diverse city that knows how to make things happen, people in that city that know how to build things.
Channel Street Skateboard Park is located under the Channel street exit ramp bridge and began its life when an industrious skateboarder slapped a bag of concrete between the junction of a bridge pillar and the asphalt parking lot in which it is anchored. I am not sure how long ago that was, but it has been at least 10 years since that unauthorized awesome act. Since then skateboarders have been rolling to that spot under the bridge and shredding, slowing adding more and more. A curb here, a quarterpipe there, a bowled corner over there. Some how, local authorities allowed it to grow and continue.
Today Channel Street Skate Park is much more than patchwork of mixed concrete, it is a compact area of unique curves and transitions connected by a spine section. Long and narrow, the park is all transition with a network of bowls with metal coping and pool coping. It is definitely a challenge to skate. Some of the transitions and bowel corners offer nice little surprises for a new rider. This park is one of a small group of DIY (do it yourself) skateparks that have been built in this country with little or no help from community government.
Channel Street Skatepark is an excellent example of skateboarders taking matters into their own hands and fulfilling a need – besides its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. But take a trip there yourself and you see that no one is saying 'sorry'. Nope, its more like a proud 'Look what we did' to a local government that neglected to act. As an industrial city, San Pedro has a hardened side, so this is not a place for a soccer mom to take her 5 year old with a Penny Board. As a beach city, San Pedro has a relaxed and easy going side, so the locals at Channel Street are pretty friendly and not too worried about competition.
One more thing that I like about the park is that it is a work of art. There are tile mosaics on the walls next to murals and other found objects embedded into the walls. A side from the deliberate art, the curves and corners of this park are unique works of skate-able art. Its a gathering place for all types of people. Maybe now that this skatepark has been constructed, it will draw the port authority workers, oil workers, vagrants and police over to watch the skateboarders. This skater built park may also have an unintended result of building something else – relationships.
On the edge of an immense urban city and just before the Pacific ocean washes its westerly wave against these high cliffs of San Pedro, there lays a neighborhood quietly positioned on its peak. Merely a seagulls caw away from the port district of Los Angeles, a breezy neighborhood is unaware of certain disaster! Sunken City of San Pedro!
There are lots of family fun things that you could do in San Pedro. For example lets visit the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, The Korean Bell of Friendship, The Vincent Thomas suspension bridge, the Fermin Point Lighthouse or perhaps the USS Iowa battleship harbored there. But nope, I want to check out the Sunken City - a mix of dirt and churned up concrete roadway. Am I strange or just a little off? I could just be drawn to disaster. But really, is this a true sunken city?
The name brings up images in my mind of grand ancient cities that have been lost for centuries with an unlimited bounty of treasure and wealth. So, is that what we have here in San Pedro? No, not really. Instead of a Sunken City, I would call this more of a “Recessed Block”. Heck, its more of a washed out street. I still think it pretty cool though. So how did this happen you ask? Well, I am no historian or geologist, but I have this wiki thing on the inter-web just like everybody else, so lets see what I can glean from this.
1929 was the year that residents in this area noticed that their plots of land were slowly creeping toward the Pacific. Some accounts described land slumping 11 inches per day, so it was by no means a sudden occurrence. History shows that the city was able to move the impacted homes out of harms way before the landslide ate them whole. But you can see that evidence remains of the concrete foundations, paved city streets and gutters that now act as willing surfaces for modern street artists to make their mark.
The area is restricted access, but that does not deter loads of meandering people from entering the area, to explore, paint and even throw a football around. Its sort of like a outcast's playground. Some play pretty hard here, especially at night. The area is littered with discarded cases of beer, broken bottles, fast food wrappers and spray paint cans. Sunken City is a hide-a-way and a party place and while it might be family fun for some, it is a final resting place for others – so if you plan to visit this recess, step carefully.
Fellow photographic pal Joaquin and I often trek to the lesser travelled environs of the Southern Californian desert. "Desolate" is a prime criteria when deciding the destinations. Anza Borrego, a state park spanning 3 California counties fits the title nicely....at least for what we mostly saw. I coaxed Joaquin out this way because I had heard of large metal sculptures ascending from the desert floor in random unexpected places near Anza Borrego in Borrego Springs. This is August in the desert in California – 105 F temperatures are normal, however, we where blessed with over cast cloudy weather. I love clouds, I love em in my photography, especially when shooting landscapes or weird enormous metal animals out amongst the tumble weed.
Joaquin was skeptical, but we soon came upon several sculptures of elephant with large tusks, just off the highway near Borrego Springs. There were 3 of them. A family. Seemingly strayed from the herd, frozen, their gaze welded facing west. There is nothing marking these beasts. No signage to tell you what this exhibition is all about. Nothing about the artist. No signs telling you to 'no touching', no ropes, no curbs, no fences. Truly a sculpture that seems to have been dropped off in the middle of no where's ville, like it was abandoned. I like that.
But yet these elephants are in good company. Not too far from here is a pack of wild horses dancing in the desert, a giant eagle protecting its nest and t-rex with his dino friends making a prehistoric reptilian fight club of sorts. Once you find one or two of these hand crafted sculptures, you'll discover more only a welding rod's throw away. In order to get to some of these sculptures, off road trails or short hike are the only ways. Its worth the effort. Joaquin was beginning to be impressed.
On the other side of Borrego Springs, just down the road a bit is a second grouping of more eclectic works of art. A herd of camel, more elephants, and a strange scene with several field workers tending to grape vines – truly odd. I saved the best for last though: a two story tall scorpion about to sting a cadillac sized grasshopper sitting in the middle of a sandy brushless several acre area. Yet again, there are no signs of any kind, no fodder to foul up your view and spoil your contemplation of these wonderfully detailed pieces of art.
"...a strange scene with several field workers tending to grape vines – truly odd."
It was at this point that Joaquin admitted to me that the grasshopper sculpture was his favorite. I liked it a lot too. Our final destination, seemed to be the most recent addition to this huge outdoor gallery: A Sea Serpent. This is the largest of the works, spanning the paved road allowing travelers to feel like they are surrounded by the scaly beast.
The serpent mimics those ocean dwelling dragons that where have said to have taken down many ships in the dark waters of the early days of sea voyages. It is undoubtedly an impressive and ambitious work. Joaquin and I struggled to find a shot that would capture the awe of the serpent. We snapped a few, feeling satisfied, then we left – still not knowing who or where this desolate collection sprang from. A mystery which only adds to the reverent and enigmatic feeling that comes to you when standing in 105 F degree desert near these creatures. We must move on, more of the California desert awaits.
My most useful and favorite tool around the house: Stretch wrap
Hum, sounds silly you say, but I argue that stretch wrap has about as many uses as duct tape, if not more. Ok, ok, duct tape is the long time ruler of the DIY/Maker movement. No shade tree mechanic or HVAC specialist could get by with out it. Those duct tape dresses for prom are pretty cool too. But I offer up another unrecognized garage hero in the neighborhood: Stretch wrap. “What can I do with stretch wrap other than ensure that my rhubarb pie is sealed up nice and fresh for tomorrows breakfast” you ask?
Well lets bust out the whiteboard and list out some of the process improvement that stretch wrap can help us out with:
Putting that box fan in the garage for the winter? Stetch wrap. Your fake Christmas tree is a bit unwieldy and is consuming too much floor space in the hall closet? Stretch wrap. Putting away your camping gear in the damp basement? Stretch wrap (with a few dessicant packages in there).
Dang, there are far too many awesome uses for stretch wrap when moving. Wrap up your precious picture frames to prevent scratches and breakage. That mid century modern sofa deserves to be wrapped in the loving care of that cellophane hero we call stretch wrap. Prevent your dresser drawers from sliding out while moving it down that narrow flight of stairs (why did you get an apartment on the second floor anyway??). Is it raining out on the day you decided to move? You know what to do. As you can plainly see a $24 role of sysco stretch wrap obtained at your local Smart and Final can potentially save you a string of headaches. To top it off, you don't have to worry about those meathead college kid movers scratching anything.
Around the garage:
Earlier today I pulled out a can of black glossy latex paint that I love. It is my go to paint for a bunch of things I have around my studio/garage. The paint was getting old and lid did not seal tightly anymore, so to help ensure that I would have some paint the next time I needed it, I wrapped the can in stretch wrap. It will also help ensure there are no spills if the can falls off the shelf during an earthquake or an elephant stampede. Need to put a new coat of spray paint your car fender? Use the stretch wrap around your tire, bumper or side view mirror to prevent over spray. The same can be accomplished if you decide to repaint your bike. The seat, handle bars and tires can all be covered quickly using stretch wrap.
Yes, you read it right, health care. Stretch wrap works wonders on arm or leg casts when you decide to take a shower. You can probably wade out in the lake or pool with your arm cast covered in a layer of cellophane. Did you bust your knee open trying to barge that new mountain bike trail? Slap a bit of gauze and a flexible layer of stretch wrap around that.
Right now I am assuming that you are totally knocked on your keister by the awesomeness of my favorite household tool stretch wrap. But really, I still do use duct tape, as a matter of interest, I own 11 roles. The unsung garage hero still remains stretch wrap in my mind. Try it for yourself if you haven’t, and when you become a stretch wrap believer, stretch the word – let cellophane take its rightful place along side of its more famous friend, duct tape.
I just watched Trump's 5 million dollar youtube video challenge. You know the one challenging Obama to give up some documents in exchange for Donald Trump's scribbles on a piece of paper to the tune of 5 million bucks (and to Obama's favorite charities no less!!). The lighting in that video was, well, pukey. It stunk. You would think that Don Trump could afford better. He's no slump! Heck, he could have called in a few favors from his reality TV co-horts. Well, this lesson goes specifically out to that camera guy or gal who shot that horribly lit youtube video. You're Fired! Here is how you might light an interview on your next gig:
Here is a top down view of the overall lighting set up. You can see I used four lights, one cookie(or cuculoris) and one camera. The interviewer sits just left of the camera so the interviewee is not looking directly into the camera. This is best for most documentaries, unless you want to directly address your audience in the way that D-Trump did. For this interview I used my 650 watt Tweenie for the backlight, a 200 watt Inky and a cookie for the pattern on the backdrop and (2) 4 foot, 4 bank tungsten balanced kinos. The Kinos are my key light. In this set up I have not fill light to the right of the camera, which is a personal style choice. In my opinion it gives a bit more of a 'hard' modern look....the fill light would soften it up in my humble opinion so it's out!
Part 1: Backlight
Before I get into the backlight, one thing I like to work hard to do is control the light. My little studio is essentially light proof, no light gets in with out me knowing about it. That way i can control the amount of light and the color temperature so that it looks the same in every take (even if the interview took all day or night to shoot). Ok, so...the backlight. Pretty simple. I used a 650 watt tungsten balanced Mole Richardson Tweenie set up high and in the back corner opposite the key light (we'll get into the in a minute). I didn't use a dimmer, so this puppy is full blast. No scrims or diffusion either. You could use them if you wanted to. I like to set my back light first, some people like to set the key light first. It is just a matter of preference. Enough of my yammering....take a look at the picture below, it will show you what the light set up should look like.
Part 2: Backdrop light and Cuculoris (cookie)
Next I set up my little Inky. It's a small 200 watt Mole Richardson tungsten light with a fresnel lens. I LOVE this light, I can put this little bad boy anywhere! It's small, lite and can throw a beam pretty far. I set this little guy on a stand at about chest height and set up my cookie in front of it on a C-Stand also. There is no gel or diffusion on the front of the Inky, just bare bulb and the fresnel lens. I messed with the focus of the light until I was happy. See below:
Part 3: Key light
As you can see from the picture below, the key light is a pretty darn important light. It's position is pretty important too and informs the emotion of the interview. Usually, the key light is pretty close to where the camera is located, in this instance, I moved it over about 5 feet from the camera. My intent is to see more of the side of the head of the interviewee while his face is pointed more into the light during the interview. It is almost a 3/4 view of the interviewee, which I like. Kino's kick butt and you could light the interview with just these, I mean, heck, it looks pretty good - if I do say so myself ;) .
Part 4: Putting it all together
Boom, that's it. Once you have all of your lights set, turn 'em on and set your interviewee down. Get your final camera framing and set your focus. That is also where the Trump video failed. FOCUS. The video was a little soft. Hey Trumpster, for your next video, dump your current Trump video chump and give me a call. I'll do it for free (provided you pay my airfare to the big apple).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.