Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Howard & Bente Bennett

One of my greatest privileges as a journalist was to research and write the story of Howard Bennett and his campaign in 1985 to force Los Angeles to clean up Santa Monica Bay. The result was the book, Dirty Water: One Man's Fight to Clean Up One of the World's Most Polluted Bays (University of California Press, 2010).

For the book's cover, I photographed Howard neck-deep in the bay in 2009. It's still one of my favorite portraits. I chose the surf location because for years Howard used to swim in the ocean, nearly every morning, for a half mile or more before he went to work as a teacher at Culver City High School. Logically, that's how he got involved in the fight to force the city to stop dumping millions of gallons of partially treated sewage in the bay everyday.

My wife and I recently visited Howard and his wife, Bente, at their Playa del Rey home. Howard still swims but now in a special pool they build in their backyard which abuts the Playa del Rey beach. Howard is still feisty at 85, but a little slower in other ways. While we were talking, I pulled out my camera and photographed both of them by the light coming through the windows overlooking the beach. They tolerated me without saying a word.

Two of my favorite people.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rindge Dam

My intrepid canyoneering friends and I took a trip through Rindge Gulch, a vegetation-choked canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains more or less above Malibu. Following some nice rappels, among the highlights was the more or less historic Rindge Dam that was, according to Wikipedia and other sources, built by the Rindge family in 1924-1926 for flood control on Malibu Creek. By 1950, it had filled up with silt and has been pretty much nonfunctional since. These days, it is part of Malibu Creek State Park and was recently pronounced off-limits for reasons of safety. Oh, well, scofflaws that we are, we had no other way of getting back to our cars but to exit the canyon via the dam. Even in the harsh, crappy light at the time, the structure is interesting to look at and hike by. This is a pano stitched together from eight vertical shots.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Explore the Elements

Fire (Pu'u O'o Crater Erupting) This was taken in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park early one winter evening after hiking to the crater site (I believe the trail is now closed due to all the recent eruptions). The exposure was about 20 minutes on (ready for this?) Kodak Ektachrome film. I lugged in a Bronica SQ-A and the lens was a 50mm. I met a trio of hikers just before this was shot and one guy started walking out on the barely cooled lava. Before he could qualify for a Darwin Award, a nearby tree suddenly exploded into flames from fresh lava hitting it, and the he dashed off the lava. He no doubt realized he was about to go up in fire himself.

Earth (lava balls, Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, Utah) My wife and I camped with a small group below the butte in the background. As I understand it, these lava balls came here from miles away during an explosive eruption many, many centuries ago. Shot with a Canon 5D and 28-70mm lens.
Water (Havasupai Falls, Grand Canyon National Park) In a previous life, I was a Sierra Club leader co-leading a backpacking trip to the falls and beyond. To get there, one has to hike down into a canyon for 10 miles, passing on the way a small town accessible only by horseback, foot or helicopter. Most people photograph the falls from above, but I liked the juxtaposition of smooth water (two-second exposure) and the rough, moss-covered rocks. Taken with a Canon 5D and 28-70mm lens.
Air (Sharpsteen Ranch, Calistoga) My ancestors bought a ranch encompassing several hundred acres in Napa Valley, California, near Calistoga in the late 1800s. Some of it has been sold off and the rest went into a conservancy to protect the natural state of the land. My wife and I were visiting the ranch for a few days, walking along the roads there when I came across this circular patch of light and shadows of the leaves above. I've always thought of this shot as being a little ethereal, as if the image of the leaves was really just floating in the air, ready to go poof! at any time. Shot with a Canon 5DmIII and 24-70mm lens.
This is my entry into the Thomas Cook "Explore the Elements" blogging contest. I'm also nominating five other bloggers who deserve attention. They are:
Valerie Millet, photographer
Michael Frye, photographer/writer
Dan Kraus, photographer
Victoria Watts, photographer/writer
Liz Carlson, photographer/writer

Anyone interested in entering the Thomas Cook Explore the Elements blogger contest should go to for all the details.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Photo Brigade

Pine Creek Canyon, Zion National Park

A website mainly geared toward professional photographers called The Photo Brigade recently published a few of my canyoneering pictures that were taken in the past year. To see the posting, here's the link: