Work Travel

I love to travel for work.  Love it.  It's not without its difficulties, of course—just last week I spent an entire night in the Toronto airport because my late afternoon flight home was canceled and there were no hotels available anywhere (ironically because of the conference I was there to photograph)—but there's nothing better than getting out of Seattle once in a while for a fresh perspective.  It really gets my creative juices in a blender.  (That's a good thing, in case that wasn't clear.) Over the past year and a half, I've been so, so fortunate to do more work travel than ever before.  Domestically, work has taken me to Palo Alto, Chicago (twice), San Francisco (lost count), Miami, Orlando, Portland, and San Diego (for the Comic Con, no less!).  Internationally, I've been to Toronto, Barcelona, Helsinki, Singapore, and Nairobi and Nanyuki in Kenya.  It has been nothing short of amazing.  Kenya was an especially unique experience, and one I'll never forget.  I've made space on my website for some images from that job, and I'd encourage you to have a look if you are interested.  It's a great story.

Truthfully, each trip deserves its own blog entry...but instead, I'm just going to post a very few highlights.  These aren't images I shot for clients, but rather quirky people and things of interest to me along the way.

Easily the best Leeloo you or I or anyone else has ever seen.  Taken at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con while covering the Halo presence for Microsoft.

You can't walk through La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona without thinking over and over again, "Are you kidding me with this?"  I was extremely lucky to see this place while in Spain to shoot the 2015 GSMA Mobile World Congress.

Spiral staircase in one of the towers at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, definitely the most audacious work of architecture I've ever witnessed.  Except for the few moments I spent taking these pictures, I hugged the outside of this staircase as I contemplated whether US safety regulations would ever allow such a thing.  Certainly not.

Door detail, La Sagrada Familia.

I didn't have a ton of time in Helsinki, but I did go out one night for drinks with our makeup artist, Pinksu.  Here we are exchanging glasses for a moment.  I'd've made the trade permanent—I think I look fetching—but she doesn't wear anything that isn't pink.  Meeting her was the highlight of the Finland visit, and I'm delighted that we still keep in touch.  Be sure to check out her work, because it's every bit as amazing as she is.

And this is, without question, the, intriguing(?) thing I saw in Helsinki.  It's across the street from the ferry terminal, at...well, nowhere in particular.  Seriously, is this not the most arbitrary placement of public art you've ever seen?  What's going on here?  This is a statue called Bad Bad Boy, and I found it equal parts hilarious and grotesque.  Best part is, it's a fountain—like Manneken Pis in Brussels, this guy pees.  I'm bummed it wasn't active for this photo, and also that I didn't get a photo of its saggy little butt.  If you'd like to see these things, though, check out this video.

The most striking thing about Singapore that's readily apparent is the imaginative architecture.  These are just a couple buildings I was able to snap from the car.

In Singapore, you can go to a place called Selfie Coffee and have your photo printed on your latte's foam.  This is Jen, the very talented writer for the Singapore story.  Her selfie coffee is epic because she did her photo in such a way that she could have the straw sticking out of her mouth.

Just for fun, a selfie with a monkey hanging from the ceiling at Selfie Coffee in Singapore (I'm on the right).  In the middle there is Jen, laughing at me.

After the work in Singapore, we flew up to Thailand for a personal week instead of heading home.  This is a group of plastic zebras in Bangkok.  Lawn ornaments, maybe? Fun fact: a group of zebras is called a zeal, or a dazzle (see: dazzle camouflage).

Whether it's a painting of Mark Ruffalo or soap in the shape of a penis, you can get anything your heart desires at the sprawling, downright overwhelming Chatuchak Market in Bangkok.

In Chiang Rai, a couple hours north of Chiang Mai, is an astonishing place called The White Temple.  Designed and constructed by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, it's not so much a Buddhist temple as it is an art exhibit in the style of one.  It's gloriously insane.  Oddest of all are the western pop culture references peppered throughout.  In the temple itself is an otherworldly mural (no photography allowed, unfortunately)—against a  backdrop of flames and strange planets, you'll recognize familiar elements such as Spider-Man, Kung Fu Panda, the Terminator, Freddy Krueger, Michael Jackson, Harry Potter, the Twin Towers on fire, Transformers, Elvis Presley, Neo from The Matrix, and Angry Birds.  I kid you not.

Pop culture references on the White Temple grounds—Batman, Pinhead from Hellraiser, Hellboy, and others.  And a Predator, because why not?

Outstretched hands below the bridge to the White Temple.  I could have photographed them all afternoon, but the guards were quite insistent that people keep moving.

They even did the traffic cones.  Amazing.  And there's me hanging out with...geez, I don't even know what.

Escape from New York

So last week was the annual PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, and I attended for the first time.  It was fun and exciting and I met a lot of great people, and just being in New York again was great.  I got to spend the week hanging out with my brother!  We went to a taping of The Colbert Report!  It was an eventful trip for sure, and full of fun fodder for blog posts.  But the really big deal was Hurricane Sandy. The expo began on the 25th of October and ran only through the 27th, but I decided to linger in town afterward and see some things, as you do when you visit New York.  How long to stay was kind of up in the air.  Halloween was the deciding factor.  It's my favorite holiday (obviously), and my brother clued me in to the Village Halloween Parade, which has been a yearly tradition since 1974, and one that by all accounts is pretty outstanding.  It's the largest Halloween event in the country, often referred to as "New York's Carnival", and the New York Times described it as "the best entertainment the people of this city ever give the people of this city".  USA Today says to "be prepared to drop your jaw", and that "anything goes".  The Fodor's travel guide calls it "bizarre but brilliant". So, done.  Sold.  I had me at "largest Halloween event", and I didn't see why I would want to miss such a thing, so I got a return ticket home for the first of November.  As it happened, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record hit the eastern coast on Monday, October 29.

I didn't have the full, miserable Sandy experience that those on the lower east side did, let alone the unfortunate inhabitants of the Jersey shore.  I was staying in Midtown with my brother.  It was windy and we got a little wet, but that was about the extent of it.  We didn't even lose power.  Actually, if you'd like to see how the ordeal played out in the two areas of Manhattan, The Daily Show did their usual excellent job of highlighting the difference.

I went out and walked around with my camera in loafers, jeans, and a sweatshirt when the storm hit (I'd left my hurricane parka and waders at home because I didn't think I'd need them).  The winds were stronger than anything I'd ever experienced.  I don't weigh much, and a few times was almost blown off my feet.  Still, I fared better than the construction crane at 57th and 6th, which collapsed and dangled about 80 stories above the street.  Police swarmed the area and cordoned it off a couple blocks in every direction.  Neighboring hotels were evacuated, displacing guests onto the wet and windy sidewalks, where they huddled under awnings as they waited to hear where to go next.

Down on the lower east side, Sandy rearranged cars like an angry valet and Consolidated Edison killed power to protect its equipment, should underground conduits become flooded.  Everything south of 39th street would eventually go dark.  I walked down Broadway and across to the water the next day, and took more pictures.  Here are some of the things I saw:

The collapsed crane.

Wicked wind blows leaves, caution tape, and cops as they block the streets surrounding the crane.

I'm not at all dressed for a hurricane.  How embarrassing.

Guests of hotels surrounding the crane line the streets after being evicted.

Mayor Bloomberg shut down the subway system on Sunday night, the 28th, in preparation for the storm.

Outages south of 39th Street.

Breathe easy—the IHOP weathered the storm.

A hurricane enthusiast.

People look through the gate into the garage, where standing water still envelops cars.

The previous night's water level is still clearly marked on the brick.

Stuyvesant Town cleanup.

The on ramp to the FDR freeway.  There's typically less pedestrian traffic.

The FDR is shut down, and people walk, bike, and jog on it.  Surreal.

I felt like I was in a zombie movie.


Two days after the hurricane, streets in Midtown are still closed because of the crane.

And people are still taking pictures of it.

On my last day in town, with much of Midtown still closed, I decided I'd go for a walk through Central Park.  Ever seen Central Park completely empty?  No?  Neither had I, but the park was closed too, out of concern for the structural integrity of its trees.

A cleanup crew clears downed trees and branches.

Open 24 hours.  Usually.

By the way, the Village Halloween Parade?  Canceled.

Royal Lake: If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.

Quick disclaimer:  Though there are some pretty pictures in it, this post doesn't have really anything to do with photography.  I hope you'll indulge me for a moment, but if not, just scroll down.  There's photo stuff down there somewhere. You know, I honestly don't believe there's anything in the contiguous US (and I've seen a great deal of it) that rivals the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  Nevertheless, it's been a long time since I've gone camping and even longer since I've been backpacking.  Earlier this month, though, in the always wonderful company of my visiting friend Melissa, I stuck my tent, some food, and my camera into a pack and we ferried over to the Olympic Peninsula.  Our online research led us to believe that the Royal Basin trail to Royal Lake would be a beautiful and not terribly arduous hike, so we went for it.  We kept it short, going just for an overnight stay.  And because we went on a weekday, we passed very few other hikers on the trail and had the lake almost completely to ourselves (somewhere there was another couple who showed up sometime after we did).  It was ideal, and if you like the outdoors even a little bit, you should go.  Really, you should.  Here are some photos, because I can't begin to do it justice with words.

Royal Lake is small and stunning, and the water is like crystal.

Incredibly, this was the view from our campsite.  The lake's many gleeful fish never stopped jumping.

To be honest, I felt a little like jumping too.  Melissa took this photo.

This little rush of snow melt was a very short walk from the campsite, and we stopped to collect some drinking water for the next day.  Remember, kids: always purify your water!

The animals didn't seem to mind us at all.  We walked right up to deer.  Innumerable mice scurried and played in a twisted mess of branches and brush.  Chipmunks got out of our way, but they took their time about it.  Okay, so the toads hopped around as fast as they could—they were actually pretty terrified.  But this goat seemed more curious than anything.  Melissa spotted him from across the lake in the morning, and I bounded off to find him.  I got quite close—foolishly close, probably, given the reputation for their temperament (although this guy seemed awfully gentle)—and then he headed up the trail to visit Melissa at our tent.

I had to include this close crop because...well, look at him.  Seriously, how great is he?  Are you kidding?!  Melissa dubbed him a magical mountain pony, because she thought that was what he looked like from across the lake.

Speaking of across the lake, that's our tent there on that little ledge.  Idyllic.

As we circled the lake in the morning, the sky began to cloud over.

And then, on our way back to the tent from a huge waterfall about a half mile away, we were caught in a storm of hail.  Luckily, we were standing right next to an emergency shelter and were invited in by a very nice girl named Nadya, who was in the middle of a two-week backpacking trip.  She made us some tea and shared her three-berry cobbler with us as we waited for the storm to pass.

New friends!  Nadya, me, and Melissa.

Royal Lake might be even more beautiful after a storm.

The walk back down.  We were rained on a little, but the tree canopy kept us mostly dry.

The way home.

I didn't get any photos of it, but I have to share the most amazing part of the trip—for me, at least.  I'm from Wisconsin, where thunderstorms are common in the summer months.  I mean serious, ominous, end-of-the-world type thunderstorms.  The kind that take down power lines and venerable oaks, and rattle the windows of your house.  The kind that sometimes make you wonder if you'll get out alive.  There's probably no way I can make anyone understand how much I love a good storm raging at night, but to me there's nothing so cozy as curling up during a power outage while lightning explodes in the sky and thunder threatens your total annihilation—it's an absolute dream.  Regrettably, the city of Seattle doesn't get thunderstorms, and I miss them very much.  Occasionally a little flash of lightning and a pitiable clap of thunder will accompany the usual rain here, and everyone in town will get worked up over it ("Did you hear the thunderstorm last night?!").  I just roll my eyes.

The weather forecast for our two days on the peninsula promised us temperatures in the low 70s and mostly sunny skies, but as evidenced in the photos, they kind of screwed the pooch on the second day.  Though the early morning was sunny, the transition to rougher weather closer to noon—the hail and rain—began the night before.  At about midnight, Melissa and I were jerked from sleep by lightning that for an instant here and there made it daytime inside the tent.  I didn't hear thunder at first, but the rain tapping on the tent and the flashes in the sky made me feel warm, cozy, and really quite giddy.  Then the thunder came, distant at first and quiet, a low rumble.  And then, over the course of fifteen or twenty minutes, it built to a fantastic, blaring, shattering (and frankly slightly frightening) storm that lasted a delightfully long time.  It took me back to Wisconsin summers, and as I lay there with Melissa under our sleeping bag blanket I remembered Kurt Vonnegut and thought, as he always urged us all to do on such occasions, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."