Hanging Out In Los Angeles For a Week

Friday afternoon I loaded up four kids, two dogs and one wife into the old Buick, headed down I5, up and over the icy Grapevine, dropping down into the City of Angels, where my parents live, for Christmas.

I always like visiting Los Angeles at this time of year. It’s where I grew up and as much as a lot of people seem to hate L.A., there’s something about the sprawling metropolis that I’ve always found extremely photogenic. I also find driving around L.A. sort of randomly to be a great time to contemplate on life and really think — especially at night.

I’m going to have a lot of time to drive around L.A. this trip because I’m staying down here for nine days. A lot longer than I usually spend time visiting any place.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, visiting L.A. also means being off the grid a lot — at least for me. My parents live out in Angeles National Forest and so I’m limited to dial up only access which works sporadically at best. The rest of the time I’m operating from an iPhone or an ocassional stop in to a Starbucks for a quick connect up. Most of the time though I’m trying to focus on my photography while I’m here and not the internet.

Yesterday I spent most of the day driving/walking around Downtown L.A. with my two boys. We shot a lot of the old theater neon signs on Broadway, visited the Grand Central Market. Walked around the Toy District and Warehouse District. Had a late lunch at Norms (which never closes). I dropped the kids off with their mom and grandmother to see a movie while I spent the rest of the night driving randomly around L.A. — Hollywood, Echo Park, Downtown, South Central, the West Side, the East Side. Mostly looking for liquor stores, hamburger joints, Jewish delis and the occasional neon diver on a pool supplies store sign. Night photography has always been my favorite.

Gas is cheap in L.A. right now — and driving around with my old high school favorite KROQ on loud (I’m amazed at how well all the old punk rock has weathered with time and how listenable much of the new stuff is), the windows rolled down and the heater on on a 40 degree night make for good car shooting. Night shooting abandoned streets in Los Angeles’ Warehouse District, rolling through Tommy’s for a double cheeseburger at midnight. Running up and down the streets of Burbank remembering all the places that I used to visit back in high school when my high school girlfriend used to live there.

My goal this trip is to take at least 10,000 frames which ought to translate into 1,500 or so finished photographs. I have a lot mapped out to shoot and am going to work hard to make this trip as productive as I can. Posting here, Flickr, Zooomr, FriendFeed, etc. will be light for this week so that I can use my time here for as much shooting as possible.

I’m still using my old beat up piece of crap Canon 5D to shoot with down here. I never did get my preorder for my new Mark II for this trip unfortunately. Thanks Canon!

My old 5D is so broken. I can’t shoot faster than 1/400th of a second with it and so everything must be done 100% on manual mode. The internal battery died a long time ago and I haven’t found a place that carries a replacement. The camera sporadically freezes up and the only way to get it going again is to remove and reinsert the battery (which results in the clock resetting because my internal battery is dead and thus my metadata is consistently screwed up). The sensor is like a dust magnet. Shooting at high apertures (which I must do a lot because I can’t shoot faster than 1/400th of a second on it or I get totally black frames) means that my photos are full of ugly dust spots that I must clean in post production — even though I’m cleaning my sensor at least once a week. The screws in the bottom of the camera are gone. The LCD goes in and out when I review photos. It’s a wreck. An old friend for sure, but much like an old dog that should have been dead years ago. But it does the job for now of capturing light still and it’s what I’ve got to work with.

Tonight I’m going to go shoot the neon at MCA Citiwalk and then I’ll probably head over to Beverly Hills to shoot around Rodeo Drive with my wife. Beverly Hills has the best mannequins.

Photos to follow much later.

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  1. Sounds like you’re having fun, and getting a lot photographed. I can’t wait to see some of your work.

    Be safe!

  2. Eddy says:

    Hey there,

    You probably know about these places but I thought I should let you know of a few gems I found down there the last time I went, all pretty close to each other:

    Cliftons Diner 648 S Broadway
    Los Angeles, CA 90014. Explore the whole damn place, it’s massive and has a great upper level too (easy to miss)

    The Bradbury building where part of Blade Runner was shot 304 S Broadway
    Los Angeles, CA 90013

    Caltrans District 7
    100 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 by Morphosis: same team who designed the new federal building in SF

    Union Station is nearby

    The new Cathedral near the Disney Hall

    Plenty of good photographic stuff, within walking distance…

  3. Plug1 says:

    yeah for real. hit up Korea Town while you are down there.

    and then hit me up when you get back.

  4. markallanson says:

    Didn’t you replace your 5D about a year ago – how did it get so beat up in such a short amount of time? 🙂

  5. Wizum says:


    Haven’t you seen how many photographs this guy snaps off? LOL 🙂