Playing tourist today in my birthplace…

Pacific Beach, near Crystal Pier

My heart belongs to Fallbrook, but San Diego is where I was born and where I got my fashion sense! Sandals, wrap-around everything, with sun-streaked and wind-swept hair. 91X on the radio, playing Nirvana, and my car’s convertible top down. Near perfection!

Pacific Beach by the Pier

One more, just because it’s pretty.

And it reminds me of when I used to shoot hot rock stars on the beach…

Ryan Star | Sophie @ 103.7’s Green Christmas

Ryan Star // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Last night I got to attend Sophie @ 103.7’s Green Christmas – an acoustic event in San Diego, benefitting the San Diego Oceans Foundation. Ryan Star played a VIP event before the main concert, and as far as I’m concerned, it was the highlight of the night! He sounded fabulous! Maybe I’ve just been missing him, since this is his first gig in San Diego in over two years, but I really think he’s better than ever. And with a new album on the way, it meant we got to hear all new material – with only one song from the previous CD – my old favorite, Back Of Your Car. He played up on the third floor in the Fireside Lounge – so it was a very intimate concert. I felt really privileged getting to see such a special show.

The headliner was Alanis Morissette, and Buckcherry, O.A.R., Justin Nozuka, and SafetySuit were also on the bill – so it was a great show! And it took place at my new favorite venue, Anthology on India Street, downtown. They have the best sound system I’ve ever experienced. I was there for soundcheck and the sound of one guitar being tuned, was so magnificent, if was heartbreaking. Even in the bathrooms the sound quality is that good. The owners have evidently sunk a lot of money into that system, and wow is it ever worth it!

I’ve seen Alanis in concert twice before – she’s definitely one of my favorite artists – and her voice sounded better last night as well. I think it was a combination of a magic night, and a really really great venue.

I’ll have a slideshow of images to post later this week – but for now let the image above serve as a teaser…

Expectations versus the Unexpected

Last month I went to a concert with exactly one goal – to get one perfect image with all five band members at the peak of action. Lofty, lofty goal. Too lofty really, but it was what I wanted. So I checked out the venue a couple of days before – a little club on the beach in Pacific Beach. The club is now 710 Beach Club, but prior to the summer of 2006 it was Blind Melons. So I knew the club – sort of – but things can change, and I really wanted that one perfect image, so it was worth a little research. Besides, how taxing is it to go check out a little bar on the beach? Not very!

On the night of the concert I had a plan, and I was ready! My expectation was that I would get that one perfect shot. But some days the universe has other plans, and no matter how much you plan and plot and no matter how clear your vision, you may get something you never expected. Maybe good, maybe bad…

So an expectation fulfilled versus something you never expected? Which is better? Can you roll with it? Can you appreciate the unexpected if it screws up an expectation?

I remember Blind Melons being a hot place for local bands to play. It was always crowded with students from SDSU and UCSD, so even a baby band with few fans could play for a full house, if they got on the bill there. And on a Friday night? Big crowd! But I’d heard rumors that things had changed. So I had zero expectations about the club itself, or about the crowd – and I was pleasantly surprised when the club was packed at midnight – just like the old days! And the crowd was enthusiastic and fun, and hell bent on having a good time. It soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to get the shot I had in my head – there was just no way – too many people crowded up way too close to the edge of the stage – even if I could get in front, I’d be too close to the band to get all five band members in one shot, even with my widest wide angle lens. The crowd was a mass of waving arms, and bobbing heads, so I had no choice but to join the party!

Whenever an expectation goes unfulfilled there’s a moment of regret – I mean I really did want to get the image I had in my head! But at the same time, how could I reject the unexpected when it came in the form of a party? It’s FUN to experience a band I love with an enthusiastic crowd. It’s fun to dance with strangers and scream my head off. It’s fun to just let go, and figure there will be another day, and another concert, and another chance to get that perfect shot.

Sometimes the unexpected is worth the diversion from what I expected.

So no perfect shot of L.A. Guns for me that night. I had a different kind of fun! And there is a little slideshow of that below, if you’re interested. It’s a large file, so let it download fully, then watch it fast! It’s not the same as being there, but it’s a taste…

LA Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Marty Casey in Pacific Beach

Marty Casey at the Crystal Pier // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Think wet and sandy and sexy. Pretty compelling, isn’t it?

That was my assignment last month when I shot Marty Casey for his Silver Elements Collection. There are sessions that go so perfectly you feel like the stars are aligned and the day is charmed – this was one of those sessions. Every set up blew me away.

Honestly, I get to see my vision turn into beautiful reality all the time – that’s not new – that’s my job! But rarely is it quite so beautiful…

Marty Casey under the Crystal Pier // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Most of the images debuted on two weeks ago, but not everything we shot was about the jewelry. Sometimes when you’re in a beautiful setting, with a beautiful subject, and it’s a charmed day, you get other kinds of images. And I’ve been really eager to show them off, so here they are! Some of the best of the best of the jewelry shots and some other stuff – call it the director’s cut! My picks for best images of the day…

Marty Casey in Pacific Beach // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I heard the word “sandgasm” recently used to describe a series of portraits of guys covered in sand. Well I gotta say that Marty Casey wet and sandy blows just about anyone else off the beach, so I’m co-opting the word – ’cause it’s perfect!

Ocean by iPhone

Ocean in San Diego // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve said it before, when I don’t want to carry my real camera, I love my iPhone! It’s fun. And sometimes I get images I love – like the one above. I love the ocean, so that helps – and today was beautiful – there were grey clouds hovering, with patches of sun peaking through. Just the perfect fall day to visit the beach!

Ryan Star at the House of Blues in San Diego

The best thing about last night? Ryan’s voice after about the third song. Before that point it was the same voice I heard on Rock Star – but a few songs in, he got looser and fuller and the way he played with the tempo felt less studied and more inspired. We got to see a lot of him this summer, but it was all one song at a time – there’s just something about seeing a full set – the minutes just add up to something entirely different – and great!

So Ryan comes out and the start is fairly low key, and he does the first three or so songs with the keys, then he gets his guitar and that’s when the show got good as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s great how Ryan can fill the stage all by himself, and create a sound that *sounds* bigger than just one guy onstage with one instrument – but if it is only one instrument I’m always going to prefer guitar to keyboards! But my big wish would be to see him with a full band – one of his friends kept pimping the big show in NYC – the homecoming show – and if there’s going to be a full band there it might be worth flying for!

There were times when Ryan would use his feet to pound the floor – an improvised drum! I loved that! Another time he forgot he was tethered to the mic stand and he came out in front and then had to sing doubly loud to make up for it – but he went for it!

As for the songs – I loved them. He played a new song “11:59” and the lyrics go over familiar ground – but Ryan’s spin on a familiar theme is so devoid of cliché, you really believe him. I think he’s gifted lyrically – but it’s the music itself that really gets me. (But I want to hear it with a full band… I know, be happy with what you get, but I really really want to hear it with a full band!)

After the show we went to Stingaree, a nightclub a few blocks away from the HOB – one of Ryan’s friends was a regular on ROCKBAND.COM during Rock Star, and so invited us to join them. It’s an interesting club with a great rooftop bar, but unfortunately it was raining hard, we didn’t spend much time up there – but I would like to go back on a clear night!

Ryan Star backstage at Rock Star: Supernova // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsAt one point I made a comment to Ryan about “shooting him” the next time he’s in San Diego or Southern California, and he nodded affirmatively, then he leaned in and half-whispered, “Don’t you mean shoe me?” – which make me laugh. It’s a running joke on ROCKBAND.COM that Ryan has big feet, and well, you know what that means. It totally cracked me up that he not only knew all about it, but he was also okay with it and saw the humor in it. ‘Cause every reference is always made with much affection, I’m sure!

For more reviews of Ryan Star in San Diego, go to:
Or go to the ROCKBAND.COM Ryan Star Lounge!