Studio Update

The studio is so close to being done! Floor, desk, shelves, cabinets, lights, more lights, fireplace, lots of appliances – I’m technically not renovating, I’m just “redecorating” – but it’s still pretty intense!

The new bamboo floor is installed – I did the first half myself, then hired a couple of guys to help me finish it the last day. It sounds so easy to just slide a wood floor together, but it’s harder than it looks and includes measuring, cutting, gluing – so lots of steps. I did a better job on the section I did alone, but it all looks great – even the parts that aren’t perfect!

My brother Michael installed the chandelier. I’m totally in love with this light fixture! It’s wrought iron and has drop crystals – but instead of cut glass crystals like a traditional chandelier, they’re rounded and very modern looking. Once the chandelier was up I had to get the wrought iron curtain rod and window scarf up on the window next to it, so I could see now how that corner finished. It’s one little corner – but it’s done – and it’s beautiful!

I just finished building a wall – a real wall with 2×4’s and dry wall and joint compound. It feels great to see something so permanent and know that I did it myself. I’m also building my kitchen counter – and that is truly an adventure because of the limited space I allotted for that area. It wasn’t a big priority for me, so it got a tiny corner, and it’s been tough making it all fit. But I think I’ve got it figured out. As long as I have room to get food and drinks ready for a party, I’ll be happy. Because I plan to throw a lot of parties – very soon!

I’ve also put together my little fireplace, and a little cabinet for the kitchen. And I have boxes with shelves and a chair – waiting to be put together.

My biggest project still mostly undone is building my desk. You can see the wood desktop I put together in the middle photo, leaning against the boxes. I wanted a very simple desk – almost a table actually. I don’t like clutter on my desk – and I didn’t want drawers. And I wanted real wood. Well all the desks I saw that I liked were over $2000 – and since what I want seems so simple, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and build it myself? So I ordered some big farmhouse table legs online, and I had the perfect shade of pale blue paint custom mixed at Joe’s Hardware, and I glued together a bunch narrow boards to form the top of the desk. All that’s left is to put it all together!

And I had to include a portrait of my current best friend! I hate saws, I really do. I’ve been having dreams about cutting off fingers, etc., but.. this guy is so fast, so helpful, and because of him I’ve been able to do sooo much! So I’m grateful, but I’ll still be happy to say goodbye in a week or so…

A Red Clawfoot Bathtub

Yesterday on a whim I drove over the Elder House and rounded the corner just as a group of people were heading up the staircase to my new studio – so I called out and Julie called back that they were on their way up to uncover the bathtub. Totally perfect timing – it was meant to be.

First, you have to understand how much I LOVE clawfoot tubs. There’s nothing else like a big iron tub. They hold the heat, they hold a lot of water, the water is deep – they’re just heaven! And, on top of all that, they’re usually the most beautiful thing in a house. The only thing more beautiful is a great staircase with a carved wood banister – and even that is debatable.

So I was already excited, but it was particularly exciting because I’ve always heard there was a clawfoot tub up there, but who knew if it was true? And now I was going to get to witness the uncovering. And just as important to me, it was thinking about that rumored tub that made me realize I could actually live there – so in my mind the lure of that tub is what led me to my new studio. So yeah, I was excited!

And it’s beautiful! It needs to be resurfaced – I’ve done some research and it’s about $500 to get the work done – but well worth it!

And it’s red. That totally cracked me up!

I was under the impression that it had been covered up for twenty years – and it certainly looks that way! The reality is it was only covered a few years ago. But with a little professional help and a few days to cure, it’ll be a beautiful tub again.

New Studio!

I’ve rented a studio! I don’t get the keys until the first of July, but it’s definitely worth the wait. And you’ll never guess where it is…

I was totally prepared to move to Riverside and had been looking at old houses – and seeing some really cool places. I even fell in love with a beautiful house on Pine Street with walls that were two feet thick. It had hardwood floors and a balcony on the second story that was beyond gorgeous. I’d have done just anything for that house – but it was gone by the time I got the realtor on the phone. Houses that special go fast…

The problem with seeing a place that fabulous, is that if you don’t get it, then everything you see after seems not quite as good. Even really cool places just seem lacking in some way.

I wasn’t excited about anything else I was seeing in Riverside, so I decided to take one last drive around Fallbrook, just to see if maybe there was something that I’d overlooked. Some wonderful spot perfect for a studio with great light, that was located downtown… I was NOT expecting to find anything – I’ve lived here forever and I know every corner of the downtown area – but why not take one last loop?

And then I fell in love again!

I’ve always loved Elder House – it’s one of three big old Victorians in the downtown area. One of three houses I affectionately refer to as My Victorian on Vine – it’s the house I leased in 1997 – the home of Fallbrook’s first doctor, Dr Pruitt, built in 1895. I’ve always had a not-so-secret hope that someday I’ll live there again. It sits on top of a hill on a double lot, and has the most beautiful staircase of any house in Fallbrook. The second Victorian is a Stickley on Brandon – I’ve never seen the inside, but I’ve heard that it’s been in same family for many many years. Very cool! And the third is Elder House, an old farmhouse-style Victorian right in the middle of downtown.

Elder House hasn’t been an actual residence in a long time. It was a restaurant in the 1980’s and it housed a construction company when I first came to town. For most of the last decade it’s been an elementary school. Two years ago the owner of the local newspaper bought the house and will be moving her staff there soon. But it’s a big house, and I knew she intended to rent out part of the space to other businesses, so over a year ago I had a conversation with her about renting the old dining room – a great room with a fireplace and three walls of windows overlooking the stream that runs through the backyard. Really too small for what I wanted, but a great room…

So Elder House was in my mind for a long time. Not quite right for me, but very very cool. But as I drove by that night, I remembered that I’d always heard there was a clawfoot bathtub upstairs – hidden under a wood cabinet – and the plan just came together. I’d been looking for a great old house in the surrounding area that I could have clients come to – or a great space downtown and I’d live elsewhere – but a live/work studio downtown is the most ideal situation – and I assumed unattainable in Fallbrook. Thankfully I was wrong!

So today I handed over a check and signed a lease. I am so excited! And I can’t wait to see that bathtub!

Big News! I sold ROCKBAND.COM

A little over a decade ago, I bought a domain name to help promote some unsigned and indie bands I was working with. At the time it felt like a totally frivolous thing to do. And it was expensive – seventy dollars to reserve the name for just two years! And since it was the mid-nineties, most people had no clue what I’d just bought.

I actually wanted – since the site was known as Unsigned Rock Bands at the time. But was taken. So I tried – obviously taken. So I sighed, and thought okay, I’ll go with – even though it’s ridiculously long. Conventional thought in the circles I ran in, was that the good domains were three letters long, okay domains were four letters long, and you should never buy a domain with more than five letters. Well guess what? Even was taken. At that point I was convinced ALL the good domains were already taken. So I settled on and figured it was better than – at least I had that! But a few weeks later, as I started to talk up the site, I realized was actually a much better name than – it just sounded better. And less than a year later I knew just how smart a purchase it had actually been.

Lots and lots of bands registered, and many sent me their demo CDs. I interviewed the best of them and shot bands in LA and San Diego, and New York. In 2000 some of the bands I shot in NYC put together a tour of the East Coast, and promoted it as the ROCKBAND.COM Tour.

In 2005 CBS launched the TV show, Rock Star, and I launched a new and improved forum on the site to talk about music and bands, and this brand new show. And wow, it really took off! By the end of the season we were known as the best place on the web to get info about the show. In 2006 it got even bigger and better. Good times! And really great people! We threw a big bash in Las Vegas at a major hotel even – so our members could all meet up and party in real life. I got to shoot a photo essay backstage at a taping of Rock Star. Several of the singers on the show started posting on the board after the show ended. It was a total blast! Every single part of it.

ROCKBAND.COMAnd then I got an offer…

Harmonix, the creator of Guitar Hero was developing a new game with MTV and Electronic Arts – set to debut this Christmas – and they were calling it Rock Band. They weren’t interested in the site or the community, they only wanted the name. So I sold it to them!

RockBandLounge.comIn 1996 I was convinced that all the good domain names were taken, but guess what? I just registered – it’s longer, but that doesn’t bother me anymore, and it’s very descriptive and VERY memorable.

I think I just got lucky again…

If you’d like to read about the reaction at the new RockBandLounge, go here. I announced the deal there last month – but waited to announce it here until after the sale was final.

Brand New Archive!

I’ve decided to do something a bit unusual. Most photographers – including me until now – seem to post just a small selection of their images on their web sites. The idea is that as you do more work, you add the new, and weed out some of the older stuff. And you end up with a site that’s neat and quick to look through and always updated. It’s a gallery of your current work, and it’s a good system.

But my problem is that I still love some of the older images – so I’ve decided to add an archive to my site! I’ve spent some time over the last couple of weeks scanning some really old images, and it’s been so much fun! I’ve been rediscovering images, and seeing themes I hadn’t noticed before. It’s been great!

It’s a big job. I shot with film exclusively for eleven years, and I still shoot some film now – which means a lot of scanning! But I’m in no hurry. It may take me all summer to get everything I want added – and that’s fine. It’s a fun project!

If you want to check out some of my older work, a very small selection is currently available here. More will be added, as I feel like it…

Moving to Riverside

Big news! I’m getting ready to move to Riverside and I’m really excited about it.

I’ve lived in San Diego for almost my entire life – I was born here! But I did spend six months once in a cute little apartment on the top floor of an old Victorian in downtown Riverside. I’m a huge fan of 100-year-old houses so Riverside is nirvana for me. In 1885 the area had the highest per-capita income in the United States, because of the orange groves, and the residents put their money into their houses – and thankfully a lot of those Victorians and Craftsmen homes still exist. Plus there are smaller cottages from the twenties and thirties on the same streets. My favorite area is directly west of the Mission Inn. The realtors tend to prefer the Wood Streets area, which is just a few blocks south, and it’s a very nice area – and it does have old houses – but that neighborhood feels a little “newer” to me, and with me, the older the better!

So with the move looming, I’ve been doing a lot of commuting. The last two weeks I’ve split my time between my current home, and hotels, and my mother’s house, since she lives closer to Riverside than I currently do. Just a few more weeks to go, and then I’ll be settled in Riverside and ready to get to work. I’m looking forward to it!

Guestbook, 1997-2005

My old guestbook – cool when I set it up in 1997 – recently has been attracting a lot of spam. In fact, I haven’t gotten a real comment in it since early 2005. So it’s officially no more! But, that doesn’t mean I wanted to lose everything – I did get a few fun comments over the years! So here’s some of the best, saved for the ages…

And if you scroll down far enough you’ll see where Seymour W. Duncan stopped by back in the early days – that was a big highlight!

Monday 04/04/2005 5:18:59pm
Homepage URL:
Location: Canada
Comments: It has been a pleasure to see your photos. I just past through here and I love it very much. I really appreciate your work here, I think it will serve to many for inspiration.

Wednesday 12/08/2004 9:56:56pm
Homepage URL:
Comments: the fine art photos are really good. love the little kids face up close 🙂

Sunday 02/29/2004 1:55:56pm
Bert Nordberg
Location: Fresno, California
Comments: Hi Cheryl! Long time no hear from! Great photos, Very nice site. Keep up the great photos.
long lost friend,

Friday 01/30/2004 11:11:14pm
Name: Tom
Homepage URL:
Location: The Netherlands
Hello, my compliments for your nice website and photos! Please come see my website and photos sometime? Best regards from Tom.

Saturday 12/20/2003 3:09:14pm
Leif Karlsson
Homepage URL:
Location: Sweden
Comments: I just surfed on your nice website and would like to take the opportunity to tell you how much I liked it, I will certainly come back and visit again to check it out for future updates. Please feel free to take a look at my Panorama photos at if you like.
Best regards/ Leif

Tuesday 12/16/2003 12:36:54am
Homepage URL:
Great portrait work! Band stuff is super too……thebassguy

Wednesday 11/05/2003 10:54:47am
Mike Kieffer
Homepage URL:
Location: Saratoga Springs, Utah
Great site. I really like your work.

Tuesday 10/14/2003 4:56:45pm
Homepage URL:
Comments: Just happened upon your Photography site, nice

Thursday 09/25/2003 6:34:35am
Homepage URL:
Location: France
Comments: Nice pictures, congratulations!

Monday 04/28/2003 8:12:26am
John Matthews
Homepage URL:
Location: Tennessee
Comments: Great photography Cheryl, you have a very unique style, which works fantastically – keep up the marvelous work—–

Friday 04/25/2003 2:47:12pm
scott maiden
Homepage URL:
Location: Sunnyvale CA
Comments: l like the portfolio layout. Images show the subjects soul. very good

Monday 03/03/2003 4:02:57am
Jay Kelly
Homepage URL:
Location: San Francisco
Very nice work!
Jay Kelly
Jay Kelly Photography

Tuesday 02/04/2003 10:52:45am
anthony j campbell
Thank you! I Love you always, Tony Campbell

Wednesday 07/18/2001 0:08:52am
shad sluiter
Homepage URL:
Location: USA
Good looking and creative eye you have.

Friday 06/22/2001 4:33:11pm
Location: north carolina
Comments: I’m 19 and in school now for photography. I really want to go into the commercial field. I love to take pictures of people..but, not so much, not school pictures and that kind of thing. I want to do fashion photography because it is so interesting to me. I’m not sure, but i thought Id ask if you ever did any internships ? I mean, if you ever had, or would even want to have someone come intern with you. Just a thought.

Friday 06/01/2001 1:42:27pm
Name: andi
Homepage URL:
Location: ohio.
beautiful work.

Tuesday 04/17/2001 1:30:18am
marty tetloff
Homepage URL:
Location: Tacoma, WA
Comments: Nice work.

Monday 01/22/2001 11:26:42pm
Jim Gamble
Location: MD
Comments: Cheryl, I was surfing and saw your site and just wanted to say WOW your photos are GREAT I hope to start shooting people soon to build my own portfolio hope mine turn out as good as yours

Tuesday 11/14/2000 11:18:08pm
Homepage URL:
Comments: One word Cheryl, “awesome”! You have a great eye. I did portfolios in NYC for about 5 years, your work brings back memories…

Site bookmarked!

Thursday 11/02/2000 6:26:30am
Chris Michaels
Homepage URL:
Location: San Diego
Comments: Hi Cheryl,

Found your site after doing a search, for kicks, on my namesake Chris(tian) Michaels.
Little did I know there is a popular musician with my same name. Eventually led to your excellently designed site, and your wonderful polaroid transfers. Nice, creative work, in general – even the writing. I’m a professional photographer too and use that technique on occaision also. If you ever get near downtown SD, give me a ring – we can chat and laugh about the industry! My photos can be seen at if you’re interested.

The other Chris Michaels

Friday 10/27/2000 4:08:24pm
Dennis Coughlin
Homepage URL:
Location: New Hampshire
Comments: Hi Cheryl,
I found your page through e-groups and am happy to have found it. I like your work and wish you continued success!
Take care,

Wednesday 05/31/2000 9:14:00pm
Carly Rodgers
Location: Northern Ireland
WOW! There fantastic pictures. I’m 18 and I’m trying to take Portrait pictures. My dream (now don’t laugh!) is to photograph portraits of celebrities. I love your work, and trust me I’ll be back again. Keep on at it!
Carly Rodgers

Friday 03/31/2000 11:00:00am
Richard Gerard Gay
Location: Philippines
Your website is cool! I love it!!!

Friday 07/31/1998 6:30:00am
Geoff Wilbur
Homepage URL:
Location: East Lansing, MI
Comments: Hello! Actual proof that people DO surf — got here via the Ces Jacuzzi site from your message in the discussion on the indiebiz list. Thought since the thread had to do with web surfing (and I’m not sleeping like I should be), I’d check out some web sites. Cheers!

Wednesday 06/10/1998 2:56:00am
Homepage URL:
Location: Rochester NY
Impressive portfolio. I liked both the content and the technique of your photos

Monday 06/08/1998 9:52:00pm
john christiano
Homepage URL:
Location: LA CA
compelling work.

Sunday 05/31/1998 7:50:00am
Fred Tracey
Homepage URL:
Location: The mecca that is north county
Just stumbled upon this site. Kinda interesting.

Wednesday 01/21/1998 8:50:00pm
Name: Ruth
Homepage URL:
Location: Victoria, B.C. Canada
Great work Cheryl.. you obviously have a great career ahead of you.. Congratulations.

Friday 01/02/1998 8:06:00am
Name: Kari Tanskanen
Homepage URL:
Location: Finland
Comments: Very nice! My minimalist sense of style especially liked numbers 14, 16 and 55.

Wednesday 12/10/1997 3:26:00pm
Name: Art Wilson
God only knows
Comments: Cheryl:
Just a short note to say how much I enjoy your talents. Oh, by the way, Who’s butt are you showing in MODELS & ACTORS??

Wednesday 11/26/1997 4:44:00am
Name: Seymour W. Duncan
Homepage URL:
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Comments: I enjoy the work of Cheryl Spelts and she had a great eye and I will be watching her work…Seymour W. Duncan (Vintage Guitar Magazine & Seymour Duncan guitar pickups)

Monday 11/10/1997 2:11:00am
Michelle Buendel
Location: Bonsall Calif
Comments: Your site is great!! I had not been aware of it till tonight! Keep up the great work!!

Wednesday 11/05/1997 8:34:00pm
Name: Brenda
Homepage URL:
Location: NJ
Comments: I loved spending time browsing through your pages. I thought the fine art was one of the best parts.

Friday 10/31/1997 4:22:00pm
Name: Maths Lundsbye
Homepage URL:
Gothenburg, Sweden
Comments: You have done a great job here, Cheryl – a good looking site with great photos.
I wish you could take their photo! They make great music, but we don’t have any good band photos. You’re welcome to visit BLACKMAIL HOME CAVE anytime you want to listen to good rock’n’roll in streaming Real Audio.

Thursday 10/30/1997 4:00:00am
Homepage URL:
Melbourne, Vic. Australia
Comments: I really enjoyed looking at your photos, they’re excellent. I’m one of those snap-happy people who loves to take photos of anything and everything, just for the memories. I have about 60 albums with 120 photos in each, and that’s not counting the special albums…like one for each of my kids and the holiday albums etc. My Dad recently lost all his old photos in a fire, and it was like part of the family had gone forever, so sad. Anyway, all the best from me, Tina

Tuesday 10/28/1997 4:13:00pm
Name: Tim Jeffries
Homepage URL:
Comments: Good job! I like it I like it. Keep the fresh pictures and images coming.

Tuesday 10/28/1997 5:41:00am
Name: Hank
Homepage URL:
San Marcos , Ca.
Hi cheryl! Great site. I wish you the best. it’s great to know and work with you! Hank!

Monday 10/27/1997 11:22:00pm
Wendy Piedmonte
Homepage URL:
I am more than flattered to find the photo of me and my hounds with your models and actors. As you know I am niether. Anytime you want to do some animal work, come on over. I could use alot more shots of my gang.
Great Page!!!!!

If you want to see the original spam-filled version, it still exists, for now…

In search of the seriously beautiful

In search of the seriously beautiful… via blogging…
Welcome to my brand new blog!


Note: I officially started my blog on this date in 2006, but I’ve since gone back and added older content from the start of my photography career.