A year of commuting to Los Angeles

I commuted to Los Angeles, twice a week, for a full year while attending UCLA Extension’s Paralegal Training Program. It was 102 miles each way, and 204 miles roundtrip. So as a way to have a little fun, and to help document the year, I started to photograph an iconic building in Los Angeles that I passed on every trip into the city. I just held up my iPhone and clicked, without looking at what I was shooting – that was part of the fun – the randomness of what I was getting.

I didn’t edit the images, or even pay much attention to what I was capturing. I knew that it was unlikely the images would be very exciting if taken individually, but I thought they might be interesting, collectively. They show the passage of a full year–from June 2012 to June 2013–and you can see the change in seasons, the effect of daylight savings time, and when my own personal schedule was more erratic, and I arrived earlier or later in the day. You can even tell when my wind sheild was clean, and when it wasn’t! And the curvy wavy wackiness? That’s the result of a longish exposure, and camera movement during the exposure. It’s a little side-benefit of a very old iPhone, and I was definitely in favor of it!

Is it interesting? I think so. Is it too long? I went from hundreds of images shot over the course of the year to just these 30, but should I have edited it down further? Maybe. But for me, it’s a visual reminder of a very long year, with a very long commute…

Los Angeles Morman Temple

One final interesting note? I knew this was the Morman Temple in Los Angeles, but I had no connection to it prior to starting this project. It was just an interesting building that I passed on my way to UCLA – so it was a bit of a random choice, selected only because it was convenient. But during the year one of my cousins got married – at this very temple – and I watched her emerge with her new husband, from the side doors, after the ceremony. Kind of an interesting coincidence!

UCLA Extension Graduation, 2013

It’s official! After a full year of study, I now have a certificate in Paralegal Studies from UCLA Extension. And graduation? It was fun! Such a beautiful campus, with such a rich history. It made graduation even sweeter!

All the photos in this post were taken with an iPhone.

UCLA Extension GraduationUCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension GraduationUCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension GraduationUCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension GraduationUCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension GraduationUCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension Graduation

UCLA Extension Graduation

Lovehammers at The Key Club, West Hollywood

Lovehammers at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’m a little late blogging about this, but it’s only because I had so much fun, that I didn’t want it to end – and blogging is definitely an after-the-fact activity! A little over a week ago I went to a great show, spent loads of time with some great friends, shot all kinds of amazing images, ate some great food, and spent way too much money on parking in LA. Just a fabulous weekend!

But about that show, since it was definitely the high point of the weekend… It was Lovehammers – direct from Chicago – and more like a party than just a show, since it was their West Coast CD release for their latest work, Heavy Crown. There were a lot of fans that flew in from other parts of the country – including a whole bunch from Chicago – and that fed the party atmosphere. I met so many, it’s kind of a blur, but it was great to meet so many people face to face that have sent me sweet notes in the past about my images of the band. They love that band, no doubt about it, and by extension I get a lot of love, simply because I’ve shot that band. It’s great!

First up was soundcheck! The venue had sold VIP tickets that included a CD, a shirt, and a meet and greet after soundcheck, so quite a few of their fans got to experience it as well, and it was SO good! I always love soundcheck, since the emphasis is on the sound, not on the performance, and sometimes you get to see, or rather hear another side of a performer or band. It’s just different than the actual show – and that can mean lesser, or it can mean something totally different and wonderful – in this case, we got wonderful. And because I wasn’t shooting, I got to just enjoy the music and the sound. So I was already totally happy, and in love, when they broke out my latest favorite song, Neverfall. Now I didn’t expect to hear it live, I hoped, but was not expecting. They’ve done several shows since the new CD debuted, and I’ve read the reviews, and I knew they hadn’t done Neverfall live – so it was a BIG wonderful surprise when they started to play it. Honestly I screamed, like a 12-year-old fan girl! I could not have been happier and it totally lived up to my expectations. It wasn’t as slick as some of the other songs they did, but it more than made up for that in raw sexy power. If I had to pick one perfect moment from the entire weekend, it would be hearing that song, my favorite song, live, in my favorite city. Just perfect!

And there was another really fun moment during soundcheck that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it… There’s a line in one of their new songs, “Last night she was on fire…” and yeah, it’s a sexy line. Even just seeing it written it’s sexy, so imagine it in the middle of a really hot song, and well it’s even sexier! But at soundcheck there was this little pause, and a breathe, and it was the single sexiest thing I’ve ever heard or seen onstage. If you saw the show, you know it was great then, but during soundcheck it was mindblowingly sexy. I turned to my friend, and I couldn’t even verbalize how blown away I was. It was a really good moment!

And the show itself was amazing! But I’ll let my images tell the story there…. Check out the link at the end of this post, or click on the image above!

The next night Lovehammers hosted a listening party in Hollywood at Ink Kandy Tattoo – with discounts given if you got a LH tattoo – I didn’t participate in that aspect, but I had fun hanging out with a couple of friends that I don’t see nearly often enough. We also checked out a place I’d heard of, but never been to before, the Beauty Bar – which is totally cute, and kitchy, and fun.

The last time I’d seen the Lovehammers live was at Hammerfest in Chicago in March 2008, so it had been way too long, and I was really ready to hear the new material – and it seriously exceeded my expectations! What can be better than a really great band, in your favorite city, on a really HOT summer night?

So check out my slideshow, and if you get the chance, go see Lovehammers live!


Jason Castro at the SLS Hotel, in Beverly Hills

I got invited to an industry showcase in Los Angeles this week – Jason Castro, who was on American Idol in 2008, and is now signed to Atlantic Records, was at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. I’d never heard his music before, but the invitation came from someone who used to work with one of the singers on Rock Star, and she’s now working with Jason – so I jumped at the chance to go! If she believes in him, then he has to be good – right? And I’d been hearing about the SLS Hotel a lot lately – Ryan Star showcased there just last month – and a photographer I know did a session there in July that was beautiful – so I was excited to see the hotel as well.

The SLS is really as fabulous as I’d heard it was. I met Arlene Catherine there, and we spent quite a bit of time exploring and enjoying the chandeliers dipped in plastic, glass deer heads lit from within, lettuce head floral arrangements, orange leather couches, monkeys as fine art, mirrors everywhere, and private dining rooms done in all white or all black. Everywhere you look it’s fabulous and funky and modern and fun – and it’s less than a year old, so it still has that fresh new vibe.

And Jason was great! I got there early enough to hear him do an interview with the camera crew, and then do a snippet of a new song – and I really liked what I heard, so I knew it was going to be a good night! The showcase was outdoors, and the sun was setting, and it was a good crowd for the size of the space – in other words a perfect summer night in LA! There were exactly eight fans – I had a fun conversation with one of them, and she said they all knew each other from recent concerts. It’s always cool when a few real fans get into an event like this – their enthusiasm is contagious and it makes it more fun for everyone!

Jason started the show with the same song I’d heard him do a few bars of during his interview, and he said he had just finished tracking it in the studio last night – and so this was the first time he’d performed it in public – and it was definitely my favorite song of the night. It was earnest and sweet and poppy – and fun! I told him after the show that I thought his personality and his music were a perfect match. Only a truly winsome artist could get away with singing songs that sweet and carefree – and Jason is as winsome as they come. He’s totally enchanting in person!

The rest of his short set was good too – but that first song was my favorite – wish I could remember the name of it?! Funnily enough, my least favorite song of the evening was the one that he’s the most well-known for – he mentioned he’d done it on American Idol, but since I don’t watch the show, it was new to me – and it was fine – but his own material is just so much better.

After the show there was a moment before anyone had approached him, and his fans were hanging back, knowing that this was an industry showcase after all, so maybe they should wait a bit before rushing him. So it seemed like the perfect time to go over and tell Jason how much I loved the show. He’s just as charming up close, and I was chatting away when I suddenly realized that there was a camera trained on us – the same camera that had taped the entire performance and had recorded the interview earlier in the evening. It’s not like I didn’t know it was there – I was very aware of it for most of the night – but for some reason in my head, when the show ended, the camera went off too – right? Wrong…

I have no idea why I worry about getting caught being enthusiastic and passionate on camera? Why would I worry about getting caught being myself, at my most pure? It really is a mystery! But I have to admit, I’m secretly making a wish, for that the footage to never ever ever ever surface…

And finally I should mention how great the sound was! The SLS isn’t just good at funky modern decor and really fun food – they’re also really good at making an acoustic artist sound great!

Sunglasses from Marty Casey’s Silver Elements

 // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsMarty Casey just added sunglasses to his Silver Elements Collection!

To get a pair, click here, and be sure to check out “More Views” for three more images. We shot them on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood last week, and they’re totally cool and so very very LA!

All items purchased from the Marty Casey Silver Elements Collection support the “Marty Casey Elements of Nature Fund” where every $ plants a tree in conjunction with American Forests “Global Releaf” Ecosystem Restoration Projects. American Forests (www.americanforests.org) helps people improve the environment with trees and forests. It is the nation’s oldest nonprofit citizens’ conservation organization.

L.A. Guns at House of Blues on Sunset

Some people think that a photographer just shoots what is. If there’s beautiful stuff in front of you, just click the shutter, and voilà! Instant art! But it’s not quite that simple. Yes, if there’s beautiful stuff in front of you, you’re halfway there, but the artist still has to chose where to point the camera, and what moment to capture – as well as a myriad of other more technical choices. With every shot, that artist is telling his own story and showing you his vision. And no two photographers, if presented with the same beautiful subject, will come up with the same way of presenting it. And honestly, even the same photographer on different days, will make different choices. That’s art!

I shot LA Guns last week at the House of Blues on Sunset, which is a great venue, with nice light – my favorite kind of place. And they sounded great and looked great – it was just the best of LA Guns, in every way. So a perfect night to shoot. And lucky for me, I came to that show so wiped out and exhausted I could hardly see straight. Lucky? Yeah lucky. Because shooting a concert is like crack to me – so of course I’m going to rise to the occasion. And of course how I’m feeling is going to shape what I see, and how I shoot – and that’s a good thing!

Earthy, sensual, and wild are how I’d describe my images from that night. I usually go for the extreme, but that night I was attracted to the moments in between – the moments when you take a breath. Not necessarily the moments when the musicians take a breath, but more the moments where you, the viewer take a breath. So go ahead, just breathe… and enjoy!

Marty Casey/ Photo: Cheryl Spelts

LA Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

To see the slideshow from that night, go to:

And remember to maximize your browser window – the images are large, and deserve to be seen that way!

There’s a discussion thread at RBL, too!

From Los Angeles, Last Week

Last week I spent a couple of days in Los Angeles – I saw some friends, went to a concert, and shot a really fun session – more on that later! But I also got to spend some time at a few of my favorite places, and made a few images along the way, which I’ll share now…

The Wiltern Theater // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsThe Wiltern Theatre // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Some architectural details from one of my favorite art deco buildings, The Wiltern in Los Angeles. Usually when you think of the Wiltern, which houses the Wiltern Theater, you think of the green tile exterior, but I focused more on the ticket booth area, including the fabulous ceiling and the stamped silver wall. The whole building is just fabulous!

View from Griffith Observatory // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The view from the Griffith Observatory, at sunset on a very cloudy afternoon in early March. A few big raindrops fell that day, and then the next day was clear and sunny and beautiful – the real rain didn’t come until the day after I left the city.

Hollyhock House and a Studio Opening

Yesterday was great! I had a party downtown in the evening, so I went into LA a little early and spent some time up at Hollyhock House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1919, and built on the top of a hill in Los Feliz, it’s spectacular. The house was commissioned by an heiress named Aline Barnsdall, who was a bit of a rebel – in a good way! Her dream was to create an art complex with a couple of theaters, and studios for potters and painters and all kinds of other artisans, plus a school for her young daughter to play and learn and grow. So she bought this large hill – Olive Hill – in Eastern Hollywood, and hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design it all. Most of the project was never completed – but the main residence was – Hollyhock House, named after the design motif Wright employed throughout the house, based on Miss Barnsdall’s favorite flower.

I first discovered the house back in the early 1990’s and I’ve brought many friends to tour it over the years. It feels like this private, special place, sort of hidden away in plain site, in the middle of the city. The view of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign can’t be beat – especially if you’re on the roof of Hollyhock House. And in the other direction is all of downtown. It’s amazing at sunset.

The house itself is concrete and leaded glass and the abstracted Hollyhock motif shows up in all sorts of interesting and imaginative ways. I remember reading long ago that FLW choose olive as the main color for the house, since Olive Hill was of course covered in olive trees at the time. He intended the walls to be the color of the underside of the leaves, and the main accent to be the darker green color of the top of the leaves. It’s a beautiful thought! And the violet and the white in the leaded windows are in reference to the colors of the Hollyhock flower. Then as a further accent, the windows were rimmed in wood painted gold. In 1994 the house was damaged in the Northridge Earthquake – and I remember cracks in the walls, and scaffolding around the house for years afterward. And then as repairs were made, the city choose what I call “parks and recreation green” as the accent color for the house – you know, the bright green paint they always use on picnic benches in national parks. Almost a kelly green? Totally wrong and garish-looking on Hollyhock House. Thankfully it’s been replaced by a much more authentic olive green since then!

It had been a while since I’d been up to Hollyhock House. It’s one of my favorite places on earth and one of the all-time top ten homes in LA, and one of the top ten Frank Lloyd Wright homes – so very very special – but I realized I hadn’t been in a couple years, so I was glad when I found myself with an extra hour in LA on an unexpectedly beautiful balmy day, right at sunset. And the house hasn’t changed. It’s still the most peaceful, pleasant, blissful spot in the city. There’s also an art museum on the property and they do a lot of art education – it’s a real asset to the community. To me it’s the best part of LA – truly!

Then after Hollyhock House, I headed downtown for a friend’s BIG studio opening. I’m incredibly happy for and jealous of Rob and his girlfriend Vanessa. They’re getting to live the fantasy life of many many artists – a huge vintage loft in the old Southern California Edison building, circa 1903, in The Brewery Art Colony. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies when the character is a hip, successful artist. In fact, right after they took possession, CSI: Miami shot an episode in their space – it’s that cool!

Here’s a few links if you’re curious…

And a super cool video of the party, shot by Tony Bisson! I make a quick appearance at about the 2.5 minute mark…

L.A. Guns, Live at the Key Club in Hollywood

When a quintessential Los Angeles band like L.A. Guns comes home, after a summer on tour, it’s a big deal! And when that band has a new lead singer, and said lead singer is Marty Casey, and the band also includes Tracii Guns, and the venue is located on the Sunset Strip? Well then you know it’s going to be a great show!

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

LA Guns at The Key Club

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

L.A. Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is just a taste from this very sexy and intense concert….

The full slide show is at http://www.rockbandlounge.com/news/2008-08-la-guns/ – and in this case, bigger is definitely better! If you have any comments or questions, there’s a discussion thread on RBL at http://rockbandlounge.com/forum/topic.asp?topic_id=8230.

Stars Down in Los Angeles

I posted a little tease last week, but here’s more from my session with Lukas Rossi and Stars Down for RBL. We shot it in late June on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles – so if you know the area, you may recognize some of the locations…

The full slide show is at http://www.rockbandlounge.com/news/2008-07-stars-down/ – and it’s definitely worth viewing there! It’s big and bold and beautiful! And if you have any comments or questions, there’s a discussion thread on RBL at http://rockbandlounge.com/forum/topic.asp?topic_id=7184

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Jon Jamieson of Stars Down / Photo: Cheryl Spelt

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lukas Rossi of Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts