I was driving my rental car today in a shopping mall's parking lot, coasting slightly downhill when I looked out the driver's side window and noticed that my hubcap was rolling down the hill, passing me.
That is an odd feeling.
I have utterly no idea where it thought it was going without me, I gave it a severe talking to and it won't do it again.
Thanks to my good friend Josh I'm out in California working some Aperture magic on a photo shoot for a cycling team. Today was an early start, 4:30 am wake up for a 5:30 am roll out. (Tomorrow is even earlier.) We drove about an hour to a scouted location and started getting ready to shoot a part of the 50+ person squad.
I spent a lot of my day in an RV doing Aperture work, and quite a bit of problem solving (two people who haven't worked together, plus rental gear=hectic) but it really was a great day. There's a fantastic crew working on the set, my team is stellar and they're turning out great images.
During one of the breaks in the most-scenic-location-I've-been-in-the-Continental-West-Coast I wandered behind the barn next to which we were shooting and found this beautiful old tractor. We're on a working farm, so this guy still pulls and plows, and it's a great reminder of our agricultural roots.
Tomorrow will likely be an easier day, as there are fewer people on the squads we're shooting, but you can never tell with live outdoor shooting. This morning it was pouring and then the skies cleared up and this is what we got.
For my daily inspiration message we passed one of the team members on our way home—he was (after a full day shoot) riding his single-speed home up US 1 and US 101 to the hotel where we're staying, more than 40 miles away. We pulled over to see if he needed a ride, as he was setting out merely thirty minutes before dark but he waved us off assuring that he had enough lights (in the form of the rear blinking one). More power to you dude, safe home.
To round off the massive—though not as massive as last year's—travel schedule, I decided to take a quick trip to Hawaii (thank you recession for the stupidly-cheap fare) to shoot some video as a prototype for a job we might be doing soon. I'm in Honolulu at a nice hotel right on the beach.
Today I hooked up with my friend jeff Flindt, surfing photographer extraordinaire who lives up on the North Shore. Next week is the big surfing competition up there, and I shot video of Jeff going out to paddle around in the water as he shoots surfers.
Jeff's been doing this for 11 years, so he's got quite the hookup. I don't know surfing from podiatry, but I do, having shot the mountain bike scene for a few years, appreciate just how awesome it is to be able to completely integrate oneself as a photographer into a sport. Jeff is part of the culture, and he took a lot of time out of his schedule today to bring me over to the Quiksilver team house and introduce me to everyone there from the surfers to the "staff," and they're all great, friendly guys. And since they were nice enough to allow me to take pictures from their porch (and generally get in the way) I shall now type their name a few times, and give you a link to their site. Quiksilver, Quiksilver, Quicksilver.
I don't know the surf scene enough to know how important the guys I was hanging out with actually are, but I can tell many of them are really important, and they were all friendly enough to let a stranger just hang out with them.
I had to get up at 5 in order to get up to the North Shore in time for "first light," which wasn't so hard for me because due to jet lag my soul is still somewhere over Wyoming en-route to me, so my body just felt like it was getting up at a normal time.
My GPS totally crapped out on me, the first time I haven't been able to find a place based on its directions (and if I had read the manual, I'd have been fine—I couldn't figure out how to enter an address with a dash, like 56-305 Something Street. As a result I ended up on a spur road about 5 miles away from my destination, in the dark, having to call Jeff.
The day's shoot was great. I don't usually shoot video but since we don't have a second shooter here, the gig was all mine. Jeff's got some cool gear, including custom-made waterproof housings and it's fun to watch him get geared up. He spent a good few hours in the water, during which time I lugged around his 600mm lens and shot surfers and local surfer-watchers alike. Picture for those who like to ogle boys is here, girls with tattoos is here.
Jeff took a break at about 1:00 p.m. and we headed over to a great plate lunch, something I hadn't heard about until our President-Elect talked about it on T.V. The joint we hit today was a bit more upscale than most, very good food, very plentiful, very cheap. Lots and lots of surfers around, including many clearly baked dudes with incredible-looking women in tow.
Jeff pointed out the entrance to where the Lost beach is filmed, pointed out the Foodland grocery store where he saw the guy who plays Locke, and pointed out all the team houses, of which there are plenty. We went to the Oakley house and I talked an Australian photographer through some OS X issues for a while. The house is modern and well appointed, not really what you'd expect from a surf promo house, but definitely in the aesthetic of the Oakley brand.
Because its such a great promotion, each of the team houses is stocked with free beverages from companies like Red Bull and RockStar. I had a free, gigantic RockStar at the QuikSilver house and about ten minutes later wanted to punch a pony in the kidney, the shit is so powerful.
After lunch I drove around the remaining circumference of the island around looking at the water, which was directly outside my window for more than twenty miles before I headed up into the mountains and directly into rush hour traffic, which my GPS then got points for helping me avoid.
Then I started to flag after the day's moving around, but I suffered through another sunset (completely different than yesterday—where the hell did all the boats come from) and another Japanese meal in a place where I was the only caucasian.
Tomorrow I think I'll shoot some video from a hike up Diamond Head, more B-Roll for the video we're doing, and then at night I'll go back up to Jeff and shoot some more talking head of him. This paradise thing can be really exhausting.
Just in case you've decided that you hate me now because of the travel, here's a diversion. I was talking on IM tonight to a friend of mine from the PDN days who is now, with her husband, doing a project where they travel Asia shooting spas. Yes, I said that right, their job is to photograph spas. Then my friend Martin from Apple told me about an expedition a mutual friend from National Geographic is doing where they're taking some eighty people in a converted 757 around the world (in 24 days) to shoot some of the most incredible places on earth. It only costs a hair below $60,000. So there.
Ah the life of a jet setting entrepreneur. Business first class flight from Newark at 6pm local to Amsterdam, arrived at 8:30 am local. Stayed awake until about 1pm (and a traffic safety cone of French Fries for lunch). Nice four hour nap, then a meal at a great asian place (where I lost my sweatshirt) and then crashed until 9am.
Got up and took a 2.5 hour train ride to Cologne, Germany. Quick snack and then a hour long meeting. Walk to the nearby hotel for a Kolsh and dinner, then walked to the train station for a 2.5 hour train ride back to Amsterdam.
My feet hurt, my legs hurt. My tummy is full of dinner still. Now for a few days of downtime and relaxing then back home.
Well, at least I'm doing something with my "BS in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business". I'm concentrating already, sheesh.
The trip to the airport for a voyage home after an extended stay in a foreign country is usually a bittersweet experience. I've always got a mix of sadness at leaving and the pangs of excitement at going home.
As I arrived at Beijing's airport, I looked around and said a mental adieu to the country and the people.
Which is when the woman from United told me to please go to another line, as the flight to Dulles (my flight) had been delayed until tomorrow.
How does a 6:00 PM flight even get delayed until 8:30 the following AM? That's fourteen hours there folks, what could possibly have made you so late? It's possible to take a pregnancy test when you're not that late.
At least the folks at United handled it pretty well (while I was having Abby call the travel system that booked my flight to try to find any way home), opening up a partner airline's kiosks to check in the stranded Dulles people, automatically issuing hotel vouchers and handling (ably) all the connecting flight info. They even booked me on a Continental commuter from DC to EWR because their own flight would have kept me sitting there six hours between flights. (As it is though I have only a 90 minute window to connect, and since it's not United, I don't get to transfer, I have to check out and back into another terminal—that's not going to happen.)
Luckily I kept my hotel room an extra night, so after grabbing a change of clothes from my bag, headed back to town. Luckily again my new friend Joseph is still in town, so we spent the day hunting down the Apple store, drinking beers out on a patio and having an exquisite dinner.
Still, I had really wished that I would have been part-the-way-home by now. It's been a long trip, I'm eager to get back home and into the arms of my wife, and so I'd really like to no longer be in this country.
There are many excellent games on display at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where I've been spending the last week working. Spending countless hours in the Kodak photographer's center, surrounded by a phalanx of monitors all tuned directly to the Olympic feeds has given me a certain access to watching the games that I have not previously enjoy.
Now, I'm not a terribly big fan of sports, I can't name more than a handful of NBA, NFL or MLB teams, and in fact I had to think for a second to come up with those letters. When it comes to sports, I'm basically a cycling fan, and that's about it.
However, the unfettered connection to the games has been fun, and the events I've seen in person have even been exciting. USA vs. Brazil in the semi-finals in women's beach volleyball was a hoot, although probably a large part of that was due to the extreme amounts revealed flesh on the "court" at any time.
The exposure (pardon the pun) to the Olympic events has at times caused a bit of an adverse reaction. There are things that just don't seem like they should be part of the competition. When I see someone competing at an event and I think "that's not even as real of a sport as curling then it shouldn't be in the Olympics. To help decide what should and should not be allowed, may I present to you my new guide to Olympic event elimination.
No event may be included in the Olympics if it can be performed in one's basement. Events that this will effect include the shooting events and table tennis. I know table tennis is popular in China, but I'm sorry, it has to go.
Exception - The winter event Biathlon may continue to be included as it includes a component that can not be performed in a basement.
No event may be included in the Olympics if it does not require a trip to the gym at least once a month, or at least requires and acceptable substitute. This includes the shooting events. Yes, I have a problem with the shooting events. They're just standing there with guns. Occasionally they move their fingers. Not a sport.
No event may be an Olympic sport if it's already included in another sport. Discus and decathlon discus, I'm looking at you two. Go to your corners, work your shit out and get back to us. Only one of you gets to play.
No event may be included in the Olympics if it utilizes a name that's already a sport. This will eliminate "handball," which is really just a version of soccer that's played indoors and requires the use of your hands not your feet. Handball is already taken by an event that's been using it longer than it could possibly have been an Olympic sport. You must pick another official name or go home.
No event may be in the Olympics if it's just a silly variation of some other event. Oops, we already kicked out handball because of the name, looks like it's out even if they pick up a better moniker. (My vote was for "handtrowbounceyball.")This would be like including walleyball. Sadly, it also includes beach volleyball, as it's just a version of volleyball that has less sand. I think we're going to have to make an exception to this one.
Exception - Beach volleyball is exempt because the girls are hot, and there are cheerleaders.
I think that's a good place to start, though I'm likely to come up with more before the Olympics are over.
Just added: No event may be in the Olympics if a horse is doing the work. Likewise, no car racing or yachts. I think the equestrian folks in the crowd know who they are.
Added 8/28/08: Any activity that's really dancing or was featured in a burlesque show is not an Olympic sport. Hula hoop routines? Are you kidding me? That's two minutes of my life I'm never getting back, times twenty "competitors." Enjoy your careers working at the floor show at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Vegas, baby!
Beijing has a reputation for being difficult to bike in, despite its long history as a cycle-centric city. The recent influx of cars (millions and millions) has made it nearly impossible to get around the city for most. However, the bike lanes that are a part of the entire city's infrastructure are for the most part massive, well marked and easy to navigate.
Separate from car lanes in almost all areas, the bike lanes here are massive. Sure, there are cars parking in them and pulling out from corner spots (the lanes double as parking access and local turn lanes) but they're really easy to follow.
In fact, I'd say that Beijing is one of the most bike-friendly places I've been, even to some degree topping Amsterdam, as there are fewer cyclists to clog up the arteries.
I rode down to the Forbidden City and Tienamin square today. Turns out that tourist attractions are hot and boring regardless of the country or location. I didn't spend a lot of time there. I did, however, ride around the Hutongs, the small tenement-style dwellings that date back almost as far as this city's been a city, and are narrow, winding corridors of humanity. Most are in utter disrepair, with the residents all sharing a single public bathroom. When I say these places are single room dwellings, I mean just that. They are comprised of just four walls, a bed and some items laying around. No bathroom, no kitchen, nothing.
In one of the just-slightly-more-upkept areas I came across a row of vendors and a terrific looking noodle shop where the chef was slicing bits of dough from a large block of it into a pot of boiling water to create a noodle dish that was amazing looking. All the tables were full, I was getting stared at by the locals (orange bike jersey, helmet, folding bike will do that) and normally I'd be too shy to butt in, but in I went and waited for a steaming bowl of noodles. The woman sharing the table with me insisted on showing me how to add vinegar, and then sort of chided me for not mixing it in, taking my chopsticks and stirring it for me. That got a bit of a laugh from the group.
A man sat across from me and spoke a bit of English with me. He said his name was Tony (I think perhaps that was translated) and asked what I was doing in China. I told him I was working at the Olympics, he translated for the group. Then I raised my hands up in the "showing off my muscles" pose and told him to tell them I was an Olympic weight lifter. That also got a laugh.
Tonight is another stint at the Media Center, hopefully it'll be more active tonight than yesterday, we had maybe five people to talk to in the course of four or five hours, and the shift went very slowly. I like getting to talk to people much more than saying "do you need help?" to people who only speak German.