Los Angeles 2023 Workshop Recap

The first workshop of 2023 is in the books! LA’s been having some odd weather this year and it sure wasn’t the most cooperative for us but we still had a great time and got some great shots. Just gotta improvise your approach when you don’t get the sun you expect/hope for. Same goes for some bristly security guards. What’s happening LA?!

Day 1

We started off a bit rocky at the Bradbury Building with our first difficult security guard claiming we couldn’t use our “big” cameras. Certainly a new rule since my last visit. But here are a couple I got with my phone.

I still feel like the iPhone doesn’t handle low light well, especially noticeable if you look at these larger. Oh well. Guess I’ll call ahead and get the scoop next time.

Next, we headed over to the LAPD Headquarters designed by AECOM. Love the angles here.

Just across the street is Caltrans District 7 Headquarters designed by Morphosis. An interesting feature of the building is the movable facade that shifts with the changing light of the day. In all my visits, I have yet to see it move but a cool design feature, nevertheless.

I typically find Morphosis designs somewhat challenging to shoot. They always seem to be so massive and bulky. Kind of like a modern-day take on brutalism, if you ask me.

Here’s a look at the facade. Some decent shadowplay!

There’s this skylight at the entrance which has some fun possibilities. Oh, and another visit from security. Thankfully, they were just curious about what we were doing and wanted to explain some stuff about the design of the building. Very nice of them 🙂

Saw a couple of Urban Quilt shots in the area, the first incorporating a bit of Caltrans.

Not on the itinerary, but liked this palm tree, its shadow, and the lines of this building.

After our lunch break, at a very interesting bar – seemed to be a divey pirate-themed situation with the most eclectic playlist I think I’ve ever heard. From Billy Idol to Kenny G you just had no clue what was coming next, lol. The LA dining scene is severely lacking in this part of downtown. Oh well, this sure was entertaining.

Ok, the next building! Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s LA Courthouse. The pleated facade is meant to help deal with the intense LA sun.

Our next location was a bit of a bust. Security was super intense. We planned to shoot both the exterior and interior of The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels by JosĂ© Rafael Moneo but just before we arrived there was a funeral for a cardinal so they were kicking everyone out. Disappointing as I’ve visited this church many times and have never had an issue photographing here in any way.

Oh well, here are a few shots I managed before we got booted. Love the contrast in the vivid blue sky with the warmth of the facade which is reminiscent of the sun-baked adobe walls of the California Missions.

Our next stop, also viewable from the cathedral, was the Ramon C. Cortines School Of Visual And Performing Arts designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au. Such an interesting design. I remember the first time I saw this and was totally shocked, wondering what this robot-like structure was.

In doing some research, apparently, this form is completely unusable due to funding. But was supposed to be a special events room that could be rented out for private gatherings. Really too bad that never came to fruition.

Getting closer, and isolating elements of the design can make for some interesting angles.

As we walked toward the front of the building, the light on the side of the building with these porthole-like windows was very dramatic.

Now, time to get hassled by security once again. At this point, I had had it, lol. Especially loved the conflicting messages from two guards standing right next to each other – one said as long as we didn’t photograph the students we were good. The other saying we’d get sued if we kept shooting. Not overly dramatic at all. Insert eyeroll. Needless to say, frustrating.

But, here are a few takes before all the drama. Just an evolution in focus being on different/varying aspects of how that robot-like structure relates to this cone-like structure. How much do you love my technical terms here, lol?!

Time to get out of downtown, right?! Off to LACMA, The Academy of Motion Pictures Museum – both designed by Renzo Piano – and The Petersen Automotive Museum – designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

I didn’t really get anything I liked at LACMA this visit and the Motion Picture Museum is tough one but I sure love these red chairs and the dramatic late-day shadowplay.

Oh, and what’s with Piano’s love of red? You see it in so many of his designs.

Ready for a bunch of Petersen Auto Museum shots? Late day/golden hour light into blue hour. The sculptural facade of this building, inspired by the cars it houses + LA’s traffic, is sure fun to create abstracts of.

Yes, that was probably way too many photos to share but, oh well. That wrapped day 1 of shooting. Off to dinner!

Day 2

We started the day downtown once again. This time, two of my favorites – Disney Concert Hall (Frank Gehry) & The Broad (Diller Scoficio + Renfro).

The Disney Concert Hall is one of my favorite buildings anywhere I’ve been in the world. I’ve photographed it a lot so finding new perspectives is tough. But, here are a few.

This light!

The interiors can be a bit challenging to find interesting ways to get elements of this beautiful design to align harmoniously within your frame. I certainly know it’s taken a few visits to get my stride in here. But, I do love this space.

Alright, get ready for A LOT of images of the interiors of The Broad. I absolutely love the facade of this building and how it creates this soft filtered light inside + the contrast in its curves with some of the lines from the walls and glass.

Time for lunch and then off to Culver City and the wacky world of Eric Owen Moss’s Hayden Tract. The highlight is certainly Vespertine/Waffle Building. That orange curvy/angular facade is fantastic day and night!

Again, a location I’ve shot a few times so finding new ways to approach this is getting more difficult. Here, I liked the very subtle shadows.

A short walk away, is a building called Stealth. One of the attendees said it looked like something from Star Wars. Of course, I can’t remember exactly what because I’ve only seen one Star Wars movie. But, here’s a piece of it. Fun texture, color, angles, shadows.

Next up, Strait is the Gate. There’s a peachy hue to the facade of the building which contrasts nicely with the blue sky (but, I chose to share the BW images here) + I really like these curvy things at the entrance. I know, exceptional description of what these are. Maybe I need to do some more studying on what all this stuff is, lol.

There are so many other unique buildings in this area we wandered around and shot but I just didn’t get anything I really liked. So, I’ll leave you with two blue hour shots to wrap day 2 – Samitaur Tower (which, I guess sometimes has cool art projections on its facade. I did not luck out with this) & Waffle. I mean, that orange glow against the vivid blue hour sky, the curvy/angular leading lines. Really, what’s not to love about shooting this building?!

Day 3

Our final day and off to my favorite place in all of LA – The Getty Center (Richard Meier). The day started with a bit of rain but luckily cleared by the time we got here and had some moments of sun.

Last year, I made a shot I really liked but my hard drive crashed and that file was unable to be recovered 🙁 Here’s my attempt at the recreation.

I rarely shoot wide and challenged myself to find some way to utilize my wide-angle lens in this space. So, the shot above and the next two are results of that push.

Getting back to those details.

Back downtown to wrap up the workshop. First up, Double Ascension by Herbert Bayer. The vibrant red against the muted highrises surrounding it make it standout even more.

Now, for some attempts at isolating how the curvy/angular double stairs overlap and create some interesting patterns and layers.

An attempt at some ICM here.

Now for some brutalism with John Portma’s Westin Bonaventure. My favorite area of this massive hotel are the curvy staircases in each tower.

We wrapped the day with a couple more sculptures. One of my favorites anywhere, Ulysses by Alexander Liberman. His motto More Is More, in contradiction to Mies van der Rohe’s Less Is More. Photographically, I’m gonna agree with Liberman, even if, as a theory, I’m more on the side of Mies. There’s just something about a “more” type of building or structure and the challenge of creating some kind of order out of the chaos that speaks to me when making a photo.

With that said, here are 3 takes on his sculpture. The first is a reflection of it in the raindrop-covered, pinkish-hued polished marble bench. The second feels like the center of a rose to me. And, the third, I just like the dramatic light and the motion, which kind of feels like a dancer or legs or something.

Whew, yes, that’s a long tour of the weekend! Stay tuned for the students’ shots + some BTS images in the next post.

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3 Responses

  1. Sounds like your pre production scouting was a miss with all the security hassles you encountered in LA. Did you have permits & insurance to shoot in those locations?

    1. Not really. I've taken workshop groups to all these places for years without any issues. A very flukey day with events happening that aren't typically happening causing heightened an stricter security and apparently some covid rule changes that aren't listed anywhere on the websites. None require permits or insurance for this type of shooting.

  2. These are all such excellent images! I think I need to go back and shoot them all over again. Everyone's eye is different, and with the changes in light, I'm sure it takes several trips to get close to exhausting the many subjects. What a great time it was, and I came back with great images thanks you you.

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