Posts from the Photography Category

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All photos by Calvin Abe

Over the holidays I went up to Sacramento to visit my family. While there I decided to visit the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Herald, California, about 12 miles from my where I grew up. Although the plant was decommissioned back in 1989, it was built in the early 1970’s when I was in high school, and was operational for nearly two decades. The plant was eventually decommissioned due to operational problems.

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This post and accompanying photos are not presented to argue the merits or criticism of nuclear power, but simply to share a dualistic thought that popped into my head as I drove around the facility: the admiration for the bucolic beauty and sculptural qualities of the reactor towers as structures – each sitting atop the landscape – while at the same time recognizing their potential to alter the face of the landscape for thousands of years in an instant. Chernobyl in 1986, Three Mile Island in 1979, and the recent Fukushima incident still remain vivid memories of this dualism between potential and pitfalls.

Is the future of nuclear power a sustainable or resilient approach? I’ll let you decide. But here are a few of my photographs from the two days I was there to view and witness their history firsthand.

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All photos by Erik Schmahl

At the end of the year there is a tendency to wrap up the last three-hundred and sixty-five days into a packaged time thing. Once packaged, these collected memories can be put in a box, labeled, and stacked neatly on the shelf atop the previous year. For me this practice usually means emptying the refrigerator door of all out of code condiments, pruning the struggling branches on the philodendron, and clearing up space on my phone by archiving and deleting the thousands of photos I have taken since the last big purge. This practice of reflective cleansing typically coalesces with resolutions for the new year.

My original intent was to write a pedantic expose of animal agriculture’s effects on water usage in the context of California’s drought – but at the risk of a self-righteous diatribe, I decided to take a different approach to bringing in the new year.

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The following images were taken during the summer of 2016 in Japan, curated to help me express personal moments of  ‘ah-ha’ inspiration through cellular candid captures. Our phones are the ultimate documentarians – we take them everywhere and snap digital shutters vigorously, often furiously out of simple wonder for the world around us, a ritual that is easily wasted if we don’t take the opportunity to go back through and see what all the fuss was about.

Ever look back and wonder “why did I take seven photos of this curb?” These are those photos. My personal data base of design inspiration, shared.

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The large urban parks around Los Angeles provide a chance to step into another world, and my favorite is Debs Park in Montecito Heights. The park’s network of trails wind up hillsides through black walnut groves and under large oak trees, some leading to rewarding views of Downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains. It is a 282-acre pocket of wild in the city, and I’ve encountered coyotes, bobcats, owls, and rabbits on my hikes. Becoming part of their world provides respite from my own.

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Adjusting my focus from the large vistas to the immediate setting, I started noticing patterns in the vegetation that were not of a human scale. Grass tunnels hinted at another creature’s experience of the open space, and the more I looked, the more I saw the park as a network of animal thoroughfares. I began photographing these routes as a way to actively observe and meditate on the sensitive connection between wildlife and our shared landscape.

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02040011As a designer, I know there is much to learn from adjusting my perspective and seeing the landscape from a different point of view. These photos are just a glimpse into another side of LA, and another experience of our environment.

All photos: Gregory Han

All photos: Gregory Han

Sixteen and a half hours is a long to time to be confined to a single seat, especially if the flight is for purposes of business, not leisure. A  person’s patience, alongside the fortitude of their bladder and their endurance for humanity in close proximity are all tested in the span of such a flight. Yet there I was, flying across the globe, crammed into the corner of a window seat, burrowing into the 14° incline seating like a rodent readying for hibernation, each attempt to find a comfortable position unfulfilled. It was the promise of exploring the Middle East for the first time that allowed coach fare discomforts to be endured.

Several single serving meals and not-so-critically-acclaimed films later, I landed in Dubai to attend Dubai Design Week. I unraveled my spine first, then turned to do the same with the city before me, a metropolis still very much in the midst of creating its own identity and history in parallel.

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The surrealism of Dubai is immediate – a gigantic Sim City development of competing corporate egos materialized into high rise forms. Edifices of metal and glass jut obscenely erect against the hazy-sandy canvas of a true desert sky, some notably unique, the majority indistinct. Their placement were planned years advance, but their presence seems to communicate a perpetual state of “…to be continued” in the sum of a city. The saline-perfumed Persian Gulf is temptingly nearby, but often forgotten, as if the city’s planners deemed the natural landscape insufficient an expression of their wealth and dreams, the haze of sand and urban pollution obscuring the view for miles. The sprawl of artifice this city lays out before the eyes an urban statement makes Los Angeles seem downright undeveloped country in comparison!

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At 125 floors above ground level, you might expect to feel dizzy or discombobulated. Instead, I found a strong desire to pinch to zoom.

Dubai is in beta stage, with countless experiments in the realm of architecture, landscape design, and infrastructure unfolding concurrently. Things happen here in real time, visibly and invisibly. One moment, I was surveying enormous construction vehicles slumbering across a dry canal bed from my hotel window; the next morning the same canal was opened with zero fanfare, with millions of gallons of sea water passing through the newly constructed thoroughfare where hours before wheels tracked across it (the canals were designed for solar-powered shipping boats). Where other cities plan, Dubai executes.

A scale model of Dubai Creek Harbour, currently being constructed. Upon completion, the development will be three times the size of Downtown Dubai and include the world’s tallest twin towers, alongside eight million square feet of retail space, 39,000 residential units, 3,664 office units, and 22 hotels with 4,400 rooms.

A scale model of Dubai Creek Harbour, currently being constructed. Upon completion, the development will be three times the size of Downtown Dubai and include the world’s tallest twin towers, alongside eight million square feet of retail space, 39,000 residential units, 3,664 office units, and 22 hotels with 4,400 rooms.

Later that same day, I was rocketing upward on an elevator traveling at 3 floors per second up to the highest observation deck inside the tallest building in the world. At 124-125 floors up the landscape below takes on a whole new persona, one more akin to computer game simulation or real time strategy level rather than the reality of life unfolding below. The urban landscape of yet-to-be-finished developments, sprawling shopping centers, checkerboards of pools glistening aqua, and large squares and strips of lands still left barren, all intersected by freeways as busy as Los Angeles and trains as perfunctory as Paris are revealed. The view is so unrealistic, the mind is lulled into disbelief rather than vertigo.

As the sun began to set, the desert landscape ignited in a spectacular display of reds, oranges, and yellows.

As the sun began to set, the desert landscape ignited in a spectacular display of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Only a few days later I was boarding onto an Emirates flight to make the same 8,000+ mile trip back to Los Angeles. Besides the complete open row of seats – the best surprise ever – I found one last surprise awaited.

About a half an hour into the flight a desert landscape never seen before revealed itself below – an arid realm I had only seen in science fiction movies…or dreams. The land appeared shaped by the nocturnal kicking of once slumbering, long forgotten titans, like bedding kicked into folds and piles. A range of mountains, dunes, and other indescribable geological formations stretched for hundreds of miles without the sight of habitation.

“Where am I?!”

I was flying over Iran – the modern lands of the ancient Persian Empire.

In realizing the plane was traveling over a country I was very unlikely ever to set foot upon in my lifetime, a tingle of excitement shot through my body. I was flying over a forbidden landscape, and everything laid before me was stunning. For those several minutes, with nose pressed against glass, my coach fare felt like first class.

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All photos by Wendy Chan

I grew up living in Los Angeles, but I hardly ever ventured into Downtown LA while growing up. I remember visiting the Central Public Library, being in awe by the architecture. I also remember taking the bus with my mom to the Fashion District to get fabric. So when our office moved into Downtown Los Angeles on 7th and Hope over 2 years ago, I was surprised by the walkability and energy that Downtown offered.

I decided to take my camera and walk straight down 7th Street as far as my one hour of lunch allowed to document my experience. I chose 7th Street because it takes you through various neighborhoods and districts within Downtown – from the jewelry, theatre, fashion districts, then finally to the Los Angeles Flower Market before turning back. There are some great finds and artifacts along the way that deserves a double take.

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