Archive for the California Category

It’s like out West, only without the 5,000 mile drive

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), California, Diary, friends, Harlan, Hess, home, Matthews, photography, photojournalism, picture kentucky, road trip, travel, UKPJ on December 23, 2007 by lenscapremoved

With a dead story and only a day and a half to shoot, I wanted to leave Evarts, Ky with more than what I came with.

I could be sentimental and say, “Oh but I met so many new friends and had fun and it was a great learning experience.” But really, I wanted good pictures. Workshops always provide you with all of these. Connections. Good times. Learning experiences. Portfolio pictures.

I didn’t have time to shoot much of a story, but in between being honked at on the side of the road for standing at memorials, I shot landscapes. Some of which are really nice and telling of the area, others are just OK.

Shooting landscapes reminded me of this summer. It made miss just driving, not knowing where I was going to sleep. Evarts, a place so different than the West, caused me to miss California and its diverse land. It made me miss Elliott and wish he had been able to be in Evarts not only to shoot good pictures, but to hang out with me and Ed when we’re not having to make newspapers. Staying in an unfamiliar house for the sake of photographs made me miss Martha.

I will probably never have another entire summer to throw away for the sake of pictures. These trips when I get a full week to just think about them are some of my favorite times each semester. I hope, with Jim’s help, we can keep building these workshops and having great experiences.

This is the main cemetery from Ages through Evarts. There are other small cemeteries, but this is pretty much it. In my lifetime, I’ve had 6 family members buried here, including Clyde Wilson and most recently, my grandfather, JC Luttrell.

Good light and old, pretty houses make for good pictures.

I am going to reshoot this sometime. I need to be closer to downtown, or get a hold of a 300 with an extender. There are two steeples right in this area, and I think if I moved around I could probably frame this up a lot better.

I think my dad called this area Sunshine. I told him there’s nothing there but a few playing fields, but he said it used to be a community.


Pushing boundaries or in my element?*

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), California, friends, Harlan, Mary Margaret, photography, picture kentucky on December 16, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Since school was out Mary Margaret came home with me this weekend to Middlesboro, which really was a trip to Knoxville for Saturday. A family trip, my dad is driving through the crappy mist we had on the way back.

Friday was my last class for three weeks, but works starts back in 12 hours.

At 2 PM today, Dec. 17, we will be hitting Evarts, Ky for our first winter session workshop. It’s my first workshop that I can do completely free of school-work-worry (although that hasn’t stopped me at any of the first three either, I’ll take pictures before a test any day).

Evarts to my classmates – a complete mystery. The sound of such a place where there is no cell phone service and no fast food sounds desolated at first, but they all believe in an opportunity to find good stories. They’re excited about a foreign place, but some still had misrepresented thoughts of farmland (nearly nonexistent in a place of hollows) and livestock (it’s more like pets, because no one is really out to make money off a horse their grandson rides or a cow their granddaughter likes to feed).

Evarts to me – home. While I tell people I’m from Middlesboro, I feel nearly as comfortable saying that I am from Evarts. I only lived there until I was two, but found myself returning to Harlan Co. all the time to visit my grandparents (in Ages and Evarts, which are only a few miles from each other). Most of my childhood stories come from Harlan.

Evarts will be the biggest road trip for many of our students, who only live in Lexington. It’s three hours from Lexington, but seems like it’s a different world. For other students, like Allie, it will be a breeze compared to the 15.5 hours to Houston, Tx she’ll be doing immediately following the workshop. I’ll be pulling a decent drive to Nashville, but nothing like a 33 hours drive from Ventura, Ca to Middlesboro.

Workshops are geared to bring people into situations that they’re not used to, make them think on their toes. They get you out of your element. I am not as familiar with Evarts as my dad, who lived there for half his life, or even better my Uncle Jack, who not only knows the place better than google, he can give you a full history on any building in the city (or neighboring camps), but it is still a part of me.

I think part of this week will be me learning to work with what I have been around, but haven’t seen. Often we glance over things because they’re so familiar, not recognizing stories. I have three solid story ideas right now, one of which I will definitely be working on hard. The other two, I will take as I can. I will be interested to see what photo stories I come out with at the end of the week.

The blog posts may come daily or maybe only one or two this week. I’ll be shooting thousands of pictures, so come back to enjoy a few.

*Between the lines:

Sorry to rip off Dariush’s idea about “spinning off the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series, where every episode would have two titles, both of them usually laden with puns” but this is actually deserving of two. I hope you follow.

Picture the future

Posted in California, Oak View, University of Kentucky, Ventura on December 3, 2007 by lenscapremoved

It pains me to tell you that Grandpa Mac died Sept. 7. He was 93.

But through his life, he has changed that of so many. Myself, is most certainly included. And now, his life is being lived out through so many in his area.

Dave LaBelle is doing great things in California. Ed found the article below from the Ventura County Star about what Dave and Erin are doing with their project that I wrote about this summer, Caring with Cameras. Dave is always inspiring me to be a better person and photographer. His work out there is affecting me 2300 miles away.

I know it hurt Dave when Grandpa Mac died. It hurts me too, and I only knew him for a short summer. I’ll always remember his wit, curiosity and him yelling at a little blond girl for walking on the roof of his garage. He really was one of a kind. But despite the hurt that it brings to me, I’m very thankful to have met the person who inspired my mentor.

Thank you Grandpa Mac.

Photo by Erin LaBelle

Photos courtesy of Erin LaBelle By using a real frame, Lillian Sutton and Starla Giannatti, both 6, learned how to frame a picture during the photography project called “Caring With Cameras.”

By Kim Lamb Gregory (Contact)
Thursday, October 11, 2007

The success of his annual photography project for children has prompted instructor Dave LaBelle to look into setting up a college scholarship fund for kids interested in pursuing photojournalism.

The plans are still in their infancy, but LaBelle hopes to name the scholarship fund after his former mentor, photography teacher Denning McArthur, who died Sept. 7 at 93.

“When I knew he was going to die, I took a walk to the park and sat down and wrote something about him,” LaBelle said last week.

“I know for the first time I pass by his house and cannot slip in the back door and kiss him on the cheek as I have for so many years, the tears will flow,” LaBelle wrote, in part.

LaBelle, 56, said he believes the Ventura photography teacher’s influence at a critical period in his life is what set the trajectory for LaBelle’s award-winning career in photography. That trajectory began in the 1960s, when LaBelle was a confused adolescent having trouble adjusting to a new school.

“I was a kid that couldn’t seem to find a place, and until photography I don’t think I found anything I felt I was really good at,” LaBelle said.

McArthur taught LaBelle how to use a camera, and LaBelle was hooked. Years later, in 1997, LaBelle set up the photography project in hopes of giving young students the same sort of creative outlet McArthur gave him. LaBelle and his wife, photographer Erin LaBelle, launched the project at Dave’s alma mater, De Anza Middle School, in the Ventura Avenue area of west Ventura.

Formerly called Picture the Avenue, the annual project involves giving kids disposable cameras to shoot their families, pets, friends, events or their environment.

Now called Caring With Cameras, the summer program involved six weeks of photography instruction from LaBelle, who is a 35-year veteran in the photography business. “We talked about basics of framing and composition, light and portraiture, as well as learning the difference between posed and candid moments,” he said of the Caring With Cameras classes. “In addition to photographing assignments out of class, students watched slide shows and practiced photographing each other and teachers.”

It was about the technique, LaBelle said, but the classes were also about giving the kids a sense of self-esteem for a job well done.

“All you need is a couple of people to reinforce the things you care for,” he said, “to affirm that you have some worth. It doesn’t take a lot: just one person and a couple of kind words. Some kids, all they get is, You’re a failure,’ or You’re no good.'”

The LaBelles held the classes in June and July, attracting about 35 kids from Ventura, Casitas Springs and Oak View.

They ranged in age from 6 to 15. The little ones were a lot of fun, LaBelle said, but the kids he truly hoped to influence were those who might feel a little lost.

“I want to reach the ones that are sort of on the fence and puberty is going crazy in their heads,” LaBelle said. “I want to reach them before they get involved in drugs or gangs or get pregnant at 13.”

The LaBelles held the workshops in the Oak View Park and Resource Center; 50 years ago, LaBelle attended elementary school in the same building.

At the time, he was just a little older than the youngest ones he taught this summer — like Ojai cousins Eileen Covarrubas and Starla Giannatti, both 6.

Eileen yielded a comedic shot of her dad with his hair in wet spikes after a shower, and a photo of her pug, Bailey, sitting at curly-tailed attention.

Starla’s subject was a horse named Boo Boo, who was wearing a mask to keep the flies away. “I got under the horse and he kind of like snorted at me like, What are you doing?’ and I took his picture,” Starla said.

Josh Iannini, 10, of Oak View was fascinated with the intricacies of photography such as lighting and background. He experimented with what he had learned by taking photos of his aunt and cousin one day at the beach. “They give memories,” Josh said, when asked why he likes to shoot pictures.

Another promising photo that emerged from the workshop was a moment captured by 12-year-old Alex Albarron, who thought it might be interesting to shoot into the mirror as her cousin prepared for her day. “I thought (the shot) would be cool; it would be like looking at two or three people,” Alex said.

Alex and Josh were among the kids bitten by the shutterbug.

“I wasn’t that interested in photography but after the class I really started getting interested,” Alex said. “I see stuff and I want to take pictures. I sort of want to be a photographer.”

LaBelle knows that feeling. He started his career at the Ventura County Star Free Press in the early 1970s, then returned to what is now the Ventura County Star as its photo director from 1998 to 2001.

LaBelle has worked at 20 newspapers and magazines, published three books of photography and won numerous awards. He currently is in the process of relocating his wife and two sons back to his childhood home of Oak View after a three-year stint as photojournalism adviser at the University of Kentucky.

Erin had such a good time teaching the children for the Caring With Cameras project, she has decided to start teaching photography regularly at the Oak View Boys & Girls Club.

“I love working with kids and I love photojournalism,” said Erin, 37. “I feel like often it’s more personal to get them to document their own world and it gives them a voice. It lets them know someone wants to listen to them.”

LaBelle said the project is still evolving. He has decided to concentrate on students ages 12 to 15, as they are old enough to grasp photographic concepts and really consider it as a hobby or career choice.

Next year, he plans to hold the free workshops at the Oak View Park and Resource building as well as the Bell Arts Factory on Ventura Avenue to make it easier to get to for Ventura kids.

He knows not all children are going to embrace photography, but if he can reach just a few, he’s happy.

“If you have 20 kids and four of them you connect with and four of them go on to do something (with photography), that’s a heck of a ratio,” LaBelle said. “That’s success.”


Posted in California, Middlesboro, Oak View, University of Kentucky, Ventura on October 3, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’ve already written my farewell to Dave LaBelle. I wrote it in California, a place I have only ever seen because Dave loved me enough to invite me out with his family. The man has changed my life and given me so much direction, that I consider him a parent that took me in after I left my small nest in Middlesboro. Having met him, I think my parents would give their consent on that role as well.

Dave leaves this weekend. I wont see him until I make an effort to get back out to California for a week or so, or until he comes back this time next year. No matter what, his departure scares me. He has helped me gain so much direction in my life, and he could have done it all without the motivation of photography. I don’t care who you are, or what your interested in, Dave can talk to you and leave you with that, different, feeling.

But a part of Dave’s personality, is how free he is. He wont be locked down and will not be tamed. He will do what he feels right, which is something I’ve learned to respect most about him. At this time, it is right for him to head back to Oak View, California, where his wife Erin and boys, Henry and Tucker, are waiting. I hope sometime before next fall they’re there, waiting for me.

Dave told me at the workshop that he can’t wait until I’m coming back to help him with them, so he can be with all of us again and tell stories and just have fun with us. I’m already honored that he said that, because it means he has faith. He has faith I’ll be successful and good at whatever I do.

All this aside, because I believe I could type forever about how much I love Dave LaBelle (and have, click here), I wanted to show you what one of my best friends had to say about this situation. Allie Garza nearly made me cry with her farewell to Dave on her blog.

Please, click here to see what she had to say.

Between the lines:
For those of you who are in Lexington tomorrow (Thursday Oct. 4) please stop by the Journalism Building in the Maggie Room, which is the first room on the left if you come through the front doors, sometime between 4-6 pm. Dave will be there and we will be having a farewell to the one who has revived UK photojournalism and changed the lives of every student who has had the opportunity to work with him.

Getting a “how to” in journalism?

Posted in California, quick and easy on September 18, 2007 by lenscapremoved

First thought: What if you could read a 1 page “how to” and know everything about being a surgeon? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 now.

 While I was plummeting through my list of blogs and searching the internet for more to get lost in when I fell into Behind the Lens, a blog posted on the Danville Advocate-Messenger’s page. Behind the Lens is a blog that helps readers of the paper learn more about what the paper’s photographers are doing and, more generally, learn some basic photography skills. But one post in particular made me cringe just a bit.

Second thought: Out California where everyone with a camera is subject to speculation of the public. Not for what news are you covering? Is someone hurt? Am I going to be in the newspaper? No, none of the above in this case. It’s more like, “Is that guy famous?” 

I wasn’t cringing at anything said by the bloggers of Behind the Lens. I actually agreed with them about how digusting a “how to” site was.

Thanks to, people no longer have a need for guidance counselors, parental advice or even careful planning. It’s already laid out for you in an easy step-by-step process. Are you trying to cram for a test? Maybe you should learn to read while walking!  Have you had a problem with haggling with rikshaw drivers lately? Click here for help immediately! If you’re just worried about survival in general, you can start with Tsunamis or click here for all survival methods.

Photo from wikiHow.

Third thought: The example photo of someone who is supposed to make money off taking photos in difficult positions is over exposed.

This site basically just takes as much basic knowledge and throws it together in a step-by-step process. It gives examples for any occupation that you could possibly be interested in. My problem with it is that it’s just not so simple in most cases. It’s fun to laugh at “how to be a paparrazzi sleezeball” or “how to hide a big butt as a 12-year-old” but overall this site is missleading. Professions aren’t built overnight, and even if some of these step-by-steps are saying it takes years, the overall impression of these postings is that anyone can do any job if they use the site. Not true.

Fourth thought: I hope people realize this is a fun post, not a ‘how to do…anything’. If you’re looking for a how to, go to wikiHow and type in something fun, random or serious. You’ll be surprised with what you find.

Construction ahead

Posted in California on August 12, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Blogger note: I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to put this together. At first glance I’m sure it will seem short and you’ll wonder why it took me so long to write. I’m not exactly sure why it’s been so hard. Maybe it was the fact that I don’t want to let go of the trip. Maybe it just needed time to settle in. The fact is that this is my last California post. The blog will still be here. The posts will still be here. I will still be here. All you have to do is keep coming back. The blog will begin being updated in a few days. Look for changes throughout the week.

When my dad found out Elliott and I had been driving for about 29 hours straight he wanted to come meet me halfway between Lexington and Middlesboro to make sure I didn’t fall asleep after what would be a 33 hour drive from Ventura to Middlesboro. I had protested this at the time but now am pretty sure it was the best thing for me. After reuniting with my family at a small gas station in Livingston, Ky my good luck necklace broke. Maybe this sounds silly to some of you, but I am kind of superstitious. That necklace was made of Kukui nuts and came from my parents’ first trip to Hawaii. The beads are a symbol for good luck, but are also used to represent growth in a person. I guess maybe I’m coming into a new time in my life and didn’t need that luck anymore.

The trip I took this summer contorted me. It changed my life in how I see almost everything. I know it’s going to be that way for a long time, until something bigger happens. It’s hard to think that anything bigger could happen. The lessons I’ve learned will stick and will be there to keep me from making certain mistakes and help me be a better traveler. The biggest contributing factor for all of this is that we did this on our own. This is probably the first time we were able to take on a trip of this proportion and be the leaders, the planners. We all had equal say, and had to make decisions. With decisions came reactions, and after reactions you had realizations. 70 percent of the realizations were, “Well we should have done it the other way.” But I see that as fortunate. If we had just gotten it right the first time we wouldn’t have appreciated our experiences.

I hope I haven’t come off as being the American twenty-something that is full of inflatable wisdom, or more generally called a “know-it-all”. If I’ve come to decide anything it’s back to the Ben Folds’ lyrics. I don’t have it all figured out, but I have gained some mileage. Taoist use “ten thousand” as generic for infinite. The Tao philosophy has a symbol, which represents “the way”. The way can most simply be thought of the path to being a virtuous person. I feel that the 10,000 miles we drove this summer have given me an infinite amount of ways to improve myself. I hope I can harness that feeling and make this trip worth something more than a few pretty pictures. But it sure has been nice to get a few along the way.

Compare and contrast

Posted in California, lexington, luttrell, Martha, Mary Margaret on August 2, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I was able to spend tonight with a very good friend of mine who I haven’t seen nearly enough this summer. Allie and I went to a concert together (TV on the Radio) in Cincinnati and got to spend the entire evening together. We chatted about our trips this summer and I got to hear more about her internship and many jobs.

She was talking about how glad she was to be home when she finally got back and I told her I basically spend all of my time wishing I was back in California with Martha and the Pacific. We both agreed that it had more to do with how I stayed rather than who had a better time. Our trips to California were very different. Allie’s was really more of a vacation where as I really felt like I was living there for the summer. I wasn’t a typical tourist, unless of course you’re talking about when we were in Sequoia or Death Valley. Then yeah, we were tourists. But most of the time I felt like I was a member of the community.

In about five hours I’m heading to Louisville to start what will actually be a vacation for me. I’m going with Mary Margaret’s family to Michigan for a week. I’m looking forward to that and already thanking her family for inviting me. Don’t expect much of a travel blog next week. I’m taking a break from this blogging business for a while. It’s too stressful to think this hard about everything this much.

Yeah yeah, I know. I still need to give my final insight on the trip.

I’ll keep the blog updating with interesting sights and what not.