Archive for the Oak View Category

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.

Caring with Cameras

Posted in California, Oak View, Ojai, Oxnard, Ventura on June 28, 2007 by lenscapremoved

We’re using this cool site that the Ventura County Star uses for community service. I’m trying it out to explain something that Dave is doing to give back to the community. Check it out. Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.


How do you spell, ‘Oh, hi?’

Posted in Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Oak View, Ojai, Snappers, Ventura on June 23, 2007 by Keith Smiley

Post by Keith
I volunteered to be an author on here because Brad assured me it would bring tremendous fame and prestige. But after two days of Brad harassing me to post something, I’m starting to think he just wants to save himself some work by not having to put my pictures up.

Before I really get started, though, I feel compelled to offer up a bit of background on the blog. I’m sure you’ve all seen the dozens of snappers that have been posted on this blog since its inception, such as these from when we all converged on a library in Oak View.

Summer school

Dave and a young’n   Research

Fun, right? Here’s the picture you don’t usually get to see:


Yes, folks, that’s right: our snappers are set up. I’m sorry to be the one that has to admit it, but I just can’t write on the blog without putting the truth out there.

I also wanted to post this picture of the rental car that Brad was driving while his Volvo was in for repair. He mentioned in a previous post how lame the car was, but I think a picture tells the story better.

Rental Car

That car was so underpowered it made time pass slower. I’ve been here for just over a week now, but it feels like it’s been longer than that. I definitely like how it’s going, though; the land out here is beautiful and is entirely new to me. I can wander around and shoot pictures during the day without all the responsibility and set hours of a real job that an internship would bring. And I don’t bother checking the weather. I know that it’s going to be warm and sunny, and the light is perfect every night. Ventura and Ojai are both highly visual, diverse cities that I haven’t explored nearly enough. It’s the way summer should be.


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kas20070621grandpamac021.jpg   kas20070620sunset257.jpg   Getting the picture

The greatest benefit of my trip so far, or at least the greatest unexpected benefit, is seeing all the places that Dave has told us about — such as when he points to a hill next to the courthouse in Ventura and says, “That’s where I got married,” or when he takes us down a road where he photographed one of his first spot news assignments. I’m a visual person; being able to connect those stories to actual places makes them far more meaningful.

One story that I’ve heard Dave mention several times is about his high school photography teacher, Mr. MacArthur. “I can still change your grade, you know,” he always tells Dave. But that story takes on a new dimension when I can sit in Grandpa Mac’s living room and listen as he says those exact words to Dave.


That’s Grandpa Mac on the right, listening while his neighbor Susannah plays guitar Thursday night. Out of frame, Elliott and Brad are playing their guitars, too, along with Pete, another friend of Dave’s, while the rest of us listen (and photograph, of course).


(Well, I actually don’t know what Brad is doing in that last one, but we’ll just assume he’s playing his guitar.)

Grandpa Mac was pretty quiet Thursday night; he made a few jokes and asked some questions, but for the most part just enjoyed the music in his home. It contrasted with the first time I met him on Monday, when I sat enthralled for an hour as told stories of growing up in Ventura — a massive Navy shipwreck of the coast, the teacher that inspired him to take on the same career, his time in the military, and of course a few stories about Dave as a student.

It’s certainly interesting having three generations of photographers sitting together in the same room. The technology has certainly changed over the years — we’ve grown up on digital photography, Dave is transitioning to it, and Grandpa Mac knows next to nothing about it and has no need to learn — but great photographs are timeless. Grandpa Mac has two rows of prints hanging over his couch, photos of his family taken over the years, and they’re the same sort of photographs we strive to capture now.



Another conspiracy! I wrote captions for some of the photos in this post, but they refused to appear once I published. Another blatant case of the system trying to keep the full truth from you, the reader. To keep you all properly informed, here’s the captions for the above photos. Well, the photos I felt like captioning, which is really only a few of them.

Elliott reading: Elliott studies for his summer correspondence class at the library in Oak View. His final paper is on this book, “A Secret for Grandmother’s Birthday” by Franz Brandenburg.

Sitting at tables: Dave LaBelle on the right, one of the kids on the left. Henry? Tucker? Elliott, Brad? I don’t remember; they all run together.

“Reading” Where’s Waldo: After we found Waldo, we took his picture and gave him a business card. We’re getting pretty desperate for sales.

The expose: Sorry, folks, all those snappers you know and love, the ones you have hanging on your walls and flipping by on your screen saver? They’re all set up.

The car: This is what happens when the rental company asks you what kind of car you want and all you say is, “I don’t care, as long as it’s a four door.” The car was up on blocks, but we took those to hold the table up at the office.

Anonymous cowboy hat: There are very few clouds in the sky around here, making for some pretty lame sunsets. Here Ed crawls through the tall grass to try and get a closer shot without scaring away the clouds. The hat’s also important because it… actually, the hat is just goofy.

I can’t hit the shutter for these darn puppets

Posted in Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Oak View, Ojai, Smiley, Snappers on June 21, 2007 by lenscapremoved


I snagged this photo at the library in Dave’s old school. We were there for about 15 or 20 minutes today. Elliott grabbed these last few. It was fun playing with the children’s books and playing with the toys but it sure was hard to navigate a camera with those stupid puppet gloves on…



Seen better days

Posted in animals, California, Oak View, Ventura on June 14, 2007 by lenscapremoved

We shouldn’t have been so courageous and foolish.

From the second we stepped outside and saw the same thick fog from last night still lingering, we should have went back to our rooms and fallen back asleep. Instead, we piled into the car, stacked camera equipment into our rental vehicle and decided to head to Oak View to see if the fog was just in Ventura.

“Do you think this fog makes it through the mountains to Ojai?” asked Elliott.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see,” I said.

It does. No worries. The light was flat and there was no sign of a sun rise. We pulled a u-turn, which is becoming infamous for our trips. We can’t go out without taking at least two or three u-turns. This u-turn led us back to the pier to take our chances with the fog as we had last night.

The same thick fog that made for interesting pictures around the pier last night was now just strangling any hope of good light and keeping us from finding anything to shoot. We walked down the pier and shot a few pictures of the homeless sleeping with their fishing poles and bikes resting near their make-shift beds. They’re not impressive pictures, but I guess they tell the story of the area.

There were dolphins swimming about a hundred yards or less from the pier. But without a longer lens I wasn’t going to be able to get anything good. I tried a few times to catch the dolphins jumping but it turns out that’s really really hard to do. The best shot I got wasn’t any better than tourist Joe could have taken with his point and shoot. A fin breaking a small wave before a tiny spout of air sounds through the top of the dolphin’s body. It made me appreciate the shot of the great white eating the seal on Planet Earth a lot more. But then again, they did spend two months trying to get that shot. Three minutes and five frames left me with nothing to brag about. But I’m OK with that.

Basically I’m saying we woke up earlier and got worse pictures. I think the next time we walk out the door at 5:30 and see fog we’ll head right back to bed. Unless that’s what we’re looking for.  

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