Archive for the Ventura 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.

Kernel came a callin’

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 26, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Note to readers: Kernel duties came knocking at my door, or ringing at my phone if you want the truth. I doubt they would have driven 130 miles to ask me to write a column to fill space for today’s paper. Shannon Mason, the summer editor-in-chief, said I could write about whatever. I didn’t know what else to write about besides this trip. I took the ending from a blog post I had already written, but only because it had a good point that fit the lead I had used. So here is what you could find on the Kernel Web site. Or if you want to find it for yourself, click here.

            If home is where the heart is then I should be scanning through the classifieds for an old Airstream trailer to move into. 16′ of class to tow behind me, complete with a single bedroom, couch, television and microwave. 
            This summer I found out something about myself that I have always claimed but can finally attest. I love to travel. Even more specifically, I just love driving. I can’t think of too many experiences better than having a few good friends, a case of CD’s, two or three bags of animal crackers, a full tank of gas, an atlas and all summer to do what you want. I’ve lived and relived this scenario all summer.
            Three friends and I set out for California to spend the summer there shooting photographs for a stock photo company one of our professors is starting. The idea was to shoot photos that books or magazines would purchase, which translates to really generic photos. After two or three weeks we were released and told to have a good time. We spent the next three or four weeks exploring California in all of its beauty, which totals out to only be about 30 percent of the state. The other 70 percent turned out to be barren, dreadful and scorching desert.
            My friends and I had made a home out of my car, minus the Airstream. For 10,000+ miles this summer I relied on my Volvo to house my clothes, toiletries, cameras, sleeping bag and other things you bring along for road trips only to later find out you don’t need, like fireworks, two-way radios and fancy light stands.
            It took us two weeks of camping and 5,000 miles to reach our destination, Ventura, Ca. With minimal showering and a week of below or near freezing nights, it was nice to get a break. But it wasn’t long before we were off to see a few of California’s own attractions. The biggest tree in the world is just that. Yosemite is every bit as beautiful as Ansel Adams’ photos depicted. L.A. traffic inspires road rage just badly as every movie I have ever seen portrayed it as. Death Valley is so blistering and desolate that by the time you drive through it you’re delighted it’s 2,000 miles away from where you reside the other 10 months of the year.
Elliott and I left Martha’s more excited to do what we love: drive. I was nearly in tears a few steps prior to this high one.
Photo by K-Smiles

            On the way back “home” it was only one of my friends and me. The other two traveled back separately. So Elliott and I had planned on driving the 2,300 miles in the normal three days but things changed a bit once we got to our scheduled exit. I asked my buddy if he wanted to stop in Flagstaff, he said no. Once we got to Albuquerque I asked again and he said, “Let’s just go onto Lexington.” So we did.
            In a day and a half we drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.
            We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes. We only had two meals on the road. Most of our diet consisted of beef jerky and Doritos. The second morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included nausea and constant word vomiting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as long as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.
            Aside from the severe stomach ache that lasted a week after I got home, I’m glad we pushed through. On the way back that we had one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. One that makes it easy to take residence in a car for an entire summer.  
            The sun went down somewhere near the end of Arizona. The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me and drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view.
            If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s an influential feeling you wont soon forget to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I still felt like it was rising for me.

I never watch cable

Posted in California, Mary Margaret, Ventura on July 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I was watching TV tonight because I had nothing to do. It has rained all day and I’ve been stranded, only leaving once to pick up Wendy’s. A
Stephen Segal movie, Hard to Kill, comes on and my dad and I both just start rolling with laughter. I sat through the whole thing, and either I was more bored than I thought or it wasn’t that bad of a movie.

Anyway, the point of me even writing this is it made me miss California. Segal comes out of a 7 year coma and escapes a shooter by pushing himself through a hospital with a broom while laying in a hospital bed. It was pretty impressive. I would be happy to eat solid food if I were him. But after his nurse finds him and rescues him by throwing him in her convertible and driving off just in time, they drove across a road and I was like, “I’ve driven that.” I believe it was the 101 on the Northern side of L.A. The next scene is a shot of a sign that says, Ojai 8 miles. Later, Segal’s son who escaped 3 gunmen by jumping out of a window was in school in Ventura. I’m sure seeing your landscapes is normal for Californians but I’m not used to it.

After a gloomy day all it took was a little martial arts and corny one-liners from Stephen Segal to cheer me up. Mary Margaret will be here on Thursday. I think that will do the trick too. She comes complete without the corny one-liners and is just a bit cuter.

It was like home

Posted in Martha, Ventura on July 17, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Photos by Keith

The last day we spent in Ventura we had a job to do. It was one that had been hanging around for a while.
I’m not talking about anything as binding as making the book we set out to make in the beginning of the summer. This job was a bit more of the type of work I’m used to than that, and more rewarding.

Of course, Elliott wanted to jump onto the top of the house so that he could cut the limbs. While he probably would have made it, I’m not sure the chunk he would have taken out of the shingles would have helped the house sell any faster. We finally leaned a ladder over onto the house.

Herald Leader photographer David Stephenson told me one time if the Herald Leader ever fired him, he would take up landscaping. He said it’s just like photography. You think about something, work hard to get the look you want and in the end you can step back and see what you’ve created. I agree with that comparison. So what better than to combine the two in this blog?

One day Dave gave us a reciprocating saw and told us to take it to Martha. We were like, “What could Martha possibly want to do with this thing?” We found out it was what she wanted us to do. Now, I’m not complaining at all. It was nice to have something we could help Martha with, because the whole time we were there she did nothing but give. Martha, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), thanks for everything.

Elliott may have not been the best candidate to put on the roof, he was the best to put in the trash can to squish the limbs. If you’re a quick one, you’ll realize that even though the top pic says photos by Keith that Keith is in this picture. And if you’ve kept up with the blog, you know Ed was gone by this point, so that really only leaves one person to have taken this photo. No! Not Martha!

trees4.jpg    trees.jpg

It doesn’t revolve around you

Posted in California, Hess, Highway 101, lexington, Martha, Ventura on July 16, 2007 by lenscapremoved

The feeling isn’t anything but overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking about everything all at once. In a day and a half Elliott and I drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.

If you read our plans, we had planned on stopping in Flagstaff to spend the night. We got to Flagstaff and I asked Elliott if he wanted to stop. He said no. “Let’s just go on to Lexington” We did.

Living out of a car for that long wasn’t as much of a challenge as we thought it to be. We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes.  So all of our trash built up because Elliott and I really could care less about cleanliness. Our last good meal was the morning we left. The LaBelles and all the members of 237 Pomo went out to eat together for breakfast and Elliott and I were on the 101 by 11 AM. That was the only meal we would have that day since our only attempt at food would be to stop at a Dairy Queen which was so full of Western-rednecks that you couldn’t turn without hitting a shoeless kid in the face with your hip bone or backing into a bra-less mother who was chasing five kids around the Route 66 bumper sticker caddy. We opted to buy snacks (since this DQ was combined with a gas station/general store) and keep going. I had no idea the Snickers bar and bag of chips would be my last for the day.

Somewhere around this part of the trip marks the beginning of a horrible stomach ache for me. I wasn’t feeling so great after only eating beef jerkey and the junk from the first stop. The next morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included more nausea and constant word vomitting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as much as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.

Martha gave her estimate of how long it would take for us to hit I-40. Looking at a map it didn’t seem like it could possibly take that long. But it did. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she was right. She was always right. But after hitting I-40 we saw a sign that said Wilmington, North Carolina, 2500 miles. We weren’t heading to Wilmington, but it was a bit of a realization of how far we were about to drive because from Ventura to Lexington is about 2200 miles.

Every time I go anywhere I have a tendency to push the limits, or at least that’s what my parents keep telling me. If driving across the country in a day and half doesn’t emphasize that I’m not sure what I would have to tell you to get me to believe it. I didn’t tell my mom what we had done until I was about an hour away from Louisville.

The entire time I had sent vague text messages like, “Slept in New Mexico last night. We’re past Amarillo right now.” Now, I did sleep in New Mexico at about 85-87 mph and we had made it through Amarillo. Heck we were in Oklahoma when I sent that text. But she called me and we chatted a bit. She asked where I was, and I gave another bland answer, something like, “Um, well we’re actually past St. Louis.” This was way farther than we should have been. In reality if we had gone by the planned route we would have been at the end of I-40 in Oklahoma, or about 5 hours from St. Louis when we would stop that night. After a bit more interrogation I told mom what was going on. To my surprise she was more excited that she was going to see me than she was mad. I guess love conquers anger sometimes.

Now I don’t have much to show you as far pictures on the way back. The only pictures I shot were somewhere in Arizona. Elliott was on the phone with intern Britney and I had been watching this beautiful sunset for about 10 minutes in the mirrors. As we topped the hill (yeah they have hills in Arizona!) the road took a beautiful light and reflected the sun and the scene coming through my shaky sideview mirror was amazing. I knew this was my last chance to take the picture I had been debating on, and honestly the best spot I had found. I was riding in the left lane and knew I had a car riding my tail but slammed on the brakes and went into the median. Rocks bounced around and tired skidded to a stop as I was already reaching for my camera and Elliott kept talking as if nothing was going on.

I only shot about 17-20 frames of this, but love two of the pictures. They’re simple yes, but the clouds were amazing. This was the sunset I wish we had gotten in Ventura. We never saw it, but I’ll take this one as a bit of a replacement.

This isn’t a great picture. I just like it because it means something to me. If you remember from earlier in the trip when I was beating myself up over my bad pictures, I was saying that the harder you work for a picture the more it means to you. Well I didn’t work too hard for this but it’s a memory to me.

The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me a few hours after I shot this photo and he drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view. If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s a very powerful feeling to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I felt like it was rising for me.

California Catchup

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Ojai, road trip, Santa Barbara, Sequoia, Snappers, Ventura, Yosemite on July 12, 2007 by Keith Smiley

By Keith Smiley
The guy that Brad tricked into writing

As far as road trips go, driving a few thousand miles across the country is just an appetizer. We could have spent our entire trip in Ventura County, splitting time between the beach and the hills of Ojai, and been happy with the experience. But we kept logging miles instead, taking side trips to places like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Yosemite and Death Valley.

A park ranger at Glacier Point in Yosemite talks about the sunset at Half Dome as the sun sets on Half Dome in the background. Funny how that works.

But anyone who’s reading the blog already knows about our excursions because Brad works so hard on keeping the blog up to date. Before the trip to California started, Brad said he would try and update the blog “3-4 times a week.” But for at least the last month, there’s been a minimum of one post each day, and they rarely come from me.

All the blog’s regular readers and everyone who’s been following the progress of this trip online should thank Brad for his dedication to keeping the blog current. I’m sure he enjoys writing and sharing his photos; otherwise he wouldn’t have started this in the first place. But I’m sure there have been plenty of days when he’d rather be out doing things instead of writing about the things we’ve done.

So I hope everyone appreciates the effort Brad puts into his work, both on the blog and elsewhere. I certainly do; it’s a lot easier to point everyone that asks — all three of them — to the blog instead of trying to recount everything that’s happened on the trip.

Everyone likes feedback, so I’d encourage more people to post comments on Brad’s  posts; something like, “Hey, thanks for all the thought and effort you put into the blog. I use it to kill time at work but enjoy it so much that I read it at home, too.”

For reference, here’s who I’m talking about:

That’d Brad in the middle; he’s the one not made of wood.

The problem with Brad writing so often is that it I don’t usually have a reason to post; he’s already covered the best parts of each day with quality writing and awesome pictures, so there’s not much room for me to put anything up. But I’ve still taken a few pictures here and there, so I’m playing catchup and posting some photos from our road trips to Simi Valley, Santa Barbara, and Yosemite.

Not many words in this one, so if you’ve had to force yourself to read this far, it’s paid off: there are only a few words left in this post and I’ll totally understand if you don’t read them.

What’s unusual about this scene? It’s not the hairpin turn, the randomly placed traffic cones or the hundred-foot drop right off the side of the road. No, it’s the guardrail that’s a luxury California doesn’t usually bother with.

This railing protects the casual hiker from a three-thousand or so foot drop. If you choose to look over the edge anywhere else, well, you’re on your own.

The scene from around where the above railing is. It’s hard to tell at this size, but there’s a spot on that trail on the right. That’s a person.

Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Camera, Nalgene bottle, reporter’s notepad poking out of camera bag… what else do you need?

Santa Barbara

Sequoia National Forest
That’s a pretty good sized tree sitting in that pool of light, but the sequoias on either side probably just laugh at it and call it a pipsqueak.

Yosemite National Park