Archive for the Ventura Category

Beginning a goodbye

Posted in California, Hess, Kernel, lexington, luttrell, Martha, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 10, 2007 by lenscapremoved

This was the last time everybody was together. I don’t have much to upload, but Keith may be able to show you a bit more. I was mostly cooking and fighting off kids with partially cooked hot dogs.

It’s all coming to an end. Fast. We’ll be leaving Ventura for Lexington and Middlesboro, spread out from each other and probably not keeping up with what’s going on in anyone’s life but our own.  Then we’ll all be back in the Kernel, seeing each other what we used to think was a lot. Still the same it will only be a small portion of the time we’ve spent together in California for one summer. Despite that reunion we’ll still be missing Martha, who I’m going to miss more than the entire state of California.

This is one of my favorite things to grill, but it didn’t work out so well with my inexperience in grilling on charcoal. The next night was much better, but it’s partially because Ed and Elliott cooked too. Keith was helping with taking photos on this one on my cameras.

We had the whole LaBelle family over for the cookout. Penny, who they are staying with, watches Dave try to round up Tucker after a tickling fit.



Taking one from the team

Posted in California, camping, Hess, Martha, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 8, 2007 by lenscapremoved


Tonight is the last peaceful night the five of us will enjoy together. At least for the summer of 2007.

We’ll be together tomorrow night, but we’re most likely to come in late and go straight to bed after our trip to Malibu and LA. Tuesday night will probably be like tonight. All of us will be on our laptops. Elliott’s phone will ring and vibrate constantly. Keith will sit at the dining table surfing the vast unknown on the interWeb while Martha knits and I sit next to her on the couch playing on my computer trying to tone a summer’s worth of pictures. The missing link that will make Tuesday night different will be the empty chair by Martha’s computer. Ed’s claimed seat because it’s the only chair close enough for his borrowed Kernel computer to reach the interWeb plug-in.

Tomorrow is basically the beginning of the end, to be completely cliche. Ed has a flight out of Oxnard early Tuesday morning.

After Ed leaves we’ll probably be disoriented for a few days in trying to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our time. We had to pick between going to LA or meeting the Ventura County Star’s photo editor tomorrow. We picked LA. While I know I should be seeking opportunities and making connections, I just feel like right now, this is more important. I have my whole life ahead of me to work in journalism. It’s not often I’ll be able to take off for a summer and do what I want. That kind of freedom just doesn’t come with a photojournalism job.

Ed is a hardworker, but he’s not all work and no play. During one of Dave’s classes he takes a break on top of a mountain of bean bags that Tucker had constructed.

We had a nice meal tonight. We threw our actual cookout for leaving last night where we invited Dave and his family, Greg and Penny (Greg’s mother). I cooked my pineapple chicken, which kind of bombed since I’m not used to charcoal. Tonight we cooked out again and through a group effort we had a great meal. I cooked BBQ chicken and steamed a few vegetables, Ed made hamburgers, Elliott fried potatoes, Penny brought desert and I grilled peaches for ice cream. Keith spent basically the whole time setting up our family portrait, which I’m sure you’ll see eventually. It was beautifully lit and well composed. The whole time we took them, we couldn’t stop laughing at each other to take a serious one. Then we kind of decided that it’s who we are. We’re a goofy group who has fun together. Why pose it as anything else?

But it will be something else after Ed leaves. Ed brings a lot to this group; his highest achievement being the title of the Patchy Beard Contest. He has yet to even trim it and it’s pretty impressive.

Ed’s whiskers actually stick out farther than any hair on his head. Maybe he just looks up to Dave so much he wants to look like him.

Despite his hate for my driving, I’ll miss Ed, especially on the way back. Camping with him is a blast because he’s the kind of guy you want to have around. He has chopped every log we’ve burned because he likes to do it. He was the architect behind every tent we put up. Every time we hiked he set the pace. Elliott says after Ed leaves he’s going to start wrestling me, which I don’t really look forward to. Ed’s ninja skills are advanced enough for him to entertain Elliott but keep him tame. I’m not sure I can step up.

Here is one of my favorite things about Ed Matthews. He hasn’t found a ground too dirty or place to crowded to throw himself in an awkward position to make what he thinks is the best picture possible. Seen here throwing himself in front of a jumbo jet to take a picture of Air Force One. 

I’m sure one day when we’re older, more professional and established, someone will need to introduce Ed for an award he has won. I hope I’m around to be able to talk about how I’ve known the guy since his introduction to photojournalism and I can tell about him crouching in front of a herd of buffalo or how if you pull over for longer than 30 seconds he’ll be out of hearing distance from that car. He springs on opportunities to shoot pictures and isn’t afraid to get his feet wet. Or dirty. Since it doesn’t really rain out here. I could talk about how he can throw a hatchet better than anyone I’ve ever seen, or how he threw a wooden skewer into the bark of a tree.

I’m sure I could find other things to talk about. Things that would make his mother proud. But after having the entire summer’s worth of adventure together, I wouldn’t make it too far before I spilled a few good stories on him.

If I ever do get to talk about Ed in front of a group of people, I hope I get to put a slide show together and embarrass him a bit.

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.


The sidewalks are watching me think about you

Posted in California, Hess, kansas, Kernel, luttrell, Martha, Mary Margaret, Matthews, Smiley, Ventura on June 25, 2007 by lenscapremoved

          A month ago I had no idea what I was doing.

          I didn’t know anything about our road trip. I didn’t know where any of the cities in California were, only that they were spread out and that Ventura was north of LA. That rough itinerary, yeah, well we started breaking that the first day. In fact aside from actually going to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons I think the rest of our plans were foiled. Instead of one night in the Rocky Mountains we did three. We didn’t plan on coming down the coast. We didn’t see Las Vegas but did see Portland.

           We did hold fast to some of what we said from the beginning. The last paragraph of the itinerary says, “Sorry for the lack of detail on some of this, but this is a trip that we’ve decided that we want to build as we go and do as much as possible while we’re there. A strict itinerary would limit us, and we’re avoiding any limitations this summer.” 

          I’m proud to say we followed through on the latter. We did whatever we wanted and it’s been a unique experience. Now we’re at here in southern California shooting pictures, still exploring and learning.

            We’ve had the pleasure of living with Martha Jansz, who is one of the most laidback and friendly people I’ve ever known. I speak on the behalf of four when I say she will be missed when we leave Pomo Street heading for Kentucky. Her hospitality has been that of family. After Aunt Martha moves to Canada in a few years, I’m pretty sure it will be time to go pay her a visit.

           Like I said last night, our time is coming to its end. Ed only has two weeks left before he boards a plane that will take him back to Lexington so he can see friends and go on a family vacation. Elliott and I are leaving on the 15th and driving I-40 through what Keith calls the northern Texas wasteland. Wasteland or not we’ll be trekking it as quickly as possible to get back so Elliott can see his mom for her birthday and I can see my parents, grandparents, siblings (Megan and Alex) and Mary Margaret. Keith will be leaving around that time and driving a modified version of the way we came in. Going through Utah to Denver he’ll see his friends there and coming through what we called a wasteland on the way in, Kansas.

          When I think of seeing my family and friends I get excited, but just as quickly I start getting sad because I know I’m going to miss California and those I’ve met here. I fear how different the University of Kentucky will be when Dave finally decides to move back to Ventura, a decision that is looming in the minds of four of his most devoted followers. I wonder if I know what I’ll miss the most or if it will be something that comes to me after being back in Kentucky for a while. Constantly there is a battle of excitement and despair in my mind.
           The answer seems obvious: enjoy the now. But being in the now is what battles the cluster of emotions that makes me stay up until 1 AM pacific time talking to someone three hours ahead of this “now”. She makes me want to leave tonight and drive the day and a half straight so I can be in her driveway by Wednesday night. It’s a battle of sentiment that I wish I could care less about and focus on those feelings individually. But I’m constantly thinking about what is left and leaving.

Sand is just tiny, little rocks

Posted in luttrell, Oxnard, Snappers, Ventura on June 25, 2007 by Keith Smiley

By Keith Smiley
Beyond the map stars contributing writer

Since I only recently tricked Brad into letting me play with the blog, I haven’t quite gotten into the groove of posting photos and whatnot. But now that I’ve made up an overly-official sounding title and given myself a byline (see above) as if I’m actually doing something constructive, I’m going to try and catch up on the past few days of pictures. And by pictures, I mean mostly snappers.

What a Corona ad would look like if it was realistic. I’m not quite sure why there was so much stuff piled in one chair with no sign of the owners.

As Brad mentioned, Greg Cooper, a former student of Dave’s who currently teaches photojournalism at Brooks here in Ventura, took the time to show us some new places to photograph. Last night, he took us to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, where there was great light all along the beach. Just as we’ve seen all over Ventura County, the people here are very open — even as five guys with cameras wander up and down the beach. Some people stop and ask if we’re Brooks students and are interested to hear that we actually go to school in Kentucky; other people pretend we’re not even there. It’s exactly what we want.

Brad, Elliott and I walk hand-in-hand down the beach in Oxnard. Do I have to tell you Elliott is the one in the middle?


The problem I had was there were just too many silhouette pictures to take, and I was striving to not take them. I wanted to use the nice light, and more so I wanted to challenge myself to capture something more complex and substantial than a silhouette. What ended up happening is I missed out on what were probably the best pictures out there.

Check out Brad’s post about the harbor, specifically the third picture in it (the silhouette of the surfer and the lifeguard stand). The photo is simple, nearly monochromatic, and I’m sure Brad wishes the people under the lifeguard stand didn’t run together with the supports, but it’s still my favorite photo that I’ve seen from yesterday — I say that with the disclaimer that I haven’t seen Ed or Elliott’s takes, so I could very well change my mind — and I wish it’s a picture that I’d taken. In its simplicity, the photo does a lot to represent the mood of the California beach.

By the way, this is Brad, so you know who I’m talking about:

There was way too much text in one place, so I figured I’d toss in a picture from a few days ago.

When I went out to shoot last night, I was too focused on not shooting silhouettes to recognize that I was in a prime place for them. The silhouette is one of dozens of tools and tricks that photographers have available; any of them can be cliché, and any of them can be overused. But they also all have a place where they can be incredibly effective. The techniques themselves are easy to learn — it doesn’t take long to figure out panning or how to shoot a silhouette — but learning when to use each one and when to strive for something more complex or creative is a far more involved process. It’s something that I think we’re all making progress on out here as we chase the light every evening.


The Yellowstone effect

Posted in California, Hess, luttrell, Martha, Matthews, Ventura on June 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved


I’m not sure how to respond after Keith’s epic post. He may have blown our cover. Snappers are usually posed? What? Yes, it’s true. Many of the snappers you see aren’t actually documentation.. But when they aren’t instructed, guided or fabricated they’re that much more valuable. It’s hard to see, but Elliott is unknowingly making the same face that I am in this photo.


OK, I hope I can match Keith’s writing. Probably not but here goes the real thing.

Yesterday we went down to see a gallery opening for fashion photographer Neal Barr (another one of Grandpa Mac’s successful students). His studio is supposed to be amazing and all we’ve heard about is how impressive his photography is. The gallery that was set up at the museum last night, not so much. His prints were as tiny as the photos you’re seeing now. He only had one or two large prints and only one of those was recent and in color. The gallery opened at 5:00, we arrived at 5:17 and were out the door by 5:29.

apier9.jpg      We went to California Street where we parked and walked down to the pier for the evening (yes I shot this picture of Ed just to show you I’m not fabricating these tales, I knew Keith’s motives for his first update). We just slowly moved down the pier in the direction a pond where all of the pelicans and sea gulls hang out. It’s a pretty happening place, well if you’re a bird. Otherwise it’s pretty boring about two hours before the sun sets. Since the gallery was a bust, we had way too much time before any sign of a good sunset. We had faith it would be though since it was the first sign of clouds since we had been in Ventura County.

So we spralled out onto the rocks just sat there hoping our presence wouldn’t scare away the birds. Once Ed started throwing boulders into the pond and batting stones into the water with a stick and the birds didn’t move, we were pretty sure just being there wouldn’t scare the flock off. For an hour and a half we sat waiting on the sun to go down. It was relaxing to sit and take snappers of each other, but the longer we seemed to sit there like we were waiting for something with these cameras the more people started to wonder what we were doing.

apier7.jpg   apier4.jpg   apier81.jpg

Eventually we realized it was just the Yellowstone effect. If you stand in one place and pretend you see something everyone else can’t, you can draw a crowd. Of course it helps to have a few thousand dollars worth of camera gear sitting in the sun with you. People were starting to stand behind us before the sun even got remotely pretty. After the sun did get pretty and low there were a few people who started to ask questions like, “How are you taking pictures without any light.” Elliott stopped, looked a little confused, and just gave the guy a generic answer of, “I’m just trying to get a picture of the birds.”

For now this is cut short. Martha has someone coming to look at her house (which is for sale if you’ve just loved my stories of Ventura so much you want to move here). So we have to be out of here in about 45 minutes.



apier10.jpg    apier1.jpg

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.


kas20070618sunset295.jpg   kas20070620sunset031.jpg   kas20070620sunset217.jpg

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.