editorial

Publication in Naturally Danny Seo

Sweden for Naturally Danny Seo

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In December of 2018 I traveled to southern Sweden to photograph an editorial story for Naturally Danny Seo Magazine. Just like you are probably doing right now I was asking myself why we were going to Sweden in December but surprisingly it was rather pretty. Not too cold and the light had this late afternoon quality to it all day.

The story is published in the current issue of the magazine. Some highlights from my part: Moelle and it’s National Park. Climbing around the cliffs was amazing and there was nobody there! Just beautiful!

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR - photographing and vlogging a racing series like no other

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

I am a portrait photographer. I photograph people. Most of the time in a studio setting. Controlled lighting, background, props. But then I also travel quite a bit and shoot editorial stories for magazines. I have been all over the world to shoot editorial stories and photographed while riding an elephant, 60 miles off the coast on a fishing trawler, hanging off a vertical cliff, while having food poisoning, underwater, the list goes on…

So naturally I am interested in the story. I try not to decide what to photograph based on my opinion on the subject matter. Actually, let me rephrase. If anything, I like to explore topics I either don’t know much about or have an opinion on which isn’t based on first person experience. If you really want to learn about a topic dive into it and experience it.

Queue NASCAR.

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Through a close friend I was invited by Aric Almirola to watch the 2019 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Full access to the pits and drivers area. This is how you go experience something you don’t know much about. Now, full disclosure: I had been to a NASCAR race before, in Sonoma. But this one was a track and not an oval. (Yes, both are in California and both are NASCAR races…).

So what did I learn? Well, you can watch the video linked in this post to follow along. Otherwise what I can tell you is that the viewer demographic is rather narrow. And it is what you would expect.

Aric Almirola at Auto Club Speedway in 2019

Aric Almirola at Auto Club Speedway in 2019

But there is something else I noticed here and also the first time I went in Sonoma. NASCAR is a racing series that operates like it is the 1970’s. While Formula 1 cars and teams are run by technology stock cars aren’t. They fuel the cars during pit stops by gravity fed canisters and they don’t have much data on the car while it is on the track. What this means is that the driver is mostly responsible to deal with the car. Driving as well as communicating how the car feels and if something may need adjusting in the pits. I call it out in the vlog, it’s good old driving. No readings on the screen in the pits and then a command on how to drive. The driver actually has to feel it out and do it. (Now going around an oval, which is the large majority of events probably doesn’t require as much input as a regular track but I wouldn’t know that… I can only assume. And assumptions can be dangerous.).

Aric Almirola taking off after a pit stop at Auto Club Speedway in 2019.

Aric Almirola taking off after a pit stop at Auto Club Speedway in 2019.

Sooo… what did I take away from actually going to a race and experiencing it myself? It’s a lot of things that you have to go experience for yourself. You reading my account is just like reading any other. My point with this whole post is that to really learn about something you actually just need go experience it first hand!

You should still watch the video. Do it! It’s fun! It’s entertaining! It’s NASCAR!!!

Everest in a Stairwell

Climbing 29,097 feet in a LA skyscraper

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The idea is simple: climb 29,029′, the equivalent of Mt. Everest’s elevation, in a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles in one day.

Obviously when one climbs the real mountain there is much less vertical elevation to deal with. But the lack of oxygen and exposure to the elements more than make up for that. Let’s just be clear from the beginning. Climbing Everest is much harder on every level.

Still the idea is enticing so a group of nine men entered a very tall building in downtown Los Angeles one morning after driving down from Santa Barbara and got ready to ascend the 55 floors via the stairwell over and over… and over and over and over again. It would take 40 ascensions to make the 29K feet of elevation gain. There was also a cut off time since the building was shutting down and the security guards who had to be in the building wanted to go home.

I was one of those nine men but I wasn’t there to reach the goal, I was there to document. To photograph the ordeal. Capturing the climbers required me to sit and wait in the stairwell for extended amounts of time and carrying my camera gear up the stairs didn’t help either. At the end of the day I did 10 ascensions and was perfectly fine with that.

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One of the unforeseen challenges that started impacting climbers was motion sickness. constantly turning right in the stairwell started really messing with them. To the point of puking. Not pretty but part of the game.

Mid-day everyone had their groove going and in the early afternoon there was a scheduled break so that one of the climbers could propose to his girlfriend on top of the roof. This solid hour of break time would bite the remaining climbers (the newly engaged left after to celebrate) in the end. At 33 ascensions they ran out of time. They had climbed a respectable elevation of 24,000 feet.