Not So Noir Anymore: The New Downtown LA

Downtown LA from the pool at the FigeuoraI hear it fluttering above: chucka, chucka, chucka. Officially, the California State Bird is the gentle Valley Quail. The exception is in Los Angeles where that honor goes to the helicopter: following bad men, televising traffic tie ups and car chases. We are in Downtown LA, it is 2AM and my wife and I are rudely awakened: chucka, chucka, chucka, woop, woop.

Next morning I check the police blotter: A bar fight. But not in one of the sleazy Open-At-6AM dives that I associated with this once LA Noir neighborhood, but a at club inhabited by high-strung twenty-somethings.

Welcome to a Downtown Los Angeles of mixed messages: a storied, sometimes tawdry history now burnished with gleaming glass and steel, including a Ritz Carlton monolith looming, chopper level, above me. I am at ground-level, poolside at the not-so-ritzy Figueroa Hotel peering up at the top one-percent, watching searchlights scanning the skies, LA-style, for nothing in particular.


Grand Central at 100: Its a “Toyminal” Not a Station

Grand Central Terminal Birthday CakePhoto Credit: Jason G. Lewis

I didn’t make Grand Central Terminal’s grand birthday party Saturday but I did pay homage last week, as one of the 750 thousand who visit daily.

And I did take some pictures, one of which I projected to a crowd at the New York Times Travel Show where I moderated a panel on digital photography.

And I did get into trouble.


A Week Without Instagram: Travel Photography the Old Way

ROCKPORT, MAINE – (c)  Russell JohnsonA Week at the Maine Media Workshops

To someone who shoots pictures while traveling, a week without a mobile phone cam, Instagram or Photoshop is like crossing the River Styxx. I admit to a certain amount of dependence on Photoshop’s “content aware tool,” which can magically erase power poles and tourists in paisley pants. And as much as I gripe about a feature called HDR (high dynamic range), which can turn normal landscapes into surreal scenes from Lord of the Rings, I still sometimes use it when my Mother Nature doesn’t oblige with the right light.

Will I survive five days without these digital wonders? Just me and my camera?


The Grape White Way: Broadway in the Sonoma Vineyards

The Grape White Way: Broadway in Sonoma

Romantic nights evey summer in Jack London State Park in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma County, California. The Transcendence Theatre Company, comprised of many Broadway veterans, has made the park home for the summer, singing and hoofing every weekend through September 1. The stage is in the ruins of an old winery on author Jack London’s property, next to the cottage in which he wrote. The California State Legislature slashed funds and the park was threatened with closure, but locals formed a group to save and manage it.