SO(very)CAL: L.A. and Around

Earlier this week, I returned home from a week traveling in and around Los Angeles. We put 751 miles on the rental car. Whew!

Here are a few highlights from the city, the desert, the mountains and the beach.

 

1. Nancy Rubins’ monumental sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art, downtown L.A.

 

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2. Sunset on Route 62, leaving Joshua Tree

 

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3. Fallen Floss-silk tree (Ceiba speciosa) blossoms, Watts, L.A.

 

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4. A young Joshua tree stands near Shelter, a sculpture by Noah Purifoy (1917 – 2004), at the Noah Purifoy Foundation’s Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture in Joshua Tree.

 

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5. Along the Barker Dam Trail at Joshua Tree National Park.  Parry’s Nolina in the foreground, a prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) cactus to the right, unidentified red flowers behind boulders.

 

6. A meal at Mh Zh – red lentils with herbs, hummus Bling, and grilled farm bread.

 

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7. The Bradbury Building in downtown L.A., where key scenes from Blade Runner were shot.

 

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8. A Venice street corner.

 

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9. A culinary suggestion from Venice Beach

 

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10. Looking up into a Brugmansia flower (aka Angels trumpet) at Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge.

 

11. A museum guard walks past Robert Therrien’s sculpture, Under the Table, at  The Broad Museum, L.A.

 

12. Eucalyptus trees are ubiquitous in southern California, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

 

13. The famous Los Angeles sprawl seen from the road to Mt. Wilson, in the Angeles National Forest.

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14. California beaches have a calm beauty on overcast days. Zuma Beach/ Point Dume, near Malibu.

 

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15. At Joshua Tree National Park, granite rocks take on an oddly malleable quality in the receding light, as if they were globs of dough ready for the oven.  

 

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16. At pretty Hermosa Beach, wet sand reflects a pier full of sunset-watchers.

 

More on the photos:

  1. This muscular sculpture on a plaza at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. has a long title that describes the materials: Chas’ Stainless Steel, Mark Thompson’s Airplane Parts, About 1000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, and Gagosian’s Beverly Hills Space. It’s by artist Nancy Rubins and was installed in 2001. I like the way it interrupts the grids of surrounding high rises by taking similar rectangular, hard-edged forms, breaking them up and setting them at all angles.
  2. This lopsided sunset meets heavy cloud cover on the road out of Joshua Tree. The narrowly focused light show preceded a lengthy display of lightening over a distant desert mountain range. When we got back to L.A. it was raining. Several people remarked that it took them by surprise – after all, who checks the weather forecast in a place where warm, sunny weather is an everyday occurrence?
  3. The Floss-silk tree was blooming all over town, adding joyful pink highlights to the greens and browns of the California autumn landscape. The tree is native to South America and is related to the kapok tree. The leaves fall off before the tree blooms, so the huge flowers are even more dramatic – perfect for a city known for creating drama.
  4. The Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture is just that, but also much more. It’s difficult to describe the impact of seeing Noah Purifoy’s fifteen years’ labor weathering in the spare, harsh Mohave desert. If inventiveness, artistic expertise and social commentary interest you, you may be here for hours, as we were. I first visited the site in 2014; photos of Purifoy’s sculptures from that visit can be found here.
  5. Joshua Tree National Park is one of those oddly otherworldy, spectacular landscapes that one never forgets. Coming back to it for a second look, I was not disappointed – in fact, our hike on the Barker Dam loop trail was a high point of the trip. Photos from a 2014 visit to Joshua Tree are here and I plan to post more from this year’s trip soon.
  6. Near our airbnb in the busy L.A. neighborhood of Silver Lake, there’s a casual Israeli/Middle eastern restaurant called Mh Zh. We sat at a counter inside (all the “real” tables are outside on the sidewalk) and chatted with the manager while watching the chef slide rack after rack of delicious-looking food into the flaming oven. The employees were relaxed and upbeat, the food was amazing, and watching it all go in and out of that oven was pure theater.
  7. The Bradley Building is a refreshing bit of 19th and 20th century style in the middle of modern L.A. You’ll recognize it immediately as the place where much of Blade Runner was filmed. Walk in, wander around the first floor, and climb the stairs until you’re met by ropes marking off the tenants’ space – one of whom is the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division! Many films and commercials have used this handsome space that abounds with intricate details. An interior door opens onto Blue Bottle Coffee, an airy, high-style (21st century version) coffee shop where we enjoyed great espresso and an order of perfectly poached eggs on toast.
  8. The facade of Yellow Fever restaurant in Venice, a still somewhat funky town fifteen miles west of LA. The restaurant advertises “Asian bowls for your soul” and is takes no cash. Is credit more soulful, I wonder?
  9. This sign kind of sums up why we didn’t spend much time in Venice. Can you say, “Tacky?”  The little canals of Venice are attractive enough, if you manage to disregard the occasional small, unpowered boat loaded down with belongings, obviously serving as a tiny home for a less fortunate person than those living in the chic, multi-million dollar homes lining the canals.
  10. Twenty minutes from downtown LA is the quiet oasis of Descanso Gardens. I can’t say I was very impressed; maybe I was there at the wrong time of year. Still, it was a pleasant hour or two, the oaks are splendid, and I always love to see Brugmansias in bloom.
  11. I wanted to see the Broad Museum, which opened three years ago. I did find some gems there but when all was said and done I was, well, overwhelmed with being underwhelmed. Or something like that. There are just too many in-your-face, big spectacle pieces. There isn’t enough coherent, thoughtful art.  An excellent review of the architecture and collection is here.
  12. Eucalyptus doesn’t grow where I live, so I’m especially susceptible to its charms. This one, a pretty basic specimen, is quite beautiful if you study the sinuous curves of trunk and branch against the light flutter of gray-green leaves. It towers above the ground at the Watts Towers, a delightful community space that will (hopefully) show up soon, in another post about L.A.
  13. It may not be a great image, but this gives you an idea of the juxtaposition of wild outdoor space and urban sprawl that is characteristic of Los Angeles County. You can see views like this from many different high spots around LA; this one was taken on the road up to Mt. Wilson. The Mount Wilson Observatory is the site of pioneering research in astrophysics, and several of the world’s largest (at the time they were installed) telescopes are housed there. The twisting, narrow road isn’t easy on an acrophobe, but once you’re up there, cares do drop away.
  14. We visited Zuma Beach and Point Dume State Park on an overcast morning – a perfect time, it turns out, if you’re more interested in scenery than swimming. We saw dolphins swim just a few feet from a pair of surfers who were respectful enough to remain quiet, and watched a Great egret catching grasshoppers along the roadside.
  15. Another view of the sculptural desert landscape at Joshua Tree National Park.
  16. Hermosa Beach is a small beach town about 45 minutes from downtown LA. The first pier here was built in 1904, and three years later the incorporated city acquired two miles of beach, to remain perpetually free from commerce and open to all. Without commerce, I would not have enjoyed the fabulous Mh Zh restaurant or several great cafes, but everything has its place, doesn’t it? I was glad I could get away from L.A.’s commercial intensity and go out to the desert, up to the mountains, and onto the beach, in beautiful SoCal.

71 comments

  1. What a wonderful and varied series of images. Thanks for sharing.

    The Floss Silk Tree flowers and Brugmansia were a surprise to see as I have some photos of them here in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

    I love the Bradbury building and Venice Street corner images. Takes a good photographer to make such details look interesting in a photo. And who doesn’t love a good sunset to round off the post.

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  2. A very fun post, looks like a great roadtrip. That giant table & chairs reminded me of visiting the Boston Children’s Museum with my sister when I was a kid, and seeing the giant pencil, chair, etc.
    I’m enjoying your descriptions as much as the photos. #15 does look like globs of dough, ready for a nice bulkie roll, or an EZ Bake Lava Cake. In #16, I like the striations on the wet sand, the reflection of the posts, and hope that beachwalker is carefully stepping in between the bands. The Bradbury Building was a real star in Blade Runner – – when I saw that movie the first time, I didn’t realize it was a real place, and I’m glad it isn’t a dripping ruin like the movie scenes, it’s very handsome ironwork.
    You describe #2 as a lopsided sunset – -it gives things a nice off-kilter feel, and the undulating roadway makes it seem like the scene is melting and sliding sideways a bit, very cool.

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    • Oh good, glad you enjoyed the descriptions too, Robert. 🙂 EZ Bake, right. Re the person in #16, I have 3 images, and in that one, the feet were just right. So good thing you noticed, I appreciate those sharp eyes. 🙂 Yes, the ironwork is beautiful in the Bradbury; the photo does NOT do it justice. Glad you like getting tipsy….

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    • It’s so far away from you….and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to southern California, but it’s really interesting, in spite of the horrible traffic. One of the things I enjoy is that the climate there is very different from where I live (dry & sunny vs. damp & overcast) but it’s only a 2+ hr plane ride.

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    • Oh Paula. 🙂 Sensitive yes, too much sometimes, for sure. I’ll even go with talented, to a degree, but dedicated? Well, I’m dedicated to my own pleasure when I’m photographing these things, but luckily, a few other people like the same things. Thank you so much.

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  3. I like your composition in #1 and your description strengthens it. I’m also fond of the colors in this one. . . . The other elements you’ve caught in #2 keep this from being just another photograph of a sunset. Many if not most sunset photos bore me, but yours doesn’t. . . . Love the nestled plants in #5—and your arrangement of them. . . . Yum! (#6) . . . I still haven’t seen Blade Runner. If it means I can see more of this building in your #7, that’s another reason to watch it. I hope the film’s rendering of the Bradbury Building is as interesting as yours. Specifically, I hope it has the same coloring and adoration of the architecture. . . . You’ve probably made the Venice street corner (#8) even more attractive than I would think it walking down the street. The “intrusions” of the utility pole and various shadows are welcome features of your photograph. The street, sidewalk, and curb—and maybe some of the other elements—speak Hopper to me. . . . Now there is such a thing as beer soup, but your photograph of the sign (#9) makes me think that instead of soup that day, you should order beer. Made me smile, even though I don’t much like beer. . . . Did you hear the eucalyptus trees creaking in the wind, like old floorboards? . . . Great catch of that wave in #14. Also like the colors; they make me think that overcast isn’t so bad after all, but maybe it’s just that California’s overcast is not bad. (I’m so tired of Ohio’s; we had it all summer and now it’s continuing (no surprise) into fall.) . . . I’ve never even seen photographs of rocks like the ones in #15. Aren’t they wonderfully sensuous! Putting that one rock up front in your photo really sets the stage for the rest of the rocks. . . What can I say about #16 except that it is beautiful—another instance of a sunset that is so much more than a sunset. I especially appreciate all the stripes and that lone figure on the sand. . . . Thank you for sharing your LA trip, Lynn. I had a great time.

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    • I’m glad you appreciated that bit of talk about the sculpture in #1. It’s hard to make a bad picture of that one, it’s so powerful. #2 – telephone poles!! 😉 See my comment to Ken re the Bradbury – I thought about what you would have done with it when I was processing; it’s (the photo not the bldg) not what I hoped. It IS a gorgeous building. Fabulous old exposed elevators. Thank you for the kind comments on the Venice corner photo. And you’re right, they ain’t talkin’ about beer soup! I didn’t hear the eucalyptus – now I have to go back!! (But one morning when we had the windows open overnight, I was awakened by rain, then later realized it was the sound of dry leaves rattling in the tall trees just outside. Totally sounded like a rainstorm.) I think you’re right about overcast being prettier in SoCal – the waves still had that stunning green color, even under darkened skies. Not here! Thank you for the detailed comments – I know it takes time – and I’m glad you enjoyed the quick tour. If you’re ever anywhere near LA or Las Vegas, get yourself to Joshua Tree!

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  4. Ah, looks like you’re on one coast while we’re on the other!
    I got up yesterday in time to watch the sunrise at Nags Head pier.
    And to image it, of course. Will share soon.
    Been spending too much time on IG. Need to unplug and slow down again.
    I’ve been re-reading The Tao of Photography again. Which has got me re-evaluating again.
    There is Tao to spare in these, as there is in all that you do.
    Intentional unforced awareness.
    Focused openness.
    Fantastic.

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    • I’m glad you got away too. Nags Head is beautiful, especially when you dodge the storms. 😉 My son was stationed down at Camp LeJeune, but I never got up to Nags Head. I love the eastern coast, and used to spend time on the Georgia Sea Islands. I look forward to your photographs – sunrise on the east coast, sunset on the west, we’ve got it covered. IG goes by too quickly; for me, it gets frustrating very fast. I dip in and out. What wonderful last lines you sent! Thank you.
      Safe home.

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  5. LA wasnever a place I thought I’d particularly want to visit. Now you have me rethinking that. I guess that’s the sign of great images….they make you think!

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  6. Excellent selection, Lynn. Such a variety of subject matter, too. I have picked several as my favorites. The Bradbury Building is so photogenic and this is a wonderful image of it. I was unaware that Blade Runner was shot thee. It’s one of my favorite movies. The Under the Table shot is so whimsical it made the top of my list of favorites. Also, the Joshua Tree National Park photo (#15) is outstanding. I love the perspective in this image. I hope to be in San Diego sometime during the winter and I’d like to take a day to myself to try to find something interesting to shoot.

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    • I like variety. Frankly, I wasn’t that happy with teh Bradbury image so I’m glad you thought it was OK. Interior photography is a whole ‘nother thing, isn’t it? I have to tell you, I took a number of photos of nice vintage vehicles, always thinking of you. If I don’t post them, maybe I’ll send them to you. 🙂 #15 was with a zoom lens, but a good one, at 15mm (micro 4/3 so I guess 30mm equivalent). Glad I carted that one along on that walk, you need the width there, and it’s fun to get those boulders right in the front of the frame. If I lived there, oh, I’d have so much fun and I’d get so much better at conveying that incredible landscape. I haven’t been down to San Diego. I have a small Audubon book, a field guide to CA, covering flora and fauna, then briefly covering most of the parks. It’s a handy book. Wow, it’s going to be wonderful to be down there in the winter, but maybe a little hard to go back home! 😉

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  7. Numbers five and fifteen from Joshua Tree are my favorites, although I didn’t see globs of dough at first. Instead, I saw huge, fat seals lolling about on a beach. I suppose seals would be at least somewhat malleable, now that I think about it. I liked the lines of the Bradley Building, even though I’ve never heard of it, and haven’t seen Blade Runner. Even without any associations, it’s pure elegance.

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    • Seals makes sense! I think you’d love that landscape, and the plant life would be so much fun to investigate. I have many photos tagged “ID” as in, “Try to get around to looking them up!” in Lightroom right now. I’ll be lucky if I identify a few. Thank you Linda!

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  8. I liked #11. Did you get to walk under the table? It made me think of a movie set where people are shrunk. Or perhaps something found in a playground. The meal at Mh Zh looks intriguing. Perhaps the only thing I find I miss in bigger cities is the wider variety of culinary delights. I bet the contrast between Joshua and LA was rather startling. Quite a few miles going back and forth there! I had a hard time with LA traffic back in the 70s. Hate to even think of it these days. 🙂

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    • They didn’t let people walk under it, oh well. We tried out best to avoid the busiest times and areas re the traffic. Not only is Joshua Tree startling different, but, much closer in, the Angeles National Forest and Mt. Wilson are very wild, quiet, and rugged, but LA is close by.

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    • A long journey, miles-wise, but just a little over two hours flight, which is nice. Though the truth is, one still spends the better part of the day traveling, even with a short flight, with travel to and from the airport and the wait. It all went smoothly this time though, and we even got some sightseeing in on the last day, before the airport. A visual feat for sure!

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  9. Beautiful! Hermosa Beach, the very last picture , is my favorite. The contraposition of the many and the one is so great, and the one at the ladder’s foot, at the start of climbing it to meet the many, but without climbing and obviously not wishing to meet anybody – fabulous!

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    • Those trees are really wonderful – I didn’t get as close a look as I should have at the bulbous, thorny trunks, but I loved the distant views of bare-branched trees with huge pink flowers that would pop up as you drive around the city. It’s a cool family of flora. 😉
      Thanks for the link, too. You said what I experienced too – the rock formations were the stars of the show.

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  10. Hi Lynn, What a marvelous and diverse set of images. You really made the most of your time. Happy you saw the Bradbury and made a wonderful capture, your Joshua Tree studies are gorgeous, Venice is always interesting and your landscapes, especially your final amazing composition at Hermosa are stunning. Glad you had a fantastic trip!

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  11. Excellent post, Lynn. I particularly love that sunset. The meal at Mh Zh made me salivate. I really enjoy Israeli cuisine, contemporary or otherwise. And, of course, your “culinary suggestion” cracked me up. 😉

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  12. Great stuff >>> lovely set of pics! Now then, things to note. VERY much like the unobtrusive titles under each pic, for me these materially add to the experience. Three really special pics: 2 ohhhh!!!!; then 6 – what an interesting meal!; and most of all, 7 and BLADE RUNNER, one of my most favourite films – even think I can recall this building from the film! And also 10 and 11. I shall finish as I started: Great stuff!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    • Oh, how good to read your thoughts about the titles – I’m sure it makes it easier for anyone who wants to just get the gist of things, and move along. Then if you want more details, you can find it at the end. I can’t promise I’ll always do it that way, but I will consider it each time I post now. I’m happy that I sparked the Blade Runner memory for you. I can see a strong relationship between my #2 and many of your photos, actually. Does that make sense? That meal was even more special becasue of the casual chats we had with at least four different people working there, because they tended to hang out and wait for orders to come in and go out right by where we sat. It was great, and the food was so good. Thanks Adrian!

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  13. A vast variety of interesting places and pictures! The second and the last one are my favourite photos 🙂 The second is almost unreal and the last is so fantastic with the reflections in the water! Beautiful. This Joshua Tree is interesting. A lilly – strange sometimes, what they find out today! One wouldn’t believe it right?! I like the vegetation in picture Nr. 5 very much and the “yellowblueflowerpicture” too. The meal looks delicious! I love hummus! So you had a very diversified trip 🙂 Thanks for taking us along!!

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    • I hope to post more from Joshua Tree – the rock formations are amazing there, and the vegetation is all so strange and fascinating.
      Yellowblueflower – yes, that sums that one photo up! 🙂 That hummus dish was by far the best I’ve ever had – creamy and complex, and the bread is crusty – you watch them put it into the oven and toast it under a huge flame. Really fun. You’re right, lots of diversity for one week!

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      • The landscape really looks fantastic! I am looking forward to more from “Joshua-Tree-country”! – I once wanted to make hummus myself, but the peas were not creamy enough and I think I was too afraid to put so much oil and sesame in it (and that’s what it really needs) that it didn’t work and the special herbs are so important. So I buy it in the supermarket, which is acceptable but far not so good as homemade. I don’t give up hope that someone can teach me a good recipe some day 🙂

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  14. Wonderful photos of your Southern California road trip, Lynn. What fun! I love them all, as always, but especially the “soup of the day: beer” sign, the Bradbury Building and all the Joshua Tree photos (I love Joshua Tree!). And that red lentil meal at Mh Zh looks delicious! I’ll be happy to link your post to my next photo essay of November 15. Thanks for the link. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond but I just returned from my Camino and Portugal Wednesday morning, after 2 months and 1 week. 🙂

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  15. Pingback: artistry in stone – ~ wander.essence ~


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