About admin

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, writer and Photoshopper and arguably, a guitar player now living in the Pacific Northwest. My wife is amazing. We have two cats, no kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and a Gibson ES-335.

Magic Clouds

SR126 at Sunset from Thomas Gapen on Vimeo.

It was otherworldly.

Mystical. Magical. Miraculous.

It was magnificent.

Maybe it was the combination of exactly the right amount of Irish whiskey and a single puff of “cloud.”

Maybe it was simply the clouds.

But in the very, early evening last night Linda and I were drinking on the patio and contemplating how we would spend the rest of the night. The week had ended a blistering, five-day-long hot spell that was transitioning into a weekend like we rarely see in Southern California.

A week that had seen days reaching 113 degree temperatures had become mid-90s with extremely high humidity and skies full of a mixture of cumulous and cumulonimbus clouds, that were being painted with a color pallet only mother nature could invent, every night as the sun sank below the horizon.

We’d seen this coming. Just the day before every photographer and non-photographer I know was posting spectacular sunset photos on their Facebook pages. Linda had described to me how the atmosphere in our backyard had turned into Maxfield Parrish painting, a hazy, pink wonderland.

L.A. photographer Gene Blevins had nailed an image that showed a double rainbow and a bolt of lightening in front of the Hollywood sign as a helicopter flew past.

Jaysus! I wanted to ask him, “Gene, couldn’t you have gotten a brushfire and a mudslide in that shot?”

So as the sun began its final descent bringing an end to the first day of October, the wind suddenly started to pick up and the temperature dropped noticeably. As dark, black storm clouds began to gather in the east, the cumulus clouds riding the winds in the west took on a golden, rim-light turning them into giant, cartoon thought bubbles. A few drops of rain sailed by as the wind chimes in our yard sang loudly.

We decided to attempt to capture, with cameras, what we knew would be another glorious nightfall as the setting sun spilled grenadine and pineapple juice across its own sheets and pillows … and then grab a pizza.

We started, and ended, at the usual place. At the end of a cul-de-sac, across the street from our house is a spot where from the top of the ridge you can see nearly all of the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s a place we not-so-cleverly call “The Spot.” It’s where we go to watch multiple fireworks shows on the Fourth of July. It’s where we go for sunsets. And because that’s where we always go, we have more than enough photos from there.

So we headed down to Castaic Junction.

A place where old State Route 126, formerly a two-lane road, passes through rows of eucalyptus and California oaks. It seemed to me that the failing light spilling across the trunks and the bark of those old trees, in combination with the spectacular clouds and setting sun, would make for some pretty landscapes.

We weren’t going to win any prizes but we just like taking photos and sometimes we do it for that reason alone.

But we arrived too late. The sun had already sank below the hills on the horizon and so there would be no direct light to play with. All we were left with was the ever changing ambient light in the sky.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

After the most of the best light was gone we drove to Ameci’s, picked up a pie and went back to The Spot.

We stood there, looking down on the Santa Clarita Valley, as the sky faded to black. The wind had completely died and there was no longer even a puff of breeze. We could see the lights from Valencia High School stadium, a few miles away, as West Ranch was about to take on undefeated St. Francis. A searchlight from the school swept the sky like a laser beam, beckoning.

We looked down on suburbia, every house in perfect, little rows with all the lights on. We could hear jack russells and chihuahuas yelping. We could hear families talking and laughing. We could hear kids splashing in swimming pools both close by and miles away. Bolts of lightening were crackling far off in the west. The air was crystal clear and dead still.

John Mellencamp was playing in my head.

Just then, we heard then felt, then saw the elegant wings of an adult owl as he flew past just a few feet over our heads, heading southwest, maybe to watch the game at Valencia High.

Linda and I looked at each and said the thing we often say to each other at times like these, without actually saying it at all.

Although our lips didn’t move and no sound was made, we said this to each other, “These are the days.”

It was magnificent.

That 70s freakshow

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Disclaimer: some of the names in this post have been changed, sort of, to protect the bipolar.

It started last spring.

My dear old friend Butch, a guy I grew up with in the suburbs of Detroit, now well into middle age and living in Texas, got a wild hair up his ass.
Butch was born in Texas but as a child, moved with his family to the Detroit area, land of belching smokestacks, 25 degrees below zero winters and the beating heart of Rock ‘n Roll.

To say that Butch (and I) grew up in Detroit is a bit like saying Iggy Pop grew up. We spent our most malleable years there but I’m not really sure any of us in Detroit actually became wise, mature, responsible adults. We did grow taller, started shaving, lost our virginity and then, our naiveté. But as decades flew by I think most of us remained just kids with the same insecurities, neuroses and obnoxious habits we had in high school. Most of us, like Iggy, with a propensity toward addiction.

So, sometime around 1977 Butch aimed his pea-soup-colored Datsun southwest and put ice storms, industrial-hell-on-earth cityscapes and his maladjusted circle of friends in his rear-view mirror, forever.

Well, almost forever.

After spending a few decades irrigating golf courses in the Phoenix area Butch found himself back in Texas, this time as the single parent of a teen-aged, skateboard riding, mini-me named Ron.
Butch and Ron are best buds now. Butch buys Ron’s breakfast, takes him on airplane rides to places like Los Angeles and turns him on to other things that stirred his soul growing up, like the sound of a stratocaster and the smooth ride of a Cadillac STS.

And Ron is teaching Butch a thing or two, such as what the word iPhone means or the “noun” Ass Knife (When you mess up a trick and the board comes up and sticks you in the butt. “Dude Josh looked like he was enjoying that ass knife.”)

Oh, and Facebook.

Continue reading

Rock My Plimsoul

seattleLast week, Linda and I were surfing around through the 80 or so movie channels we subscribe to through ATT UVerse – UVerse by the way, is another story altogether – and we stumbled on Scosese’s film “Casino” and since it had just started we decided to watch it, yet again, for the like the 5th time.

We have pretty eclectic taste in film and as a rule we’ll watch and enjoy nearly any movie, with a few exceptions. To me, “Rescue Dawn” has no reason to live.

But for us, “Casino” has just about everything we like in cinema. DeNiro, Pesci, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollak and Sharon Stone – who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress – all favs. The plot, crime-drama with mob overtones. Another fav.

And it’s directed by Marty. What more do you want?

According to Wikipedia, when the film was released in 1995, it had the most uses of the “f-word,” 398, in a feature length film. But if Marty was trying for this somewhat provocative distinction, at 178 minutes, he kind of cheated.

Another favorable quality of the film that I don’t think I ever noticed before is the amazingly diverse soundtrack. Appearing on the official soundtrack are the likes of Louis Prima, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding and Ramsey Lewis as well as Cream, The Jeff Beck Group (more later,) Roxy Music, Fleewood Mac and The Moody Blues.

Oh, and somebody named J.S. Bach.

Unofficially, you also hear a bunch of Rolling Stones (whatever,) Derek and the Dominoes, even Devo. And although I can’t find any reference to it anywhere, there is one scene in the Tangiers casino where “Stone Cold Fever” by “Humble Pie” can be heard playing in the background.

Humble (effing) Pie. Continue reading

How did I get here?


Disclaimer: if you are currently employed by the Los Angeles Daily News, LANG  or any other MNG newspaper property, the following content is not meant for you. I recommend you go directly here.

Wednesday, 11 a.m.

Will Flash save my life?

I’m sitting in my home office, in green, striped boxers and a v-neck t-shirt. My v-neck t-shirt is tired and a bit gamey and has seen better days.

The invincible morning sun is throwing back the drapes, forcing it’s way into the room and splashing across floor. The temperature is already 87 and heading for 105.

Outside I can hear the sounds of SUV’s racing past my house carrying soccer moms to Yoga sessions.

As I sit here, this is what I’m looking at: mydesktop

I have two hours before I have to get into the car, drive 32 miles through the Newhall Pass and then from north to south from one side of the San Fernando Valley to the other to get to my job at the Los Angeles Daily News.

Tonight I’m working a night shift repurposing copy, photos, video and graphics – all of which somebody else has created – to be posted on the Daily News’ website. I do this every Tuesday and Wednesday night now.

I’ll probably start tonight by locating the features cover story for Thursday’s paper and any associated sidebars, art, graphics and links and pummel it into submission by coding it up for the web.

Thursday’s feature section is always health-related, which means I’ll have a story about somebody who wrote a book about fitness or maybe some family dealing with the ‘disease of the week.’

This material will have been created by a freelancer who lives in Torrance or maybe a staff writer at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Later, I’ll code up news stories written and photographed by staffers at the Daily News.

There will likely be something about LAUSD, some LA City Hall stuff, a couple of crime stories, a couple of stories about economic woes and I already know that tonight there will be a “comprehensive” piece about LAPD Chief Bill Bratton stepping down half-way through his second 5-year term.

I’ll open, crop, tone and otherwise enhance photographs of somebody holding up a widget while staring into the camera, kids running through sprinklers and generally, people dealing with hot weather, people eating corn dogs at opening day of the Ventura County Fair and likely, Bill Bratton and other politicians standing behind a podium.

These photographs will have been taken by staff photographers who have been employed by the Los Angeles Daily News for no less than 15 years.

At some point tonight, just as I did when I woke up this morning and as I do nearly every day I will ask myself, how did I get here? Continue reading

For Claude

Last weekend Linda and I attended a wake, for a kitty cat.

This might sound somewhat out of the ordinary but it wasn’t the first funeral that we’ve been to for a creature with more than two legs. Over the past few years we’ve held more than a couple of memorial services for bunny rabbits that managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up, literally, on or near our property. We have a bunny burial ground a couple of blocks from our house. It’s on a hillside and has a nice view of the sun setting behind the mountains.

During the drive to Ventura for the wake Linda and I were discussing how many people just don’t get how devastating it is when you lose a pet. Sometimes you’ll hear them say something like, “It’s not like it was a person.” Paaaaaleez. There are a number of persons that I could do without.

I told her, again, about how I lost a kitty named “Saturn,” (don’t ask) back in 1979. That puddy loved me like no thing or no one before or since ever has and the feeling was mutual. I still haven’t gotten over her 30 years later. Then there was “Spike.” A big, fat, orange tabby that lived with me for about 9 years before a coyote got him back around 1990. I still think of him. He loved broccoli.

Jean Claude, the kitty whose wake we attended, left this world last week and took with him the broken heart of our dear friend Alexis who had the privilege of watching over him during his stay on Earth. He lived nearly 19 years. He was jet black and very lovable.

Claude was known for many things but one of his characteristic traits was his bullwhip of a tail. You needed to be wary when walking past him or he might cut your legs clean off at the knees. He could wake you from a dead sleep slapping that tail on the floor and he would flog you with it when you pet his back sometimes leaving welts that hurt but healed soon enough.

Claude loved the sun and just hanging in the garden. He liked salmon and stretching out across in the bed.

He also enjoyed a good Cuban cigar and a single malt scotch while sitting poolside with the New York Times. He liked the music of Cat Power and was a fan of Pink Panther movies.

All this past week I’ve been watching the moon. The moon is my planet and I like watching its mood change from month to month and year to year. But for the past 10 days or so the moon has been particularly beautiful.

Last week I rushed home so I could try to get a photograph of the moon juxtaposed with Venus. They were so close they seemed to be holding hands as they dipped below the horizon in the west.

Watching them through the viewfinder in the darkening sky I could have sworn I saw the silhouettes of Saturn and Spikey chasing each other around the moon and Venus. I often see them, up there, dancing with the stars, but this time there was a third kitty silhouette, his tail whipping up little clouds of stardust.