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‘In Plain View’: A fresh look at things that are always there


A leaning street sign on Clover Avenue just west of Sepulveda Boulevard, a block south of National Boulevard, in West Los Angeles. October 25, 2012. iPhone4S.

I got to thinking the other day about the things around us that are always there, so ubiquitous we don’t even notice them anymore. Once I started paying attention, I found quite a few of these things.

Generally, they fall into the category of infrastructure, things that make up the foundation on which the rest of our lives are based. Yes, they can be mundane, but they serve a purpose, often an important purpose.

I started thinking about ways to photograph these elements that are always “in plain view,” and immediately thought they’re so drab that the photos wouldn’t be worth much. Then I wondered if there were new and different ways to photograph these items, or novel ways to display photos of them.

Well, yes, I thought, there might be some ways to insert some creativity into photos of things that are the polar opposite of creative. There are different angles, unusual lighting, various views. And those are just the organic methods. There are also some software solutions—different presentations, filters, vignettes, crops, colorizations.

Still, you never know until you try. So I snapped some photos with my phone, and I snapped some photos with my camera. I loaded them into various pieces of photographic software, and started playing.

And here are the first two sets of results, taken on different days with different cameras.

I stumbled upon a random suburban street in my general neighborhood, and picked it because parking was available. (Nothing like having a noble motive, huh?) And I started snapping away with my phone.

Looking toward the west-southwest from Sepulveda Boulevard and Clover Avenue in West Los Angeles as the sun sets. October 25, 2012. iPhone4S.

Powerlines with a vapor trail in the sky? That’s what the lens saw. Monkeying around with the color helped to intensify parts of the image and minimize others (just as the tutorial said it would.)

The sun in the suburban treeline in West Los Angeles. October 25, 2012. iPhone4S.

A few days later and a few miles to the south, I tried a similar exercise with a different camera.

The view north across the rails and around the coin telescope on the Manhattan Beach Pier on Saturday, October 27,2012. Nikon D90.

Woodslat roof at Metlox Plaza on the northwest corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and North Valley Drive in Manhattan Beach. October 27, 2012. Nikon D90.

Woodslat wall, Metlox Plaza in Manhattan Beach on October 27, 2012. Nikon D90.

Stairs from the sand to the restroom complex on the north side of the Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, CA, on October 27, 2012. Nikon D90

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  • cyndy ovalle November 4, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Thanks, Paul….love the essay and photos…I have been focusing on daily a meditation routine, so that I can see things I never notice….your photos took me to that goal. People are always so surprised that those who have a photographic eye are ‘artists’.

  • Bob Anderson November 6, 2012, 10:20 am

    You dont know me, but I was a student of your father… In more ways than one. He also taught me to see things that “Weren’t there.” Finding your page by accident brought back a flood of memories, and I had to tell you what a profound impact your father had on my life. No, I didn’t become a photographer, but I learned the value of self, and a respect for people, history, and wisdom. He was a great man!

  • Bob Anderson November 6, 2012, 9:53 pm

    Hi Paul!
    Thanks for the look at the album. Your dad showed me some photos he took during the war. He used to say, “I don’t just teach history, I remember it.” His style of teaching made me want to be a teacher. For a few years beyond high school, I came in and volunteered my time teaching photography with his Adult Education class. I am an engineer now, developing high tech electric vehicles and battery power systems used in the film industry. In 2009 I won an Engineering Emmy Award, and in 2012 I won a Society of Camera operators award. I wish he could have been there. He would have liked that.
    All my best to you and your family!