fotofatál Wedding: Rand Courtney + Nikki Pittam

The BIG news: I’m opening a photo studio in LA with my new business partner Ben Blair. I was going to wait until we we were completely dialed in with all the details… but I just can’t wait!! So “unofficially” introducing our new photography company… fotofatál! I take credit for that phenomenal name… lol… but Ben gets all the credit for taking the concept and making it graphically perfect. Drop the “e” and add a red flair accent… perfect! We work well as a team…

Details to come…

In the meantime, please enjoy these images from our first wedding shoot. Congratulations to Rand Courtney and Nikki Pittam!

Ufff… I haven’t even gotten to the actual ceremony yet and I’ve posted too many photos. If I get some good feedback perhaps I’ll post more. In the meantime, these should suffice!

The Language of Dance

I’m totally having an attitude adjustment about LA. I realize now that my experience was being contaminated by a toxic friendship. Someone I had believed to be generous and enchanting turned out to be manipulative and ill-spirited. But, now that I’ve removed that person from my life and I’ve let go of problems and injustices associated with her, life is really starting to blossom here in this “labirinto di pazzia” – as the Italian-American and I fondly refer to this city. And, I have other amazing friends to thank for guiding me through the negativity and helping me embrace what Los Angeles does have to offer. Clara Berta, the “Italian-American” and my longtime friend Dustin are true blessings in my life here. I’m meeting more everyday, like my new biz partner (more about that soon!), Kristelle and David, a young gentleman Dustin introduced me to who has a stunning, Frank Sinatra-era voice. (David helped co-found Artful Edutainment though is no longer working with the non-profit.)

So, as I sit here at Coupa Cafe, a delightful little Beverly Hills oasis I just discovered today, I share my latest LA adventure:

Last night was an absolute trip. I gotta hand it to LA for being the epicenter of all things “hot and happening.” One finds themselves stumbling into all kinds of surreal experiences. So After playing phone tag for a few days with another quality friend I’ve met here, we finally connected yesterday evening on the phone as I was jamming out to David Guetta, walking home from an evening yoga class.

“I’m headed to a bar for a friends birthday in NOHO, want to join?” he offered.

“You know, I’ve been so focused on work… I do need to get out,” I reasoned. “I’d love to come. Just gimme a couple hours to get there since I gotta do the whole bus thang. Cool?”

All I knew was that I’d be going to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks… by the time I arrived I got wind of the plan to work our way into the private party located on the second floor of the new, hip NOHO joint The Federal. I’m not one to get too worked up about “getting in” to the “exclusive” events of LA but I’m not opposed to giving it a shot either. Apparently my friend had been working the relations with the bouncer before I even got there and we wound up strolling right on up. The buzz was that the event was full of professional dancers…

Now THAT is probably the closest thing I could get to becoming starstruck in LA. I LOVE to dance. As a child, I begged my mom to sign me up for dance lessons. We even bought a little dance outfit and I had a studio photo shoot in that little outfit. But, I never got to take lessons! I don’t blame my mom. I wanted the dance lessons on top of the rec soccer, select soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and traveling singing group I was already involved with. I didn’t want to give up any of the other activities, so dance (and music lessons for that matter) never happened. (I still cringe about missing out on both though.) So yeah, the whole “me always trying to literally do everything at once” is definitely a syndrome I was born with… lol. Despite the lack of dance lessons, I’ve managed to pick up a fair amount of salsa and I love to simply get down in the club. Inhibition is for the birds. I could care less of how it might look, my spirit is simply lit with joy when let loose and dance. But, feedback has suggested that I’m not so much the disaster on the dance floor… great to know I’m not the crazy dance floor freak at least. 😉

Right, back to The Federal. Turns out some of the nation’s best dancers were there, all celebrating the birthday of Roman Vasquez. Here’s a quick bio of this badass:

Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, Roman began his career as a hip-hop dancer. As his desire for dance grew, he received his technical training in his hometown and progressed while attending dance conventions and performing locally. Moving to Las Vegas he performed in EFX with David Cassidy at the MGM Grand Hotel, Splash at the Rivera and became a member of the Culture Shock Hip-hop Dance Troupe. Now residing in Los Angeles, Roman has had the opportunity to work with artists such as Eva Longoria, Roselyn Sanchez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, Anastacia, just to name a few. Other television and video credits include Dance with Jerry Springer, Pepsi, Sprite, EL Pollo Loco, Days of Our Lives and Tina Landons Instructional video.

Awesome. So yeah, many of these kings and queens of dance began busting out their impromptu moves in the dance circle. Couple this with the fact that I haven’t gotten out to dance in months and I was on a complete natural, dance high. Watching these pros bust their moves made me long to be one of them. Okay, amidst all these amazing professionals, I was starting to feel a bit inhibited. Nonetheless, I let it all out once the dance circle dissolved. Then the best compliment of the night: one of these pros, Sid from Australia, started dancing with me.

“I like your style,” he acknowledged.

“I’ve got no style,” I laughed back.

“Nah, you’ve definitely got your own style.” After busting some moves together, I clued him in to how thrilled I was to see all this talent right here, in my face.

“But you’re a dancer right?” He asked. I laughed again.

“I’ve never had a dance lesson in my life,” I confessed. “But, I LOVE to dance. I just go with what I feel.” (I have had a few salsa lessons… but no hip hop, jazz, etc…)

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he prompted. “Are you serious??” I nodded sheepishly and admitted, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, but the moves just come. I would love to learn.”

“You know the language,” he asserted. “Now, it’s just about learning the words.” Exactly!!

After that entire exchange I was beyond giddy. A pro dancer thought I had some promise! Absolutely made my night!!

So, as I do commit myself more to LA, I’m making dance class a priority. At 25, I know it’s too late to think of any career out of it. But, that’s not what I want from it. I just want to finesse what my body already can’t help but to express. I just want to DANCE!!

¡¡Que rrrrrriiiccccooo!!

And speaking of surreal LA moments, I will just recap on a few I have yet to mention. They were cool but not nearly as cool as the dance experience…

  1. A wave of hello to/from Adam Sandler… as he filmed on the street I was living on at the time.
  2. Approaching Zoe Dechanel and annoying her with my pitch to get involved with a project… oh well.
  3. Neve Campbell… eating sushi at the next table.

Then, there are the restaurants. The Italian-American has really given me a divine sampling of LA:

The Bazaar

Probably my favorite restaurant I’ve thus encountered… ever. Here’s a bit about it:

The Bazaar is chef José Andrés’s masterpiece. At least so far. With designer Philippe Starck, he has fashioned a vast, shadowy space that includes a swanky bar, a patisserie with acres of sweet-filled glass cases, a chef’s tasting room, a shopping emporium by Moss, the Manhattan design mecca, and two glamorous flanking dining areas where Andrés has poured everything he knows about tapas into a menu that marries regional culinary traditions with his formidable creativity…

There’s an even wider selection of fresh inventions that elevates the honored tradition of bar snacks to new heights. Like: liquefied mozzarella with brussels-sprout leaves and the most intensely sweet cherry tomato you’ve ever popped in your mouth — perfect as the milky cheese flows over your tongue. A Philly cheesesteak made with wagyu beef in “air bread” like a tiny calzone, a crisp crust around a pocket of air and melted cheddar — the coolest-ever sublimation of an American sandwich.

Read more from Esquire

The liquid olives, dry ice caipirinha and the cotton candy margarita are fun too…

Il Pastaio

Just as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed in Italy…

At Il Pastaio, brothers Celestino and Giacomino Drago spin the sort of culinary magic that’s made their whole family famous in Southern California. Working with the freshest pastas and produce, the chefs prepare antipasti, duck ragout, and penne with swordfish to please even the most discerning palates. Risottos are abundant and always unique, and truffle-cheese fondue is an excellent choice for polishing off the evening.

Read more…

Beverly Hills Farmer’s Market

Midnight Muse

A late night visit turned into an impromptu photo shoot. My new business partner captured these images using a single Chinese ball lantern from Ikea:

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Art Walk in the LA Fashion District

My spirit is soaring upon the wings of inspiration after an absolutely enchanting evening at the March 2011 LA Fashion District Art Walk. I kept my camera stowed away in the car because I wanted to appreciate the art instead becoming consumed by the insatiable urge to create my own. The artists who spoke to my heart through their own work are too many to name all at once. But, hopefully I’ll be able to feature each one in separate blogs to come…

Eventually succumbing to the overwhelming urge to create, I did pull out my camera at the very end to capture a few images:

Glowing grafiti in the LA Fashion District. © Laura McNamara
LA Fashion District © Laura McNamara
LA Fashion District © Laura McNamara
Intersection in the LA Fashion District © Laura McNamara
The Cecil Hotel in the LA Fashion District © Laura McNamara
Brambalito Mezcal drink at Las Perlas in the LA Fashion District © Laura McNamara

Flying Through the Caribbean Breeze

A little video of me clinging to some sort of wind swing thing that whips me around like a rag doll off the coast of the Riviera Maya (Cancun, MX, spring 2010):

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Here’s one where we cruised around the inlets in little toy speedboats before spilling out into the sea and jumping overboard to snorkel:

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“Laura Rico” Debuts in Guate Film

Check out the trailer for Aqui Me Quedo… you just might see a familiar face… for a whole 2 seconds!! Hahaha

The project was filmed while I was living in La Antigua, Guatemala:

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Wildlife, Soccer and Sunken Ships at Monterrico

monterrico_egret_4Monterrico has became a favorite weekend-destination for me. In the past several months, I’ve shuffled back to the lazy, Latin beach town at least four times, maybe more. There are several ways to get there, but hands down, the best way is to include “una lancha” or a small, motorized boat in your route. For just Q5 (Q7 to Q10 if they insist on giving you the “gringo” rate), you get to skim through a swampy waterway, observing wild birds among the tall swaying reeds and knotted roots of thickly tangled mangroves. You can spy local huts, with children bathing near the shore. For the Westerner, it’s rather alarming when you first see a small, wooden “ferry” slowly churning by, carrying one, even two automobiles. You wonder how the “ferry,” which looks more like leaky planks of wood tacked together, manages to stay afloat with such a load.

Elegant white egret with fish at Monterrico

Just this last weekend I went to Monterrico with some friends on a last-minute whim. I took the chicken bus, or camioneta, to La Escuintla in order to catch up with Chicharon, Pepin, Peter and Asusana who had already left. We finished the trip by car, crossing over the bridge that passes by the sunken ships, but skipping the boat ride. When we arrived, I immediately changed into my bathing suit and ran out to join the locals in the daily game of beach soccer. Once again, soccer has served as an invaluable resource in bridging the “local-foreigner” gap, helping me get to know the local people and the local culture. I have a lot of local friends at Monterrico now and it’s because of soccer. After the soccer match it began storming. At night, the night sea always feels fierce and wild, but when heavy, ashen clouds charge a dark sky with crackling lightening… the waves responding with their own fit of crashing fury… the wild and fierce sensation is overwhelming.

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We dined at El Pelican with the rain spilling off our palm-thatched shelter. I enjoyed guicoy soup (guicoy is a zucchini type squash) and a Camembert cheese salad with walnuts and grapes. The French-cuisine restaurant is a little on the pricey side for Guatemala, but the extra Q is definitely worth it. The food is mouth-watering.

The next morning Pepin, Peter and Asusana took off. Chicharon and I decided to stay and enjoy the rented beach house complete with its little, palm-shaded pool for a few hours more. Our plan was to leave around noon. But, noon turned into never… that day at least. I was having too much fun sun-tanning and enjoying refreshing fruit licuados. Chicha was enjoying new friends he met over cocktails. By four I was enjoying another game of beach soccer with the local Latino chicos. I must say, its quite fun playing the sport you love on the beach with a bunch of dark, handsome men! Hahaha.

That night was the typical dance party at Johnny’s Place, the most-popular place to chill out in Monterrico: Dancing salsa, reggaeton and techno with those same chicos guapos. Yeah, the beach is sweet… especially when it’s in Latin America.

Chicharon headed back to La Antigua quite early on Sunday. I decided to stick around for a few more hours and catch a ride back with another friend Randy and a random Polish traveler who tagged along as well. Because Randy had parked on the other side of the canal, we got to enjoy the little boat ride through the reeds and mangroves before leaving. I am so behind on photos that I haven’t been taking many lately. But, I did whip out my camera to try to catch the elegant egret (pictured above and below) taking off with its freshly caught fish as we lazily cruised by on our lancha. I should have picked a higher shutter speed for the shot since we were on a moving boat… but the pic still turned out pretty cool.

Elegant white egret with fish at Monterrico

I also spent the weekend prior (Sep 12,13) at Monterrico. In contrast to the highly-festive, beach party atmosphere of this past visit, this was a nice tranquil visit at the exquisite, beach paradise house of a friend. Alex invited Joaquin, Chofo, Sofia and I for the chill getaway at his family’s beachfront home. We spent our time relaxing by the pool, reading on hammocks, playing cards and cooking pasta and ceviche. Joaquin and I also enjoyed a nice, black sand beach run before heading back to La Antigua.

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Soaring Through the Canopy

Right now there’s a series of posts appearing on AntiguaDailyPhoto.com about Antigua Canopy Tours. The series, completed by me, began Thursday of this week and will continue through Thursday of next week. Thanks to Rudy Giron of ADP and Pascu Robredo of Antigua Canopy Tours I was able to enjoy the treetop “flying” experience for free!

I’m still at El Paredon Beach, Guatemala. I woke up today and joined the boys in the surf taking video of them with my waterproof camera while trying not to get too pummeled by the waves or caught in the way of any of their rides. Right now, the boys are resting and I’m working… finishing up the last few posts about Antigua Canopy Tours. Be sure to check out my work at ADP!