fotofatál: Jeff Simmons

My life is enriched to have a friend like Jeff. Now, we are all enriched to have photos of Jeff… lol. I’ve only just begun to tinker with the photos from his shoot, but here are a few samples:

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!

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

Fig Jam: The Key to Life

Brimming.

Precisely how I would describe today.

First, false courtesy from she who has offered me a roof. She and a friend leave for brunch with no invitation or inclination to include me. An obvious move to make an obvious statement. Certainly not the first time I’ve experienced this, so the disturbance is measured in ripples that spread through the shallows. But, beyond the surface, the calculated move bears no real penetration. Just merely skips off the periphery. My only concern is, after so many years of developing an intuition to avoid such superficial relationships, how did I let this one develop? How did I let this one slip through the cracks? Is it a weakness in my foundation? Or, was meeting me a necessity in the development of hers? My hunch is a little of both…

Moving on. The Italian-American takes me to the Beverly Hills farmers market. He collects blood “red” oranges, imported cheeses, cilantro basil pesto and a small purple orchid, which he gives to me. I love orchids. They are exquisite in their feminine delicacy. This one is petite, yet lavish with blossoms. Ten blossoms blushing with pink, speckled with a richer plum. Five more blossoms on the way. For me, her beauty is yet more striking in this realm thirsting for authentic refinement. Quickly, I find myself attached, jumping at her every shimmer and sway…. fussing over her blossoms like a mother fusses over a newborn.

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The Doheny Mansion. He’s right. Only tourists with guide books delight in this peaceful escape. Would be an ideal location for lifestyle photography. Too bad you need a license to shoot anywhere in this city. It seems everything is marked with bureaucratic, bourgeois tape. Basically, anything worth anything has already been pissed on, marked by the dogs, 100 times over. Common grounds for the public? Dream on. The smell of rain-soaked lavender, so refreshing and soothing, softens my edge and lulls me to a calm…

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A hidden trail finally leads up back to where we started, a small Coy pond…

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Next we pass the Beverly Hills witch house. It looks as if it’s straight out of a Brother’s Grimm tale.

Another Beverly Hills oddity… this one a house inspired by Gaudi:

Quickly, we breeze through Santa Monica just after the rains, strolling along the broad boulevard as the sun begins to break through the clouds…

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Venice… Despite six months in this city, this is the first time I’ve explored her charm. Wow… so there is hope. A far cry from so many of the hidden escapes I’ve come to adore, yet finally some true character! Bohemian flair, a few small canals that survived the city-wide larson, eclectic shops, sophisticated galleries. I will have to find a haven here if I shall make it for any length of time in this city. It’s so wonderful to breathe in the salty sea air… always she calls to me, the sea.

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Ducking into the Ritz Carlton, we seek a quick reprieve from the rainy weather and sip a glass of wine before the crackling fire.

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Winding upwards to the tip top of the Pacific Palisades. We pass clearance and an automatic gate lets us into the clifftop mansion, home to the inventor of Sony PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot. Fine wine. Homemade pizza after homemade pizza spill from the outside oven, barely hitting the granite counter top before we scarf them down. Imported cheeses, truffle oil, a bountiful selection of savory sauces, fig jam… the list of toppings seems endless. I hand toss, hand roll my first ever homemade pizza. Pesto sauce, chunky slices of Parmesan cheese imported from Italy, red onion, gobs of rictotta, drizzle of honey, crushed black pepper all sent to the outdoor oven. We dress the pizza with buffala, balsamic must and top quality olive oil before serving. The general consensus: mmmMMMMM. The pink panther is my friend’s creation. Can’t remember all the ingredients but wine saturated Manchego cheese, dates and fig jam were key ingredients. He has discovered that fig jam is the key to life.

Gelato to finish us off. Pistachio mixed with chocolate my favorite.

Throughout the night, my friend’s stories, impersonations and jokes carried the delightful evening and roused bouts of laughter. He, as well, a refreshing encounter with true character.

With simple ease, he revealed many of LA’s gems…

Inspiration in the City of Angels

Excerpts from articles I’ve written about a few of the compelling stories I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles:

‘Gifted’ Musician Rocks ‘Social Harmony’

He boasts a four-octave vocal range and has written more than 300 original songs. In just one year, he has led his band through nearly 60 performances in more than 30 venues. When he holds his15-second falsetto note, one wonders if he just might one day soon rival the long note of soul great Bill Wither in “Lovely Day.” Yet, there is one more reason they call this young musician “gifted.” Twenty-five year-old Scott Siegel lives with autism…

Filmmaker Leads Grassroots Campaign to Bring OCD to the Big Screen

It is a film about extreme paranoia and debilitating fear. It is a story of illusion and immobilizing dread. No, this is not a horror movie. It is a narrative drama meant to illuminate the disturbing realities of the fourth largest mental illness plaguing millions of Americans today. Machine Man, a feature film about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a story meant to save lives.

“I didn’t know that it’s so common and that people have these thoughts that are called ‘harming thoughts,’” Kellie Madison said. “They walk around in life worried that they’re going to hurt another human being and the anxiety is so great it debilitates them… it was so heart-breaking learning about what these people are going through. I knew I had to make a movie on it.”

Neighbor Goods Leads the Borrow Lend Movement

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the idea behind 32-year-old Micki Krimmel’s new project – a website that facilitates lending and sharing within local communities. In an age where neighbors seem more like strangers, NeighborGoods.net encourages people to again borrow and lend as friends. “NeighborGoods is a service that connects friends and neighbors to save money and resources by sharing stuff they already own instead of purchasing new stuff,” Krimmel explained.

Flickers Glinting through the L.A. Brume

I was “completely love struck.”

As my eyes briefly flutter over the prose that was written by a most smitten soul in A Rare Soul Indeed, a slight chuckle escapes from my lips.

Oh, Laurita. What a romantic you are!

And proudly so. This fairytale romance has come to an end. Much quicker than I had hoped. Yet the fruit of it was sweet, but for an ever so slightly bitter bite to its aftertaste. As always, I have learned and I have grown… and I am grateful for yet another magical experience.

Here I am in L.A: the city of illusion, the slum of smoke and mirrors. Three months with him. Three months without him.

Admittedly, I still haven’t recovered from the “culture shock.” Everyday the waves of nostalgia for foreign lands wash over my heart. I long to leave this “labyrinth of madness” and return to the journey. But, a small voice inside me insists not yet.

Why not? my heart forlornly whispers back. The answer remains hidden in the smoggy haze that envelopes this city. Not many understand my silent mourning as I search for the straggling gems in a land stripped of its natural beauty. Stripped for a manufactured glamour that, in reality, hardly even exists.

I, the hopeless romantic and the eternally smitten, feel less than charmed by this famed Hollywood seductress.

Yet, something unknown is keeping me here. And, just now, thanks to TweetDeck… a hint flashes in the bottom left corner of my screen:

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~Proverb (@AinBelton)

And again, with an ever so slight smile, I admit that I do spy soft flickers of light, glinting through the brume that permeates the city of angles…

Evening soirees. Waterslide waterfalls. Mystic lairs of enchantment. Eclectic expression. Scraps of nature stolidly resisting concrete vanity.

Below the kindling I’ve begun gathering for the great bonfire:

Girls Night In Art Experience
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Flying from LA to Camarillo
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Love Letter From La Bruja

La Bruja sent me this late last month. But, I didn’t have the chance to really read it until now. When she sent me this, Ryan and I were just beginning to go through our break up and my grandfather had just passed away.

Here is my English translation (below you’ll find the original in Spanish):

This night she was particularly sensitive. Her grandfather had passed to form a part of the stars of the firmament and, furthermore, she had to transform the love meant for her lover, into a love meant for the world. God wanted to console her heart, giving her a gift… He guided her flight to the foot of a mountain where there was a peaceful river fed by a waterfall. There, spread a light, golden frost that illuminated this beautiful place. Little by little, it revealed a field covered with the most beautiful flowers; the ground was a kaleidoscope of figures and colors and in the air flew hummingbirds, butterflies and little turtledoves that were manifested to form a part of this act of love.

She decided to climb to the height of the mountain to see the spectacular sight from a better perspective. Surprisingly, her senses were sharpened… the colors, the smells and the sounds reached the highest vibration (reminds me of my experience in Playa del Carmen). Laura could understand the songs of the birds… she could see everything around her as twinkling lights of energy that flickered in perfect synchronization and all of her surroundings had a smell sweetened from the nectar of the flowers and trees, which were planted marks, offering the protection of the wise sages and strong ancient.

Little by little her entire being heard, first as a whisper and after as a beautiful melody, the message that God was sending to her through those creatures of the forest: “Dear Laura, I love you. Thank you for being a part of me and for being a part of the miracle of life.”

Laura swelled with love! Her being was a fast-flowing mix of all those creatures together: the trees, flowers, river, sky and all the rest running through her veins giving her the best of themselves. She did her part, giving her soul to the entire universe. She decided to give herself to the flow of the river, the smell of the flower, the gleam of the stars. All of her being danced in unison with the creatures!!!!

And every day, and every night, Laura punctually arrived to replenish herself with love, to transmit love and to make the love that moves the world. Continue reading “Love Letter From La Bruja”

Mind Scraps: Dreams and Life’s Sweet, Ripe Cherries

After a most promising and invigorating Skype conversation with the director of the photography agency I will be prospectively working for, I was eager to meet the highly-recommended man on the ground. The owners of this company, a Scottish woman and her French husband, operate from London. Another young French man, the same age as me, is responsible for running the company on the ground here in Mexico.

He called me Sunday, “We’ve made a reservation for lunch at a stunning beach,” French Photog informed me. “Would you like to join us? Can you meet me at 1:30?” More of a rhetorical question… who could turn down an offer like that?

When we arrived at Al Cielo, a relaxing complex of palm-thatched roofs, two other photographers – husband and wife – were there, excited about purchasing some new plant arrangements that someone had left for sale. The plants, which included the exquisite orchid and bromelia, were artfully mounted upon driftwood. “They produce their own nutrients,” the husband said. “They don’t need any soil or water.”

The husband is a fellow Gringo from Atlanta, GA. He has managed to build up quite the reputation, and now, couples from around the world seek out him and his wife to book them for their wedding. He is responsible for introducing “underwater photography” into the wedding photography package. I call him Wonder Boy. His wife, a striking Mexican woman from Guadalajara, is the Photog Beauty…

We sat at our white-clothed table, claiming the table with the best view of the sea that stretched along the small, protected cove before us. We ordered starters of sashimi, swordfish carpaccio and a decadent salad along with Chardonay as we began to chat and learn more about each other. The pure zest for life these three possess was most refreshing to drink in. They were all young and notably successful; yet still down-to-earth, appreciative and excited about the rich, sweet cherries life seemed to be hand-feeding each of them. That along with a passion for photography was our common ground and as we progressed on to our entrees (I shared the freshly caught fish of the day smothered in sea salt with French Photog) we swapped stories, dreams and ideas in a pure, bubbly excitement. We finished lunch on a most sweet note with espresso and a complimentary crème brule and coconut cream dessert. The photog couple was good friends with the restaurant’s owner.

After lunch, the sea beckoned us. Equipped with masks, snorkels and fins we dunked below the waves to observe what might lie below. Web-like plants gracefully swayed among massive brain-shaped coral. I watched an entire school of fish as it hovered in a protectiveoverhang of the reef, the fish rocking with the underwater rhythm of the ocean like one body, one unit. Further and further our fins propelled us, until we reached the rock outcropping of one side of the cove. On the way back, I lagged behind the others as two tropical fish wound around the reef before me, sucking up bits of algae. In length, they stretched from the tips of my fingers to my elbow and almost equal to that in height, yet they were both pencil thin. Their cool purple scales were accentuated with splashes of yellow and black.

When I reached shore, Wonder Boy had taken out his fancy toy – a high-end, globed encasement that transformed a pro camera into an underwater eye. The three of them were taking turns diving into the waves before the camera.

Finally, evening began to set and it was time to part ways. I left feeling absolutely enriched from my magical afternoon. French Photog had left quite an impression, introducing me to a local Playa del Carmen gem and treating me to a most unforgettable seaside experience shared with enchanting and inspiring company. I could see that French Photog possessed a beautiful spirit… he was absolutely reveling in the wonderful afternoon we were all spending together. It was fun to be around people who find life as magical as I do!

As far as work, we were both eager to explore how I might fit with the photog agency. Because of the low-season, the agency can’t offer me full-time work right now but that actually works out quite well. I had been exploring options with Traveo in Cancun and they had made me an offer: two months of work, photographing the activities and services the company provides, in exchange for dreamlike beachfront housing, food, transportation and substantial fun money. So it was agreed. I would take the two-month stint with Traveo, but find days to escape to Playa and begin training with the photog agency there. Then, in two months, I could be ready to go for the high-season and, perhaps, the new studio in another hotel that they were planning to open up. Life really seems to be pulling out all the stops… and for that I’m utterly grateful. Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul!!

View the Flickr album by clicking here.

Mind Scraps: Natural Symphony at the Sea

A musician in Chihuahua connected me with the Musico Magico in Facebook when he found out that I was headed to the Riveria Maya. Now that I had finally made it to Playa del Carmen, I called him up to see if his offer to rendezvous was still good. It was more than good. “Come with my friends and I to a local virgin beach,” he offered. I jumped at the chance. And it was at Paal Mul that I caught a glimpse of a most awing understanding of sound.

Musico Magico, as I call him, is a kindred spirit. Like me, he enjoys conversations about energy, spirit, karma and the magic of life. And like my friend in Chihuahua, he’s an accomplished musician. His story is an inspiring one. He originally arrived in Playa with nothing more than a backpack. Now, after six years, he has led successful real estate ventures and construction ventures, while also traveling substantially and performing in the local music scene.

When we arrived at the virgin beach accompanied by four others, I noted that Musico Magico’s eyes were the same color as one of the alluring shades of this seven-color Riviera ocean: a light, clear and mesmerizing sea green. Musico Magico has a potent presence. His gem-like eyes lock into yours, silently and reverently prodding your spirit to see who you might truly be.

I waded into the sea, a warm soothing bath that stretched away beyond the horizon. The slight rhythmic cycle of the waves rocked me comfortingly like a mother with her child. When people ask me where I’m from, I like to respond “del mundo” (from the world). I should start responding “del mar” (from the sea). No matter where I travel to on land, the sense of “home” always seems to escape me. But when I reach the sea… I feel it… I feel “at home.” As I frolic in her waves near shore my thoughts always wander further and further out to sea. What if I just started swimming toward that elusive horizon? I often take long swims out past where most others go, always slightly toying with the idea to answer that call… Go. Swim further. Dive deeper. Go discover the underwater world of magic. Turning back toward the others, I rejoined them closer to shore. As we chatted, I dug my hands into the smooth sand below the water. Gasp! Just centimeters below the surface a chilly sensation! “It’s the cenotes (underground rivers),” the others explained. “You can feel them emptying out into the ocean.” I quickly became entranced by digging various pockets into the sand in order to feel the cool rush of sweet water mix with the warm, salty sea water.

Musico Magico and I escaped from the others for a short walk down the shell-filled beach. As we waded into the water, my feet were caressed by the finest, softest sand I’ve yet to encounter. Musico Magico grabbed a handful and began rubbing it on his skin. “Smell it,” he said. “You can smell the sulfur. This sand is full of healing nutrients.” Following his lead, I slowly smothered the sand upon my face, marveling at how some people pay big bucks for such natural elements in spas.

After the impromptu sand facial, we both fell into a peaceful trance. Floating on our backs, we each got lost in our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own spiritual commune. That’s when the world of sound suddenly began to open up for me in a way I had never experienced before. All at once, my consciousness seemed to register the crystal clear notes of the natural symphony around me. Further out at sea, I heard the waves breaking upon the reef that lay just below the surface of the water. I became attuned to the waves breaking upon shore; not just in front of me, but also to either side of me as the coast slightly curved. Each position of the breaking waves held its own unique tone. The water lapping up against my skin rang out in a higher note. The caressing breeze that swept past my ears a soft, beckoning whisper. Two birds calling out from land… I heard each element of the natural world music as if I was surrounded by a massive sound system precisely set up for optimal acoustics. Eyes closed, utterly captivated, the water rocked me silently and I just listened… with ears and soul.

View the Flickr album of Paal Mul and Playa del Carmen by clicking here.