Iphoneography: USA iPhone Travel Photography

Radich NY-Times Square iPhone Panorama

Someone much wiser once said something like ‘the best camera you have is the one you have on you’ … and as my iPhone 5 is nearly always always in my pocket, it has become my go-to image creator. The quality of the images you can capture are quite amazing for something that also does a pretty good job of acting like a phone … and a computer. And with the outstanding Photoshop Express app, the level of post-production and editing you can do all in the palm of your hand rivals what many amateur photographers do on their desktops.

On my latest overseas trip to the USA my iPhone well and truly got a workout on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Reno. Around NYC I often carried my Canon EOS 1D MkIV, but with the ability to edit on the fly, then directly upload to Instagram and Facebook, I found that I have enjoyed the shots I took with my Apple phone much more. And sometimes having the limitations of a non-optical zoom, 8-megapixel mini-lens makes you think just a little bit more creatively to make the most of those limitations. So take a look at some of my shots, and if you like what you see, follow me on Instagram for more of my iPhoneography.

Click on the photos below to see larger versions…


Snowboarding in Vegas?

What the…? After reading the heading I bet you have the same puzzled look on your face that I got from everybody in Sin City when I told them I was there on a snowboard magazine trip to Vegas. They would just look at me blankly, thinking that the strangely-accented guy dressed in snowboard pants and jacket in the lobby of Bally’s Casino was just part of the entertainment…like the Elvis impersonators. But it’s true, you really can go snowboarding in Vegas at the inventively-named Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, roughly 45 miles from The Strip.

Last year on a drive from Vegas to Tahoe I noticed some signs to a “Snow Park”, but didn’t think much of it until Radical Gloves‘ Jeremy Burns suggested we do a magazine trip there. I didn’t need much convincing to head back to Party Town, USA…especially when I could pass off all the partying and drinking as a “work expense” to the Tax Man!

I hit the road early Thursday morning with Darragh Walsh, Cohen Davies, and Darragh’s mate Casey, for the 800 or so kilometre drive through a dusty, windswept Nevada desert. There were a few sites to see on the way, but mostly it was just endless highway, punctuated by military installations, atomic test sites and roadside brothels.

We hit up LVSSR Friday and Saturday; it was a shock going from almost 30 degree heat in the valley floor and climbing 5500 feet to the resort carpark to be surrounded by SoCal-like spring snow conditions less than an hour later. The resort is quite small, with only three chairlifts and a rustic “Mom and Pop” vibe. But the park was decent, with at least six medium to large jumps, and a bunch of other jibs and small jumps. And above the resort there is some epic freeriding lines if you are willing to hike. There are plans to put in a few more lifts to access some good terrain, and it will be great to see how the resort progresses over the next few years. Everybody treated us amazingly, showing us around and helping us in any way we wanted. And we felt a little bit like rockstars as word had gotten out about the visiting Australian “pro riders”, and we even had some TV interviews for the local news organised for the Sunday (which unfortunately we had to miss: three nights in Vegas got the better of us and we also needed a day to see the sights in the sunlight).

Vegas, of course, was epic. And it started out well with me winning $250 on a $1.25 bet on a little mechanical horse table game at MGM grand on the Thursday night. Thanks for showing me how it’s done, Jez! My brother, El Rad, flew into Vegas Friday, and as my parents were already there, I was able to combine snowboarding, photography, fun and family holiday all in a few days in Sin City. Perfect! We made sure we got into the party spirit with beers for the drive back down to Vegas each day, and at night me and the boys hit up a lot of casinos, bars and clubs…and made a few new friends.  We kept it classy of course, having a few chilled beers in the room before we hit The Strip.

And the rest? Well, like they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…unless it gets written up in an Australian-NZ Snowboarder Magazine article! Ha.

When our four nights were over, well, it was a loooonngg drive back to Tahoe. And after chilling by the Paris pool under brilliant sunshine, it was tough to come back to cold, snowy Tahoe…well, that was until we woke to 20 inches of fresh pow overnight! Eeeepppppic!

Keep and eye out for the “Fear and Shredding in Las Vegas” photos and article in Issue 2 of Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder Magazine coming out in a couple of months.

Tahoe: It’s good to be back!

With Darragh arriving into town we could finally settle into a place for 2 months, but not before we spent one last night in Reno before our place was ready. Reno sure is one classy place…NOT. The contrast with Vegas is incredible, and i don’t really understand why Reno’s casinos and Strip have gone so downhill while Vegas has gone from strength to strength. On our way outta Dodge, we made sure to stop in at Cabela’s Outdoors warehouse, making sure to check our guns in at the front desk. Cabelas is amazing – Walmart in size and full of fishing rods, boats, clothes, tents, and of course rows and rows of guns and enough stuffed animals to fill Noah’s Ark. And to get you in the spirit of hunting, there’s one of those amusement centre infra-red shooting galleries – heaps of fun for 50 cents, and my 100% accuracy has carried over from last time.

There’s quite a bit of snow in Tahoe, and I’ve got El Rad’s Double Whammy Pass from last year to get me up to Northstar for free. It’s been fun, with a good couple of park lines but unusually cloudy most days, which has kept the pipe in great shape. Sunday was pow day, and I took a few snaps with my pocket Sony Cypbershot, but it’s hard to get good action self-portraits. Only a couple of the photos are still in colour…see if you can work out which.

Northstar isn’t the most epic location for pow turns, but risking a 2 week ban (made worse as the photo on the pass is not of me!), I nicked under the rope and out-of-bounds to find some awesome untouched fresh, steep turns, before finding some more fresh back in the resort – a few laps of the Backside chair made an awesome afternoon, and it felt great to be really riding again, not just sliding throught the park.

Casinos and Motels…life out of a bag.

After two nights at the crappy, but excellently-located Imperial Palace I knew that I wouldn’t quite be ready for the 800km drive from Vegas through Nevada to Lake Tahoe on Saturday morning after Brooke’s actual birthday. So I drove the Beast down the Strip to Sahara for a $40 “mellow'” Saturday night before I hit Hwy 395 on Sunday. Vegas, as usual, was a trip – almost as hard on the body as the last 30th birthday I went there for (although that was for 5 days!) It’s always great to meet up with mates from back home and party with them on the other side of the world. Thanks Reuben and Brooke, Thommo, Zac, Timmy et al.

I got a mental boost just before my long drive as I passed a sketchy photoshoot for 8-Ball Bail Bonds, complete with some ghetto cruisers and hoes out front. But this site wasn’t enough to keep me going and after 7 hours on US395, passing Shady Lady and the  Wild Kat out in the desert, by the time I got into Reno I was ready to crash. I checked into Boomtown, 10 minutes towards Tahoe on I-80. The fake cowboy theme is awesome, and I was impressed by the attention to detail in making up the bathroom. Another 40 bucks well spent!

The next night in Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe, was less impressive – i’m sure that all you are really paying for at the Sun ‘n Sand Inn is the private beach access. It was pretty terrible. But it was interesting to see a fog of smoke floating way out down near South Lake.

And finally, it was one last night living out of a bag – after picking up Darragh Walsh at Reno Airport we checked into the incorrectly named Terrible’s Sands Casino. It was anything but terrible, with a huge clean room and bargain basement price of $32 between us! And it was much better than the motel we could have stayed in across the road. I counted it up – after that last night I had stayed in 4 casinos, 2 motels and 1 youth hostel in just over a week. I was more than ready to settle into our Tahoe apartment and unpack the bags for good…

Los Angeles to Vegas, Baby!!!

I don’t know where the time went in LA – I flew in late on Monday afternoon and hit the highway northeast to Vegas on Thursday. The major task in LA (besides doing a bit of shopping at the Beverly Centre) was picking up my car, the Black Beast Chevy Tahoe SUV. A friend from Red Bull had been graciously looking after it for the last 6 months I’ve been back in Oz…and she treated it great, giving it prime position with an ocean view down at Manhattan Beach.

I thought I’d live out some of my Keanu Reeves fanstasies by taking the bus from the backpackers in Santa Monica down to Manhattan Beach…but unfortunately there was no-one near as good looking as Sandra Bullock onboard, and with all the traffic and frequent stops there was no way the bus was ever going to get near 50mph. After a 2 hour trip with transfer at the picturesque LAX transit centre/metro station (by car direct it’s only about a 20 minute drive!) i found the car, had the keys to start her up…but the battery was dead flat. I hailed down a passing pimped-out Toyota FJ Cruiser and the ripped, tight-t-shirt, long-grey-haired and be-spectacled, goateed driver tried to jump start the beast with leads from his ride. The battery was so dead, and i must have loked so pitiful that my knight in shining (matt black duco) armour gave me a lift to a mechanic’s 15 minutes away in Redondo Beach, and took me back with a replacement battery! How nice of him. And chatting in the car it turns out he was involved with UFC from the start and had to rush off to go teach a mixed martial arts class at his school. Who knew that MMA fighters had hearts…

Somehow the rest of my time in LA flew by, however I did get to check out the monster winter swell hitting LA down at Manhattan Beach, and then neighbouring Hermosa Beach the next day. I do know that besides getting over jetlag, dealing with freeway traffic (and monster-sized road hogs: see photo) I remember a couple of trips to the DMV, bank and mechanics. But before long i was champing at the bit to hit Interstate 15 out to Vegas to meet up with some Falls Creek crew for Brooke van-der-something-dutch’s 30th Birthday!!! I really don’t need much of an excuse to hit up Vegas…And once I hit The Strip six and a half hours after I left, i quickly forgot the hellish 100km of LA freeway traffic jams once that first beer was thrust into my hand…But one nice thing on the drive was the glimpse I got through the smog of the huge snowcapped LA mountains (and whet my appetite for our magazine trip there in a few weeks time).