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…


Homeward bound…but where is home again?

To paraphrase the Michael Buble hit: Another winters day has come, And gone away, In even Reno and LA, And I wanna go Home, Let me go home. (And no, I’m NOT gay – I bought the CD for my Mum!) I didn’t really want to go home, but as I had finished my last photo shoot at June Mountain and I felt my shooting season was done I started to think about getting home to enjoy my first big family easter in five years in a little place in central Victoria called Tarnagulla. The more I thought about it, the more I began to miss home and started to plan all the final steps: packing the bags, cleaning the apartment, getting the landlord inspection, driving the crew to the airport, finding a place to store the car for several months…and finally running the gauntlet of check-in chicks with my excess baggage. Then of course there is the three actual flights and 17 hours or so of sitting on my arse from Reno, via LAX and Sydney, to Melbourne. Why can’t heading home just be easy? I guess any big move is always a pain.

Things were winding down at our place as we all thought about home, but although I wanted to pack it away, the camera couldn’t quite go in the camera bag yet. A couple of candid “lifestyle” portrait shots needed to be taken, and it was down to the wire to get a shot of Cohen Davies. A huge snow-dumping storm had rolled into Tahoe on the last couple of days making all our outdoor locations a bust, and with his lack of mobile phone credit, he was lucky to catch me still at home before I busted a move back down to Reno (I had aleady made a trip down and back to drop Darragh off at the airport early that morning…only seeing 4 wrecked cars on the side of the road in the blizzard!) Evil Editor has the shot and it will come out in issue 1, but not the frame I preferred as somehow Cohen was reading the newspaper upside down. I swear I thought he was actually reading the paper as I fucked around getting the lighting right – he must have upside-down eyes, or didn’t notice as a result of the previous night’s action?

We filled our last few days in Tahoe on a little bit of a party train – unfortunately everyone else in town was winding down and the party ended up basically being 20 bored guys around a dowstairs pool table. We had to find ways to amuse ourselves. The highlight for Darragh was his packet of peanut M&M’s (he’s mad for the things!) and the 3 buck McLovin fake ID he bought in 7-11!

More fun was to be had on my last night in Reno. I booked into the awesomely rad 30 buck-a-night Terrible’s Sands Regency (Terribles is actually a chain based out of Vegas – not merely capitalised adjective as you might think – but has the added benefit of running petrol stations around Nevada so you can cash your “Terribles Bucks” for gas on the way out of town. Awesome.) I was rooming with Longy, who was down to his last 10 bucks (in fact he had to borrow $5 off me to pay for his $10.99 all-you-can-eat at The Eldorado Casino) and couldn’t eat again till late the next evening when he got aboard the V Australia flight home. In fact, now that I think about it, Longy never paid me back for that 5 bucks!

It was Tim’s birthday, and the last night in the States for 3 of us as Ben was flying out to London on the Wednesday too, so the three of us not-totally-skint-guys (ie, not Longy) hit the town. It was an adventure, to say the least, but a lot of fun. Sort of like a trashy Vegas. But not bad for a Tuesday night. However, now I know why The Man in Black sang ” But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: he was putting the guy out of his misery!

I had a reasonably late arvo flight, and despite the gods of time and scheduled lunchbreaks working against me, I managed to store the car away, check in and get my bags checked through all the way to Sydney (even if I had to secretly stuff some gear back into my board bag behind the pillar before I dropped it off at the Oversize Baggage section). I was confused when I saw the destination for my Horizon flight flash up as Mammoth – apparently, weather depending, that flight makes a short stop on the way to LAX in Mammoth Lakes. The flying scaredy cat, Longy, would have hated the swirling and turbulent landing, but it was worth it for the amazing snow stormy views out the door. Longy had taken an earlier flight to LAX, but would join me on the V Australia flight to Oz (one of the only times I have shared a flight with a mate in a long, long time. It was a welcome change…and I got my revenge for the missing $5 by freaking him out pointing out every mysterious plane noise, bang and bump on the 14 hour flight home!) As I took off from Mammoth, I turned around to see Falls/Hotham rider Lauren Smith a few rows back – while I had spent the day ferrying crew to the airport, running round Reno and waiting for my flight, she had been cuting laps in knee-deep Mammoth pow before she threw everything in a bag and made the 5.30 flight to LA and onto Oz. I wish my last day was so simple.

Planes, trains and automobiles (almost)

I hate flying! I used to get so much more excited about the prospect of going to the airport, getting on a plane and landing somewhere different and thrilling. But over the last few years it seems to be so much more of a drag: worrying about getting to check-in on time, not being stung for excess baggage, going through the x-ray and having to take all my camera gear and laptop out, cramped seats, and then dealing with foreign immigration at the other end.

Today was a trifecta of flights: Reno to Seattle, then back down to Portland, before landing in Vancouver. What a weird routing, but hey, it worked and it was cheap and pretty easy…even if Horizon Airlines have the smallest planes known to man! Reno airport and its endless slot machines is always great for a laugh, and it was funny to see how Squaw Valley USA is trying to cling to the Olympics it held 50 YEARS AGO! Get over it, Squallywood. It was bright and sunny in reno-Tahoe (of course) and of course, it was raining and miserable in both Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. Luckily I took my 3CS puffer jacket with me to ward of the drizzle out on the tarmac.

 And it can be interesting who you end up chatting to on the plane. Today I had a woman from Anchorage, Alaska who gets her hair done at the same salon as Sarah Palin (and didn’t vote for her, thankfully) and whose husband once had to shoot a big black bear charging him out in the woods. Yogi now sits above their fireplace with a stunned grin on his face…kinda makes me think of the South Park episode: “That baby deer is attacking me! Quick, shoot it!” On the next flight my neighbour was an ex-colllege footballer who now sold fertilizer – he surprisingly had a lot of interesting things to say.

The strangest neighbour I’ve experienced was on a flight I took into Chicago from Europe. I was on United, but the older gent next to me didn’t quite look like the typical African-American that I assumed at first glance – he was a little more refined, a little darker, and the combination of haircut and clothes hinted at something else. He was full of beans and got chatting to me: he was actually from Eritrea and had been an officer in the army during the long and bloody war against Ethiopia. But at one point he’d had enough, so he used his knowledge of the sentry patrols to slip out through the garrison lines and spent 7 days crossing the Sahara desert on foot to Libya! He stayed there as a refugee, ended up working in the US embassy and was eventually given a Green Card after several years of service. He had been back visiting family. I never would have guessed he had such an interesting story to tell…but I guess it shows you should open yourself up to all sorts of new experiences and people.

I have found that one thing to help make air travel more fun is to try and find a little slice of art in amongst all the waiting lounges, terminals, planes, and out the window with the camera. Funnily enough, I’m not the only one who thinks this way, as Portland Airport had a display of air travel-inspired photography which was quite cool to check out.

And so finally, I am here in Vancouver, already a couple cocktails down, getting into the Olympic spirit. I’ve only been here 6 hours so far, but my first impression is that there is a general sense of Vancouver pride, optimism, friendliness and being eager to please. It’s a nice change from the dour moods and sour faces of when I was here 12 months ago. And Granville St has had a slight makeover…but it’s still full of enough homeless bums and drug-addled angry-looking freaks to stake its claim for the sketchiest main street of any city in the western world. Well, I’d better get back to the $6.50 double Long Island Iced Teas and continue the Olympic spirit…at the very least they will make Granville Street look a lot more attractive later tonight.

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…