Lyrical Journal, photos, Visual Journal, words

Soft Sand

Back in March, Michael and I left the county in a fever for the wildflowers. The El Nino storms created the perfect conditions for what is known throughout Southern California as the very rare Superbloom.

We packed the camper shell, and set out for Anza Borrega State Park in his brother’s pickup truck. All along the side of the highways, lilies, poppies and desert gold flowers decorated the mountainsides. The colors popped against the sand, painting a colorful portrait that reached out to the horizon. About an hour and a half into our arrival, Michael was calling 911 from the middle of the hot dusty road.

After driving down Pinyon Mountain Road for 3 or 4 miles, the dirt road became harder for the truck’s 2×4 traction as the sand got softer. Lacking any experience on this type of terrain, we jollied along down the road bumping some Anderson. Paak. We were in awe of the land. The Spring sun carried a sweet breeze, lifting the scents of the lavender all across the valley. Bouquets of cacti and wildflowers illuminated the dry plains.

The beauty turned flat, and the lush valley was now in the rear view. The road shifted to a smooth bed off the beaten path. When we pulled off the path to turn around, we landed into a bed of deceptive soft sand.

The song ended abruptly. We were definitely stuck and every minute became a precious note in time. The sun was still in high noon and I knew it would take us at least an hour to get back to the road. We grabbed paper towels, the Infinite Jest, and all the water we had, and said goodbye to the truck in the hole.

While walking on the road I thought about a lot of things, Neil Cassady driving on a dirt road in the 1960s, how much food we had, and what the day could’ve been had we turned around sooner. I was worried, but I wasn’t frantic. Deep down inside I knew we would be laughing about this later – I just didn’t know if we’d be laughing -$400 later.

Walking down the barely visible road.

Taking pictures to remember where we’ve been.

We left breadcrumbs for our trail with pictures on my DSLR, and took portraits of each other amongst the nerves. 40 minutes into the hike, we headed towards the lush valley between the two mountains and received a signal. Hesitating, Michael dialed 911. When the operator answered, we asked to be transferred to the Park Rangers. After ten minutes of transfers across a variety of departments, the best the CHP could do is send out a tow for us. We told them we’d try to get our own tow services, and they gave us their direct line if/when that wouldn’t work out in our favor.

Michael on the phone with 911 operator.

Smiling through the panic.

Feeling helpless, we continued our march towards the main road for better service. The sun was high and the horizon began quivering with heat. Out of the dust, a white Toyota truck appeared on the road. We pleaded to the couple for help, and they offered to try to tow us out. We hopped in the bed of the truck and headed back down the road that we had just trudged for nearly an hour to get out. The ride felt much less bumpy this time, with his truck carving the dirt road with four-wheel drive.

The strangers turned into our angels, who devoted their time and patience into helping us out of the soft sand. With their help and guidance, I began carving the tires out and scuffing my white chucks and digging my manicure into the sand. We harvested rocks and shoved them underneath the tire for traction.

We attached the front of the truck to the back of his truck with ratchet straps and prayed for a miracle. The first time it didn’t work, sinking us further in the sand. We were now determined to get out of this hole. We dug out more sand, shoved more rocks, and this time, took some air out of the back tires. Me and the wife climbed into the bed of the white truck, and closed our eyes as the boys cranked the gas.

Pop! The rubber popped off the tires and we went sailing through the soft sand for about a couple of feet before the straps snapped. We were elated. Knowing our salvation was close, we carved out the tires, cleared a path and continued to try again.

After the third attempt got us too close to turn back, a Toyota Runner decked out in camouflage drives by us on the dirt road. When Michael asked for his assistance with some fresh towing rope, the sunburned bald man looks over at me, and looks back at Michael with a face of contempt. He comes out the car, and hands us a thick and long yellow rope.

“Y’all don’t look like you get stuck much,” he said.

We attached the new rope, and try one last time with the white Toyota truck. Our truck lands in even softer sand, and we determine the only way we can go to get successfully out is back, using the tracks we already built. The gentleman in the camo Toyota Runner strapped the back of our truck to his, and with the car flying in reverse, we landed ourselves back on the main dirt road in Pinyon Mountain. From there we left for Hawk Canyon, and made ourselves at home in the desert.

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The fields of wildflowers stretched all the way to the horizon and more. Purple hillsides and yellow valleys. It was a magical introduction to the spring, and Anza-Borrega. We made ourselves at home in the backcountry of Hawk Canyon. We pitched our chairs and decompressed the day over cans of tuna, and an audience of wildflowers.

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Hawk Canyon Road.

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“Now let me take yours!”

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Here are some things we learned about getting stuck in soft sand & backcountry camping in general:

  • If you get stuck, determine the grade of the land and see if there’s an incline
  • Keep the tires straight
  • Move in the only direction your car has traction
  • Let some air out of the tires to gain better grip
  • Rocks and wood create surface tension
  • Keep cool and remain levelheaded: every decision matters
  • Use 4-wheel drive so you never get stuck in soft sand
  • Always drive with rope
  • Do lots of research about the state park and the appropriate roads to travel
  • If you have to hike in the desert, bring more water instead of the Infinite Jest

– Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Sweet & Dandy

My desk is cluttered with rolls of undeveloped film, chapters of my life framed in 35mm format. Here are some special exposures from Coachella to FYF to Santa Barbara taken on my Canon point-and-shoot with Lomo 200 slide film. Cross-processing is a natural way to obtain saturated and high contrast photos without any editing.

Little Dragon.

“Resist” floats above the Coachella ferris wheel.

Chicano Batman was my favorite Coachella set.

Tent city at the campground.

– Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Post-New York Blues

September—I’m on the L train into the city and I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been reading a lot of James Baldwin, New York’s black literary hero. I’ve been living in Brooklyn for these past weeks, staying in a townhouse in Carroll’s Garden and then in a warehouse loft in Williamsburg. I love it all: the trash-lined sidewalks, the thick air, the cicadas buzzing in the trees. New York has always been somewhere on the vaguely familiar side of my soul’s navigation—I think I lived here in my past life. In a hippie life, I soaked in the fountain at Washington Square Park and spent my days crawling up and downtown across the islands. I sing aloud as I walk here. I walk with conviction and shove past people like I always know where I’m going—even if I don’t. I didn’t think the end of summer would cling on to the sticky summer heat. And as the muggy nights dull into muggier days, it dawns on me I don’t know New York at all. Yet, here I am melting on the subway platform, waiting for another F train to take me back down to Brooklyn.

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—Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Psychadelic Furs @ Santa Monica Pier

 

To further my experience in the field of public media, I joined KCRW’s summer marketing internship at the beginning of May. If you aren’t from Southern California, KCRW is Santa Monica NPR, broadcast around the Greater Los Angeles area as 89.9fm. Along with clerical work and selling merch and memberships at events all over the city, I write blog posts as well as take photos for the nonprofit organization.

Here is a gallery of photos I took for KCRW while covering the Psychadelic Furs/Day Wave Twilight Series concert on July 21. With the stunning scenery of the stage set up and the vibrancy of their performances, it wasn’t hard to capture the marvel of both acts.

KCRW Presents Psychadelic Furs, Day Wave 7/21/2016

—Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Walkabout

Taking a photograph sometimes feels like peering out the window.

One of the particular things I miss about living in Boston is walking everywhere and being present in the moment. Sometimes driving can feel too much like a spaceship, transporting me from time and space in a matter of light-seconds. I’m either too busy changing freeways or missing my turn to capture the streets firsthand, and the light always changes by the time I have my camera ready to fire. Therefore, whenever I have a moment to step out of the driver’s seat, I go on photo walks and relieve some creative tension.

These particular exposures were taken during my April visit to Boston, where I annoyed some geese and aimlessly strolled from Allston to Harvard with my analogue Canon point-and-shoot.

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The only thing that makes me feel less hallow is smoke in my lungs, Bathroom @ Refuge

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Golden Flower, painted by me and friends outside of Jack and Brandon’s old apartment sophomore year

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From the Harvard Yard

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Black Lives Matter, St. Paul Church, Mt Auburn St

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View from the Cambridge esplanade

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Three Geese by the Charles, Memorial Dr esplanade

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Shadows on the Pedestrian Bridge, a self-timer selfie boof

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Tree silhouettes back on the Storrow Dr. esplanade

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Golden Hour silhouette

Some tunes for your next walkabout.

– Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Yawkey Way, Opening Day

[4/13/15] Every Monday, from 12-3p, I’d pray that my Photojournalism professor wouldn’t call for a Spot News assignment. I’d walk down into the basement of the Communication building, and clench my fingers in a please. The dreaded Spot News assignment had been looming over my head for the past semester, where most days were too frigid to hold my exposed finger on the shutter release.

Our 3-hour seminar was more like PJ bootcamp; it was both physically and mentally demanding, and disciplined us into the standard grade of the industry. The course is taught by a strict photojournalism professional, who, with heavy words, taught me how to sharpen my eye and the craft. The Spot News was his special project and my worst fear. The directions were to capture a front-page newsworthy image, write a detailed caption, and edit it, all under an hour. So when I walked into class on the second to last day of the semester, I had to wait in anticipation until the last hour when he told us to get out there and find the story. Our destination was opening day at Fenway, just a couple blocks down the street from campus.

I walked around Fenway park for thirty minutes, snapping everything around me in a rushed panic. These are the results:

that moment when I missed Tom Brady walking into the clubhouse....

that moment when I missed Tom Brady walking into the clubhouse….

I almost turned this picture in, but I failed to grab the subject's name.

I almost turned this picture in, but I failed to grab the subject’s name.

Landsdowne St.

Landsdowne St.

Couple indulging a pre-game hot dog. This picture almost won my assignment but it lacked an opening day detail.

Couple indulging a pre-game hot dog. This picture almost won my assignment but it lacked an opening day detail.

Programs for sale! This would've been a good picture for a profile, but it lacked any news relevancy.

Programs for sale! This would’ve been a good picture for a profile, but it lacked any news relevancy.

Masked keyboardist banging the tunes in Fenway Park. It was impossible to ask him any questions or grab his info and also you could see my reflection in the mirror. So I didn't turn this one in either.

Masked keyboardist banging the tunes in Fenway Park. It was impossible to ask him any questions or grab his info and also you could see my reflection in the mirror. So I didn’t turn this one in either.

This busker allowed me to take his picture in exchange for me to run and grab him a bottle of water. He gave me $2 and I walked into the McDonald's down the street, where I found the picture I liked the most.

This busker allowed me to take his picture in exchange for me to run and grab him a bottle of water. He gave me $2 and I walked into the McDonald’s down the street, where I found the picture I liked the most. I decided not to turn this photo in, because of my ethical responsibility.

Huzzah! I walk into McDonald's to buy the busker a bottle of water, and these smiling folks are celebrating Opening Day. McDonald's doesn't dress up like this for every Red Sox game, and the employees are jovial and even the manager pokes his head to join in the excitement of Opening Day. This is what felt like the most detailed, when even in the work place everyone's spirits are lifted.

Huzzah! I walk into McDonald’s to buy the busker a bottle of water, and these smiling folks are celebrating Opening Day. McDonald’s doesn’t dress up like this for every Red Sox game, and the employees are jovial and even the manager pokes his head to join in the excitement of Opening Day. This is what felt like the most detailed, when even in the work place everyone’s spirits are lifted.

I turned in the last photo, and got my ass kicked with a bad grade. It was a learning experience that only months after I could look back on and cherish with a fondness.

– TB

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