favorite photos of 2018

hey friends!

following up on the last post with my memorable moments of last year, here’s some of my favorite photos. you can see the entire gallery with 190 pictures over on my Flickr page.

I almost didn’t get this shot… partially due to the moon rising out of view… and partially due to me not loading the camera correctly. getting the role back from the lab and finding it was a pretty awesome feeling. more about it here.

Capitol Records and Moon

my Mom and I had such a great time in Joshua Tree. getting to explore this new, strange place together was such a gift. I love the colors she’s wearing and how the blue sky contrasts with her yellow jeans. it’s pretty amazing that I took a photo this pretty on a phone… there is another one of her in the same place taken on film. interesting to see how they compare.

blue & yellow

for some reason, a few of the photos on this roll look like they were force processed–that is, that a chemical treatment was applied to it to push the look. but this wasn’t done. did something get in the roll and damage it? I don’t know, but I love how grainy and contrast these shots of Lake Crowley and the White Mountains ended up.

55 mph

I took this photo of Sofya the first time I met her parents. it was such a delightful afternoon, and even though it was a new place, I felt right at home. I like her smile and how I caught her unaware.

Sofya

seeing my cousin Steve get married was pretty awesome. I don’t like to use my “big camera” at weddings, and instead try and be in the moment. but I had this disposable camera that needed frames used… and I don’t have to think about that, just hold it up and snap the pic. I really like the aesthetic of these cameras. the combination of cheap plastic lenses and high ASA film gives such nice texture and grain.

wedding party

I took this photo of Christian before my TEDx talk. it was so great getting to stay with him that week. we hadn’t gotten to hang out that much in a number of years. it’s wonderful to be able to pick-back-up with an old friend. so like many of these photos, there’s a sentimental aspect to why I like it… but it’s also a good photo. 1st the silhouette, 2nd the framing, and how he’s slightly off center of the diagonal lines, 3rd, the window frames divide the image into 3rds, 4th, the flare, 5th the negative space of the sky is mirrored by the lightness of the floor.

Christian at the De young

this was a great morning walk in Ueland with my folks. I like that Sofya and I can be silly together. I also like how the sun behind us is giving us a nice rim-light.

rowr!

it’s been really cool to follow along with Dave’s various car projects. this one in particular, the “Baja-Brat,” is both an engineering marvel and incredibly creative–which is just what I’d expect from someone like Dave! (you can see more of the car, and his many other projects on his Instagram – @savage_fab). I really like taking portraits of my friends. I think this one really captures a hardworking man who’s proud of his work.

Dave & the Baja Brat

I had the opportunity to take maternity photos of my friend Tiffany this last year. we hiked up to a nice overlook in Griffith Park and caught the last of the evening light. I got to use my Helios portrait lens for this… I’m still figuring it out, but I think this one best shows what makes the lens special. for this one, I had her look back at her husband, Greg. the smile they gave each other made for the perfect, moment. it’s a posed photo, to be sure, but the emotion in it is 100% genuine. she looks amazing, her hair is beautiful, she’s backlit, and the bokeh is soft, creamy, and a little bit swirly.

Tiffany

there’s something wonderful about dinosaurs. no one knows exactly what they looked like, or how they lived. but we do know that they fascinate kids (and adults). the mystery of these giant creatures is ageless. I really like how this photo captures a bit of that wonder. I like how the kid is framed between the two “snarling” skeletons, lost in the wonder of the moment. and how he was nice enough to stand in a sunbeam for me.

dinosaurs

as I wrote this, I realized how many of these photos were my favorites, not just because of their aesthetic beauty, but because of the story behind them. and that’s what it’s about right? we take photos to remember the moments of our lives–they are little slivers of reality that we save and when we look at them, we get to relive that moment. at least a little.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them and learning a bit more about why they are special. check out the full batch and let me know which ones you’d have included!

-Luke

2018 Year in Review

hey friends!

sorry this is a little later than normal. I really have to start writing these “Year in Review” blogs earlier… like before the year ends haha. by the time I come up with the list, sort the photos, and write them up… the next year is well underway. I mean, it’s April now! anyhoo. this is continuing my tradition of recapping the last year (previous years can be found here: 2017, 16, 15, 14, 13). this is a collection of some the moments that were the most memorable to me.


My TEDx Talk – “The Intention of Attention”
as probably everyone reading this blog knows, “Found in Kitsap” has been a big part of my life for the last few years. for those of you that regular readers, FIK is my long running ‘found photo’ project. the cliff notes version is that I find cameras that people have donated to thrift stores with undeveloped film inside and all the cameras are from the county where I grew up—Kitsap County, Washington.

I’ve done a fair amount of writing about the process of the project, but not too much about the theory behind it. It seemed like that part of the story, and the greater artistic & cultural goals of the project would be best served with a more dynamic presentation along the lines of a TED talk. giving a TED talk sounded like an exciting and worthwhile goal, but I didn’t do anything to make a FIK TED talk a reality. until one evening I discussing the project with friends and told them the theory behind the project. one of my friends wondered why I hadn’t written this in a blog or in the foreword of the book and I replied, partially joking (and mostly to impress a girl) that I was “saving it for my TED talk.” 

the next day I realized that if I never did anything to make it happen, it would never happen. so I went to work, researching, writing, and planning my talk. flash forward to a year later and I was on stage in San Francisco, giving that TED talk. 

my TEDx talk

it had been a long time since I’d done any sort of public performance. not counting film festival and conference stuff, I guess speech classes in college would be the last time I’d publicly performed? but as a kid I loved playing piano in front of people… so I wasn’t scared, but I was definitely nervous. performance isn’t like writing, or editing a film, you don’t get 2nd takes. it needed to be good… no, it needed to be outstanding, and it had to on the first time. so I practiced my ass off. again and again and again. (thanks Rick, John, Sofya, Fawaz, Julia, Christian, and Kaitlyn for helping me practice!)

when the day came, and I was pretty nervous up until I stepped on stage. then, as I started to talk I realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. in fact, I was having fun. I just “clicked in.” then I was able to take my time, and give the talk with the pacing and emotion that I wanted. it helped that I could look out into the audience and see several of my best friends there. having Angel, Christian, Fawaz, and Kevin all there in the audience was HUGE. 

giving a TEDx talk it was a fantastic experience and I felt that it really pushed me as a storyteller. I tremendously proud of “The Intention of Attention” and I think it gets to the heart of why I’d spend so much time and resources on “other people’s” memories.

and for your watching pleasure, here it is.

Kuwait War Clippings with Fawaz
earlier in the year when I was back in Bremerton, my Mom gave me a collection of newspaper clippings that I’d saved from our local paper as a kid. the city I grew up in, Bremerton, WA is a big Navy town, so the Persian Gulf War was covered extensively. I don’t know what exactly fascinated me so much about the conflict, but I decided to save a bunch of articles about it.

flash forward twenty some years, to my trip to the Cannes film festival where I met a filmmaker named Fawaz. we didn’t chat much in France, but later, back in Los Angeles, we bonded over our love of international soccer, storytelling, and philosophical discussions. as I got to know Fawaz, I learned the story of his family, and how they had to leave their home, Kuwait, during the war. I didn’t connect the story of his childhood, to my own experiences until this year when my Mom gave me the clippings. 

when I was in SF for my talk, I brought the clippings and we looked through them together. remarkably, there was a map of Kuwait City where Fawaz was able to point out the neighborhood his family had lived in. the entire experience really blew my mind. meeting someone whose life was forever changed by an event that I followed closely in the news was such a surreal experience. the childhood Fawaz and childhood Luke surely had no idea that years later they would be friends with someone from the other side of the world. but there we were, breaking bread together in San Francisco.

I wonder who I’ll meet twenty years from now?

Fawaz reminisces
Kuwait City mapping


Hot Wheels City
my main gig for 2018 was the stop-motion action-comedy, “Hot Wheels City.” I like to describe this project as “Fast & The Furious” meets a “1950s Monster Movie”—it was full of fast cars, cheesy one-liners, and giant monsters. this was the first stop motion animation project I’d worked on and it was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about how stop-motion is made, met a bunch of new friends, and got to push myself creatively. 

in addition to editing, I also helped write the episodes—several of which I had to entirely rewrite incorporating studio notes on very short notice. and by short notice I mean, like in an hour. no time to beat around the bush or stare out the window, I had to lock in and get it done. honestly, it was thrilling. also, I did a bunch of the voices… including most of the monsters, which I really enjoyed. 

you can read more about the process, and see a bunch of behind-the-scenes material on the blog I wrote about the production right here. and here’s the first episode of Season 2—the Giant Scorpion might be my best monster voice performance.

Joshua Tree with Mom
a while back my birthday gift to my Mom was an “artist retreat to somewhere warm.” the only catch was that I needed a full time job before we could book the trip. so when I landed the second season of HWC, I knew that I’d be able to set aside the funds for such an adventure. after a bit of searching, Mom and I decided to go to Joshua Tree in November. it was a pretty convenient location, as she could fly into Palm Springs, and it was only a two hour drive for me to pick her up. from the airport it was only another 40 minutes or so to get to our Airbnb house in Joshua tree. 

the house we stayed in was super cute and modern and near the “West Gate” of Joshua Tree National Park. every day we’d drive about fifteen minutes to the park and go explore a new section. before this trip I had no idea how big the park is—you could spend the entire day just motoring around inside of it. and wow, it is incredibly beautiful there. from the giant boulders to desert vistas to the namesake “Joshua Trees,” it is simply stunning. I was a little bummed that in all my time in Los Angeles, this was my first trip there… but I was also happy to experience if for the first time with my Mom.

before and after our excursions to the park we’d make food and work on our various art projects. my Mom was doing some drawings, while I was revising a new pilot script. later we’d sit in the hot tub and chat as the night sky turned above us. through the clear autumn air we saw shooting stars and the soft haze of the Milky Way. It was a really special time.

Gwen
cacti on blue

Teal Graduating
for the last 6 or so years, my sister lived in Ann Arbor where she attended U-Mich and worked on her PhD. it was a long struggle, filled with bureaucratic hurdles, research problems, and shifting goal posts from the gate keepers… which weirdly enough, is very similar to filmmaking. who knew academia and entertainment would share similar frustrations? but Teal didn’t give up. she kept going, kept striving forward, and this year she completed her research and graduated!
 
to say I’m proud would be an understatement. I’m like, the extra super-duper big-brother version of proud. which is like, proud to the Nth. we all face struggles in our lives and problems that threaten to waylay us… and it’s not about avoiding those, but rather how we deal with them when they happen. because they will. Teal showed she has the tenacity and the strength of character to handle those challenges, whatever they are.

after she finished, she came to Los Angeles for a much deserved vacation. we visited Harry Potter World with the Blackwells, did a couple of “stair hikes” (which were on last year’s list), and ate delicious food with Tony, Sofya, and Kate—it was a really great visit, complete with a BBQ to celebrate her achievement and her birthday!

Harry Potter world
what sort of monster does this?
she did this to my butter!!!!

Walks in Ueland
sometime last year my Dad discovered a nearby local park full of hiking trails and logging roads. technically, it’s not a “park” but a private “tree farm” where they grow lumber, but it’s open for public use. each time I visited home during the year I was able to take a trip out there and go for a walk. it’s such a peaceful and beautiful place with ponds, creeks, and a waterfall. people come there to walk their dogs, ride mountain bikes, bird watch, ride horses, and hike through the forest.

one of my favorite things to do when I’m home is go for walks with my family. most often we’d go for a walk around the neighborhood, sometimes we’d drive to Silverdale and do the Clear Creek Trail. now, with Ueland we’ve got a new, and more wild place to explore. it’s funny because even though we aren’t really that far “away from it all,” it sure feels like we are. there’s something wonderful about being alone in the woods and this park makes it very easy to get there.

the first time I was there, I was struck by what a great filming location it could be. I wasn’t sure what, if anything I’d be able to shoot there, but I filled the idea away for future use. in the fall I had the opportunity to submit an idea for a grant… and you can guess where I set my story. hopefully I’ll be shooting a short film in the woods of Ueland sometime in 2019… stay tuned for more.

Ueland trail
Ueland road

Found in America
as I was starting the found photo project that would become “Found in Kitsap” I made the conscious choice to limit the search area to Kitsap County. I did this for a couple of reasons, first, I was unsure of the logistics of searching multiple areas. and second, I hoped that by keeping the project hyper-focused I could inspire an audience to seek out the mysteries in their own areas.

but the idea of larger project always intrigued me. if I could find 150 cameras in one small county in Washington State, what more was out there? I was scared that every day, more old cameras were being thrown out and the film inside them, and the memories captured on that film would be lost forever. but the scope of the project overwhelmed me. I couldn’t afford to take months off from work and travel around the USA to search thrift stores for cameras. beyond the financial aspect, I wasn’t sure I could take months away from filmmaking to pursue this large of project either.

I put the idea aside. maybe someday I’d find an organization to give me a grant to pursue it. I applied for a few, and reached out to some friends but had no movement. the project was dead before it even began… that is, until one day when I was on the internet. heh. specifically, I was searching for a backup Canon AE-1 camera body for my still photography. while looking for used vintage 35mm gear, I randomly stumbled upon www.shopgoodwill.com.


I was surprised to learn that Goodwill had their own “Ebay” like auction site, and I was even more surprised by the volume of cameras (and basically everything else) that was also on the site. as I poked, I came across a Super 8 camera that appeared to have a roll of film inside. naturally, I bought it.

then I wondered, “was this a fluke, or were there more cameras with film?” I started searching and I kept finding cameras on the site with film still inside them. 35mm, 120, 126, 16mm, Regular 8, Super 8… I was finding all sorts of formats from all over the USA. in just a few months of searching I collected over 50 cameras from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia,  Washington, and West Virginia.
suddenly the project was alive and kicking. I’m not sure exactly where the project will take me, of what form it will take, but like with “Found in Kitsap,” I’m guessing the process will be part of the adventure. you can see more photos on the project’s instagram.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man has always been my favorite comic book character. Peter Parker is dorky, a smart ass, and lives by a code. so I was excited for new movie that shows a version(s) of Spidey that’d I heard about… but never seen on screen. see in the greater Marvel universal “Spider-Man” isn’t always “Peter Parker.” there are multiple over people who dawn the mask and sling the webs, notably one Miles Morales.

I couldn’t have been happier with this film. it was incredibly smart and funny. it played with the various iterations of Spider-Man that have appeared in comics and brought them together in an interesting and exciting way. it had a diverse set of characters that were just characters… they weren’t defined by their “otherness” they were just real people…or pigs… with real problems. every part of the movie was on point: the music was awesome, the animation was incredible, and the pacing was top notch.
 
I laughed more in this film than any I can remember. it had all sorts of Easter Eggs and fun references for the fans, while also being a film that anyone could enjoy. I’m a big fan of films that work for kids and adults… I think it’s important to have shared cinematic experiences and INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE proved that you can make a smart, funny, heartfelt, action-packed film that all ages can enjoy.

I know I’m gushing here, but the film earned it! if you haven’t had a chance to see this, please remedy that ASAP.


Fixing the Car Remote
I hate throwing things away so much that one of my friends said my nickname should be, “It still works!” this is especially true when I’ve paid good money for something. if you’ve ever gotten a backup car key and remote, you know these aren’t cheap. so when my backup FOB died I set out to see if I could fix it. the first thing I tried was replacing the battery. that didn’t work, so I took the thing apart. it became apparent what was wrong when a button fell off the circuit board. not knowing the first thing about electronics repair… so I did what anyone in 2018 would do, I searched YouTube.

it never ceases to amaze me what a great tool YouTube can be. it’s not just cat & conspiracy videos… there’s a wealth of information on there, from readings of classic poems to history to how-to fix it videos. it didn’t take long to find a few videos where people were repairing key fobs similar to mine. the only issue I had was finding a place to purchase the broken button AKA “microswitch” that I needed. it was hard to figure out what the actual part was called. I found one that seemed to be right based off a forum post and ordered it… from England.

it took a few weeks to arrive and sadly, it wasn’t the correct piece. after more searching, I decided to order an assortment of switches. it seemed like overkill to get 200 microswitches in various sizes when I only needed the one, but I didn’t want to keep piecemealing orders and getting the wrong thing. especially since I paid more for SHIPPING the wrong piece from England than the entire collection of pieces from the USA cost. 

luckily, the kit had the right piece! it took me a bit of trial and error to get it soldered on correctly but eventually I had it secured. afterwards, I realized  that I needed a thinner wire. the smallest “drop” of solder I could get from the wire included in my kit was much bigger than I needed to attach the microswitch. anyhoo, after I had the switch attached I rushed down to carport to test it… and it worked! YES! I was pretty stoked. not only had I saved myself the money of re-buying an expensive item and I’d learned a new skill in the process.

also, I still have like 198 switches… so if anyone needs anything soldered… I’m available.

FOB fix

Otters with Sofya
in October my cousin Steve got married in Sonoma County, California. not to gloss over the importance of his wedding… but for me, a big part of the occasion was getting to introduce my girlfriend, Sofya to my family. pretty much the entirety of my “Dad’s side” was going to be there… no pressure at all. haha. I kid I kid, it went really well, and why wouldn’t it? my family is pretty awesome, and so is Sofya.

since I was between gigs, Sofya and I decided to make a road-trip out of it and explore our way down the state. the first stop was San Francisco. we stayed with Christian and Kaitlyn, wandered Golden Gate Park, went to Coit Tower, had lunch with Fawaz, and ate some tasty foods. next, we drove down the coast to Morro Bay. this drive was crazy beautiful… but pretty hard. it felt like I was going 30 mph on winding cliffside roads for like, five hours. by the time we got to our AirBnB I was exhausted… and a little punchy. but we needed dinner. there were a couple of places that looked good; there was a sushi spot nearby and a seafood restaurant about five miles away. 

the last thing I wanted to do was drive more, I was so exhausted. after a little discussion we both were of the same mind–we could get sushi anywhere in LA, but we couldn’t go to a dockside seafood restaurant.(okay, technically we could… but the point was that the seafood place was the more unique thing to do in this place that wasn’t our home. I’m so glad we made that decision.

we got to “downtown” Morro Boy just as the sun was setting. the sky over the Pacific lit up with the most brilliant reds, oranges, and pinks—throwing those colors across the calm waters of the bay. as we walked out onto the pier a small Coast Guard vessel pulled up and the sailors started to ready the ship for the night. a sailboat slowly motored in. nearby, a couple of seals splashed about. 

then, we saw them. OTTERS. the cutest of all ocean mammals. they were out there, floating on their backs doing cute otter stuff. I looked at Sofya and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so happy. the look on her face was priceless and if that had been the only memorable moment of the trip—it would have been worth it. it was the cherry on top of a truly wonderful adventure with an amazing woman.

Morro Bay sunset film
happiest girl ever

—so there you have it, 10 of the things that made 2018 memorable. so much to be grateful for! I’m looking forward to more adventures with friends, travel with Sofya, time with my family, and creative challenges in 2019. what about you, what were some of the highlights of your 2018s? what are you looking forward to in 2019? let me know… and as always, if there’s anything I can do to help—I’m here for you.

next week I’ll post a few of my favorite photos of 2018. stay tunes!

-Luke

Hot Wheels City – Pics!

hello friends!

as promised, here is the photo heavy update to the Behind the Wheels post.

since this is a show about Hot Wheels cars, we needed cars. we got… lots.
IMG_7468

the sets where all built on top of “animation” tables like these. each one was modular and could be moved around as needed.
raw stages

there’s few things as iconic as the “Hot Wheels Orange Track”. the track we used in the show was painted metal that could be bent and reshaped as needed for each shot. often there would be multiple pieces in the background giving the impression of a larger city.
orange track

and here’s a set with track on animation tables!
the garage

since we were shooting with real Hot Wheels cars, the scale of everything was 1/64… so our characters were very, very small. each pose was sculpted digitally, 3D printed, then hand-painted. here’s some unpainted characters.
unpainted poses

here’s a collection of painted poses for the character “Draven.” when you watch the show and a character moves their arms, or legs, or whatever—those are all DIFFERENT pieces that the animator changed out. stop-motion is very labor intensive.
Draven poses

here’s Matt animating Draven and the Giant Shark (which I voiced).
Matt animates a shark

all the shots for the project where kept track of on the “Big Board”. each of those pieces of paper represents a different shot.
Big Board

speaking of shooting, almost the entire project was shot on iPhones! the low profile of the camera allowed our cinematographer, Eric, to get the camera right on the “pavement”. this, combined with nice lenses that allowed for a shallow depth-of-field helped give the project a “full size” look.
Shot on an iPhone!

here’s a couple of examples of the setup with camera, then what the lens was seeing.
the park

lens view of park

clock tower setup

lens view of clock tower

and here’s a fun picture of my friend Misha animating.
Misha animates

let me know if you have any questions on how we made “Hot Wheels City”… I’m not an expert in stop-motion by any means, but I know a few people who are =)

there’s a bunch more pictures from the production on my Flickr page. check out the album here.

-Luke