Starbucks: Willow & Cherry: Signal Hill

The morning started out brisk, yet sunny. We met at the Starbucks in Signal Hill, a small city completely surrounded by Long Beach, known for its hill which was used by local indians to signal other tribes far away. It’s also known for its oil fields which dot the landscape and could potentially make for some interesting photos. On the way there, Eric, being hopeful, said he thought our word today would be “oil”. I accused him of peeking at the word a little too early!

We arrived and ordered up a couple coffees and took the Wall Street Journal, being the top paper in the rack. We opened to page 7 and noticed that the second word on the page was the last name of someone we had never heard of. This is the first time where we actually had to make a new rule on the fly. We quickly decided that our word couldn’t be someone’s name and we treated this situation like we do when an ad appears on the 7th page – we move to the next section of the paper, look at its 7th page, and grab our inspiration word from there.

Today it was: states.

State is the particular condition that something is in. It’s a territory or the act of expressing something clearly in writing or speech. But our word is plural: states. Immediately our instincts turned us toward the conditions of something. We tasked ourselves with finding something that we could show its multiple states of age. People age. Metal deteriorates. Paint peels. These were all things that immediately came to mind from past experiences with what we’ve found. But this time, we knew that we had to capture multiple states of the same thing and not just one state.

states: behind the scenesWe were off to the oil fields to see what we could capture. There were lots of things to shoot in an old used state, but practically nothing was in a new state in the old oil fields – some of them even abandoned.

One of the used, discarded items we found was an old tire tossed into some bushes. The tread completely worn with the only texture left being the frayed steel belts coming out of its edges. It was pretty interesting and we felt that we could easily find another tire that was in a lot better condition to represent its early state of life.

We talked about this concept more and more as we walked but weren’t totally sold on just showing another tire – it almost seemed too easy and not deep enough. So we kept looking and shooting and hoping that we find something else that could represent multiple states.

More than halfway through our 72 minutes, we came across another oil field that still had some muddy ground from a recent rain. It was interesting how its top layer was cracking and peeling similar to some paint we found earlier on an abandoned building. Perhaps we could show 2 totally different things going through the same state in their life. It definitely was an option so we captured this as well.

As we finished shooting the drying mud, we turned and saw the shot and we both knew we hit the concept on its head. There, in front of us, were the deep treaded tire tracks leading across the oil field – we knew instantly this was a much better way to show a tire’s youthful, useful state to contrast against its lifeless, worn state we captured earlier. We shot the tracks and decided to keep moving along to see if we could capture something even better, since on the last shoot we found something else to shoot in the final minutes we had left.

We walked further and talked about what we found and searched for something else. Today, we were only finding more of the same, so we decided we’d revisit some of the peeling paint we found earlier to offset the peeling mud. And then we’d revisit the old tire to capture other angles to make sure we were covered. It was a lot of ground to cover with only 12 minutes left, but we hit both of the locations a second time and got enough to work with.

At the end of it all, we knew that we had to decide on one idea that represented states to us the best. The tire’s states won out today:

 minute:72 : states



Starbucks: Bolsa Chica & Heil: Huntington Beach

It’s been a while and Eric and I have decided to make a comeback. We actually never really left – we just took some time off due to family and work. But we both realized that after a break, we really missed the unexpected challenges and situations we put ourselves in.

We met at a different Starbucks from any time before and grabbed the top paper in the paper stand. The weather was just clearing from an overnight rain, with the sun just starting to peek out from behind the clouds. It looks like we will be working with the lighting coming and going. Page 7, 2nd word: some. The clock starts.

some: is one of those words that has to be interpreted. An unspecified amount or a number of; at least a small amount. We were in search of a grouping of things. The rain drops served as an easy way to show a grouping. Rain drops were assembled on unbrellas, plant leaves, table tops, cars. All were options, but none was visually captivating.

As we surveyed the area some more, there was a shopping cart in an open parking lot. At first the lone cart in the empty lot presented an interesting photo opportunity, but it was only one and definitely not “some”. But it still seemed to beckon us. When we got closer we noticed that it was covered with rain drops clinging to maze of steel. The hiding sun poking out from behind a cloud was captured a countless number of times in each glistening raindrop. Eric and I both knew instantly that we hit the motherload.

some: minute:72

Only 30 minutes had passed. We talked and both thought it would be pretty hard to beat what we just shot. But there was still another 40 minutes that we had to dedicate to the word “some”. So we walked. But nothing.

We forced ourselves to think again about the word and in some twist of conversation, we found ourselves talking about looking at “some”thing. But that seemed too vague and almost a stretch. But then it hit us: we could show “all” of something… or through cropping, we could show “some” of something. So we were off. Time to crop and show some of something.

Cropping was interesting, but not really showing a whole image didn’t seem like enough. Until we came across an interesting puddle which showed some of the raised bumps at the end of the sidewalk. The reflections were captivating – almost like a window into another place. As time passed we captured some of what that window presented. Pedestrians, cars, and time passed until we hit 72 minutes. Time up. In the end there was one image of a passing car, but only some of it, that seemed to also represent the word to us.

In the spirit of the word, we couldn’t only show 1: instead we will present 2: some of what we got from the shoot.

some: minute:72


Starbucks: Marina Pacifica: Long Beach

The day started out clear and brisk with a slight breeze in the air. Eric and I met at Starbucks in Marina Pacifica, right on the edge of the water near some boat docks. It really couldn’t have been a better day to be outside. We grabbed a coffee and the top paper in the stand and got our inspiration word for the day: seized.

To take possession of. To become stuck or jammed, as in a machine. To have possession of.

Inspired by “seized” we knew what we had to do. Off we went in search of something that has taken possession of something else. Or we could stop something in motion, seizing it in time through photograph. We had to search the area around us to see what we had to work with. We found some bushes with leaves unable to move, being caught in a spider’s web. We captured this a few different ways with the sun glistening in the webs.

Down to the docks we went where we were actually greeted by exactly what you would expect: water and boats. Not much else. No action on a Tuesday morning. Nothing moving except the breeze which is hard to see, much less photograph. We had to figure out something so we went around a corner to see what other docks would hold for us.

We came across an older gentleman washing his boat. Water drops were getting blown from the spray of his hose. Time to seize those drops.

seizing the dayAfter spending some time capturing the spraying water, we knew we needed other options so we went down the docks to see what else we could find. The sun’s reflections on the water yielded some interesting shots but nothing was saying “seized” just yet.
Until: one leaf floated down in front of us. The surface of the water immediately stopped its downward motion and held it on its surface. It was interesting to us how the surface tension just stopped it from sinking or moving from the wind: it seemed like it just stopped in time.

minute:72 : seized


Starbucks: Inside Pavilions: Seal Beach

We met up at the mini Starbucks inside Pavilions for a second time. Learning from our first time there that they don’t have papers, we immediately headed over to CVS where they do have papers to grab our inspiration word for the day. While we’ve done this before, one first for our minute:72 today was that Eric’s son joined us – the first time we’ve had someone along to watch our creative forces at work 🙂

We got our word: has

This was one of those words that we figured we could take in different directions. The act of someone or something possessing something. All we had to do was find things or people that fit that description. As we weaved up and down the streets around Seal Beach, we took many photos, but none of them seemed to represent our word well. So we headed toward the beach and went up on the pier. Looking down below was a surf school in session. Surfboards were scattered all over the beach and kids were wiping out left and right, so you couldn’t say that any one kid has a wave or even a surfboard. And then we saw a girl who actually had a surfboard, carrying it back up the beach at the end of her session. And then she was joined by a friend. We definitely could say each girl “has” a surfboard. We captured that moment.

We went on looking for more. As we searched, we came across a most-interesting telephone pole. We didn’t find it interesting until we came up really close to it. From afar it was just a telephone pole, but as we moved closer it was much more. It displayed a skin of rusty staples, nails and screws that once held signs, advertisements, and other notices over the years. We thought to ourselves that if this pole could talk, then it has many stories to tell.

minute:72 : has


in : minute:7206:07:13
08:55 am
Starbucks: 5th & Long Beach Blvd: Downtown Long Beach

Eric and I decided to meet in a totally different location today. Away from the beach,  away from the suburban homes and right in the middle of downtown Long Beach. We headed to the Starbucks at 5th and Long Beach Blvd. near the speeding blueline train and across from a shopping area where a street fair was happening. We knew right away that this was going to offer us something different from all our other shoots.

We felt pretty charged to be in a new place and eager to get the 72 minutes started so we headed into the Starbucks and went straight to the newspaper stand. We decided to forego the caffeine and not stand in the long line of people waiting for their morning pick-me-up. The excitement we felt was going to be our fuel this morning. Our word today is “in”.

in: a word that we use many times every day without even thinking about it. I know I probably even see it more than I’d like when my iPhone suggests it every single time I try and type the word “on” with my stubby fingers. But when you stop and think about it, it’s typically used with other words and is used to indicate inclusion.

Eric and I looked for things that were included within something else. We immediately saw so many things – pipes in a wall, sign posts in the sidewalk, a bottlecap embedded in the street from when the asphalt was originally poured, words scrawled in the concrete from when it was fresh. All these things said “in” to us in one way or another. But we knew that there had to be more.

We headed toward the action of the street fair, saw a few things that caught our attention, but felt right away that it just wasn’t right. We moved beyond the active street and on toward the next few blocks with apartments and more urban housing to see what else caught or eyes. After walking about a block we were met by a local asking us why we were shooting some of the housing. He expressed how he was paranoid about the authorities staking out the local properties and he felt reassured when we told him about our project. He wished us well and let us continue our shoot.

We shot plenty of photos looking in all directions. From billboards in the sky above our heads to discarded objects in the dirt below – from advertising containing the letters “i” and “n” to looking in on things behind windows. Of all the images we captured, there was one that stood out more than the rest. We came across one barred window on a stark white wall. But what said “in” to us the most about this was a vine crawling across the wall seeming as if its only mission was to get in that locked up window. As the window tried its best to keep everything out, the vine squeezed behind the metal bars searching every inch of the window desperate to get in. While all the other images that we captured showed the result of “in”, this was the only one that showed “in” in action.


09:30 am
Starbucks: Main St.: Huntington Beach

Eric and I decided to hit the same Starbucks in Huntington Beach as last time. But to switch it up from the crowded lunch hour, we figured we’d try a morning to see if it would offer a different experience. And that it did. The morning started out overcast and dreary instead of the sun blasting down. Here is Southern California, we call it June gloom. And the scene was pretty void of people, except for those crowded inside the Starbucks.

We received our inspiration for the day’s shoot: members. A distinct part of a whole. An individual belonging to a group. A limb of a body. We knew instantly that we were going to have to think outside the box on this one. Although we were familiar with what members were, we knew that it needed more than a literal representation.

We set out on a different path than last time. Instead of hitting the main street, we went through the back alleys and side streets to see what new things we would encounter. We didn’t come across many people, but instead passed repair shops, random beach houses, storefronts in both exquisite and run-down condition, and plenty of interesting reflections and textures.

However, none of these things said “members” until we saw a lineup of trashcans in an alley. As one of our minute:72 fans put it on our Facebook page, they looked like a little group of members huddled behind a fence. This was exactly what we thought when we first saw them and it sent us in search of other subjects that could be looked at as a group of members. We captured many images, but only 4 made the short list of potential winners.

To help us decide, we figured that we’d enlist the members of the minute:72 Facebook and Twitter communities to give their feedback on their favorite “members” photo. The results are currently coming in and voting wraps up soon. It looks like we will have a winner.


We do have a winner – and there’s no question. One photo won with the second place photo far behind. The members have chosen their favorite representation of the word “members”. Thanks for your participation over the past week. We had fun watching the votes come in and we enjoyed all of your feedback. Here is our newest member to our minute:72 project:

members: minute:72


12:05 pm
Starbucks: Newport Blvd & 17th: Costa Mesa

Today we headed back to the same Starbucks location we were at last week when we photographed employees: We had told the people we photographed that we would be back to give them a photograph as a token of our appreciation for not thinking we were totally crazy (and for saying yes to being photographed.) So we met with 10 photographs in hand and figured that we would also do another 72 minutes at the same time that we handed out their photos.

Our word today is “approves”. Like usual, we set out to figure out how we were going to be inspired by this word. Unlike usual, we also had a mission to accomplish – hand out these photos.

As we walked to the donut shop, the site of our first photo last week, we talked about what to shoot. Shall we shoot the people receiving their photos and capture the smiles on their faces as they approve the shots? No – not interesting enough we thought. So we kept thinking and headed into the donut shop. Our first model remembered us immediately and smiled. We presented her with the photo and she did approve. We also shared with her some of the other photos we took and she recognized her neighbors who were also customers of hers. She was very grateful.

As we moved on to the other stops we kept talking and decided to take are more loose approach with what we shot. We were going to shoot whatever caught our eyes. Then edit all of the photos down to our top 5 and see what the minute:72 community approves through a vote on our Facebook page over the next week.

We captured hundreds of images. Looking both down and up, close and afar at everything we came across in that 72 mintues.

Our top 5 from that day provided a range of ideas and styles: The most interesting rug shop interior stacked high with rugsThe reflection of a bus in a gallery window that was proudly displaying a painting depicting an older scene of men riding horses. Hanging lights cutting across the front of a bright red building.  A billboard ladder straight above our heads. And the shapes of shadows and light in a narrow alley.


Today we wrapped up a week of voting and had amazing feedback and participation. The narrow alley photo was in the lead for a while, then the billboard ladder photo caught up and passed it toward the finish with a couple of extra votes coming in from Twitter. Thank you to everyone who participated. Here is the photo that the minute:72 community approves:

minute:72 : approves:


minute:72 : weather01:09:13
Starbucks: 7th & Park: Long Beach

Yesterday was a rainy day and we weren’t sure if today was going to be dry or not. But we still kept our date to meet and do another minute:72. When we set out to do minute:72 we told ourselves that even though weather might not look good, we had to stick to our plan and we needed to deal with whatever came our way. Planning was something that we wanted to try and avoid so that we could rely solely on our creative instincts.

We met at the Starbucks at 7th and Park in Long Beach, right across from Recreation Park. I wore some crummy shoes because after the last minute:72, I didn’t know if I was going to be picking up trash like last time or stomping through mud from yesterday’s rain.

The word we were given was weather. It was a pretty good word since Long Beach actually got some action in its weather the day before. As we had done in the past, the first thing we did was turn on our iPhones and check for any meanings of the word we didn’t initially think of and then the weather report. It was 52 degrees and sunny. Rain water was still puddled on the ground, and although the sun was as bright as ever, there was still a crisp in the air from the winter storm that just passed through – for Long Beach, it was what we consider chilly.

We kicked around what we should shoot – the sun, the puddles, something that had been weathered as a result of time or the elements. Although we knew we would shoot all of these things we could find, we also wanted to try and capture what the weather at the moment felt like to us.

So off we went. We shot a lot. The Sun. Lingering rain drops on leaves. Puddles. The morning dew on the grass. The wet sand at the nearby lagoon. Found objects that had been left behind. Paint that had been cracked by too much sun over the years. All of these things said weather in one way or another, but they didn’t capture how the weather felt to us at that moment – except for one.

There was one shot that came about by chance. A shot that was supposed to be solely focused on a drop of rain water hanging on the bottom edge of a sign in the park. The background was supposed to be nondescript and blurred so all the focus was on that single drop. Instead the background in this one shot could be seen more than what was intended.

You can tell that the park beyond is still wet since the sign is still dripping. My old shoes were testament to this as they were plenty saturated from trudging across the wet grass. The glistening sun reflects the clarity of the sky but takes a back seat to the crispness in the single drop of water. And there is something about the metal sign and the way it cuts across the image with its cold grey textured finish. It almost seems as if it has goose bumps from the lingering chill.

This shot captures how the weather felt to us this morning.


minute:72 : prepare

Starbucks: 7th & Redondo: Long Beach

When we started this project, both Eric and I wanted to attempt something creative with nothing more brought to the table other than a camera and our experience that has gotten us this far. No pre-production meetings. No predetermined props. No set. No preparation at all. Even the subject that we were to base our shoot on isn’t known until we arrive – we take the top newspaper on the stand at Starbucks, open it up to page 7 and whatever the second word on the page is, is the inspiration for our next 72 minutes.

So it was pretty ironic that our inspiration word for today was “prepare”.

We first sat down and started to prepare our shoot. Instead of searching for subject matter that works with our word, we decided that we had to figure out how we could put as much preparation into one shot as possible – and have it be evident that it was prepared. So we set out to create a studio shot without a studio. To pull this off, we needed things – lighting, a seamless background, and a model at the very least.

If the sun would poke out from behind the overcast clouds this morning, we would have lighting, so we kept our fingers crossed. As for subject matter, we were sure that we could find something on the street that would be worthy of a photograph. But how were we going to get a white seamless background at a coffee shop? We had to get creative.

We set out down the street to see what we could find. And luckily only a few doors down was a UPS store. We figured they had to have large roll printer paper that would work perfectly. They did. But since they never sell it without it going through a printer first, the girl working there didn’t know how to ring it up. It looked like a letter sized sheet of paper is the biggest that they would be able to provide us. One item off our checklist.

Since our seamless background was small, next was finding something small to shoot. The only thing around that was small enough and available in multiple options was the trash laying around the street. We figured that’s all we were stuck with, so we started hunting. It’s amazing how you can look at trash and start thinking “that trash just doesn’t cut it” or “hey, check out the color on that trash” or “I can’t believe you just touched that”. At least we had options.

We finally settled on a few pieces of trash that made the cut – one interesting bright green slightly-crushed Kool cigarette box, one black Camel cigarette box with a bent cigarette hanging out, and one crumpled bright orange food wrapper.

minute:72 : 3kingsWhen we were scouting for the place to shoot, we came across a red wall that had a silhouette of the 3 Kings on their camels. We took that as a sign that we were at our location and that we should start shooting the Camel box. So we set up right there on the sidewalk and started our shoot. Only a few minutes later the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds. We had to act fast and find some good light. Not only because we had 10 minutes left, but also because we didn’t know how long our lighting was going to be available. It looked like the closest street corner was going to be the new location. And up went our mini seamless backdrop in the right lighting.

We started shooting away. Turning the props, adjusting, shooting, adjusting, shooting some more. And although we didn’t shoot many different subjects this day, we did focus on a few and explored what we had prepared before us. But what came out of this was not what we had prepared, but a single moment during the preparation process.

One hand reaching in from above to adjust the subject. Preparing it for its next shot on the mini seamless just as one orange car happened to be driving by echoing the bright orange of the crumpled food wrapper. Not the original composition we were aiming for, but far more interesting than a lonely subject on white. I guess, some things you just can’t prepare.



8:30 am
Starbucks: Seal Beach Blvd & Westminster: Seal Beach

The day started out cold and on the verge of rain. The perfect type of day for a hot cup of coffee, but maybe not as perfect for a photo shoot. We are committed though and Eric and I met at 8:30 to get our second word – again.

That’s right, our word is “again”. We couldn’t have planned this any better we initially thought. What if we just re-did what we did last time and capture the word inventing – again. A do-over. How perfect could that be if we didn’t like what we did last week? But we knew that we had to move on and create something new. After all, if we didn’t move on past the last shoot, it would go against what we set out to do – to create something within a set amount of time using only what we’ve been given. When it’s done, it’s done. Time to move on and let the limited timeframe be our motivation to decide what we will create. And then decide on one image to represent what that word meant to us at that moment.

So we started brainstorming. Once more. Another time. Repeating the process.

We walked around to see what we could capture as a way of showing “again”. Some of our images captured nature in the act of renewing itself, while others showed a shape or thing being repeated in a pattern. Again and again and again. Many interesting compositions and ideas were captured and it was tough to settle on just one. However, after editing things down, both Eric and I decided that one image represented the result of something that happened again and again and again. It was a unique look at an everyday object in a new light. The weathering and beating, to us, showed what “again” looks like.