buttoned-down: minute:7205:10:13
01:13 pm
Starbucks: Main St.: Huntington Beach

Eric and I met at lunchtime today on Main Street in Huntington Beach. We figured that with the sun out, there should be lots of people out and about with plenty of options to shoot whatever our inspiration word might be for the day. Eric showed up a couple minutes before me and as soon as I arrived, we didn’t even grab a drink or bite to eat. We hit the newspaper stand and got our word.

Buttoned-down. That’s it. It seemed pretty straight-forward. It’s a term we have heard countless times, but we still had to look it up to make sure we were thinking along the correct lines. The ends of a garment fastened down with buttons. Conservative. Conventional. Unimaginative.

Great. Now that we sit and think about this one, we are totally in the wrong place. The amount of people barely dressed and looking to express themselves at any chance far outweighs the conservative type. So we took off down the street in search of something that might catch our eye.

As we walked toward the beach, we thought of any way we could twist this so that we could make it work. One idea was to take a photo of someone from the butt on down. But the word was buttoned-down, not button down. Oh well, it was an idea and it could have worked really well with all of the colorful people surrounding us.

We took plenty of interesting shots, but none really said buttoned-down to us. As we walked back up the street, we got pretty worried that we might not be successful today. So we sat down on a planter box in some shade and just hoped that someone who looked buttoned-down would pass. Not very interesting, but we also realized that we couldn’t have a winner every time. That was the idea – we had to put our work out there win or lose.

Just then, 3 bikers who looked the opposite of buttoned-down stopped and started talking right next to us. We observed them in their reflection across the sidewalk from us and realized that it would be the perfect juxtaposition for someone who was conservative to be set against. We could then only hope that they stay there long enough for whoever that person was to pass. It was our final chance, for we only had about 15 minutes remaining.

We sat there for almost 10 minutes. The 3 bikers talking all the time. And just long enough for that one very conservative-looking, buttoned-down old-timer to pass and even stare us down as we snapped his photo. The contrast between him and the bikers in the window’s reflection emphasized his disapproving conservative attitude all that much more.


minute:72 : unveils:04:26:13
10:10 am
Starbucks: Inside Pavilions: Seal Beach

It’s been a while since we got together for minute:72. We both have been traveling for spring break and photo shoots. But here we are back at it again. This time we wanted to meet in nearby Seal Beach. The only Starbucks was one inside a grocery store, so there we met, grabbed a coffee and searched for a paper to get our inspiration word. Then we encountered a slight problem – there was no paper. We asked a clerk if there were papers and she directed us to a CVS pharmacy across the parking lot.

We went to the CVS and found one last newspaper. As we opened it up to get our word, an older gentleman came in right after us also looking for a paper. He seemed disappointed and muttered a few words. When we realized that we had the paper he was looking for, we told him that we would be done with it after we snapped a quick photo of a certain page. As he looked at us puzzled, we had to go ahead and explain our project and how we used it to get an inspiration word so we could do a photo shoot based on it. He waited patiently as we found the page and photographed our word. As we handed the paper over to him he responded, “You guys are making me feel bad. All I’m going to do with this is read it.”

Our word today is: unveils. To reveal. To bring to light. Uncover. We were sure that we could find something that said “unveils” to us near the beach, so we headed there right away.

As we approached the Seal Beach pier, we spied peeling paint of a lamppost unveiling the metal beneath it. The sand also was unveiling things that were hiding beneath it as the wind blew it around. As the ocean washed ashore it unveiled seaweed and left it laying on the wet sand. We shot all of this, but the most interesting occurrence of “unveils” was the ocean rising up into the air as it hit the pilings of the pier. Each time it seemed to raise its arms, reaching into the air from being held down for so long – and with such power. Eric got pretty wet as he shot this unveiling power of the ocean. One image stood out from the rest. This frozen moment says unveils to us.


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:


employees: minute:72

12:35 pm
Starbucks: Newport Blvd & 17th: Costa Mesa

Today we set out to meet at lunch again. This time at a Starbucks in Costa Mesa. I arrived first and sat outside to wait for Eric. At a nearby table there was a member of the Starbucks staff interviewing someone for a barista position. As I waited, I couldn’t help but overhear the interviewee give his answers. His demeanor was upbeat as he told the employer about his life and made it sound like he would love his job if he was to be hired – all to present himself in the best light possible, of course.

Eric arrived about 5 minutes later. We went into the Starbucks and got a bite to eat, a coffee and checked the top newspaper in the rack. Our word today is “employees”.

I immediately thought of the job interview taking place in front of the store, but just as quickly ruled that out for how awkward that would be for them and us to shoot – plus it was only a potential employee.

We sat down, ate and discussed what we were going to shoot for the next 72 minutes. As we talked about our options, we figured it would be most interesting to shoot different employees at different businesses – the similarities and differences when put side by side could be really interesting. We looked around us and the employees at the Starbucks seemed like an obvious starting point, but we thought that would also be awkward since we had been hanging out eating for the past 10 minutes or so with them watching us. So out we went in search of shooting other employees at businesses nearby.

The first place we stopped in was a wheel shop. All types of chromed-out wheels lined the walls which we thought would make for an interesting background. So we asked the girl behind the counter if we could shoot her in that environment. Although we thought it was a great idea, she didn’t think her boss would approve of it and he wasn’t there to ask. She politely declined. On to the next business.

As we entered a donut shop, the girl behind the counter was cheerful but full of questions when we asked to take her photo. We had to explain our minute:72 project and how we had about an hour to shoot as many employees as we could. To get her to accept being a part of it we told her that we would be back the next week and bring her a print of the photo we took. She posed for a few shots and we were on our way to the next business.

As we left we knew we were going to be met by lots of questions and hesitation by people so we both practiced our pitch. As we walked we came across a delivery man in his minivan who, when asked, didn’t hesitate and allowed us to take his photo. Maybe it wasn’t going to be all that bad.

The next few places we went into gave us more practice with our pitch. We were met with more hesitation, lots of questions, some people declining to be photographed, but also some others who liked the idea to be part of our project and accepted the job of being our models. As we went from business to business Eric and I realized that this project was forcing us to do things we didn’t expect and that we normally weren’t comfortable doing. In an everyday environment we would never go up to complete strangers and ask for something – what probably made us feel most uncomfortable was the fact that rejection occurred almost half of the time.

For those who did accept our proposition, we took a few photos of them as they were during that day of work, and in return we promised them we would be back the next week with a print to show our appreciation. What we captured was a group of employees in the middle of their day at work. Some were having a busy day, others a slow day. No matter what type of day they were having, we could tell that each of these people had a definite connection to their job and it came through as being a large part of themselves. For within these photos, their expressions, the different environments and their clothing probably told their story even better than if they had been sitting down being interviewed.


8:30 am
Starbucks: PCH: Sunset Beach

This morning we knew we were going to meet, but with our schedules being busy lately, the time and place weren’t set in stone. So I headed to work down the coast and told Eric to call me when he was ready, and wherever I was when he called, I would pull into the nearest Starbucks and wait for him. I received his call as I was heading out of Seal Beach, and knew that the next Starbucks was in Sunset Beach where we did our very first minute:72. So I headed into Sunset Beach and waited – but only for a couple minutes because he was just right behind me.

Until now, we had done pretty good finding a new location each time we met – something we try to keep different so that we would have to work within different environments. But today we both didn’t have much time and we knew we wanted to get in another 72 minutes, so we had to revisit a previous location to fit it in our schedules.

The word today was “speaker”. It seems that nouns are a little harder to explore since they are pretty definite in their meaning. A loudspeaker. A person who speaks formally.

Originally I had thought that revisiting a location would give us an advantage since we already had been there and had scouted what was around, but because the inspiration word (speaker) was so different from last time (inventing) it turned out that we still found ourselves stumped at first. The only speaker nearby was an outdoor speaker on the Starbucks that wasn’t anything special. So we decided to walk and scout again with the word “speaker” in our minds.

We were coming up empty handed. There were no other speakers to be found – no audio speakers and nobody on their soapbox. As we talked, we found that our conversation turned from what a speaker is to what a speaker does. What is the purpose of one? What around us can show a message being projected, but then also being received by another? It seemed to get harder and harder as all we had to look at were weathered beach houses, cars cruising past us and the occasional passerby staring at us and wondering what were up to.

As we walked, we came across an out-of-place patch of flowers on the side of a parking lot. Within this patch there were tiny flowers and a few bees gathering their pollen. As we witnessed that, I told Eric about a story I heard on NPR the previous week (read or listen to it here) where scientists just found out that bees are not only drawn to the shapes and colors of flowers, but they also can sense an electric charge that they give off and are drawn to. As I told him this story, we both looked at the flowers and noticed their speaker-like shape and the way they spoke to the bee in their own way and how the bee responded to them.

We instantly knew this illustrated our concept, so now we had to capture that. I asked Eric if he could capture a close-up of a bee coming in to a flower. Eric, as always, was game and said that he never tried that before. So for the next 15 minutes, which was all the time that was left, he followed bees around trying to anticipate their next move. It turned out harder than we thought since focus, unpredictable flight paths and how close he was to the bee made capturing the right image very difficult within such a short amount of time.

Many photos were captured within that last 15 minutes. After going through all the photos, there was one image that stood out and spoke to us. One lone plant proclaiming its message through its trumpet-like flower as loud and brilliantly as it could and one bee listening to that message and responding by coming in to take it up on its call.


minute:72  :  singer

12:15 pm
Starbucks: Via Lido & Newport Blvd: Newport Beach

So we met in a different place – Newport Beach. And at a different time – lunch. The bright sun provided more warmth and shorter shadows than we had previously experienced. We thought a change of scenery and time might be good to keep things interesting. So we grabbed a sandwich and a coffee and checked the top paper in the rack – USA Today. Our word today is “singer”.

Eric and I sat down and brainstormed while we ate. Someone who sings. A Singer sewing machine. Birds. That was about it.

Being down near the boat docks and near a busy street didn’t really provide much in the way of any of these. So we turned to our iPhones and looked for any kind of antique or vintage shop that might repair clothing and might have a sewing machine. There was a vintage clothing store right across the street, so we went there to ask if they had a sewing machine. We didn’t get lucky.

So we thought that perhaps there might be a musician performing at the pier. It was our only hope and we figured it would be our best bet to capture “singer” in the next hour. With the pier .9 miles away, we quickly made our way. Along the sand all the way to the pier, we eyed people and asked ourselves if they could be used as a stand-in just in case there was no singer at the pier. Anyone could sing, right? But could they capture that image where you just know that’s what they do?

As we approached the base of the pier we could hear someone singing. We were in luck. At least we would have a subject. So we approached and surveyed the situation, listening to the music being created. He was pretty good and he played with passion. This was exactly what we were looking for.

We started a conversation with him and found out his name was Tim. And he was more than accommodating and didn’t mind us shooting him as he performed. Tim started up a nice rendition of the Beatles’ Come Together. He got up, walked around and felt every note he played as he moved and sang. Eric shot every angle as he belted out each word, capturing a singer.

Feeling comfortable that we accomplished what we set out to do, we dropped some money in his case, thanked him for his performance and headed back to our original location with a few minutes to spare.


minute:72  :  police

8:30 am
Starbucks: Magnolia & Atlanta: Huntington Beach

Today we ventured out to a location that we hadn’t ever been to before today – a Starbucks in Huntington Beach off the beaten path. The only things around are a post office, a park, some random stores and the backsides of some neighborhood tracts.

We got our coffees and pulled out the paper I brought from home (still wrapped in the plastic – I didn’t peek at the word for the day although Eric still accused me of it.) Our word was “police”.

Police – as a noun, members of a force that enforces laws – or as a verb, to keep in order by means of police.

There were no police in sight, so we brainstormed on ways that laws were enforced when the police weren’t around. Perhaps we could do something that would bring the police here… nah, we were committed, but didn’t want to be committed. Road signs – they bring order to streets when police aren’t around – a little stretch, but it was all we had, so we took to the street and shot the street signs and other road markings that enforced the rules of the road.

As we were walking around Eric spotted a sign for Sweet O Donuts. Perfect! It could be another avenue to explore – maybe a cop will be in there, or perhaps we could just riff off of the fact that cops love donuts (or so the legend goes.) Sweet O, here we come!

As we entered Sweet O, there was nobody in there except for the woman behind the counter. So we explained that we wanted to shoot some donuts for a project and asked what donuts the police were most fond of. Apparently, she said it didn’t matter, as long as it’s a donut. So we ordered up a couple sprinkled donuts because of the color they provided, as well as a traditional glazed donut. She served them up on a bright green plate with some jagged-edged tissue that just might make the composition more interesting.

So we shot some beautiful images of donuts. From all angles. With coffee. Lit from behind. Shallow depth of field. We covered it all. But it seemed that it needed some sort of human element to bring in the police theme. It was time to introduce a model.

The shoot got more fun as I started to pose as if I were the police in plain clothes sitting down to my daily treat. But as we shot, we found that it needed more story infused into the shot. So what we introduced was a situation where someone was doing something wrong – and from the point of view of someone catching them in the act. We wanted to tell it all within one image, but also introduce a way to show a before and after.

The scene: A donut shop.
Props: Plate of 3 donuts as seen in the camera’s screen on the table.
The Act: Man grabs one of the donuts and takes a bite, only to be caught in the middle of the action. A look of surprise and guilt as he is caught red-handed.



8:30 am
Starbucks: PCH & Ximeno: Long Beach

Another cold morning in Long Beach – or as cold as it can be for Long Beach. A couple cups of coffee are just what we need to get us going. Eric and I met and did our usual download of how things are going and what kind of projects we were working on. And again we both agreed that this is one project that we both look forward to – something that we can rely on to be different every time and something that always surprises us.

Once our coffee came up we checked our word for the day, took a seat outside and started our timer. Out inspiration for today is “changes”.

Upon discussing different ways we could show changes through things that undergo a physical change like a leaf to the different cars that were being modified at the Pep Boys next door we decided that since the word was changes and not change, we had to show multiple things happening at once. What better way to show this than through a series of photos?

Then we had a minor debate. This was one thing we never thought to put a restriction on – can we do video? Or should we stick to still photos that represented the word? Since we wanted to try and keep this a photography project, we decided that we could only take still images. But if we stitched the separate images together into one final piece then a stop-motion animation could qualify.

It was decided. Now on to the project because time is ticking:

So, what is around us that is changing before our eyes? The intersection was changing constantly, the wind was changing the position of the palms across the street. But those things weren’t good enough we felt, so we resulted to walking around to see what was changing around us.

Construction. That was it! There was an apartment building around the corner that was under construction. It was being renovated and the scaffolding against its side created an interesting pattern with all the bars and shadows. But aside from the changes that the building was going through, we also observed the changes that were occurring right there on the scaffolding as the workers were constantly moving from one place to another during their work.

So we framed the camera on an area of the building and documented the changes that occurred during the next hour – click by click:
People changing positions. Windows opening and closing. Raking shadows slowly shifting position. And ultimately the building undergoing its biggest change since it was first built.


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.