Photographers' Blog

A round in the ring against Parkinson’s

Costa Mesa, California

By Mike Blake

I have been tromping around the planet for some 50 years now. I don’t have much recollection of the first six or seven, but after that I can easily think back to places, people and events that remain inside my head much like the pictures I have shot remain on film and in pixels stored on the random-access memory inside this computer I’m typing on.

GALLERY: FIGHTING AGAINST PARKINSON’S

For each and every one of us, our memories are contained somewhere behind our eyes in a biological wonder of neurons that has yet to be fully understood. If you think about all your life’s memories and how much information that is, and, if you’re as old as me, you have to be impressed with this piece of engineering we all have. Not only is it holding your whole life in storage, it’s also been telling your heart when to beat, your stomach when to toss that bad piece of sushi and your body temperature to remain precisely regulated at exactly 98.7 F since the day you were born. If that’s not impressive enough, it tells your body to do everything you want it to do.

It controls all your motor functions, from me typing these letters on a computer screen, to getting up to go to the bathroom. As soon as you think it, it sends the signals down to your muscles and you get to where you’re going, or your arm brings that cup of coffee up to your mouth. Your brain can do all of these things in the blink of an eye – except when it can’t. And this is where I begin my little story about Parkinson’s disease.

I had never met anyone with Parkinson’s until I arrived at a gym in Costa Mesa, California where I had heard there was a fit and motivated woman named Anne Adams who had started a group of Parkinson’s patients on an exercise program called Rock Steady Boxing. Little did I know that the likes of Ron and Dan and Deloris and Jim and Jennifer and Gerry would soak into my mind such a great bunch of memories about what it means to be human.

Parkinson’s is named after the English doctor James Parkinson who published the disease’s first detailed description in 1817. The death of dopamine-generating cells in the brain affects movement, producing motor symptoms. It first manifests as tremors. Sensory and sleep difficulties are also common.

An automotive best in show

Pebble Beach, California

By Michael Fiala

When I usually don cameras to shoot on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach it’s to cover what is considered one of the best finishing holes in golf. Stay an arm’s length within the ropes, work as silently as possible and don’t distract the golfers. Instead this past Sunday I weaved myself through this hallowed stretch of coastline and into the colorful automotive celebration that is the Concours d’Elegance. An annual charitable event, which was founded in 1950, of rare automobiles, competing in their class and for Best of Show.

GALLERY: CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

The Pebble Beach Concours, which concludes a week of car-related festivities – much of it business related – attracts some of the world’s wealthiest car enthusiasts, industry leaders, and celebrities. The week consists of five auctions, eight concours and exhibitions, three days of racing, concept car unveilings and manufacturer displays, all culminating Sunday on the shores of the foggy Pacific.

I had a top priority knowing I was going to be within inches of rare, concept and production cars worth millions of dollars – do not accidentally bump into any of them. I very deliberately minded my gear, many times taking off bags and extra cameras before leaning over to shoot these ultra expensive machines. I’m happy to report I didn’t leave a single scuff or scratch.

The toughest foot race on earth

Death Valley, California

By Lucy Nicholson

Park Sukhee, 46, had been running and walking for more than 35 hours when he approached the base of Mount Whitney. His friend handed him a South Korean flag and he broke into a jog and a smile. Running ahead of him to take photos, and realizing I was his only other spectator, I lowered my camera to applaud his achievement.

Park had just run 135 miles (217 km) from the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley, to the trailhead to Mount Whitney, climbing a total of 13,000 feet (4,000m) over the course, in temperatures that blazed to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (around 49 degrees Celsius).

GALLERY: DEATH VALLEY’S ULTRAMARATHON

The Badwater Ultramarathon bills itself as the world’s toughest foot race. Competitors run, walk and hobble through one or two nights to finish the grueling course within the 48-hour limit.

Waves of fire

As wildfires rage through California, photographers Patrick Fallon and Jonathan Alcorn describe working on the fire line.

By Patrick Fallon

Driving up the 101 towards the Dos Vientos neighborhood in Newbury Park, California, I could see the fire’s thick, black smoke – a sign the fire was burning fresh brush, fueled by strong winds.

When I arrived the neighborhood was under an orange tint from the smoke in the air. Sheriff Deputies were going door to door, helping people evacuate, while a group of young men helped their neighbors, jumping from yard to yard to hose down the back yards as firefighters held back the fire on the hills above the home.

A day at the gun range

Los Angeles, California

By Jill Kitchener

If a guy wanted to take me to a gun club for a date, I don’t know how I’d react. Growing up near Toronto, Canada, guns have never played a role in my life – most certainly not my dating life. Shooting guns as a recreational activity has never caught on in my social circle.

Yet I found myself at the Los Angeles Gun Club with photographer Lucy Nicholson while on vacation.

After a nice lunch at a neighborhood cafe we thought we’d try our luck in getting permission to shoot at the gun club – with our cameras. To my surprise, the manager was more than happy to have us document the action. She kindly provided us with headphones to save our eardrums.

Trailer park worth $30 million

By Lucy Nicholson

Too often in America, being old means being lonely, isolated and depressed.

At Village Trailer Park, a leafy oasis surrounded by busy commercial streets about two miles from Santa Monica’s famous beach, elderly residents are fighting to preserve a different way of life.

GALLERY: LIFE IN A TRAILER PARK

Owner Marc Luzzatto wants to relocate around 50 residents from the quirky trailer park to make way for nearly 500 residences, office space, stores, cafes and yoga studios, close to where a light rail line is being built to connect downtown Los Angeles to the ocean.

Village Trailer Park was built in 1951, and 90 percent of its residents are elderly, disabled or both, according to the Legal Aid Society. Many have lived there for decades in vintage mobile homes they bought.

Mother’s Day behind bars

By Lucy Nicholson

The children bounded off the bus and ran excitedly towards a tall fence topped with razor wire. In the distance, through layers of fencing overlooked by a guard tower, huddled a group of mothers in baggy blue prison-issue clothes, pointing, waving and gasping. Many had not seen their children in over a year.

Frank Martinez jumped up and down, shrieking with delight. “Stay right there Mommy,” he yelled. “Don’t cry.” As the children disappeared into a building to be searched and x-rayed, a couple of the mothers began sobbing.

An annual Mother’s Day event, Get On The Bus, provides free transport for hundreds of children to visit their incarcerated moms at California Institute for Women in Chino, and other state prisons. Sixty percent of parents in state prison report being held over 100 miles from their children, and visits are impossible for many.

Satan and the partying bunnies

By Lucy Nicholson

For those who have a dark view of Southern California, it might seem fitting to find Satan buried in a cemetery in Orange County next to a Carl’s Jr burger joint.

That’s where I found him resting on another heavenly day in sunny California, in between gravestones for other beloved pets that had departed for the great beyond.

The Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in Huntington Beach has gone to the dogs. And cats. And bunnies. And guinea pigs. And parrots.

On the edge of reality

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

Drive-thru funeral parlor

By Lucy Nicholson

Nina Watson maneuvered her silver Cadillac into the drive-thru and pulled up to a big plate glass window.

She stopped and rolled down the passenger window so her mother, Flo Watson, could get a better look at the lifeless body of her late co-worker, Robert Sanders, who lay in a casket behind the glass.

Nina stepped out to snap a cell phone photo. Then she settled back in the driver seat, and put her foot to the pedal.

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