Tag Archives: Photography

[Traveling Tales] The Surreal Scenery of Salvation Mountain + East Jesus

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Tucked away in a small sleepy corner of California just East of the Salton Sea sits not just one but two of the most beautifully bizarre man-made areas I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  The stores and fables of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus have intrigued me ever since I moved to Los Angeles almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally witnessed the oozing creativity for myself.  One second, you’re taking a dusty road off the beaten path, in what feels like the proverbial middle of nowhere: you’re off the grid and surrounded by a sweeping desert landscape of BLM land with scattered mountain ranges.  All of a sudden, you see it – and once found you absolutely can’t miss it: a brightly painted surreal scene that felt born of Dali and Dr Seuss.

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First created back in 1984, Salvation Mountain is an otherworldly artistic expression from area local Leonard Knight.  Recognized by the Folk Society of America as a “folk art site worth protection” back in 2000, the mountain itself is ever evolving – with volunteers flocking to the mountain the first Saturday of every month with their buckets of paint, ready to pour themselves into Leonard’s vision.  My personal favorite part?  There’s cats – eight of them, to be exact, and they’re so freaking adorable roaming the yellow brick road. Let your wanderlust carry you to the top of the mountain, and don’t forget to take in the vibrant colors that are dancing around you.  Saunter off to the right of the main hill, and you’ll find multiple nooks and chaotic crannies littered with bible verses, prayers, religious sentiment and offerings. All around the outskirts of the mountain are refurbished cars, embellished with impeccable detail and design.If you couldn’t get enough of Salvation Mountain, just you wait until you get into Slab City and East Jesus.

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The best way I can describe East Jesus: think of it as a retirement center for Burning Man art, and maybe even burners as well.  The area itself is so off the grid that one truly could create a year round community built on the ethos of Burning Man – and indeed, some have: Slab City itself is considered a sparse ‘snowbird’ community –  no running water, no food, no amenities – meaning residents are forced to be radically self reliant within it.  If it’s chaos, then it’s the most controlled version of chaos I’ve ever seen – there are blocks, addresses and streets, basic societal infrastructure…just without the rest of society. It really makes you think about the bare minimum you would need to be content, and how magically creative you could be as you create your own world.  Built on top of a Camp Dunlap, a de facto military base that was dismantled at the end of World War II, Slab City was named for the literal ‘slabs’ that were left over – using them to create their city.

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite part: East Jesus.  I’m pretty sure I could get lost inside their art garden and I’m 1000% alright with that.  The art inside is made completely from repurposed and upcycled materials.  Ever evolving and interactive, there’s treehouses to climb, outdoor bowling, the craziest sculptures built out of seriously who knows what, and so very much more.

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There’s not only something to look at around every corner, but something to make your head spin just a little bit, maybe even enough to spark a conversation with a stranger. Hands down, Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are roadtrip destination worthy of being on everyone’s bucket list.

For more photos, head to my album here.

For more, head to their socials – or just plan your next visit!

East Jesus: WebsiteFacebook  | Instagram | Twitter  

Salvation Mountain: Website | Facebook

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[Traveling Tales] Soul Searching at Oregon’s Silver Falls

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Silver Falls + More

Growing up in the Bay Area during the midst of the explosion of computing in the 90’s, technology has more or less become my second language – some might even argue that it’s my first.  Fast forward twenty odd years and life more or less seems inundated with the same things I used to covet, like the corrosive use of cell phones and how they detract from pure and honest social connection.  The good news, is I’ve discovered a lovely trick: I turn to nature, and dive into a digital detox.  Whether it’s just five minutes soaking up the sun, a quick walk taking in the sounds and smells of the neighborhood without my tether of a phone, an afternoon in the park or a whole weekend away – delving into nature while escaping the calamity of the daily rat race is necessary, and practically deserves of it’s own tier on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

For me, Oregon has become a symbol of beautiful escape from the go-go-go faster reality of Los Angeles, hell – California even.  It’s my home away from home, and a fresh chance for me to recharge remotely while my anxieties dissipate like fresh dew on a Summer’s day.  The air up there tastes like the first sip of water after an afternoon of play while the skies have an unprecedented depth paired against the towering treeline.Silver Falls + More

Last month when I was visiting with my family for wedding prep, we had a chance to fit in a quick trip to Silver Falls and I’m infinitely happy that we made the time for it.  Sitting about two hours South West of Portland and twenty or so minutes from Salem, Silver Falls encompasses over 9,000 acres of land – making it the largest State Park in Oregon.  The park boasts a menagerie of different paths for bikers, hikers and equestrians, with twenty five miles of walking trails, 14 miles of horse trails and 4 for bikers.  In my opinion, any path is the right path – and all paths lead to exactly where you ought to be.  Gallivanting over to the South Falls, we walked directly behind the waterfall while I reveled in the sheer force of nature literally washing over me.

While ebbing and flowing throughout the park, my back straightened and eyes brightened; musing to myself that truly taking in the moment is a wonderful drug all to itself. Slowing down the world inside me and the world around me, I discovered new shades of green that I’d never noticed before while flowers danced intimately in the crisp air.  The goal, I’ve realized, is bottling up that calm, collected, one-with-the-universe feeling and making it accessible when you need it the most: back in the digital world, surrounded by cell phones and lap tops, WiFi signals and mixed signals, surrounded by all your stuff, things, and immaterial material possessions that do an odd job of mirroring a distorted view of self worth.  You are not your possessions, but you are your thoughts; you are star dust and dirt, and deserve to bathe your soul in them every now and again.

Where do you go when you need a digital detox?

For more on Oregon’s spectacular Silver Falls, head to their website.

Silver Falls + More
Silver Falls + More

Silver Falls + More

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods

[LA Life] Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway

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Mother’s Day Weekend is a special weekend, a fruitful time for family and a fitting occasion to embrace the divine feminine, and within that – our true Mother – Earth, Nature, Gaia – if you will.  As Danny and I gallivanted away this past weekend to go spend some quality time with his mom in Lancaster, we had (what we considered) a brilliant idea: instead of taking the 14, let’s take a leisurely drive through the Angeles Crest Highway.  And what a magical adventure that became.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is often referred to as the ‘Highway to the Heavens‘, and in my opinion – rightfully so: just one cruise through it’s winding trails, your car eagerly hugging the curves and you’ll be confused if you’re still in Los Angeles, let alone California – or the United States.  At times, the drive reminded me of Zion, my fiance kept thinking of the Grand Canyon and it’s easy to think that you’ve instantly been transported to the Swiss Alps or somewhere picturesque in the South of France.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Considered one of the most beautiful non-coastal drives in the United States, the Angeles Crest Highway spans the northern most portion of California State Route 2, reaching from the the tip of Los Angeles County in La Cañada-Flintridge to Wrightwood in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Wander along the winding roads and you’ll find picturesque views of every angle of Los Angeles from the ridge-line of the Angeles National Forest.

The area is befit with a rich history that dates back to the turn of the 19th Century, and boasts plenty of turnouts with epic views, and hiking trails for those willing to adventure. And with nature just off of a stunning Superbloom season – or as I’d like to think of it, still marinating in the tail end of it, the hills are currently lush with bright yellow, violet and pink blooms.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest HighwayStopping literally at every turn out we could – because, why not?! – we quite accidentally took a hearty nature break where Mill Creek intersects with the scenic byway.  As Danny found himself enamored by the tunnel born out of the mountain slabs, we were stopped in our literal tracks by the serene sounds of a bubbling brook. Danny eagerly clamored down the hill, reveling in the diamond in the rough that we just discovered – I was busy freezing in my flip flops, overthinking my way down to the water’s edge. After negotiating, and then poorly navigating my way down – spoiler alert: I slipped several times anyways – it was absolutely worth it.

Because we live in the wonderful Mediterranean climate of Southern California, it’s pretty much always a good time to go for a drive on the Angeles Crest Highway, but during the winter months (and some awkward days of June gloom), the snow can shut down parts of the mountain pass and the fog induced poor visibility is actually terrifying – just trust me on that one.  So, before you hop in your car and ride away into the sunset – make sure you check the road conditions to ensure a smooth, beautiful drive.

There’s something absolutely sacred about the way a car hugs a tight turn along a scenic cruise, whipping the soul around to enjoy a palpable, panoramic landscape in a heartbeat; albeit I think the windows should be down and music up to take full advantage of the moment – but who am I to tell another soul how to enjoy a leisurely, weekend drive.

Take a peek at my recent adventures on Flickr!

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway, peruse their website and social media channels – or just take yourself out for a spin; trust me, it’s worth it – and you can thank me later.

Website | Facebook


Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

[LA Life] A Lunchtime Romp Along the LA River

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Los Angeles is a stunning landscape where you can cruise from coast to snow capped mountain and back to the desert in less than a day – if you really wanted to.  But did you know you don’t have to leave the city of Los Angeles to get a hearty dose of nature into your system?  Between Exposition Park, the Getty Getty VillaHuntington, Arlington and Descanso Gardens there are rolling acres of unique plants, flowers and trees in echo of habitats around the globe, and the multitudes of parks spread around the city like wildflowers preserve the natural landscape of Los Angeles.  Griffith Park is the second largest urban green space in California and the eleventh largest in the United States. And then there’s the LA River.

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Back in the day, long before I moved to Southern California – my parents told me an old adage about Los Angeles: LA, it’s where the rivers are paved and the streets aren’t.  Now, as a kid this statement made me laugh but for different reasons than it does now, because until I heard that ludicrous statement, it never once occurred to me that Los Angeles had a river that ran through it all.  Now, after almost a decade of living here, I can fully attest to the veracity of both sides of this absurd but accurate statement.

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Sprawling over 50 miles through the heart of Los Angeles, the LA River begins up in the Santa Susana Mountain Range, which stretches between the San Fernando and Simi Valleys. and flows into Long Beach. Over the last two decades, and in conjunction with the Friends of the LA River,  the city has decided to revitalize about 30 miles of the river and both bring back the ecology of the area and promote its biodiversity.  With multiple stops for river trail access, local recreation areas and riverfront parks, delicious restaurants as well as nearby metro stations – you could easily make a whole day out of gallivanting down the banks of the river while exploring true hidden gems of the city.

So far, I’ve only gallivanted along the paths in North East LA, but so far – so beautiful. There are several different bike paths that take you along the river in Frogtown, and if you bring good enough shoes you can even make it down to the banks and enjoy a little picnic in the middle of the city, relaxing as the river ripples along – bubbling up to say a little hello; just do yourself a favor and pack some sunscreen because bugs. There were several lush parks to take a pack lunch to, and with amazing sandwich shops like Wax Paper along the route how could you not? I highly recommend the Steve Julian. Now, I personally don’t know how to ride a bike – but the bike path by the LA River makes me damn well wish I did – plus, now that I know the Spoke Bike Cafe is just a hop, skip and a jump down the trail, I just might finally learn…one day ;).

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For more about the LA River Trail and all the amenities on the way, head to their website or social media pages:

Website | About

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[Traveling Tales] An Inspiring Stroll Through Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum

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A week in the South 💜✨

I think at one point or another, we’re all either turned off from – or turned on to – different types of art; I’ve been enamored with the musical process since I was a little kid, but in first grade -after viewing ‘color by numbers’ as more of a competition to finish first than an exercise in observing the intricate nature of shapes and sizes – art (painting, drawing, sculpting and the like) simply just lost me.

A week in the South 💜✨Throw on some old Mozart and we can talk, or let’s discuss the sociocultural importance of ‘Pope Marcellus Mass‘ – but the second you’d bring a Rembrandt or a Monet anywhere in my general vicinity and my boredom would be palpable. Living in Los Angeles, there are so many different venues to enjoy the arts – and so many different forms and iterations of the artistic process, that you nearly have to go out of your way not to enjoy them.  Which, I did, for my first few years living here but I’ve learned that you’ll keep disliking the things you don’t like if you keep avoiding them, and the more I’ve jumped feet first into the deep end of the artistic process and finally, art has been making a splash everywhere I’ve looked.

A week in the South 💜✨

The Crystal Bridges Museum caused quite a stir when it was built, receiving outcries from more populous cities and snarky artsier-than-thou personalities from San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago: why were historic contemporary pieces from the likes of Herring, Rockwell and Warhol being sent to the rural, deep South? Why couldn’t it be where a larger population, a more “educated” and “artistically inclined” population lives? But to me, the real question is this: why shouldn’t it be?  Why shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy art, especially when art is for everyone!  Crystal Bridges is absolutely free to the public, proving that once and for all – no one, no matter where they live, should be deprived of art, of this beautiful process that is usually borne out of strife, out of the human need to connect and understand our emotional nature.

A week in the South 💜✨

But even between the LACMA, Getty Museum and Getty Villa, Broad Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum – I didn’t really get it until I went to Arkansas almost half a decade years ago. Because the art there did just what I know it will do for everyone in the town, bind them to our collective unconscious that we all tap into and remind them that someone, somewhere sees the world in the same technicolor vision that they do.

A week in the South 💜✨

Crystal Bridges is the reason I first fell in love with art, with the unexpected twists and turns of sculpted work and the obscure nature of three dimensional pieces; between the contrasting complexities of color patterns and shifts between shades of color; and it’s the reason I’m still falling in love with new artists, painters, sculptures and styles.  The brainchild of architectural mastermind Moshe Safdie, best known for his Habitat 67,  the grounds also offer a look into a Frank Lloyd Wright spectacle known as Bachman-Wilson House that had migrated from the Millstone River all the way up in New Jersey. The terrain of Crystal Bridges boasts gorgeous grounds and wonderful, winding trails that take you through the lush landscape and next to the babbling river that runs through the property.  Last, but certainly not least – if you’re hungry or in need of something tasty to sip on, get your fix at their incredible restaurant Eleven.  From signature drinks named after their collection of fantastic fine arts to the Pig Ear Nachos, I think it’s necessary to give it all a whirl -because you’re in Arkansas and you might as well enjoy yourself, damnit.  Next time I come out for work, I’m planning my trip around making it to a weekend Brunch at Crystal Bridges so I can finally see everything the grounds have to offer, strolling leisurely through the museum, soaking up beauty around each and every corner.

For more on the Crystal Bridges Museum, or as I prefer to call it – the one not-directly-Wal Mart related reason to visit Bentonville – head to their website and socials.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For more on my trip to Arkansas, including the glorious Southern food and beautiful scenery – head to my album here!

A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨

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A week in the South 💜✨

 

[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Over the last year, my life has uncovered a bevvy of nuanced ways that it has to re-prioritize what’s important. Call it a quarter life crisis, or simply just growing up – but the things that used to sit on top of my pyramid of needs have reorganized themselves into a quieter, calmer lifestyle.  An avid audiophile through and through, when I pulled away from going to music festivals and concerts it was like I spearheaded an investigation into who I was at my core.  A daughter, a dreamer, a lover, a cat lady, a nature nymph, a very silly girl who cares very deeply about the world she cultivates around her. Two years ago, four years ago, ten years ago – I couldn’t escape the monotony of my home life enough:  living in Los Angeles, there is literally something to do at every second of every day, and I dove in head first, exploring new eats in new cities and musing around music festivals like it was my job, which eventually – it was.  At 23, it was the perfect lifestyle – at 28, still amazing; but as I cruise into the meat of my thirties, that’s just not what I want out of life at this current moment.

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What do I want? I want to be nurtured by nature, I want to analyze my psyche through the scope of the arts and I want to take things just a little more slowly, a little more sweetly.  Over the almost nine years that I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve watched as this self professed ‘City Kitty’ has evolved into more of a ‘Country Cat’.  I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Big Sur and Sequoia, breathing in the the crisp, clean air while I revel in the romanticism of the great outdoors. Though we’ve been in a major drought these last few years, major rains during this past Winter have done their part to change the lay of the land and bring some much needed water to the area – and the Springtime Southern California desert has responded in kind with the Super Bloom.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Just a hop, skip and a jump up the 14 Freeway from Los Angeles lies the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  Sitting right on the outskirts of Lancaster, and potentially one of the only valid reasons to go to Lancaster at all, the AV Poppy Reserve is surrounded by rolling hills and a sweeping skyline.  Part of the California National Park system, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve spans 1,781 acres acres and boasts a wide variety of trails to take you from corner to corner of the park. The state natural reserve is located on the states best natural poppy bearing land. But, beyond the orange beauty of the California state flower, the Poppy Reserve and outlying areas are covered with luscious blue lupines, and yellow goldfields and cream cups.

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

Though the Poppy Reserve is stunning, and boasts plenty of walkable trails – I found that the best Poppies were right on the side of the road.  With ample turnouts available from Castaic Lake all the way up to the Reserve, you could literally spend the entire afternoon staring into the soul of flowers.  And boy, do those flowers sing back.If you couldn’t get enough of the sprawling desert landscapes of Lancaster, the Arthur B Ripley Desert State Park is only about 8 miles West of the Poppy Reserve, and has plenty of wildflowers and juniper woodland, in addition to the area’s native Joshua trees.

For more of my photos from the Poppy Fields, check out my album here 🙂

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Southern California and plan your trip to the Poppy Reserve now! For more on the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, head to their website and social media channels –

Website | Facebook | Yelp

Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

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Adventures to the AV Poppy Reserve

[LA Life] Getting Artsy at ARTIC

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“Time goes faster the more hollow it is.
Lives with no meaning go straight past you,
like trains that don’t stop at your station.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

One of my favorite things about photography is the belief that each and every one of us views the world through their own technicolor lens. We all see different shades of beauty in the world, and photography gives a keen insight into the way that each person’s visual interpretations can differ.

To say that I have an obsession with beautifully unique architecture and lavish locations is a bit of an understatement.  My wanderlust propels me to constantly explore, adventure and discover each and every corner of the world, but mostly – my own backyard of Southern California. Boasting a beautiful menagerie of natural settings, from the diamond blue oceans of the Pacific to the snow-capped mountains, fields of flowers and the deserts between, California’s got a little bit of everything for every type of nature lover. So, when I tell you that for the past year I’ve been itching to go take pictures of a Transit station, you might not get it – until you see for yourself. Ever since Instagram introduced their geotagging feature a few years ago, I’ve been building, developing and adding to an epically long list of places I want to frolick around like a little fairy, or at the very least photographically capture them to my heart’s desire. And one of the very first places on that list was ARTIC, otherwise known as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.

Located part way between Angel’s Stadium and the Honda Center, ARTIC was unveiled to the public in December of 2014. Depending on who you ask it’s, the venue itself is either $188 Million Dollar drain, or a photographer’s wet dream with great lighting, lots of color, loads of reflections and a whole lot of symmetry. Since I don’t live in Anaheim, I’ll go with the later – but after visiting, I definitely understand the former as well.

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Even though I’d permanent markered ARTIC into a list of epic, must-shoot places, it was purely a beautiful coincidence that I happened across it.  Just the other weekend, I was down in Anaheim with Danny to handle some family business.  We were getting a bit famished and my craving for happy hour oysters had set our hungry kitty sights on Oyster Bar SKC.  As we pulled into our parking spot, the technicolor haze of lights inside ARTIC danced across the sky and I felt like a little kid that just got to the amusement park.  Words spilled out of my mouth as I bubbled over with excitement as we walked between the Palm Trees, underneath ARTIC’s rainbow ceiling, and into a technicolor daydream.

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Come for the pictures, stay for the oysters. Currently, there are plans to build a Pinkberry on the first floor of ARTIC – but until then, the one tried and true food favorite is the Oyster Bar SKC which boasts $1 oysters during happy hour, half-off appetizers and beer as well as some of the most delicious drinks I’ve had in recent months.If you’re a fan of the venue but don’t live nearby, you’re in luck because Oyster Bar SKC is opening a second location down in sunny San Diego, with a third in the works just around the corner from Los Angeles in Pasadena. Though there aren’t very many reasons to visit ARTIC, there are definitely a few – catch a baseball game at Angels’ Stadium or catch a concert at the Honda Center, Chapman University and Disneyland are also just a little jaunt away.

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For more on ARTIC, head to their socials, browse through my favorite photos – or just jump on the local transit lie and take a little trip – I promise you, it’s so worth it.

ARTIC on Instagram

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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First and Last Photos by Daniel Leist Photography