Edging Closer to a Shark Finning Ban

Shark fins are about to be banned in California. You can help finalize the deal.

Shark finning, the wasteful practice of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and tossing them back into the ocean to die, is about to be dealt a blow by the CA state legislature, and you can help make sure it happens. Shark finning is already banned in US waters but enforcing laws governing fishing practices is incredibly difficult at sea, hence the existence of things like Whale Wars, so lawmakers have turned their attention toward land, pushing a new law that would ban the sale of shark fins in California. The bill (AB 376) was already passed by the assembly, and goes before the state senate for final vote Thursday.

For those coming a little late to the conversation, populations of sharks, keystone species critical to the balance of marine ecosystems, are in serious decline worldwide, and finning is exacerbating the problem.

Click here to send an email to your state senators in support of this bill.

Let’s show our state legislators, we are paying attention. San Francisco assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Monterey Park assemblyman Mike Eng, and Senator Ted Lieu are opposing the bill on the basis that it is unfair to their constituents who are fans of Cantonese culinary creations, shark fin prized among them. Contact and encourage them to support the shark fin ban instead of opposing it. Your support and engagement will make the difference.


The rest of the story goes like this: after Julita and Leonard Jones lost their Laguna Beach home, as well as their extensive art collection and life work, in a fire, they moved into a temporary home  in Laguna Canyon. A few months later that was hit by a 100 year flood that inundated the area. Now, finally, they are building their new house, modeled after the old one, on their property in Laguna Beach. I shot this photo of Julita checking in on the construction site, in the same spot where the other photo was taken, a week ago.

Here is an excerpt form the complete story:

“Printmaker Julita Jones lost her Arroyo Chico home to a fire last summer along with most of her own art and a sizable personal art collection. Flooding in Laguna Canyon dealt her a second blow. Jones had stored a number of works with fellow artist Marsh Scott, a metal sculptor whose studio was destroyed by flooding.

“We still have our lives,” said Jones, undaunted. She and husband Leonard are rebuilding their house on the same tree-lined street. “It’s in the framing stage now, but we are still trying to figure out everything we lost for the insurance,” she said.

Devoid of studio space, she is not making prints, but shifted her focus to photography. She also teaches art classes at the Sawdust. But, while remaining upbeat, she concedes that it’s hard to make art while also being preoccupied with building a house. At her Sawdust booth, a helper is sometimes reluctant to sell some rescued prints due to their sentimental value, she said.”

A Special Award

I won Orange County Press Club’s Photo of the Year for 2010!

I won for my picture of Julita and Leonard Jones, who lost their home and almost all of Julita’s life work as a print maker last August. The upside is they rebuilt their home and it’s better than ever.

Julita Jones

Julita Jones on the job site as their new home is rebuilt. She is standing in the same place as the photo below was taken.


Orange County Press Club Photo of the Year, 2010.

Guest speakers at the awards dinner were Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times reporters who broke the City of Bell corruption scandal last year. It was pretty cool hearing about how they were just sitting through another boring city council meeting, like so many reporters have so many times, when they came across this story that gradually got weirder and weirder. They were just doing their jobs, asking uncomfortable questions, like, “How much money do you make?”

Do you know how much your city manager gets paid?

Vives brought up a point which may seem self-congratulatory, but bears repeating: this would have kept going on if we weren’t there, if our society didn’t have reporters.

Most of journalism is done alone, either out on assignment somewhere, or in the office, in front of a computer. It’s a gradual process that only comes together after a lot of leg work usually, and aside from seeing your story in print, it’s rare to get a single moment when you really feel anything tangible come of your work. So it was cool to see the community of journalists that exists, and have them all together in one place, and have a single point in time where something gratifying happened: recognition.

(There were some pretty interesting conversations going on too. You gather a bunch of people whose job it is to dig things up, all in one place, and what do you expect?)

Yes that is a diaper in your parking space

The new Refuse Redistribution plan is brilliant. And this Memorial Day was a testament to its success.

For those readers that haven’t heard, the leadership of Southern California cities have banded together in a heroic effort to reduce the immense amounts of trash going into our landfills. The plan: use well established travel and recreation patterns of Southern California residents to redistribute the trash to the streets, and more importantly, beaches, of coastal towns.

Memorial Day was the perfect day to launch the campaign, not only because it is the de facto opening of the summer beach season, but because of America’s strict adherence to keeping the memory of those who fought and died for this great country at the forefront of our awareness on this drunken holiday.

What better way to memorialize our country’s unsung heroes and patriots than by showing our commitment to being good stewards of the community and giving our all to the Refuse Redistribution plan?

I only have one complaint: we didn’t think big enough. Several pieces of trash per square foot across the entire coastline of Laguna Beach is not insignificant, but if we are going to keep up with our voracious, almost incomprehensible appetite for disposable products and their accompanying packaging, we are going to need to step it up. We are going to need our trash per square foot ratio to hit the triple digits. That’s right, hundreds of pieces of trash per square foot is the only way forward.

I know what you’re thinking – I forgot about recycling. Not so. A long walk on the beach this evening made it clear – your fellow citizens are doing their part to lighten the load on our compatriots at recycling centers across the region. There were water bottles, Starbucks to go cups, sunscreen tubes, sandals, buckets, balloons, Styrofoam cups and plates, plastic knives and forks, plastic bags, glass bottles, and other assorted plastic flotsam everywhere.

Heisler Park, gateway to our city's marine reserve.

I only have one other small complaint: most of the trash was too close to the waterline. As the tide comes in, which it did a few hours ago, our collective waste was mostly washed away, carried by the currents toward other beaches and coastlines further afield, and eventually to the great garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great method of disposal. Its mode of transport – ocean currents – has a low carbon footprint, and it’s far from shore where no one will see it. But that is actually the counterintuitive problem here. If all the trash is washed away within a few hours of it’s deposition at our shoreline, it won’t serve as a reminder to future beach visitors of our efforts. If we simply put the trash a little higher up from the water line, it will stay with us longer, and stand as a small memorial to the great work we all did on this Memorial Day.

So next time you come to the beach, please, remember those who fought for the freedoms we all enjoy, bring as much trash as you possibly can fit in your vehicle, and put it on the beach, but well above the mean high tide line.

Up and at ’em

I had just shot something near Heisler Park the other day and saw this on the walk back. I often struggle to get out of bed when the alarm comes early — it’s easy to downgrade the priority of something that needs done in exchange for a bit more sleep. Then there was this view. The light and the fog aren’t like this most mornings. I remembered by being out there a lot you to capture the cool things when they do happen to occur. So here’s to all those early mornings when you could have slept in but got up and slogged through something that didn’t really need to be done.

Shooting Standing Still

As a journalist I respond to news, and cover stories as they happen. Sometimes I do a more investigative piece, or a character portrait, but usually it’s a matter of keeping up with a story as it happens, and getting ahead of it. I’m often shooting from the hip. Don’t get me wrong, a good photojournalist is well trained in the finer points of crafting images, but that expertise is often applied in a very quick, improvisational way. Here are some examples of the best.

Of course you try to think, as something is happening, about where it is going to go, and put yourself in position for it, but that only works part of the time. I’ve lost count of the times I had a great shot set up and then the subject changed direction at the last second, or the moment changed, and I was left with the back of a head, or the side of a van.

On the other hand, a lot of photos that look straightforward were difficult to get because of an uncooperative light source, or the need to get past a physical obstacle (say, climbing a street sign to get above a crowd), or a situational obstacle (talking your way past a traffic cop to gain access to a crime scene). And then, after dealing with settings, light, angle, etc. there is still the matter of capturing the moment. Sometimes you get the happy accidents, when a shot emerges where you never expected it. But you can’t count on these.

Shooting news is a combination of showing up in a new situation, trying to craft an image out of whatever you are given, and accepting the image you end up with – sometimes it’s better than the one you were planning.

When I set up a tripod the other night (thanks for the loaner Ed), stood in one place and shot a landscape — with a 25 second exposure (ha!) — it was like photography meets spa day.

Ps. I still had to illegally park, run across a busy, windy mountain road in the dark and shoot from private property without permission.

One More Run

This was my first real assignment. The Snowboard Journal, a good publication now out of print, sent me to Haines, AK, to go to Alaska Heliskiing’s guide school.I had one lens, and  a Minolta Maxxum 7000i that my dad gave me. Hot stuff in 1988 — still makes great images. Back in prehistory, when people made photographs with film, you didn’t know if you got anything good until it came back from the lab. This was one of the last days of the trip. I had already burned through the budget the magazine had generously given me. But I wanted a little more time in the heli, to be sure I got the goods. I talked my editor into a couple hundred more dollars, basically another run or two in the heli.

It was a brutal day — sunny but windy, and really cold. We went out anyway. It was just me and a few of the guides. As we approached this zone, the gusts were blowing the heli around and it took Mike, our pilot, three passes before he could land. We honestly weren’t sure he’d be able to get back in there and pick us up. As the boys were scoping lines I got this shot of Ted Purdy. Imagine what it was like for him, looking over that cornice, into that line with that wind blowing up in his face! It was -40 with wind chill.

Camera’s sometimes don’t work in those temps, so you have to keep it under your down jacket, visualize the shot and do as much as you can in your head, then pull the camera out, pull off your goggles, and hit the shutter. As soon as you pull your goggles off, your eyes go watery and you can’t see much, so you put it on autofocus (stopped way down in this kind of light) and hope you got the composition right. I was stoked this one worked.

Ted dropped that cornice where he’s standing, Fishbone took a line further left, Jeremy dropped about where I took the photo from, and stopped mid-slope as safety for me. I took Ted’s line, and once I was out of the steeps, Jeremy and I pointed it and ran for the heli, which was waiting at the bottom. Fishy took one look at my face, already going waxy frostbitten, and said, “Get in, we’re going home,” with a seriousness I hadn’t heard from him before.

Some days are just too damn cold — you’re really pushing your luck going outside. Luckily we still got this shot. Thanks boys!





Here are the rest.