Friday, December 30, 2011


I don't always want to go to work. Today is Friday December 30th and I am going in early. On the news someone has set fire to a number of cars in Hollywood. I know this will be high profile and a very large scene. I hope it's being covered by someone else....

No, today is a day I would rather enjoy the sunshine and cruse through some simple cases like the 459 standard robbery where no one gets hurt, and no one was there besides the thief. The idea of photographing reeking cars with the media all over the place has me cringing. In a few minutes I will go take care of my chickens, I took care of the dog, I will look forward to two days off coming up.

Insert celebrity lesson here: they are by definition normal considering the extraordinary pressure exacted on them to reflect our hero worship by giving us validation and recognition. I have met a number of them, they all react the same way when robbed or injured, same as us....

If I were the most famous person ever because of what I do, I would simply say; “I don't always want to go to work.”

A Buddhist bread-maker said in effect, knead needs no reason. “I make bread.” Today I hope the toast does not burn.
*** Epilogue***
I did not go on the mad arsonist call. I did spend all day on one crime scene I will never forget. That will have to be a story for some years from now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Man almost kills three children is not headline grabbing enough. Not when the rivers roar of bodies goes mostly unreported. It makes little difference when it happens to you.

I drive around a lot. My job keeps me in Los Angeles proper which is to say all that area covered by LAPD. I drive through what many would consider the worlds killing fields, too many ignorant selfish people competing for a way through having no idea of the way out. One would think my job as a crime scene photographer would ensure the most spectacular rearrangement of a human would be found on a murder scene. No, traffic collisions are the worst, we are called out on KTC, or Killed Traffic Collision. One of the traffic divisions will usually call in and say; “this is officer (insert hame here) and I have a 'K'.” Then its an intersection or nearest one, rarely an address, to tell me where to go. Driving around I have only seen one near fatal and it happened several cars ahead. I had to park my truck in front of the man who lay in the street to keep him from being run over, again. I waited for the fire department and CTD (central traffic division) to show up and I left.

Last night I was going East bound on Vernon near Central ave. I was waiting to cross Avalon when a new white corolla made a sudden acceleration and sharp left turn. There was a man in his thirty’s about five and a half feet tall and five small children in the crosswalk. Two jumped back toward the man, I could not see the others, my view was straight ahead and blocked by the corolla as it 'whipped left' and stopped. The man in the crosswalk looked over the car and then began to kick it violently. I had to wonder if some nasty fight would break out or if bodies were now under the car or tossed up onto the sidewalk. I was a moment away from calling in some officers when the car slowly pulled away. I could then see that the other three children were as fleet of foot as they were of mind. They had made it to the other side. The light turned green and I continued my East bound trek to Central Ave to go north and back to the lab. I finally caught up to the car and driving it was a very old man and with him in the front seat was a child in a safety seat. It seemed grandpa and grandchild were together. I only wondered if the problem would move on to the next generation.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christ was Shot

Christ was Shot

      My last call Christmas Eve 2011 was a homicide. A man was shot and when on the ground the shooter made sure the message was sent, don't fuck with me.
      It has been cold in Los Angeles the city of Angels. The scene was at a repair shop South East of Downtown, about a fifteen minute drive no matter what route you took to get there.
During my overalls which are the wide angle shots used to show the entire scene in pieces, I noticed the grease stained asphalt parking lot. The grease had been baked into the porous pavement and now when well below sixty degrees it was quite solid and smooth where vehicles being fixed waited dripping the lubrication that is referred to as the 'life’s blood' of any machine.
     I began close ups, the evidence already marked for me with numbers on a plastic teepee that also had scales that marked in perpendicular fashion a short metric scale, just in case someone cared what size the object was in real life. Procedure is always born of a failure in court.
During close ups of the last three numbers that included the dead mans cut up clothing and small puddles of blood I was told basically what happened. The victim went to help a friend who was being robbed. The man rushed upon the robber armed with the best intentions, vigor and pure moral fortitude. Christmas Eve and the man brought the intangible faith based parts that are the best of us all to a gun fight.

     He was shot, then while down as the others scattered for their lives the robber shot him again.
John 15:13 refers to laying down ones life for their friends. That is why, as I left and saw many heading off to midnight mass dressed in finery, setting off fireworks, and making merry in general I thought in this industrial portion of the City of Angels that Christ was shot. Because he lives in and around all of us and since we celebrate his birthday to a varying degree of reverence that man became for me, on the earth that no longer binds him, Christs truest representative.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cable release, Another purpose

“What am I doing here, and why does it have to be done this way?”

Changing our routine makes us feel smarter. No matter how mundane the task, like putting the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces, or stuffing the 724th box of fake flowers for shipment, the simple act of moving where you have the tape or a re-gripping of a constantly used tool can imbue one with the feeling that innovation brings.

You might think no two crime scenes are the same. I have to tell you, the actions I take to document with a camera the individual bits of evidence have become quite routine, and the only changes are,day, place, and circumstance. The smell can be more or less inviting, sometimes a lot less.

So what in the flying camels does using a cable release have to do with tedium? I don't like it. I have to rummage around to find it. It is hard to plug-in. Your modern cable release is really a remote button. They have more or less of the basic functions found on the camera. Their main job is to keep you from shaking the camera during a long exposure, something I have to do constantly since I largely shoot in the evening.

My little innovative workaround to this issue I have with this wonder dangle-mangle is to use the camera self timer. I set the timer on its shortest setting, point the camera, make sure focus is checked, press the button, and wait 2 seconds. I'm usually taking an exposure of 15 seconds or more and have found that extra 2 seconds to be less bothersome and more efficient than trying to find something that gets tangled, is occasionally buggy, and overall does not save me time. In the 2 seconds after I pressed the cameras shutter button the entire system gets a chance to settle down and I end up with a rock solid image in terms of no blur that can be caused by moving the camera during a long exposure. A detective to whom photography was a hobby, thought that was pretty neat.

Suddenly, I felt smarter. I felt a bit like a teacher. And that the wisdom of the ages past a splinter of knowledge through me.

Nothing you do, often resulting from what you think, will ever be done in a vacuum.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The light.

When people find out I'm a professional photographer there is a short list of questions that one could call a FAQ. When people find out I'm a crime scene photographer they skip the photography and the number one FAQ is “what's the grossest thing you've ever seen.”

Let's just talk photography this time. Think about the word photography, photo-graphy, It will come back to the basic fact that we are recording light, in this case an encompassing still. I say encompassing because of all of the feelings and impact a single still can make. Photography has changed the worlds opinion and my countries direction in war.

The most important thing you can do to become a better photographer and even a great photographer is to start seeing light. Well that sounds silly doesn't it? I can assure you it's not. Edward Weston, my hero, who taught Ansell Adams, used light, and composition, to such a degree that Diego Rivera declared photography a true art form. You can research all three names, you will discover that Edward Weston printed some of the 20th centuries most important works in a shack with a bad roof and a single hanging light. With all that said, let's put down the idea that the camera or rather the technology makes the photograph. Please bury that idea now.

Two Boys by Candlelight, Blowing a Bladder
 circa 1767-1773 painted by Joseph Wright a British painter who lived from 1734 to 1797, can be seen at the Huntington Library or online. Study paintings just like it and the ones from Diego Rivera and anything online you can find from Edward Weston and then walk around outside and try to notice when something looks its best. You will then imprint and make your mind ready to capture something when the lighting is best. Once you gain some experience you will be able to predict when the lighting is best and truly enter the realm of being a great photographer.
Look at something like a car, take a few steps left, then right, and notice when the car or portion of the car looks its best. After you determine the best view just from a lighting perspective turnaround and notice if it's a bright day or a cloudy day, you can use your cell phone camera to take a picture in both directions and just study it.

I know this sounds simplistic, but if you look at the master painters, the master photographers, and just try to occasionally see something well lit, it will make the biggest and best impact on you to becoming the photographer you may dream of being. Your brain and perception will always be the most important tool.


I look upon the final moment of life for a living. I document in pictures and sometimes video crime scenes at the direction of an investigator.
Refraction is the phenomenon that allows light that goes in a straight line to be bent and in my case bent down a tube full of elements of glass to be captured by a light sensitive chip.
I also see the refraction in attitude that has taken place in me and those I work with. There are two ways to bend in this case. One way is to bend toward the bitter and rancor getting absorbed and becoming judgmental. Another way is to bend away and cast off judgement leaving you with a higher understanding of life.
I like my way of bending away from and keeping cleansed of the attitude that fosters the pain and resentment that often causes my job to be needed.
That level of pure optimism is not always possible, so I will share the difference, as needed, and hope others learn too.