Michael McDermott

Almost a year ago I went to Chicago with a bunch of friends. We stayed at the Hotel Sax in a really beautiful room, saw the Lovehammers play next door at the House of Blues, went to the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade the next morning and saw the river turn green for the holiday, and went to some really great Chicago restaurants. And on the last night we went to a little bar called Schuba’s, to see a musician one of my friends had been raving about. His name was Michael McDermott and he was great! In fact, I enjoyed him and his band so much I spent more time watching than shooting, but I did get a few images that I thought were worth sharing…

Michael McDermott / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Michael McDermott / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsMichael McDermott / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Catching up…

Several unrelated things to share today!

First, back in January I got my first billboard! It’s long been one of my dreams to see my images on CD covers, magazine covers, and up on billboards. I mean, how cool would it be to be zipping by on the freeway, and see one of my image over ten feet tall? Very cool! Well I didn’t get to see this particular billboard in person, since it was located in New Zealand, but I can imagine what it looked like, and in my mind if was magnificent! It was an ad for Marty Casey’s New Zealand tour, and featured my favorite image of him ever. Click here to see the image!

Second, once again, thanks to Mr. Casey I had another first this week… I was a web developer for a long time, and designed some pretty high-profile sites for Sony while I worked there, and developed ROCKBAND.COM into a fairly big deal before I sold it – but I never once entered a web awards competition. I had planned to enter RockBandLounge.com into the Webby’s this year, but wasn’t able to make it happen in time, so I figured that was that. But I was wrong! Marty Casey’s web team entered his site, and I was listed as a photographer, so in a very small way I helped a site win a Gold at the ADDY® Awards. Maybe this will encourage me to get with it next year, and enter myself?

Third, I just watched a repeat of Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane on The Style Channel, that originally aired a couple of weeks ago, and in it Kimora decides that she’s going to shoot an ad campaign herself, because she’s a model, and a pretty good amateur photographer. The whole show totally cracked me up! But despite the premise designed for a half-hour TV realty show, there was a real pro on scene, coaching her. Jerry Avenaim gave her lessons, helped her to see that she needed to use medium format with a digital back, since the intended use was magazines, and I would bet he set up the whole shoot at the location – even though that wasn’t explicitly shown. So Kimora’s role technically was minimized, and as a model I’ll bet she was a natural at finding the perfect angles when dealing with the male model. So the premise was not as crazy as it initially sounded – but it was still a very funny episode – for me! I also loved it because the location they choose is one I recognized immediately and plan to use myself someday. It’s a magical place, overlooking the whole city, with great light.

Fourth, I had a dream a few nights ago where I woke up thinking about a little run down old house in a place I’ve never considered living in, and I had a strong sense that this imaginary little house in my dream was my new home. And my immediate reaction was NO! That’s not my plan, my plan is to move to LA. But I felt a little haunted by how right that little house felt. I really do want an old house – the older and more authentic the better. And run down is fine. I can paint! I can landscape! I can refinish wood. I can pay a handyman to replace a hot water heater. My dream is a little craftsman cottage from about 1910 or a Victorian cottage from about 1895. But in LA, not this little town I’ve never even considered living in before. So I wanted to dismiss this silly dream, but it felt so right, it was hard to dismiss… Then it occurred to me that this little town is only an hour away from Los Angeles. And real estate prices are so much lower there. So now I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m not dismissing that dream anymore, I’m going to let it stay in my thoughts for a while, and see what happens. Sometimes we work stuff out in our dreams, so maybe I should listen?

Fifth, the radio station in San Diego that hosted the party I went to in December, Sophie @ 103.7, has been playing Ryan Star’s song Last Train Home, all week. He’s won head to head challenges this week against Butch Walker, then Saving Abel, then Seether, and now he’s up against Third Day. If he wins this round, he goes up against Depeche Mode and then The Killers. It’s a big deal, and I love that my hometown may be the place where Ryan gets the kick to push him into mainstream radioplay across the nation. It could happen! So if you have time, go vote!

Sixth, yes I’m sad that JD Fortune and INXS are no longer going to work together. I’m just glad that I saw as many concerts as I did! I saw them over a half-dozen times in California, once in Vegas, once in Missouri, and then three shows in Canada, so I definitely had fun! And I’m looking forward to new projects from both INXS and JD. Yes, they’re breaking up, but it might mean twice the musical output this way, so it’s not all bad.

Seventh, it’s soooooo beautiful today! It’s warm, and the sky is bright blue, and there’s promise in the air. I feel lucky to be here!

And last but not least, I get to go to a concert this week! Juke Kartel, Toby Rand’s band from Australia will be in Los Angeles on Monday at The Troubadour. If you’re in town, come down. Toby is amazing, and it’s bound to be a lot of fun!

My last post about the snow…

Idyllwild Snowman / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI promise, this will be my very last post about the snow and winter and everything cold. It’s almost spring, the seasons are about to change, what more is there to say? Right? Turns out I have a lot to say, so I need this one last post, to get it all out…

I’ll admit it, I didn’t have any idea what a real winter was like before this year. I wasn’t totally oblivious – I spent time in the snow every year, as a tourist. My family spent Christmas in Idyllwild many many times over the years. I thought I “got” snow. But there’s something about living with it, that is very different than visiting it. I also fully understand that dealing with a little snow is a lot better than dealing with bitter cold, and I’m very grateful that we don’t get that kind of weather here in Idyllwild. Even at it’s coldest, it’s never too bad – this is Southern California, after all.

So I’m not complaining – really I’m not! But I have noticed a few interesting things this winter and thought I’d share my top ten!

First, I think it’s kind of funny that I came to Idyllwild thinking it would probably be a light year for snow. I don’t know why I thought that? It wasn’t based on anything I’d heard or read, just my own personal desire. But I was really wrong. In December we got the second largest snowfall since 1947, and the power was out for four days – something that hasn’t happened in at least 30 years. In January very little new snow fell, but February so far has had the fourth highest snowfall totals on record – so not only was it not a light year for snow, it was a record year.

Second, I’ve been surprised at how different the snowfall can vary between different locations within Idyllwild. The official snowfall total for the big December storm was 21 inches downtown, but the elevation of the downtown area is only about 5400 feet, and where I live at 6800 feet, we got well over 36 inches in that same storm. The totals were very similar in last week’s storm – downtown got 18.7 and we got just under 36 inches.

Third, I’ve learned that snow can blow sideways, and if it does, there will be pockets that are really deep. The storm last week dumped about three feet of snow here, over six days, but I heard about a guy who had snow drifts five feet high, because of that sideways-blowing snow. Can you even imagine? Three feet is tough enough, you sink up to your thighs, and it’s difficult to get around, but you can do it. With five feet of snow, you’d be literally stuck. Even if you wanted to shovel out, where would you heave the excess snow? I know I couldn’t heave it up over my head for very long! I almost hope the story was a bit of an exaggeration – maybe he only had four feet? I might be able to deal with four feet…

Fourth, I’ve noticed that the area near the entrance to Idyllwild gets a lot more sun than we do, and so the snow melts much faster on that side of town. They get less snow to begin with, and it melts super fast, so living on the South side of town has some real advantages, if you want to live a somewhat normal life in winter, and be able to get in and out easily.

Fifth, I’ve noticed that different people deal with the snow very differently. Some dig out immediately, and are bopping around town right after a storm ends. Others will let their cars stay buried for a week, and just burrow into their warm little homes. That contrast was super-apparent to me today as I watched a guy in shorts, jog along the side of the road, right in front of homes with cars totally buried under two feet of snow. Everybody deals differently!

Idyllwild Snow  / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sixth, I’ve noticed that nearly everyone in Idyllwild drives a green Subaru with All-Wheel Drive – as do I – but with me it was not a choice, it was more chance, and I plan to trade it in at some point – but not until winter is officially over. All-Wheel Drive rocks in the snow! When other cars are spinning on the slick icy pavement, I’ve been fine. This car may not have been a choice for me, but I’m really happy to have it right now. But it is sort of weird to see so many others driving the exact same car as I do. It’s like we’re all members of the Idyllwild Green Subaru Club.

Seventh, I’ve noticed the tourists stop way too soon to play in the snow. Some don’t even make it into town, they stop at the first patch of white they see, even when the roads are not icy and totally safe. That’s fine, if they’re happy with patchy snow that isn’t very deep, and is usually kind of dirty after a few days – but if they want better snow, all they have to do is drive into town. Plus, if they get into the downtown area there are restaurants where you can warm up after playing and get a great meal. It’s a win-win to come all the way into town! The tourists would have more fun, and the merchants would have more customers.

Eighth, I’ve learned how to really build a good fire – not a wimpy little fire on Christmas Eve for atmosphere, or a fire at the beach to roast marshmallows, but a real rip-roaring-fire that keeps the whole house warm. The secret is air, and thin spaces between the logs, that cause a sucking whoosh of air, that carries the fire up. Who knew?

Ninth, I’ve learned that snow can be treacherous. Today I was slogging through two-feet deep snow, and didn’t realize that the ground below sloped down. It was that darn sideways snow again. It didn’t fall evenly, so you never know how deep it is, and I got tricked in an unfamiliar area, and twisted my ankle – not fun.

Tenth, I’ve learned that you really can wear snow boots with a skirt – up here – not anywhere else. As long as they match in style and color, no one is going to look at you askance if you take a fashion risk, and wear brown fur boots with a brown skirt. Just be sure and take your regular shoes with you, so you can change once you get down off the hill, because down in the real world that kind of a fashion risk is just not happening!

Get Hot!

Get Hot / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsGet Hot! Don’t you just love it? All the possibilities…

I was in Vegas at the WPPI tradeshow earlier this week, and picked up this red hot pin at the Kiss Albums booth. Something about it just speaks to me. Physically, as in let the hot babe inside all of us show a little more often. Professionally, as in heat up your career, your work, your path – show off a little! Emotionally, as in let your red hot passion guide you and lead you. And then of course, can’t forget temperature-wise, as in embrace summer, and all that summer represents, year-round. What can I say, I love the heat!

It’s just two little words – but those two little words are saying exactly what I wanted to hear this week. So yeah, get hot! Embrace the heat…

A little break before the next big storm

Idyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Abstract road art, created by tires with an interesting tread pattern.

Idyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsIdyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lily Rock can be seen in the background in the first shot, and the second shot is squirrel prints – they move so fast, it’s hard to tell sometimes if they’re even touch the ground, but these prints are proof that they do!

Idyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Icy rivulets frozen to the side of a water tank.

Idyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

What the snow plow leaves behind.

Idyllwild Snow / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Snowflakes on my windshield, first thing this morning.

What makes you uniquely you…

I’ve been thinking about acting lately. And I do mean acting, not theatre – if you know me, that distinction matters. And there’s a couple of reasons why it’s suddenly in my thoughts again…

A long time ago I acted – I sort of blogged about it, last year. And I loved it. Passionately! At the time I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So I moved to LA, like all good little actresses do. And then like so many before me, I got overwhelmed with the whole earning a living thing, so I decided to move back to San Diego and study photography, so that I could learn to shoot actors headshots. It seemed like the perfect way to earn money in Los Angeles – much better than being a waitress! I fully intended to move back to LA and get back to acting, but a funny thing happened, I fell in love with photography. I especially grew to love fine art photography. So I kept waitressing, and went to school and spent long hours in the darkroom. I didn’t ever say, “I’m done with acting!” – it just sort of happened. Over time I stopped being an actor, and became a photographer.

So cut to today, and I’m planning to move back to LA in the next few months – my photography is pulling me there. It’s just the natural progression for my career and where I want to go as an artist. I’m really excited about the things I’ve got planned for later this year – it’s going to be amazing!

But somewhere in the swirl of all the excitement and planning, this weird little niggling desire has been rearing up lately. For some reason, moving to LA is still connected in my head to pursuing acting. Why? It’s been well over a decade since I was in that world? And the weird part is that I spent a decade doing musical theatre onstage, and less than a year pursuing TV and film, but theater isn’t tempting to me at all. That’s my past, and while the past was great, I’ve moved on. The niggling in my head is for TV and film. Why?

So all this was swirling in my head this morning – the weird niggling desire, the “Why?”, the “that’s not practical”, and the “why the hell not, if I want it.” Part of me is really enjoying the fact that something I’ve forgotten for so many years, has just suddenly popped up again. It’s proof to me that who we are is set fairly early. We may evolve and grow and find new things to love, but the part of me that was attracted to acting in the first place, still exists! I haven’t changed all that much.

So I let myself think a little further down the path, *if* I was to pursue it, and it occurred to me that I’m not very cast-able right now. I don’t look like the people on TV. I’m not a recognizable character. I don’t look like a smart businesswoman, or a loving mom, or a policewoman, or a librarian/teacher, or any of the other recognizable character types. I really am just me. And then it hit me! I never was any of those types. Even at 20 I was unique – I just didn’t see it at the time. I was always taught that a “good” actor loses him or herself in the role, and “good” actors can play lots of different kinds of roles, equally well. I still do believe that – for some actors – but for myself? Maybe not. There were only two instances where I was cast against type, and both times it was a difficult process for me to find myself in the role – and I did it – I was successful both times! But it took a lot of work.

If I’m honest, I was always much better when I played a version of myself. Aack! I mean what a horrible thing for any actor or even ex-actor to admit about themselves! But… I’m okay with it. And I think that *if* I was to pursue acting again, I would embrace that fact and not try to be a “good” actor who can play anything, and instead focus on my uniqueness and just play variations of myself.

Which brings me back to photography! I am sooooo okay with the fact that I can’t do everything. I revel in that fact! I’m very specialized, and I love it! I shoot hot rock stars, beautiful portraits, fine art, photojournalistic/documentary stories, and happy, shiny, scenic places. It’s a weird combination, but the way I do it is uniquely me. If you look at my work long enough, you see the continuity. Everything I shoot is distinctly me. I don’t shoot family portraits, I don’t shoot sports, I don’t shoot babies, I don’t shoot architecture, and the list goes on. Very few people can do everything well, and I’m definitely not one of them. But, what I do, I do well. I specialize and I’m unique, and I’m proud of it!

And here’s the big thought of the day! I firmly believe that true success is only possible if you embrace what makes you uniquely you.

I kind of doubt I’ll ever pursue acting again, as much as I loved it, the fact is I love photography more, and my passion is leading me… But you never know! And I have to admit that I love that a past love has entered my consciousness again. I didn’t miss acting, but I’m happy to have it back in my thoughts again. And if I’m embracing what makes me uniquely me, then maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate it into my current life. Like maybe I’ll shoot headshots for actors once I get to LA? It was the plan once upon a time, and maybe it will be again?

Bang Tango at the Key Club

To take my mind off the snow which is getting deeper and deeper outside, I thought I’d post a few images from last summer that have never been seen before…

The LA Guns/Faster Pussycat/Bang Tango tour came to the Key Club in West Hollywood last August, and while my main focus was on shooting LA Guns, I did get a few shots of Bang Tango and two of the opening bands. The Dogs Divine are from Chicago and Stolen Hearts is a local Los Angles band.

Bang Tango at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango

The Dogs Divine at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The Dogs Divine

The Dogs Divine at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The Dogs Divine

Stolen Hearts at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stolen Hearts

Stolen Hearts at the Key Club / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stolen Hearts

And if you want to see the rest of the show, go watch my slideshow of LA Guns at RBL. It’s definitely the best of the best, and my favorite part of the night! http://www.rockbandlounge.com/news/2008-08-la-guns

Australian Accents and Australian Slang

About a month ago I met an Australian at a party – I love Australians, and it seems like I tend to run into more that my fair share of them – I think I’m drawn to them? Something about their accents, and their sunshiny, laid-back nature, and, well… their accents! When I was in junior high I decided I wanted to move to Australia when I was old enough – just for a year – so I could get an accent like Olivia Newton-John. I could listen for hours, if someone from Australia is talking. Seriously!

So anyway, I met this Australian at a party, and I was telling a story about some guy and he made a comment about how maybe I just needed to spoon with this guy. And I cocked my head to one side and said, “what?” and he said, “Oh, don’t you say that here?” and I just looked at him blankly, unsure of what he meant, and so he launched into a description of spooning, as in laying in bed, side by side, and I laughed and said, “Oh, yeah! Of course! I thought you meant something else” and he laughed. And I felt like a dork, but it was all good.

I mean, the colloquialisms and slang can be so different! Hollywood and the movies are the great equalizer, and they spread the latest/coolest/dorkiest slang all over the world, but still there are differences, and I love comparing and sharing all that with my friends in other countries. It’s fun! And this guy agreed, and we were trying to come up with examples, and I swear the only one I could come up with was “to root” – and I mean really! Here, to root for someone means to hope they do well, but in Australia its slang for having sex.

Why on earth was that the only example I could come up with? And still, here it is a month later, and still I can’t come up with any others? I know there are other funny examples, and I know I’ve discussed them with friends and laughed over them, But still, the only one that stuck is “to root?”

But back to Olivia Newton-John, I got to meet her last year – briefly, backstage at MTV’s Rock the Cradle. I was shooting a documentary, and she was lovely. And yeah, I’d still love to go to Australia and spend enough time there to pick up just a hint of that accent. It’s the best accent in the world, as far as I’m concerned! And hopefully I’d pick up a bit more of the slang as well…