Sunday, November 30, 2014

el aka L Train Chicago - In Another Minute (Week 239)

L Train ("el" Train) Chicago - In Another Minute (Week 239)

This past week I got to go to Chicago, Illinois, for the second time in a month. This time I'd like to show you a quick minute of one of my favorite things to do in a city: ride the public transportation train. The CTA (Chicago Transportation Authority) train is most often referred to as the L train or el train (short for "elevated train") - even though part of the system is underground, giving you the classic subway experience.

The coolest part of the L Train Chicago is the loop that five train lines (e.g., the pink line) ride around downtown, which, in turn, is actually called The Loop because of the trains encircling it. The 1.79-mile (2.88 km) long circuit of elevated railroad takes four 90-degree turns as it loops around the shopping and business area - giving you cool views of the high-rise canyon, sharp turns and streets and rivers (to + fro The Loop) from above as you cross them via train bridges.

Please keep in mind that this is an edited and sped-up video of riding the train - so you don't get to see everything or experience how slow the trains really go around those curves. I will probably upload a longer, slower, more complete version some day soon.
Also: to see what the Chicago elevated train looks like from the streets below and other Chi-Town impressions, please check out my video from two weeks prior: Chicago (Illinois) – In Another Minute (Week 237)

I know the video quality isn't so awesome. I shot all of this on my iPhone through one or two panes of glass (depending on the shot). My compact camera has been messed up for a little while, and using my DSLR for driving footage is senseless. In perfect timing, I'm getting a new compact camera today... as soon as I'm done uploading + publishing this video! I cannot wait to show you footage shot with that new beauty...

Why did I travel to Chicago for a second time in November? Of course, to spend more time with my father, Günter Westphal from Hamburg, who was in the city for an art residency. This time Scott got to come with me as well, we finally had stuffed deep dish pizza with John and Margaret from Lost and Found Travel and Chicago Elevated (best walking tours), went to a Blues club; and my dad held a fascinating presentation about his social art work at the Experimental Station.

The song in this video is called "Stormy Blues" by Arne Bang Huseby . He has made the song available via a CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license. Thank you, Arne!

el train aka L train in Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Big Thompson Canyon Drive - In A Colorado Minute (Week 238)

Big Thompson Canyon Drive - In A Colorado Minute (Week 238) 

The 33-mile drive through the Big Thompson Canyon along Highway 34 from Loveland to Estes Park is one of the most stunning drives in Colorado - with its winding road, tall granite walls and, of course, the rough water of the Big Thompson River.

I've taken this ride many times on my way into Rocky Mountain National Park, which has its official entrance in Estes Park. Check out a video from the park (including shots of the Big Thompson River Headwaters) here: Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park) – In A Colorado Minute (Week 208)

During week 231, I finally strapped the GoPro to the front of our car and captured this lovely ride for you. Thank you, Scott, for driving. Thank you, Pete, for letting me have your GoPro on permanent loan.

It's still shocking to see all the destruction the big flood caused in autumn 2013. By now there is still quite a bit of construction, and it seems that they've kept the river lower than usual by controlling intake through the damn at Estes Lake.

As with most of my transportation time-lapse videos, this is just the 1-minute edited version. I plan to upload a full version of the drive another day... whenever that day will come when I finally upload all the longer versions, I have no idea...

The song featured in this video is "Hoedown" by Jason Shaw, available under a CC BY 3.0 license. Thank you, Jason!

The last turn of the Big Thompson Canyon highway before you see Estes Park and the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chicago (Illinois) - In Another Minute (Week 237)

Chicago (Illinois) - In Another Minute (Week 237)

I've been fond of Chicago, Illinois, for a long time. One of my dearest friends from the film school days, Nick Rufca, is from around there. In 2011, I was invited to screen the Moving Postcard web series as part of a group art show at the S3 Gallery. (You can watch a 1-minute video about that experience HERE.) Scott and I spent a lovely weekend there in 2006, after filming in Illinois for our documentary All God's Children. But the trip this week is what will seal this city in my heart forever as one of my very special happy places.

My father, Günter Westphal, a social artist and photographer from Hamburg, Germany, was nominated and then selected for a month-long art residency; and I got to join him for his first few days in the Windy City. It was absolutely amazing!

Sharing one of my favorite activities (exploring a new place with my camera and someone I love) with my dad brought me ultimate and long-lasting happiness. As neither of us could stop gushing about all that we saw and pointing our camera almost obsessively (and often at the same subjects), I knew more than ever that I'm my father's daughter.

Helping him navigate the city and American culture and language, I felt so grateful for the privilege of supporting my awesome dad. Tagging along to events where we met other fascinating artists, people from the Goethe Institute and even the German consul to 13 US states, I was overwhelmed with pride of my dad and his curiosity, thoughtfulness, social and creative work and his courage.

On a side note, I also was delirious with the buzz of being back in a real city - with all its inspiration, energy, interesting people and conversations and the opportunity to shoot lots and lots of photos and videos.

If you're in Chicago, my father will give a presentation about his social art work on Saturday, November 22, at 5pm at the Experimental Station (6100 South Blackstone Ave - Scott and I will be there as well... and maybe even Whiskey...

In this video, you can see the West Loop neighborhood, where my dad is staying, some street art, the L train looping through downtown Chicago (Loop neighborhood), my dad posing for photos in his Münzviertel shirt (the Hamburg neighborhood where he does most of his social art work) at the Randolph/Wabash train station, the Cloud Gate (if you look closely, you can see us hugging in the reflection) and a few more shots from that corner of Chicago.

Special thanks to Rebecca Beechy, a social and visual artist in Chicago, who was one of the two artists chosen for the Hamburg portion of the Chicago-Hamburg artist exchange last year, and who has been such a great host to both my dad and myself.

The music in this video is called "Blues Shuffle In A One Take Improv Exercise" (by Stevie's Amp Shack) and is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 3.0.

And now please check out the first few photos my dad has published from his time in Chicago on the Münzviertel Blog HERE.

My dad, Günter Westphal, and I reflected in the Cloud Gate in Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Photos from the San Francisco Bay Area

A few photos I took during one day in Oakland and San Francisco in October - while also shooting the 1-minute "San Francisco Bay Area (California) – In Another Minute (Week 233)"... which you can watch HERE.

Golden Gate Bridge and the misty hills of the San Francisco Bay Area

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco seen from Tank Hill

Downtown San Francisco seen from Tank Hill

Downtown San Francisco

Looking down onto the Marina from Nob Hill

Blue Angels over the Marina in San Francisco

Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill, San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco peeking out behind the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square

Silhouettes in Alamo Square, San Francisco

San Francisco heart at the edge of Union Square

Street art in the Mission District, San Francisco

Street artist in the Mission District, San Francisco

Blue sky and blue street art in the Mission District

Bomb condos! Not Murals
The Mission, San Francisco

We want: respect, land, bread, freedom, housing, justice and peace
Mission District street art

I just wanna have fun... birds
Mission District street art

Houses on Tank Hill, near Twin Peaks
San Francisco

Twin Peaks homes
San Francisco

The other Twin Peaks
San Francisco, California

Bay Area map with San Francisco neighborhoods and Oakland

San Quentin - prison with a view

San Francisco seen from Oakland

Oakland is...

Oakland street art

Emerging from the rubble and dust clouds of tragedy is the spirit of Oakland; bright, abundant and relentless!
California street art

Lone bird flying above abandoned Lone Star Industries

Mm... Whisky
... and sushi

My amazing tour guides in San Francisco: Katie and Josh.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sonoma (California) - In Another Minute (Week 236)

Sonoma (California) - In Another Minute (Week 236)

Sonoma County in California is exactly as lovely and delicious and, frankly, as delirious as you would expect.

During my short visit to the Bay Area (Week 233), I also got the chance to spend a day hopping from vineyard to winery and tasting amazing food fresh from the garden and wine, wine, wine... And all that with wonderful old and new friends, on a gorgeous day, in a lovely natural setting. It was simply the best!

Melanie, who is such an inspiring person that I suspect our meeting will have a lasting effect on my life, drove Katie, Kip and me from Oakland to Santa Rosa, where we picked up Lacy, who turned out to be the best, fun, knowledgeable, well-connected and flexible "tour guide". While she had laid out a much larger plan of all the wineries, vineyards, gardens and tasting rooms we were supposed to visit, she had to keep readjusting the schedule and change appointments because we had such a great time at every single place we visited that we ended up staying longer every time.

For example, the wine-pairing food selection directly from the garden a few feet away at the Kendall-Jackson Estate was an unplanned surprise courtesy of the gardener (a fellow Gainesvillian, just like Lacy) himself. Perfectly timed "delay" since it gave Trevor, the chef among us, the chance to join us for the food and the rest of the fabulous tour. In a day full of highlights I shouldn't forget to mention the experience of eating ice lettuce straight from the plant: in every bite you get the texture and taste of an entire crunchy salad with dressing. Amazing! The oyster leaf supposedly tasted just like oyster.

I wouldn't know because it's been decades since I've tasted oysters (once was enough) - but the oyster leaf tasted fresh and delicious.

Next, we enjoyed the lovely view and mostly sparkling wines at Iron Horse Vineyards where we lingered in the sunshine for the afternoon and I explored the actual vine groves to capture some close-up shots.

We closed the wine tasting tour at the Windy Gap Wines Tasting Room in Sebastopol, where wine is made in fascinating egg-shaped "barrels" and where I may have been a little tipsy and ended up shooting mostly photos instead of video.

Last but not least, we had Vietnamese food in Santa Rosa. Since that was also some of the very best Vietnamese food I've ever had, I'm now completely convinced that people in the Bay Area may just appreciate, savor and make better food than people elsewhere. I'm totally hooked and can't wait to return.

A huge thank you to Katie, Kip, Trevor, Kevin, and especially Melanie and Lacy, for making this amazing day happen and for getting me back safely to Oakland to sleep off the fantastic and fulfilling day.

The song featured in this video is "Nice and Easy" by Jason Shaw, available under a CC BY 3.0 license. Thank you, Jason!

Sparkling wine at the Iron Horse Vineyard... with a view
Sonoma, California