Aerial photography of the labor dispute at the Port of LA and Long Beach

As anyone who follows my work knows, I'm fascinated by industry and infrastructure. For the past few weeks, a labor dispute has been unfolding at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. After flying over the area while coming in to land at LAX, I saw all of these giant container ships anchored offshore and instantly knew that I had to photograph it. 

The next day I called my pilot and said 'when is the soonest we can go up?!' Less than 24 hours later we were in the air. It was one of the most exciting experiences I've had doing aerial photography - being that far out at sea, with the huge swells underneath you, and these massive, massive container ships everywhere was like living a scene out of Walter Mitty's life.

Cargo ships have been backed up for weeks on end at the ports of LA and Long Beach amid a labor dispute.

The size of these ships blows the mind; many of them are over a thousand feet long.

We photographed them from anywhere between 200 and 5,500 feet, and even at this height the enormous size was something else entirely.

The haze and setting sun created an ethereal mood to all of the pictures

Cargoes from around the world are backed up right now

I've never seen ANYTHING like this, even rush hour at the 405 doesn't look so bad.

Colorful and massive, this ship is over 1000 feet from end to end.

From this angle, the scale and size of the city and ships becomes quickly apparent

I have teamed up with PurePhoto.com to make fine art prints of these images available for sale, to view or purchase prints and size options, click here.

Interiors Photography: Sunset Strip Highrise in LA with NYID

While working in Los Angeles, you get to see a very, very wide variety of different architecture and interiors, and every now and then something comes along that you know you'd just never see anywhere else. Such was the case on a recent shoot with NYID, KLEAN, and White Rabbit Partners.  Natalie Younger designed a gorgeous, unique, and jaw-dropping space for KLEAN and White Rabbit and I was excited to have been able to photograph it. 

A soft, inviting, pastel palette at KLEAN was contrasted by an unusual and striking combination of dark wood with grey and black flooring at White Rabbit. Custom made fixtures and furniture throughout created a very interesting setting for these offices.

Photographing the White Rabbit "wing" of the building presented numerous challenges, and it took nearly the entire stable of grip and lighting equipment to pull it off. In order to retain the balance between window views of LA and dark interior, some serious thinking went into composing and lighting. For the darker and moodier shots towards the end of day and at twilight, I ended up using heavily gelled Profoto B1 lights to add warmth to the wood and keep a light brown/red hue in them, and complimented it with bare lowel hot lights to add texture and a little bit of depth here and there. The daylight shots were achieved using just the Profoto B1s, naked on a stand or with an umbrella where appropriate.

Fighting the setting sun on this image was more difficult than the end result makes it look! There were about 2500 watts of light being pumped into this scene when all was said and done.

One of my favorite images from the shoot, above. Lit with a single hot light, it brings the texture of the hand-made cabinetry to life. What's amazing is that cabinet is made from hundreds of individual pyramids of wood which were handmade and arranged randomly, the depth of the piece is just incredible and I tried to bring that out with the lighting.

Lit with a single Lowel GL-1, and one of my favorite recent shots!

Stay tuned for more, I was quite busy right before the Christmas break and have plenty of blogging to catch up on. Looking forward to a new year and some great opportunities coming up!

The gear post: What does Michael Kelley use to create his work?

Architectural photography is a haven for gearheads, and I frequently get asked what I'm using. So a few days ago I figured I'd lay it all out and put it to rest once and for all. I rigged up a rather hilarious setup in my living room to shoot this, and took a few hours to lay it all out. Note that due to the limited space, I couldn't put literally EVERYTHING out, so in many cases I refrained from putting duplicates down.  In a few cases, I just have bags and bags of it (grip stuff) and I figured you didn't need to see 5 umbrellas, 8 batteries and 15 CF cards. Click the photo below or click here to head over to the new gear page and see what I'm using.

The list is always changing and evolving, so I will try to keep it updated every few months or so. Maybe in a year I will update the picture, but as it stands, that took a good 3-4 hours out of my day to do! My back didn't love me after it - but hopefully you get some good insight as to what I'm using to create my photos.

Recent press for Michael Kelley Photography

It's been a crazy few months with lots of great new opportunities, so I figured I would round up a few of my favorite bits of press and throw them up on the blog. Very exciting to see my work getting out there and around, and in some notable publications too. Many thanks to the teams at 805 Living, BluHomes, PurePhoto and all of these magazines for being so great to work with and letting me play around with some of the art direction. 

I'm quite a bit humbled and also a bit ecstatic to see my name in some of these bigger publications...always a trip to see your work while waiting in line at the checkstand at nearly every store you go to!

Ventura County From Above: On assignment with 805 Living

A few months ago I was invited by 805 living to shoot a huge feature for their 10th anniversary issue. Having seen my aerial work of the city of Los Angeles, knowing that Ventura County was just a quick hop north, they asked if I would be willing to give their county the same treatment that I've given Los Angeles with my aerial series. 

You can imagine that I just about jumped off my seat with a resounding "yes!" when that question came up. 

Flying from Camarillo Airport, we'd be flying over nearly all of 805 county - from Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks all the way up to Santa Inez and San Luis Obispo. Working with the guys from Orbic Helicopters (Ken, who has over 17,000 hours of experience...unbelievable) we burned through over 5 hours worth of flight time and came home with some awesome images. While only a small selection made the final cut, I love the edit and think it sums up this corner of California beautifully. I'm very, very excited and humbled that they were able to give me such free reign with the assignment and let me take up so much magazine real estate! For those counting, that's twelve full-page images and the table of contents. Truly awesome to see this in print! It's tough enough to even get a single page, so this picture-heavy story was just fantastic.

They also let me do the writing on this one, so I can tick off the 'write an article for a major publication' box off my bucket list! Two birds, one stone here. A nice way to go.

805 Living was also the first magazine to publish my series of photos on the Malibu BluHome, which led to BluHomes picking up the images for their national advertising (you can see one of the images in the bonus shot I uploaded of the BluHomes ad - first inside page! spread! again!). I owe the 805 Living guys some drinks for that one too. Great to have a magazine show such faith in your work.

To see the full issue and read all of the text, head on over to their digital edition by clicking here.

Los Angeles Prefab: BluHomes in Malibu

I've photographed a lot of things in Los Angeles, heck, and things much further afield. And this was hands down one of the coolest things I've shot. BluHomes, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in prefabricated homes, just completed one of their flagship homes near Malibu and I was given the assignment to photograph it. 

Set in an epic landscape of rolling hills and dark green shrubbery, the setting was serene and the home just fit so well into the landscape that photographing it almost felt like cheating. There were so many great angles, and I wish I had more than just one day to experience and photograph the home. 

Working alongside Courtney Lake of Monogram Decor and Lynne Andujar of 805 Living, we shuffled furniture around, played a few perspective tricks and added just a touch of lighting here and there to make this place come alive via photography.

With such an open and flexible floorplan, the composition options were really endless. Being able to open and shut entire sides of the home to position the camera pretty much anywhere was a dream. I not only loved photographing it, I'd move in here in a snap. 

And we capped the night off with what has to be one of my favorite shots of all time. I think this sums up the house, the landscape, and the architecture so well. Leading lines pull you right in and through, just as the breeze would with all those windows open (this model of house is aptly named 'Breezehouse' after the defining characteristic: two walls of glass that seamlessly slide open to allow a natural breeze to meander through the center of the home. Sublime!)

Happy to say that after a couple weeks of waiting, I discovered that we got the cover image in 805 Living, to boot. Looks pretty good, eh?


The images from this shoot were also picked up and licensed by BluHomes for a two-page spread national ad campaign in the September (and subsequent) issues of Real Simple magazine.


A catchup post: Back in Los Angeles after nearly six weeks abroad

Exhale. That is what I have been trying to do for the past week.

I just had the most incredible, crazy, up-and-down, exhausting month-and-a-half of my life. At the end of May, I had a spate of shoots that just fell into place one after another. At the beginning of June, I was slated to leave Los Angeles for over a month to travel to Israel, Iceland, and the Bahamas for a string of shoots and workshops. 

So I've been going nonstop since about mid-May. And it's absolutely exhilarating and exhausting, hilarious and fun. What a trip!

I'll give you a quick recap, with more detailed posts to come as I get through more images. First, I was off to Tel Aviv, Israel, as an invited guest of Kinetis, to experience and photograph Israel, a country I had honestly never thought too much about. It was just never on my travel radar - and I guess this is what Kinetis aims to fix. They're a non-governmental organization focused on getting artists, opinionmakers, and bloggers into Israel to create, write about, and experience the country. And for some crazy reason they liked me enough to bring me over so I could do my thing, photograph the country, and see what it's all about. And, in short: It was nothing like I ever expected. Just a truly incredible place, full of generous people, beautiful sights and some of THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD. Yes, that good. I am by no means a foodie, but I was totally blown away.  I was joined by a few other photographers as well: Adam Lerner, Jared Polin, Rebecca Litchfield, Simon Pollock, and Ben Von Wong, as well as many talented Israeli photographers who really helped make the trip amazing. We saw (and photographed) some amazing sights all throughout Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and around the Dead Sea. Many more of those pictures and experiences will come in a later writeup and video segment that I'm putting together. For now, here's a shot of a Byzantine Empire-era set of ruins near Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea:

And the courtyard of the Design Museum Holon, which comes from the mind of Ron Arad. Truly incredible stuff.


Of course, this is just a few of many - I just need to find the time to get everything together. I've got a serious amount of material to synthesize from this trip - about 5,000 images total, from which I will piece together all the elements in order to make 20-30 final shots. 

From Tel Aviv, I flew to Reykjavík, Iceland, by way of Copenhagen, to continue work on my Living: Island Style project, which is coming along nicely. I worked with a few of the country's best architects to get access to a number of great locations and the images seem promising as ever. On this trip, I spent a lot of time focusing on the industrial architecture of the country, something I overlooked on the last trip in favor of more residential stuff. Even though I was there in May, the weather was nothing short of crazy. Rain, snow, sleet, sun, hail, and everything in between, on every day. Just completely bonkers. After two weeks in Iceland, driving around the country the exact opposite direction as my last trip, I left with (another) 5000 or so images and way-too-many-gigabytes to get through. I am already incredibly excited about some of the results from that trip - here's a quick preview of the Reykjanesvirkun power plant, a geothermal plant about an hour outside of Reykjavík, set in an absolutely surreal lava field at twilight.

And from Reykjavík, it was off (in the POURING rain, mind you) to the Bahamas. I am always pretty bummed to leave Iceland and its  (seemingly) eternal twilight, but I had a workshop to teach! I was working alongside some of the best photographers in the industry, which is totally a humbling experience. I taught three classes, all focused on interiors and architectural photography, and gave a quick lecture about personal work and all the benefits that come along with it. I had a group of wonderful students for each class and it seems that everyone had a few big takeaways which was great. I opted to teach in a more informal setting, just letting everyone ask questions and letting me demonstrate as I felt appropriate to flesh out concepts. It must have been entertaining enough because every day of the workshop we stayed until well after the technical 'closing time' for classes! We did a bit of everything, from hotel interiors and exteriors, to shooting restaurants and penthouse suites and twilight exteriors. It was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had in terms of photography. It was just so great to see so many people so excited about photographing architecture. Once again, I'll do an in-depth wrap up post in the next few days but wanted to just get down on paper some initial thoughts. Here are a few of the shots we made as a group - before and after - showing all the work that went into them. We covered everything from location techniques to post techniques, and hundreds of things in between.

Here are some of the shots from the Bahamas Workshops, created with the help of my wonderful students:

So now I'm back in Los Angeles, and of course, stuffed to the gills with work. Feels good to be back in the swing of things but I really cannot wait to get my paws on the images from Iceland and Israel, and really get some personal work cranking again! In an effort to revive a bit of the creative juices, I've been going up in a helicopter to get some shooting done...here are a few quick shots.