Being present in your environment gives you the power to capture it. How many times have you seen something arresting through a car window only to continue on your way with a brilliant photograph in your mind’s eye but nothing in your camera? You thought about stopping—but you didn’t. If only you were on a bike.
In 2008, I began commuting to work on my bicycle. It just so happened that I also had a new iPhone in my pocket. This was a powerful combination that helped me see the world in a new way.
My commute took me straight through the heart of Venice Beach where inspiration lurks at every turn. There’s the crazy colorful house at 815 Venice Beach Boardwalk. Every couple of months it gets a new paint job, and voila, it’s reborn as a magnificent muse.
Just further along the bike path is Venice Skate Park. Packed with concrete warriors performing gravity defying maneuvers, it’s always good for a stop when the sun is low in the sky and I’m on the hunt for a dynamic silhouette.
About 20 meters past the skate park, Venice Graffiti Park comes into view. Here, artists and taggers paint the ruins of the old pavilion and share their vision. On my way to work, I encountered a tie-dye apparition walking by the graffiti wall. I skidded to a halt and asked her to pose. Camouflage California style – bam!
When you spend so much time on a bike, you notice the characters. For years it was the Walking Man. Often I thought about stopping him to find out his story but I didn’t want to break his stride. And then one day I saw him on a stretcher being put into an ambulance. Mystery and regret.
Being on a bike teaches you to be patient – to wait for the perfect shot.
Sometimes you get the shot while riding without even looking. See something cool? Try shooting from the hip. You can always crop and edit after the fact.
In 2013, Space Shuttle Endeavour crept along 12 miles of LA streets to its final resting place in the California Science Center. Knowing that parking would be an issue, I rode my trusty bike to find Endeavour incongruously crawling along narrow streets. Frustrated by the huge crowd, I instinctively ducked down an alley to try get around. Something made me turn, and there was magnificent Endeavour with its tail blocking the entrance to the alley. Snap – the mother of all juxtapositions!
When you’re in a new city, rent a bike. You’ll find yourself off the beaten track in places you’ll never see from a car or bus. In Israel, while riding from Herzliya to Jaffa, I came across a sobering scene outside the ruins of a bombed out discothèque.
On a business trip to San Francisco I took time off to ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito. Along the way I was taken in by the interesting geometry of an old naval building. Paid for that trip in spades.
The best advice I can give. Put your iPhone in your pocket and get your butt on a bicycle. You’ll always be ready to stop on a dime and capture the wild and wonderful things happening around you. I invite you to share my creative mantra – ride, shoot, repeat!
Dubbed “LA’s iPhoneography Wizard” by Forbes Magazine, Alon Goldsmith is an award-winning photographer who has been featured extensively across media and exhibited in galleries around the globe. His recent achievements include Honorable Mentions in the Mobile Photography Awards, a category win in the Hipstography Awards, publication in the Los Angeles Times and Reader’s Digest, features in Snap Magazine, a one-man show in Brentwood and San Diego, and a group show at HaleARTS in Santa Monica. His work is currently on display as part of Click. Boom. Amazing!, an exhibition put on by Hipstography at the Sofitel Brussels.