May 21, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Fairchild Biplane In Anchorage International Airport
The international airport in Anchorage, Alaska is a place I got to spend about 12 hours in. It’s like no other airport I’ve ever been in so, here we go; it’s an airport that houses mounted grizzly bears, vintage airplanes and many great places to eat and drink. I arrived in Anchorage via Dutch Harbor, on my way to Denver.
World Record Kodiak Grizzly Bear
The full title of this airport is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and it happens to house the largest Kodiak grizzly bear ever killed by a human being. This kind of record is not governed by the weight or height of the animal; it has to do with the length and width of its skull. Anyway, back in 1997 a guy named Will Gay shot this bear and now it’s on display in the airport.
Local Art In Anchorage International Airport
I mentioned that I spent 12 hours in this airport so I got to see the night and day difference between… Night and day. What I can only assume is a typical winter storm moved in whilst I was there so the overcast day turned into a snowy night.
The Natural Light Of Anchorage
I had my camera but it was still a challenge to drag my luggage around AND take pictures. As it turns out, Anchorage International has a baggage storage service that worked out rather well. They stowed all my gear for about ten bucks so I was able to roam the airport without looking like some dumb ass American tourist.
Snow At The Airport
As I mentioned before, day turned into night and it started to snow while I was in Anchorage. I’m not a scaredy cat traveler that frets over weather or maintenance of whatever vessel I happen to be traveling on. In my eyes, everything is an adventure, whether what happens is good or bad, perfect and planned or all goes horribly south, I’m in it for the journey and not the destination.
Night and Snow In Anchorage
I eventually flew out of Anchorage without incident. The plane was de-iced and seven hours later I was in Denver. Cheers!
May 17, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Carb Pots At Night In Dutch Harbor Alaska
Crab is a big part of Westward Seafoods bottom line so crab pots take up a lot of real estate on their Dutch Harbor, Alaska compound. At this point, we all know that I did not have a good experience whilst working for Westward Seafoods and I recommend that you do not work for Westward Seafoods, but up to this point, I haven’t mentioned crabs or what it takes to get them to your plate.
The way the pots work is fairly simple and has to do with direction of travel, the same way some carnivorous plants trap insects. Basically, the door swings one way & not the other so after a crab shoves its way into a trap, it can’t shove its way back out.
Westward Seafoods Employee Meals At Their Earliest Stage
I suspect that Westward Seafoods rents or stores, for a fee the crab pots that crabbers use to catch their prey. In all sincerity I actually think that Westward lets the crabbers use their pots for free in exchange for a guarantee that any crab caught will be sold to Westward Seafoods, no matter what the quality, size species. I was there and personally had to process crab after the season was over so I believe that Westward Seafoods buys crab bought from black market, pirate vessels and lures them into Dutch Harbor by letting them use their crab pots.
The Moon, A Bald Eagle and Crab Pots in Dutch Harbor
The unfortunate thing is that photography is prohibited inside the building of the Westward Seafoods compound. There are no trade secrets or proprietary equipment that would be revealed but the working conditions of the seafood processors would be. To say the conditions are dangerous is a given be to but to say they actually break the law is something I’m saying, based on my three month stint working there. I got more sleep, more free time, more medical benefits and more pay whilst in the military in the mid 1990’s so that’s my basis for comparison.
Westward Seafoods Crab Pots in Dutch Harbor
There are two sides to the Westward Seafoods plant. One side processes cod and crab and the other processes pollock into a product called surimi. Surimi is imitation crab meat. It is the hot dog of seafood and I had the displeasure of working on that side of the plant. Let me very be clear about what I say next: The sirimi at Westward Seafoods is poisonous because it is laden with mercury. Not the planet, the heavy metal that’s also known as quicksilver and used in thermometers and barometers. The final stage of surimi processing is to run the pollock meat through a metal detector. Any meat that trips the detector has a level of mercury in it that is illegal to be sold, so it is fed to employees of Westward Seafoods. You heard it here first people. The fish that gets fed to employees is so full of mercury that it cannot legally be sold in the United States of America. The pollock that Westward employees eat has more metal in it than a tooth filling and the baked rexsole, the other fish entree that is served was scooped up off the floor, nothing more than an unwanted byproduct of the processing and producing of surimi. Cheers!
May 10, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Rob Hurlbut In The Grand Aleutian Hotel
As a photographer, I like to stay behind the lens. Self portraits have never been my forte and having another person take my photo is something that just doesn’t happen very often. So, in order to not be selfish, to help this blog become more personal and reflect the real me this is a post that will feature self portraits of me, Rob Hurlbut. The photo above was taken a month ago on my last day in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Rob Hurlbut With A Bald Eagle
I spent the first three months of 2013 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is where all the photos in this post were taken. It was fun being in Alaska and it was fun to see bald eagles hanging around like pigeons at a bus stop. I’d never seen an eagle in person, let alone striking distance to my face before. They are very large birds and their talons are as big as my hands. They perched themselves on the railing of the bunkhouse I was living in so when I walked by them, they were less than three feet away and staring me right in the eye. From that distance, you can see the dinosaur lineage of bald eagles staring you right in the face.
Rob Hurlbut Inside A WWII Bunker
On Dutch Harbor, there are several WWII observation bunkers. These are concrete structures and they are very claustrophobic. One can only imagine what it must have been like to be stationed in Alaska and standing watch, looking for Japanese planes or the Imperial Japanese Navy. As you can see in the photo above, they are not tall enough to stand up in, the floor in frozen tundra and for some reason I was wearing white socks with black shoes. I apologize for that.
Rob Hurlbut Out The Alaskan Tundra
I did a lot of hiking whilst in Dutch Harbor. Hiking through snow is not the easiest thing in the world to do, nor is photographing snow. Personally, I hadn’t set foot in a snow drift for seven years, not since I left Denver for the sunny shores of San Diego back in 2006. In my glorified opinion the snow and cold suck, so my time in Alaska made me realize I had been taking the warm California sun for granted and that in all probability, Alaska would have been better appreciated by me had I visited in the summer.
Rob Hurlbut In Westward Seafoods Bunkhouse
Any post I do that talks about Dutch Harbor or Alaska must include a stab at the company I was working for at the time, Westward Seafoods. It was a terrible experience that I have touched on in two previous posts. The first is titled, Do Not Wok For Westward Seafoods In Dutch Harbor, Alaska and the other is titled, Working For Westward Seafoods In Dutch Harbor, Alaska. They are worth reading and will very place some context around the photo above. 18 hour days, racism, mercury laden food and bedbugs were on my mind when I took the self portrait you see above. Read the posts and do not work for Westward Seafoods.
Rob Hurlbut Near The Bering Sea In Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Dutch Harbor is in the background, water from the Bering Sea is right behind me and for the third time in one post, a beanie is on my head. It was really cold in Alaska so I didn’t cut my hair and I always wore some form of skull cap. Truth be told, I still haven’t cut my hair even after being back in San Diego for a couple weeks. I’m pushing 40 now so growing out my hair could be a combination of my last hurrah and a midlife crisis. Either way, the response from those that have seen me in person has been positive so I think I’ll just keep on growing it for now.
So there you have it, an honest post from me with self portrait photos. I won’t lie, none of these photos were intended for public consumption but I really do want to open up and use this blog as a better window into who I am, what I do and where I’ve been. Cheers!
May 7, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Bald Eagles At Westward Seafoods In Dutch Harbor Alaska
Westward Seafoods in Dutch Harbor, Alaska is a throwback to a time when human rights, environmental awareness and racism were running rampant or had never been heard of before. It is a place that is horrible to work for and should be shut down. I worked for Westward Seafoods from January until April of 2013 and I am still piecing together the shattered remnants of my psyche and recovering from physical damage that has not been encountered by an employee in the United States of America since the late 1800’s. The culture of Westward Seafoods is comically racist and the isolated location of Dutch Harbor is used as leverage to instill fear in the employees. After bringing people to Dutch Harbor, Westward lies to employees by saying the only way to leave the island without paying for a $1000 plane ticket is by getting laid off after working the entire season. They say that if you get fired, you will be cast adrift in Dutch Harbor. That is a lie. Alaska State Troopers and the Unalaska police require the seafood companies to fly terminated employees off the island. Westward Seafoods uses the implication of homelessness on an island on the southern fringes of the Bering Sea to force the full cooperation of their employees. The photo above is of bald eagles hanging out on the railing of my bunkhouse, with the plant and harbor in the background. I’m just getting started, so let’s move on, shall we?
Tom Madsen Airport in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska
Employees of Westward Seafoods are brought to the island on a prop driven, puddle jumping plane. The shot above was taken as I left the island but the Saab plane was the same type that flew me into what was to be my prison for the next three months. Make no mistake; you are a prisoner on Dutch Harbor.
Cell Phone Towers In Unalaska
The prison situation on Dutch Harbor starts with a lack of communication. There is cell service on the island but it’s not service that you can bring with you from the continental United States. Once there you will have to pay for a new phone and a new cell phone plan that is specific to the island. Other than that, you have to use payphones to communicate with the outside world. This leads me to my next point and that is communication within Westward Seafoods itself.
Westward Seafoods Bunkhouse In Dutch Harbor, Alaska
While you are working for Westwards Seafoods, they put you up in a bunkhouse and give you three meals a day. Above is the bunkhouse I lived in. The bed in the foreground was mine. This was only one half of the room. The other half had two more beds and a bathroom. So yes, five people lived here. You will notice there are no chairs or tables and there is no refrigerator or microwave. You are not allowed to bring food back from the galley, so if you happen to take a $20 round trip taxi ride to the island’s only grocery store, you have to buy food that does not need to be refrigerated and that does not need to be cooked. Imagine that for a second. Pretend the place where you live does not have a refrigerator, microwave or stove. After that, imagine that bedbugs infested your building and the company doesn’t tell you about it. I’m not kidding; there was a bedbug infestation that took place in February of 2013 at the Westward Seafoods plant. There is simply no dissemination about information like this at the plant. Knowledge and information are power so Westward does everything they can to keep employees in the dark.
Westward Seafoods Dutch Harbor Processing Plant
The photo above shows the extent of your world whilst working at Westward Seafoods. I was standing on the porch of my bunkhouse when I took the photo and in it you can see the two other bunkhouses in the foreground, the galley on the middle left and the buildings of the actual plant in the background. That’s it people.
Dutch Harbor & Westward Seafoods Processing Plant
Above you can see the entire Westward Seafoods prison compound as it looked one morning in February 2013. In all honesty, this post has not even scratched the surface of the working conditions, the racism or the mercury laden food that must be dealt with as a condition of working there. If you try to contact them via their website, they only have links for recruitment or sales. That should tell you everything. If, for example you had evidence of them selling or serving mercury laden Pollock, purchasing opillio crab from pirates or a working environment that is outside of OSHA standards, there is no way to let the company know. As if they didn’t already know.
Let me put it another way; company policy is not to administer first aid to an injury. If your finger gets loped of in one of their machines, you have to tell the lead of your section that your finger got loped off and only then can you seek medical attention. I’m not kidding. There is a first aid station that has no nurses or any doctors that require you to tell one specific person that you are injured BEFORE you can receive Boy Scout treatment for your injury. If you walk from your section to the first aid station with an amputated finger before you tell your lead, you will be refused medical aid. Anyway, Do not work for Westward Seafoods, I implore you. The basic math shows that, after taxes I brought home $5.20 per hour. No one has worked 12 to 18 hours a day for $5.20 an hour since the stone age. Need I say more? Yes, I should and will say more in my next post. My next post will talk specifically about the racist culture, lack of medical personnel, buying black market fish & crab and the mercury laden food that is fed to employees. In the meantime do some research and see that I’m not alone or making this up. Cheers!
May 4, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Rob Hurlbut In Dutch Harbor, Alaska
After spending three months in Dutch Harbor Alaska working for Westward Seafoods, I have a lot to say and I have many photos to show. Depending on what mood I’m in, what I have to say will either be about the terrible time I had working at Westward Seafoods or about the great time I had exploring Dutch Harbor. I’m in a great mood right now, so aside from saying that you should not work for Westward Seafoods at their racist, unsafe plant I’ll leave the issue for other posts. THIS post will be about the photographic opportunities that Dutch Harbor has to offer. The photo above is a 10 second exposure with me flashing a light on my face three times at three slightly different positions, that’s why you see my pretty face in the middle of Dutch Harbor.
Rob Hurlbut Uncropped In Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Above is the uncropped version of the first photo in the post. Dutch Harbor has no trees so it looks like someone shaved off the portion of the Rocky Mountains that is above the tree line & dropped it in the Bering Sea. There is some wildlife on the island in the form of waterfowl, foxes and especially bald eagles. The rest of the wildlife wonders are found under the sea just as the fauna are found under the snow.
Unalaska at Night
As evidenced by the constellations in the photo above, this is the north side of Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska. Even after spending three months there I still don’t know what or where Dutch Harbor is, relative to Unalaska. I think Unalaska is the name of the town, while Dutch Harbor is a geographic feature of the island on which the town is located but I really don’t know for sure. Anyway, from the Westward Seafoods plant where I was working, the area below is where people went when they “went into town.” This area has a library pool, recreation center and a very old Russian Orthodox church, visible in the lower center of the frame. To the south, on the other side of the mountain I was standing on when I took this photo is the airport, a grocery store, a bar and a liquor store. Guess which side of the island was more popular?
Russian Orthodox Church In Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Above we see the Russian Orthodox Church that is visible in the previous photo as well as the mountain I was standing on for that particular night shot. The far right of the photo was my perch for the previous shot and the left of the photo, obviously out of frame is the harbor.
October 27, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
MGM Grand As Seen From The Las Vegas Strip
MGM Grand Casino is going through a grand renovation that will include a new nightclub, comedy club, upgrades to the casino floor and their suites, among other things. They call it a 360 degree resort renovation and it is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
MGM Grand Being Renovated
Las Vegas is a city that I really do enjoy, especially as a resident of San Diego. It only takes an hour to fly to Las Vegas from here and Las Vegas is a place that is WORLDS apart from wherever you live, so a quick jaunt to Vegas from So Cal is technically the best deal on the planet.
Unused Slot Machines At MGM Grand
MGM Grand is awesome in and of itself, but there are two other, very specific things about the place that appeal to me: It is right next to Las Vegas Airport and it has a monorail station. What that means is that you have an easy escape or commute to or from anywhere in Las Vegas.
Future Site Of Hakkasan
Las Vegas is a great place to realize that the world just keeps on spinning, no matter how big a person you think you are. A renovation at MGM Grand does not mean you will be inconvenienced or disturbed in any way… It means you are privy to an amazing, very specific point in time. You get to see the next big thing BEFORE it becomes the next big thing.
The photo above shows what will be a brand new restaurant and nightclub, situated right behind the famous lion of the MGM Grand. The name of the place will be, Hakkasan.
MGM Grand Casino Floor Being Renovated
The main thing you’ll want to take away from this post is that MGM Grand is becoming grander. Next year, between their Wet Republic, a new restaurant and a new nightclub you will want to make sure to stop by MGM Grand the next time you are in Las Vegas. Cheers!
April 2, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Nightclub & Bar Convention 2012
Last year I went to the Nightclub & Bar Convention in Las Vegas as a patron of spirits and member of a group of old friends. This year I went as a member of the press and I was only in town for 1 night with 1 friend, so I packed light and hoped for the best.
Shawn Barnes In Las Vegas
The imposing fellow above is one of my best friends and has been so for almost 20 years. He’s a friend that’s always on my side, no matter how abrasive my personality happens to be on any particular day. Together we have cut a swath of mayhem from Hawaii to Mexico and from Dallas to Denver.
Las Vegas International Airport
Las Vegas Airport, also known as McCarran International Airport is quite vast, which gives you something to do if you have to kill 3 hours like I did. You can wonder through the terminals without having to go back through security, which is very convenient.
Slots Inside Las Vegas Airport
If you want to get any last minute gambling in, Las Vegas Airport will accommodate you. It’s all been arranged to get your money, make no mistake about that. Go ahead and hit the ATM a few more times, you’ll get it all back, I promise.
Rob Hurlbut In A Las Vegas Elevator
I’m really starting to get into self portrait photography while in Las Vegas. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces abound if you look around. I can’t wait for the days when DSLR quality photo capabilities are implanted somewhere behind our eyeballs because in a place like Las Vegas, carrying around a camera can be a real drag. Until then, carry your camera with you everywhere all the time. Cheers!
February 5, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Most of the time I spent in Las Vegas, while covering CES 2012 was spent taking pictures. CES was unbelievably big and besides the physicality of the event a problem I had was finding a way to make all the cool things I saw at the show translate in a cool way in my photos. I failed and I say that with the utmost of dignity; being worthy enough to be issued a pass, being financed enough to make the trip and being experienced enough to survive five days in Las Vegas ended up being the nuts and bolts of my trip, so it was a resounding success.
I did take it upon myself to take some self portraits whilst walking around the Las Vegas Strip. While I was at Caesars Palace I came across the place of worship you see above. The Romans, the society responsible for the empire that paid for the original Caesars Palace were Pagans; they worshiped many different Gods and it was a Quid Pro Quo situation. I lingered at this place for a very long time, lighting & placing incense as I moved about the four stations of prayer. I asked for help and guidance with many things. The word I was looking for at the time was clarity and I do believe the time I spent contemplating at this shrine will give me the clarity I want to enable myself for the success I need.
I am a photographer that stays behind my camera most the time. Think of me what you will, but I see myself as a modern day gunslinger, so you will answer to my weapon before I answer to you. I really do love being a photographer, I love to travel and I love to show the world where I’ve been, things I’ve seen and things I’m going to do.
I’d like to take a break and talk a little bit about the public bathrooms in Las Vegas. They are awesome. Every casino, every hotel and every corner store has a bathroom and none of them will have any problem with you dropping a deuce or clearing your bladder at any time of the day or night. “The Bathrooms of Las Vegas” is probably the title of a blog post just waiting to happen and I’ll read it when it comes out but it’s just too shitty an assignment for me to personally take on at this moment in time.
Mercifully I had to get back to San Diego, so after 5 days and 4 nights in fabulous Las Vegas, it was time to get on a plane and get back to the real world. The photo you see above was taken with one of the last bits of strength I had, which was barely enough to press the shutter release button. I don’t remember any details after this shot was taken; I fell asleep and somehow made it from the airport back to my place without incident. After tending to all the bumps & bruises the laundry and the photos, I stand by my original assessment, which was that the trip was a five star, top shelf, resounding success.
Southwest Airlines is the airline I recommend for any air travel that begins or ends within the United States of America because their employees rock and their prices are the best in the industry. They’ll never hassle you about your carry-on luggage, they’ll let you travel with a small dogs or a cat and and they serve booze on their planes. No other airline is as cool as Southwest and that is a fact. I really do believe their business model is the way of the future and very much look forward to watching as Delta, American and all the other overpriced, baggage fee price-gouging airlines are forced to change how they operate, courtesy of Southwest Airlines. They photo above really was my last act and honestly, I don’t remember taking it, but it did seem like a great photo to anchor this post because travel always involves some form of conveyance and air travel is about the best there is when it’s on Southwest. Cheers!
January 31, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
A Lamborghini And Josh At CES 2012
Whether I’m in front of or behind the camera there is one type of photography I’ve never been a fan of: Evidence of being there photos. These are the photos people usually use as proof they were at a location or met a certain person and usually they’re just standing there looking at the camera. Years later do people in those photos look at them and reminisce about how they had to stop what they were doing in order to turn around and grin at the camera? I would much rather take a photograph that shows a person in a natural pose, held for a moment within a beautiful scene than a picture that represents an interruption of that moment. Of course for this trip to Las Vegas, my friend wanted some evidence shots, so I willingly obliged. The two shots in this post represent the work and the play side of the trip. I was there to cover CES 2012 which is where the Lamborghini above was displayed and the convention was in Las Vegas, home of casinos, liquor and gambling, which is what the photo below is evidence of doing.
3 Nines on 2 Machines Inside Hooters, Las Vegas
After long days of walking for miles at CES, enduring crowded monorail rides and walking even more miles to get to my room, I was ready to relax by sliding up to a video poker bar, feeding it some money and then drinking for free until the wee hours while catching up with my old friend, Josh. The evidence photo above was taken as evidence not of being at a certain place, but for us both winning on separate video poker machines at the same time with 3 nines in our winning hands. Something like that deserves a shot and a picture. The above photo was taken inside Hooters Casino, in the back bar. We weren’t staying here but we still spent a lot of time here because it is very chill, has a great restaurant and is just a great place to waste a few hours. Until next time, happy travels!
January 30, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Grand Spiral Staircase Of Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace is an inspiring place to go to because you can’t help but plan a trip after you spend some time in there. I would very much like to travel to Italy and Rome in particular now just because of the walking I did through there. I’ve never been to Europe but now I really want to go and I think Italy is going to be my way in, with Rome being my first Las Vegas inspired stop. Caesars Palace and the Forum Shops are grand and decadent in an ancient Roman way and there are celebrities from time to time to add to the fun. Pete Rose and Dick Butkis were there and Dennis Rodman scheduled to appear later in the day. Last year, I posted a single photo of the fountains in front of the hotel so it felt good to walk through, get some decent photos and ultimately plan a trip to a foreign land.
The Non-Moving Statues Of Caesars Palace
The famous moving statues were not operational during my visit so I have a reason to return, which is not a bad thing at all. Since my actual reason for being in Las Vegas was for CES 2012, I didn’t have time to take in a single show, explore new food or do any shopping. I didn’t have the money to do those things either so it was a trip filled with busy days, hectic nights and lots of walking.
Video From Caesars Palace Forum Shops
Until I go to Rome, I suppose I have nothing for me to compare Caesars Palace to. It is unbelievably vast and is a photographers dream, especially a photographer w/ an 8mm fish-eye lens. While I was in Las Vegas my new lens was my constant companion and it was the only lens I brought. I have become hooked on the all encompassing view as well as the way it forces me to get physically closer to subjects than I ever have before. A prime lens makes you do all the work. That coupled with the fact that my lens is all manual made it feel like I was walking the Las Vegas Strip in 1955 with a film camera in one hand and a bona fide photographic assignment in the other. So get inspired and plan a trip somewhere, take pictures and then when you get back start a blog and write about your adventure using your photos as visual aids. Cheers!