Thriving in the Shadow of Hollywood2 surprising revelations about Los Angeles: nature … and stars.
When Ben O'Meara's wife, Courtney, was pregnant with their now 1-year-old son, Seb, the soon-to-be father learned something simple yet surprising about Los Angeles: "You can see the stars." And he's not speaking of the Hollywood variety.
"Courtney was going to bed really early most nights," O'Meara says, "and I couldn't watch TV because we live in a loft. I couldn't wake her up." To keep himself occupied, he took to the balcony and the roof to shoot time-lapse photographs of the night sky. The activity turned into a short film he calls "Moon Lights Los Angeles," a celestial close-up of planes streaking across the sky, full moons rising, and — despite the glow of the city lights — actual stars shining.
The project encapsulates two of the things that most drew the Connecticut native from the East Coast to Los Angeles: film and nature. A former architect, O'Meara's love of film prompted him to make a career switch into the field of motion graphics, which involves designing and animating typography and graphic elements for movie trailers and title sequences. In his position as senior art director for Devastudios, he's worked on major motion pictures, including "The Departed" and "Fast Five."
Though time-lapse photography is just a hobby, it's become one of the tools in his motion graphics repertoire. For the vampire flick "Let Me In," he shot a time-lapse sequence of ink melting into ice to create the distinctive typography for the trailer. O'Meara enjoys the opportunity to employ a variety of such technical and artistic techniques in his work. "It doesn't get mundane," he says. "Every project is different, creative and not necessarily repeating what you've done in the past."
Yet he can still burn out from too much time spent in front of a computer screen, and when he does, this nature lover heads for the hills — the Santa Monica Mountains, to be specific, where he's discovered a little-known perch, San Vicente Mountain Park. The highest point in Los Angeles, it's a former anti-aircraft radar site (part of a Cold War defense system) turned peaceful hiking area. O'Meara enjoys the 360-degree views of the city and the dog-friendly trail (Floyd, his Hungarian vizsla, often joins him). On the way home, he relaxes with quesadillas and margaritas at hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant La Cabaña in Venice, or with a wood-fired pie at Pitfire Pizza in Culver City.
Midweek, he sometimes joins a group of friends for a nighttime mountain biking trek. They ride with high-powered headlamps — unless there's a full moon. Cruising in the darkness, he says, is thrilling. "The sensation of speed is elevated by probably a factor of four. There's a little bit of wildlife out there. You'll see night owls that fly in your headlamp in front of you and follow you along the trail."
Like his film "Moon Lights Los Angeles" reveals, the city's night owls — of both the human and avian varieties — can get a unique window on the magical natural world that thrives here in the shadow of Hollywood.
Check out Ben's Los Angeles.