Clothes, a computer, and two crates of records.
That’s what Dan Marker-Moore loaded into his car when he finally made the drive out to Los Angeles in September of 2010.
At the time, Dan had been working as a motion graphics artist in Chicago, and the move to LA seemed inevitable. Not only was it the up-and-coming hub for his industry, but, for an aspiring cityscape and landscape photographer, the City of Angels represented everything Chicago wasn’t.
The move meant Dan would be trading in brutal winds and miserable winters for a world of endless summer. He’d be leaving behind the suffocating flatness of the Midwest for a diverse urban space surrounded by hills, mountains, and ocean. In Chicago, the only topographical anomaly was a landfill covered with grass. Every day in LA, Dan could find a new mountain to climb, a new vantage point from which to gaze out over the sprawling metropolis.
Eight years later, Dan has yet to grow tired of his new home.
When looking at Dan’s images, the variation in color is immediately striking. It’s easy to equate LA with the same stock images — the deep blue Pacific, the group of palm trees silhouetted against an orange sunset, the lonely stand of downtown skyscrapers.
Dan’s photos are stubbornly original.
He’ll shoot the Griffith Park Observatory superimposed against the LA skyline, for instance, but he’ll do it at dusk and keep the entirety of his subject in the bottom half of the shot, reserving the top for the rare deep purple of the clouds hanging over the city. Or he’ll capture the Hollywood sign from behind while the entirety of the city beyond is bathed in the hellish glow from an unexpected thunderstorm.
In a city that originally drew him in with the promise of perfect weather, Dan resists the temptation to take that perpetually sunny shot, instead using his lens to seek out unique bursts of light and color lying in wait around every corner.
He attributes part of this to his patience. Though many of his shots depict LA as a city constantly draped in cotton-candy clouds, Dan says that he can often go weeks plagued with completely clear skies. He likes climbing into the hills surrounding the city to get photos from high elevations, but he often has to return to the same spot a dozen times before he’s blessed with the cloud cover and light that provide his work with its unique character.
While this patience inspires his work at home, it can cause problems for him abroad. Right about the time he started getting into photography, Dan took a trip to Thailand with some friends and when he returned to the States, he couldn’t wait to book his next trip. In the years since, he’s been to Shanghai, Venice, Amsterdam, Singapore, Ireland, and countless other photogenic destinations, and wherever he’s ended up, he’s had his camera in tow. However, lacking the luxury of endless shoots that he enjoys in LA, he laments that it can be difficult to truly capture a place when he’s only there for a short time.
He always feels tempted to buy a plane ticket back to his destination so he can capture the same scenes, just bathed in a different light.
Sometimes, though, he gets lucky.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, he aimed to capture a time-lapse of the sunrise from Victoria Peak every morning. One day, he awoke to gray skies and figured it was too foggy to shoot. Dan decided to grab his gear anyway and trudged up the mountain.
Once he was at the summit, the fog broke, revealing a brilliant lightning storm wreaking havoc upon the city below. He ended up with some of the most striking shots of his trip that day.
Not every hike results in great photos, but it’s Dan’s commitment to keep climbing that has paid off for him.