#WhyIDrive: Nicholas Hess
How long have you been in LA?
I’ve lived here for a total of 15 years.
You’ve got me beat. What brought you out here?
Acting, like everybody else. My sister and I moved here when I was about 14 and started doing acting classes in Studio City.
Oh, wow. Do you like California more than Hawaii?
I love California. You’ve got the beach, which I don’t actually go to as much because I get so much of the good beaches in Hawaii that I don’t really go to them here. *laughs*
But I like the mountains. In Hawaii, we all have tropical rainforests, but it’s a different experience than hiking out in the wilderness out here. You have mountain ranges with these huge valleys.
Your photos are really amazing. How long have you been doing photography?
About 15 years, but that’s not professionally. I started getting real serious about 5 years ago.
Can you walk me through your journey as a photographer?
My sister bought an Olympus when she came back from an acting gig. It sparked my interest so I bought myself a film camera. I was about 15, and I just started shooting like that.
In my junior year of high school, I took a dark room class and learned a foundation, from making a cereal box handheld camera to developing film.
The whole process is really cool. Just seeing it from that angle, especially because that was in 2001. Mac computers were all over the labs and we were in that digital age—the pinnacle point. At the same time, learning the different chemicals and how to overexpose or underexpose, and all the filters and stuff. I got to see if from a really cool perspective.
Now most kids just start point and shooting, but they don’t really understand the whole science behind it.
What kind of things do you like shooting?
I’d say sunsets. It sounds so cheesy but it’s one of my favorites to shoot. You always have good lighting. Also morning time. Anything in the morning time because the light is so mellow. And then I guess Hawaii.
That’s just a special place for you?
How would you describe your style?
I like a lot of color. I don’t like to take away any of the blacks. My pictures are either really dark or colorful.
Nice. How long have you been driving with Uber?
About 7 months now.
What’s your most memorable trip?
I picked up a man at a medical facility. He said, “Today is the last time I need to go to the doctor. I’m done.” We just had a really in-depth conversation about life in general. That was very spontaneous and out of nowhere. We didn’t talk about why he was there. We just talked about the world.
What was the most impactful thing you learned from him?
That everyone has their story. Everyone is going through this all at the same time.
What are some places you’ve seen in LA that you might not have seen if it wasn’t for trips?
Downtown. I didn’t familiarize myself much with Downtown LA until I started driving with Uber. It’s putting me in the heart of it all and makes me feel even more connected.
Other than that, just me driving around LA. Seeing more backroads. Seeing these hidden gems. There are a lot of streets that I drive down that have these crazy massive trees, near the airport of all places. So it opens up my eyes to a lot of tiny neighborhood pockets, which is really cool. I see character everywhere.