Tag Archives: sf

NW Corner of SF

20140412_SutroBath_14

A few weeks back, I went to Point Lobos and Sutro Baths with Sabrina for a little photowalk. Originally I was supposed to go down to the Peninsula to meet her, but I got a late start and made her venture up to SF to see me.

As both of us are wearing inappropriate shoes for trekking down a dirt path, she says, “Oh boy. It’s always an adventure with you.” I laugh and say thanks, even though I know that wasn’t a compliment. Realize, the hike down wasn’t treacherous, as we were passed by 7 year olds skipping down. But at least they were wearing sneakers with traction on the soles.

20140412_SutroBath_07

Most of the photos I took were of things I’ve photographed before. This becomes a lesson in creativity, to find a new perspective, a new technique, to convey something different of a place repeatedly visited. And so, this time I experimented with heavy post-processing for an abstract look to where the ocean meets the sky.

20140412_SutroBath_11

Next time I’ll try to manipulate that in-camera, so there will be less processing to do in post.

Sabrina, I look forward to many more adventures with you.

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San Francisco in film

Last month I spent a day riding my bike around SF, enjoying the gorgeous weather. I brought along my dad’s old Canon SLR. The camera’s metering system runs on a battery that’s no longer made, so I either have to use a separate light meter (I use an app on my phone) or guesstimate and hope for the best (which I do more often than not).

I used 400 speed film, which was probably too much for the full sun that shone brightly that day. Oh, the limitations of film. Luckily, unlike digital, it’s more forgiving.

When looking at my black and white film prints, I sometimes pretend that the photo was taken a long time ago, and try to imagine what it would be like if I were around in that day and age.

Here’s the Conservatory of Flowers, originally built in the late 1800’s. When I rode by it again that night, it was lit up green.

golden gate park

I ended my bike tour at the Sutro Baths. I sipped on a cappuccino from the new cafe and enjoyed the view before trekking down to explore the ruins. This was my view. Not bad.

sf landscape

It was as crowded as I’d ever seen that place. Everyone lingered for a beautiful sunset. I used those moments to breathe deeply and savor this incredible life I’m lucky enough to find myself experiencing.

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High and dry

We are officially in a drought, and may be the worst one on record in California history. I remember as a kid in the 80’s we did our part in rationing our water when we were heavy into the drought. We collected water in buckets as it turned from cold to hot in the shower, which was then used to water the plants in our yard. We turned off the water during our shower when we soaped/shampooed up. Showering became a game, how quickly we could be in and out of there. And the whole “if it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” mantra. Good times.

Clearer skies have never been seen so often in January.

Complaining will not bring rain, so I’m trying my best to ignore the guilt of this warm, sunny weather and enjoy it while it’s here. Last weekend I managed to catch both a sunrise and a sunset.

I’ve seen many more sunsets than sunrises in my life, simply because I’m almost always awake for a sunset. But last Sunday, I managed to wake up early AND get out of my apartment. I took my bike and rode to the very top of Dolores Park, where there exists a beautiful view of the city’s skyline. My bike enjoyed the view.

sunrise at dolores park and public bikes

As the run rose, everything the rays touched turned warm, golden pink. It created a beautiful juxtaposition with the cool blues of the landscape that still evaded the sun.

San Francisco sunrise

The park for sure was a madhouse later that day, as it was gorgeous outside and people flock to the park under these conditions. But to enjoy the park as it’s waking up, to savor the stillness of an early weekend morning, is perhaps a park that not a lot of hipsters know.

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The fluttering of petals and wings

Butterfly on white

A couple months back, Sabrina and I took our annual excursion to Golden Gate Park to photograph the dahlias in full bloom. However, [ahem] someone’s penchant for sleeping in, along with a surprisingly clear sky in the park, meant that by the time we got to the park, the sun blazed overhead and created some harsh lighting, as you can see in this photo (see? overblown in the center top area).

pink, yellow, white dahlia

My laziness minimalist heart prevented me from bringing a tripod nor diffuser, so I had to be creative with my shots. I used the shade of the dahlias and took some low shots.

orange dahlia

I used my sunglasses to filter out some light here.

Dahlia sunglass filter

Sabrina suggested we retreat to the haven of the Conservatory of Flowers. Although it’s humid in there, at least we would be protected from that hot sun (remember, we’re San Franciscans and can only function in the fog and temps cooler than 72 degrees).

My aunt has so many orchids in her backyard. I have no idea how she keeps them alive. They would rival these beauties.

Violet orchid

Water lily loveliness.

water lily in darkness

Water lily

The main exhibit at the Conservatory showcases hundreds of butterflies. If you’re lucky, one will land on you.

emerge

Also, insects are kind of frightening up close. They look so alien. Check out those eyes.

Butterfly on white 2

Be sure to check out Sabrina’s photos from the day.

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Waxflower, the understated little white flower

Waxflower, poetry by M. T. C. Cronin

There’s a fantastic flower stand on 16th St. and Market where I often get my flowers. Amazing bunched beauties can be scored between $5 and $7. Unheard of in the city!

Last week I picked up these cute waxflowers. I didn’t know what they were called at the time, but I was drawn by their sweet, tiny, almost artificial-like flowers. Their buds are burgundy and they have rosemary-like needles. They would have been perfect for Christmas! (But better late than never!)

I took them home and divided them among three containers: the main one in the living room, a tiny cordial glass holds a few sprigs on my kitchen window sill, and a reused jam jar sprouts a little bouquet in the bathroom. I added some fresh greens from the meyer lemon tree in the backyard for some extra interest.

Waxflower in vaseMy only qualm I have with these little guys is that I find their scent mildly repulsive. While not overpowering to a room, it’s definitely noticeable when you are next to them. I don’t know if it’s just me, because when I google “waxflower smells like…” I get only positive results of them smelling lovely. Am I the only one who thinks they smell like a cross between morning breath and the sidewalks of the mission?

If you ever come across these flowers, take a whiff and report back to me.

The full version of M.C.T. Cronin’s poem, Wax-Flower, can be found here.

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Dahlia Dell

peach orange dahlia
Last Tuesday morning was gorgeous in Golden Gate Park, seemingly uncharacteristically sunny there while overcast in the Mission. I was at the park to shoot the dahlia garden, which is in full bloom, just east of the Conservatory of Flowers. My partner-in-crime for the morning was Sabrina, who takes gorgeous pictures of pretty things, making them look even prettier.

I decided to try something different, and went for a darker mood.
purple magenta ombre dahlia

I harnessed the brillant sunlight starting to shine down on the blooming flowers.
shadows and light dahlia

But you know I still love a soft, dreamy flower:
lens flare dahlia

I also brought the Yashica and took a few shots, but I still have a few exposures left in the ol’ TLR so those photos will have to wait for another time. I’m such a tease.

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a shuttle!

The sky has been filled with all sorts of interesting things lately. The cloud formations today were dizzying.

Crazy cool cloud patterns

Today the Blue Angels were back in town for the annual Fleet Week show.

Blue Angels SF Fleet Week

And a couple weeks ago, the space shuttle Endeavour took a scenic farewell tour, piggy-back style. I’ve only seen space shuttles on tv, so it was incredibly thrilling to see it with my very own eyes.

Endeavour shuttle by Sutro Tower in SF

I can’t even get a paper airplane to fly well. How is it possible to build and fly machines of precision that inspire such imagination and hope? It blows my mind.

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Castro Photoshoot

san francisco skyline downtown
Monday I found myself at a photoshoot doing some last-minute assisting for one of my photo partners, Mike Wang. He was updating some corporate portraits for a local SF biz and asked if I could come over for some last minute help. The shoot location was at a luxuriously beautiful Spanish-style home in the Castro, with a stunning view of the city.

This home has been used as a filming location in the past, and rumor has it that it’ll be featured in a reality TV-show, premiering in the fall on Bravo. Craziness!

I only had time to snap a couple photos with my iPhone since I was busy holding up reflectors overhead in the wind, getting a great workout for my arms, as well as figuring out lighting and some photo troubleshooting.

Two types of shots were taken of each person, one with the amazing city backdrop, the other with a plain blue backdrop (to compliment the company’s website colors). Here’s Mike in action:

Mike Wang

I haven’t seen the images yet, but I know Mike did an excellent job!

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Sunday Streets in Film

I love Sunday Streets, which is when SF temporarily shuts down neighborhood streets to cars and opens them up to pedestrians, cyclists, tricyclists, rollerskaters, with a bunch of activities to promote fun, health, and the outdoors. And it’s free!

Local businesses pop up shops on the streets or sidewalks to offer their services and goods. Yoga and Zumba studios will have open classes you can stop by in. Musicians perform. Thousands of people come out. A real good time for adults and kids alike.

For the July 22nd Sunday Streets, Rickshaw Bags in the Dogpatch district had their doors open and I used my Pentax Spotmatic to snap this photo of an employee servicing a bike.

Izze sparkling juices gave out their refreshing drinks to passers by.

Sparkling Juice

At the end of this Sunday Streets route, there was a performance by Circus Bella. I admit I was absolutely delighted by the quality of this little circus. The audience was captivated, adults and children alike. Here are the “Russian Bar Hoppers” performing their incredible feats.

circus bella

Sunday Streets – always a good time!

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Adventures in film

film camera family

As a kid, I had a few point-and-shoot film cameras and would take pictures of my stuffed animal collection. I’d pose them like they were waiting for the bus, sitting in a row together on a bench. I’d always take pictures of my friends when we went out to the amusement park in our town.

It was always exciting getting the prints back from the local drug store and going through them. There was a sense of dread thinking that there would be some embarrassing shot of me that my friend had taken. And sometimes I’d go through the roll and there would be some silly photo of me. But there would be equally silly photos of my friends. And it was all in good fun.

I never learned how to use a film SLR camera until my dad leant me his a few years ago. Despite him owning that camera my entire life, I never asked how to use it. As a kid, I’d be fascinated by it. All these leather pouches to hold lenses, film, the camera. It was heavy and cumbersome. It was mysterious. It was dorky because, hey, it was my dad’s hobby. And yet it was also cool.

And with his SLR, he also gave me his Yashica TLR that he received from a friend’s father decades ago. I had never seen it before that moment. I felt like it was my birthday that day.

One of my weaknesses is that I get overwhelmed by the possibility of failing, so it prevents me from doing stuff. I don’t want to mess up when shooting film. The cost of a roll of film plus prints and then scans (my scanner broke) really adds up, and I don’t want to waste a shot, so it takes me forever to go through a roll. I’m trying to get better at this.

There’s a general agreement among many photographers that there’s maybe one or two good shots per roll of film. While in this batch I wouldn’t say that any of them took my breath away, I’m happy with how a few of them came out. Many of them simply did not come out at all. The Canon temporarily broke (stuck mirror) and I accidentally exposed the roll and ruined a bunch of shots. And then I had problems winding the film on my TLR and ended up with some weird double exposures going on in some of the frames, but not in a cool/artsy looking way. And almost all the shots taken with the Canon had some weird flare issue going on in one particular spot. I don’t know what caused this (any guesses?).

For me, taking a break from snap-happy digital shooting and switching to these old-school film cameras help ground me. It’s meditative. Each shot is intentional. There’s an element of trust because you don’t know how it’s going to look until you get that print back in your hand. You just have to believe that it’s great. And at that moment it is.

And pushing the mechanical shutter button is so satisfying with its “cha-clink!”

So here are a few of my photos.

This is the Yashica.

Yashica TRL

You hold the camera at waist or chest level and look down into the viewfinder screen, which shows you what the lens on top sees. To compose the shot left or right, you have to move in the reverse direction (move left if you want to compose more to the right). You also have to adjust for the bottom lens that will take the picture, which is below what you see. It’s a little tricky.

This is Bandit Snoopy. He’s a favorite in our household. He likes chocolate chip cookies and jelly doughnuts.

snoopy diptych

Chinatown is vibrant and colorful. This was taken last year, not sure when exactly (see? The film had been in my camera for a while!).

Red Lanterns

And on the other side of the spectrum, I went on a hike near Woodside, CA earlier this month, which was peacefully quiet.

San Mateo County Memorial Park

So there you have my most recent (and not so recent) adventures in film. I have so much to learn, but it’s a process I really enjoy.

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