Thursday, January 31, 2008


I've only been there a few times, but every time I go, it seems as if the scene is overflowing with photographic possibilities.

And, like it or not, the photographs are popular . . . they sell!

I like it!

So, I'm going back and scanning/rescanning some of my old negatives. I'd like to be able to visit Mexico with my E-510 . . . we'll see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

San Francisco Rain (con’t)

I was in the city on Tuesday to have lunch with Marilyn, a former co-worker. Again, the forecast was for rain, and in fact it did rain off and on, at least enough to wet the ground for the photo of seagulls striking a Last Year in Marienbad pose in front of the Vaillancourt Fountain in Justin Herman Plaza.

After a nice lunch at Nordstrom’s café (good view!) I took BART over to the Artist-Xchange Gallery on 16th Street in order to take a look at my friend Jenny’s jewelry display, passing on the way a wide variety of picturesque pix possibilities.

Her pieces were in a glass case near the middle of the gallery . . . very skillfully done, Jenny!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Manzanita Poster

I’ve created a "poster" using Scott Kelby’s techniques (in The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers.) It will feature the Manzanita Branch photo and will be printed with an overall size of 16x20 inches at West Coast Imaging. The word "poster" is in quotes because it’s really not a poster, in the sense of a mass-produced object—it will be a one-of-a-kind inkjet print. But it will "present" as a poster.

If I ever get a venue, this, along with other posters based on my various literary collaborations, will be "priced to sell," as a kind of promotional item.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ansel Adams’ Piano

In 1984 I attended a photographic workshop at the Asilomar Conference Center in Carmel; it had been organized by the Friends of Photography. I remember presentations being given by John Sexton and Huntington Witherall, and traveling to Morley Baer’s house for a little inspirational talk by Mr. Baer.

Most of what was presented dealt with (of course) traditional black and white printing. We also had our portfolios critiqued, which turned out to be of limited utility (to me anyway.)

And I also remember quite clearly the large tubs of iced bottles of beer each evening. I feel that this, more than anything, added greatly to my grasp of the material being presented.

We were able to visit Ansel Adams’ house. Mr. Adams had just passed away in April; his wife, Virginia, was living there and was there to greet us. I had along a small 35mm camera with some high-speed film for flashless photographs, taking this picture of Adams’ piano and decorative objects. Notice the photographs and posters in back.

I wouldn’t mind attending another (digital) workshop in the future, but I need to spend my limited funds on equipment and supplies at this time.

Photo: Ansel Adams' Piano—Carmel, 1984

Saturday, January 26, 2008

San Francisco Rain

I took the Larkspur ferry to San Francisco Friday afternoon in order to have dinner with Mary and Wei. The forecast was predicting heavy rain so I was looking forward to adding more photographs to my "San Francisco Rain" project (as well as the delicious, hot Chinese dinner.)

It was raining heavily when the boat pulled up to the Ferry Building dock, the Bay Bridge looming Monet-like through the rain-rippled windows. I jogged down Market Street to the nearest BART station and took the train to the 16th Street exit . . . the Mission District. Aboveground, it was raining just as hard, if not harder. I walked up and down Mission Street, first one side and then the other, my left arm cradling my Olympus E-510 (with the lens pointed down to avoid raindrops) while my right arm wielded my umbrella. I turned on the IS (image stabilization) feature and utilized parking meters as camera rests wherever possible. Luckily I had on my Gore-Tex shoes but before long my pants legs had become very wet and I headed back to the BART station, where I took a train to the Powell Street station.

I met Mary at the San Francisco Center shopping mall and we walked over to the restaurant, first meeting Wei at his office. The Chinese food, at the New Hong Kong Menu restaurant on Commercial Street, was hot and satisfying, as expected. And, as usual, I washed it down with Tsing Tao beer.

Upon leaving the restaurant we discovered that the rain had reached Kurosawa proportions, sluicing down from the heavens in wind-driven torrents. Wow! The trip home featured sopping wet pants legs and, once I had my car radio turned on, a Weather Service flood advisory for Marin County. Going through San Anselmo I noticed that the police had sealed off San Anselmo Avenue—a frequent site of flooding. Luckily, the rain finally eased off later that night so no problems occurred.

Painted Seagulls (San Francisco Rain)

Taken on Mission Street.

New Hong Kong Menu (San Francisco Rain)

An earlier photo of the restaurant, sans rain.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pigeon & San Francisco Flowers

Taken with the Olympus C-8080 utilizing the tilt screen (see below), 2006.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Tilting LCD Screen

I am patiently waiting for the correct small camera to be announced. It will have many of the features of the Canon G9, to be sure, as listed by Paul Butzi here.

But I do insist on one thing: a tilting LCD screen, as seen on my older Olympus C-8080. When in use, the camera can be tangling from your neck, discreetly at waist level, while you compose your photograph. Equally of value is the ability to prop the camera on the nearest support (suitcase handle, garbage can, whatever) in order to take slow shutter speed photos.

For a period of time I had occasion to walk through downtown San Francisco on my daily commute, rolling my wheeled Jansport daypack behind me. It became second nature to be able to quickly balance the C-8080 on the Jansport’s handle and snap away.

Actually, I believe that the older Canon G-models had tilting LCD screens . . . they could even swivel (don’t really see the point for swiveling). Interestingly enough, some recent digital SLR models now have this feature.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Olympus C-8080 and the Digital Manzanita Branch

Manzanita Branch - Sierra Nevada  2005

Manzanita branch,
Placed just so:
Early morning light.

(From Rocks and Peaks, Rivers and Streams by Robert Sanders)

In February, 2005 I upgraded my digital camera to an Olympus C-8080 "prosumer" camera, partly on the basis of a "Highly Recommended" review at the digital photography web site, dpreview. And so it was that in July of that year I found myself camping in Devils Postpile National Monument, hiking the Shadow Lake trail with the C-8080 slung around my neck. It was very early in the morning with a typical mountain chill still in the air. Alas, as soon as I got out of the car I was attacked by mosquitoes, impelling a quick slathering-on of repellant. (Of course, those were the last mosquitoes I saw that day.)

Not long into the hike I noticed, over to the right, a ready-made composition: a gnarled manzanita branch resting on some reddish (volcanic?) rock, still in shade, but sunlight quickly approaching. I took two photos, one wide and one close, and continued on my way.

The one close shot of the manzanita branch was a keeper! (Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what the "keeper criteria" are.) I printed an 8x10 print using a Hewlett-Packard photosmart printer, dry-mounted and framed it, and hung it up in the bathroom.

Here’s the thing: it didn’t take very long for me to realize that what I had on the wall was very different from what I was accustomed to in photography. The mind experiment I conducted was as follows: if I could take the Manzanita Branch print off the wall, wrap it up and mail it back in time to myself in, say, 1995, what would my 1995 self think of the print? Clearly, I would have thought that the photograph had been taken with—at least—a medium-format camera, maybe a twin-lens reflex or a Mamiya RB67. Maybe even a 4x5. And, the reason I would have thought "medium format" would have been the absolute lack of grain in the photograph. What a revelation: medium-format quality from a light-weight, around-the-neck camera!

Since then, I’ve become aware of some limitations. Print sizes from the C-8080’s JPG files can’t go much over 11x14 and sky areas are prone to noise and artifacts. But I still think that this photo is extremely cool.

[UPDATE: Since this post I've of course printed C-8080 photos larger than 11x14 . . . certainly up to 16x20.]

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reflections, Sunset--Gray Lodge NWR

Branches, Reflections--Sacramento NWR

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

My wife Hali, our friend Barbara and I spent most of Saturday and Sunday visiting the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for birding and photography. We managed to reach the Colusa Wildlife Refuge and the Gray Lodge Refuge on Saturday (the latter just at sunset) and the larger Sacramento Refuge on Sunday morning.

Both birding and photography proved productive. Barbara was our group bird expert; she was able to identify several by sight, and was able to add some new species to her own list. One highlight occurred when she spotted a bald eagle in a tree and was able to follow it as it flew off in search of prey, dived, and snared a smaller bird! Later we saw the eagle and a companion as they ate breakfast. I drove while she and Hali worked as a team looking for pheasants, egrets, herons and a wide variety of geese—as well as the elusive "rail."

The photography was of a more generalized nature. The lens on my Olympus E-510 has a zoom range of 28-84 and, although I consider it an excellent lens, it didn’t have nearly enough range to reach even fairly close birds. So I had to concentrate on overall landscape shots: sunrise, bare winter branches seen through a chill early morning Sunday mist and a few over-the-top sunset shots. To be honest, I was OK with this limitation, as I’ve never had any real ambition to be a wildlife photographer. The one shot I got of the "fly-off" is flawed because I had been using the camera on the tripod, set at F22, aperture-priority, and so the geese flying over were shot at 1/50th second at F22. The picture is underexposed, and so has severe noise issues. I’m amazed that it’s as sharp as it is!

One other pleasant note: we ate very well! We had some nice sandwiches Saturday at the Pure Grain Bakery in downtown Vacaville, better than expected fajitas at Casa Ramos, the Mexican restaurant next to our motel in Willows, and an excellent lunch at the Putah Creek Café in Winters.

Photo: Flyoff—Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yosemite Falls

I recently came across this photo while going through some old boxes of prints.

What I’d Like To Be Able To Say

It was an ambition of mine to take a photograph of lower Yosemite Falls in full flow. In addition, I calculated that including the tree at the base of the falls would give the image some scale. Due to the angle of the sunrise there are only a few days in the year when the tree is sidelit in front of the falls, so it was imperative that I show up quite early on this particular morning. The trail to the base of the falls, usually bustling with tourists and snapshooters, was oddly empty, all thoughts driven out by the thunderous roar of the waterfall. Scrambling among the rocks I tried to place the legs of my tripod in the most advantageous position. The morning dimness gradually retreated and finally the rising sun illuminated the small tree. I made several exposures, the most representative is shown here.

Alas, The Reality

In the spring of 1990 I was staying at Yosemite Lodge, near the base of Yosemite Falls. One morning I got up, walked over to the base of the falls, and took this totally unplanned-for photograph. The part about the trail being empty and the thunderous roar . . . yes, that did happen.

Photo: Yosemite Falls—Sierra Nevada, 1990

Friday, January 18, 2008

Contact Sheets

I had mentioned earlier that my first contact sheets date back to 1958.

Does the term "contact sheet" require an explanation? OK, one would take a developed roll of film and cut it into strips. In the darkroom these strips would be pressed against a sheet of photo paper, under glass, and exposed to light. After developing the paper, the result would be a series of mini-photos, a physical record of one’s work that could be used in the future. As I recall, a contact sheet was a big plot point in Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

But what about my last contact sheet? Good question: I had to go look. The last B&W contact sheet was filed into a three-ring binder in 2001, I think in Autumn. On it can be found standard 35mm shots taken with a Leica Minilux, my small camera at that time: San Francisco skyline, Mt. Tamalpais from the ferry . . . (I still have this camera . . . very nicely put together.)

It was around then that I started to incorporate elements of the digital process into my "workflow." (I think that this term must be relatively new.) I started using color negative film for scanning purposes in 1997. And, now and then, I used B&W chromogenic film in the Minilux.

I didn’t buy a digital camera until 2004.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter Blackberries

Very muddy out at the stable: difficulty in setting up the tripod. Muted colors of winter, oak in background.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sweeney Todd

Saw Sweeney Todd yesterday. I liked it well enough . . . some of the lyrics got a little lost in the soundtrack, I thought. Alas, the omission of the chorus was a mistake, especially towards the end. You would have thought that it could have at least been brought in during the closing credits.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

50 Years

I was going through my contact sheets yesterday. The earliest contact sheets are dated 1958! Didn't realize until now . . . have been doing photos for 50 years!

I took a photo of the interior of this church in 1958 during one of my family's trips to South Dakota. I used an Argus C3, as I recall. I call it Abandoned Church, but really, it simply looks vandalized . . .

UPDATE: Now that I think about it, of course I had been taking photographs long before I started making contact sheets. Hmm, since at least . . . 1954? . . . 1955? My 50th photo anniversary has already gone by without me noticing it!