Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Edward Weston

I first became acquainted with the photographs of Edward Weston when I was given the book California and the West for a Christmas present by my parents. Of course I can’t remember what year that was, nor the motive behind the gift. In the 50’s, certainly. Was I already taking train photographs at the time?

I found the book to be quite fascinating. The idea of roaming around California on obscure byways, stopping whenever the artistic impulse struck, was such a good idea. And there were other interesting nuggets of information; for example, Ansel Adams considered jellybeans and whiskey to be the really two essential items for a Sierra backcountry trip. I remember reciting this lore starting with my first camping trip. His wife Charis, who wrote the book and acted as chauffeur, had developed the knack of recognizing typical Weston subject matter; Weston could safely nap in the back seat knowing that she’d wake him up when necessary.

I became a Westonologist, acquiring the two-volume Daybook series, Ben Maddow’s exhaustive biography, and the prize (again from my parents), found at a used book store for a pittance: My Camera at Point Lobos. My most recent acquisition was a gift of a small book of Weston photographs from the Getty collection, complete with the transcript of a 7-person symposium on Weston’s works.

So—when was it?—the fact that I had gradually became disenchanted with Weston came as a little bit of a surprise. I think that—for various reasons—some work I did in the 1980’s brought me to an awareness of the lurking dangers of pretension and pompousness. Re-reading many of Weston’s Daybook entries one is certainly struck by the amount of ego involved. "This new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind. To be sure, much of my work has this quality." He is always out taking some photographs, coming back home, and then quickly writing about how he has just created a masterpiece.

And maybe he had created a masterpiece! That’s possible. But I’ve come to think that even if you think that you’ve just created a masterpiece it’s probably better just to shut up about it.

Photo: Mike’s Weston Books—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Poster from England, as seen on Howard Grill's blog Motivation. Luckily, I know that I would never seem odd . . .


As I had said, I wanted to experience a sunset at Point Lobos.

So, there I was, 7:30 PM, camera in hand, overlooking the so-called "Devil’s Cauldron" (thus it is named on the map), watching the sun go down. The foreground was very dark; the sky was very light. So, what I did, was bracket. This involves taking three exposures in rapid succession, the three exposures being normal, normal – 1, and normal + 1. (1 f-stop, that is.) The camera can do this automatically, if you know how to access the settings.

I ended up with a lot of photos with correctly exposed foregrounds, and a lot of photos with correctly exposed skies. And so it is that, thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, I went ahead and picked the best foreground exposure, and the best sky exposure, and did a little copy and paste job.

Alas, the seals lounging on the middle rock really aren’t visible . . .

Photo: Sunset—Point Lobos, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008


As a way of killing part of a too-bright afternoon Mike turned left from Highway One onto Ocean Avenue and drove into Carmel. His Carmel parking strategy is to drive into the town on Ocean, then turn right at a random intersection and keep driving until a spot appears.

Mike turned right (randomly) on Dolores and, after some blocks, found a coveted parking spot. He walked back towards town, passing numerous "Western Art" galleries before coming to the "Kip Evans Photography’s Mountain & Sea Gallery," which was, alas, not open, due to a "shoot" taking place that day. Mike picked up the full-color glossy brochure wondering how much something like that would cost.

Around the corner on 6th the Weston Gallery was open, featuring the work of Weston & Adams, and an exhibit titled Passage to Eternity: new photographic works by Yoshimitsu Nagasaka. After a quick once-over he left the gallery to check out this cool Jaguar parked in front of, yes, more art galleries.

Photo: Jaguar—Carmel, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Point Lobos

It takes around 3-1/2 hours to get to Point Lobos from my house, so going there is not really any kind of exotic pilgrimage. Last week I rented a motel in Monterey for 2 nights in order to get some early morning and sunset pix.

In a way it’s too late. One is going to be forever chasing after Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Minor White and other luminaries, seeing the same rock formations, twisted cypresses and crashing surf just as they saw it, doomed to repeat the same compositions over and over again. High-key, black and white, color, close-ups, abstractions . . . all truly have been done before.

Withal, it’s a neat place, particularly with the sound of the surf in the background and a stiff sea breeze in your face. I was there to take some 10MP shots using the E-510 and my new 12-60 lens. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add some of the shots to my "for sale" portfolio. My goals were to take some sequenced, close-up rock pictures to be merged later in Photoshop. And, of course, some overall multi-photo panoramic shots, together with whatever I might happen to see while there.

The weather—almost—didn’t cooperate. Very bright and full of glare, especially during the middle of the day. There was one moment, though, towards Wednesday evening, when residual moisture in the atmosphere produced a series of vaporous low clouds drifting overhead and into the hills. After some quick shots in the rocks down by the surf’s edge I headed up into the bluffs for this three-photo panorama.

Photo: Clouds & Ocean—Point Lobos, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Monterey Bay

Early morning in Pacific Grove, on the shores of Monterey Bay. The sounds of sea gulls' cries and waves slowly lapping at the shore. Sights of an unused park bench and kelp drifting in a protected part of the bay.

Photos: Bench, Monterey Bay—Pacific Grove, 2008; Kelp—Monterey Bay, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tide Ripples

Just back from Photography Land, otherwise known as Monterey / Point Lobos.

This photo was taken at Asilomar Beach.

More later.

Photo: Tide Ripples—Asilomar Beach, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fish Creek

Another scan . . . the result of more organizing.

Fish Creek flows through what is termed on the map Fish Valley—a very steep valley, if you ask me. We had arrived there via horseback to spend the last night of our first horsepacking trip adjacent to the creek after an interminable descent from Grassy Lake. Large sections of the trail consisted of steps cut out of the rock, and Pilgrim (my horse) saw the steps as a chance to practice his hopping-down-steps-like-a-mountain-goat technique.

We finally reached the valley floor, camping underneath a grove of red firs. I took this photo with my Minolta 7000i mounted on a tripod. Interestingly enough, the tripod broke right afterwards—but it was our last night, anyway.

Photo: Fish Creek—Sierra Nevada, 2001

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Markleeville General Store

The act of posting my discontents with organizing and categorizing photos has had the salutary effect of making me start to go through my older photos, to—yes—organize and categorize them. Let it be said, however, that my theory is that one should only organize and categorize the "keepers."

Photo: Markleeville General Store—Alpine County, 1998

Monday, April 21, 2008

Horse Pix

More than once I’ve started taking photos of a nice landscape with horse, and more than once the horse hasn’t been able to resist moseying on over to check me out, most likely suspecting that I have apples or other such goodies hidden in my pocket.

Ansel Adams was lucky that his horse was far enough away to preclude moseying. (And luckier yet that the horse wasn't a cow. Horses are much more picturesque.)

Photo(s): Chula—Marin County, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Passover has its roots in the ancient spring festivals of farmers and shepherds who celebrated the sacred season of rebirth.

The Haggadah, an anonymous book of history, religious and moral instruction and prayer tells the story of Passover and presents the Seder, or ritual order, for the celebration.

The Seder, which keeps alive in us the love of liberty, has a significance for all humankind. Freedom, which is one of our most precious gifts, must not be taken for granted. In every age it must be won anew. The Pharoah of the Exodus is symbolic of the tyrants of their day as well as the tyrants in every era of history.

Photo: Three Lilies—Marin County, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Contact Sheets II

I had talked about contact sheets earlier, here. But, in re-reading, I can see that I presented contact sheets as something archaic, something that one did in the olden times (that is, 10 years ago).

The reality is that, in fact, I continue to create "contact sheets"—virtual contact sheets, I guess you would call them. I select 30 digital files (photos) and print them on a sheet of Epson matte paper, three-hole punch them, and file them in a binder. Up to now, that has been the extent of my digital organizing, so that if I want to find one particular photo, I have to drag out the binders and go through them, trying to remember the approximate date of the photo.

The issue for me now is that I am having a hard time locating photographs to put on my web site. For example, I want to create a separate "Desert" page, analogous to the "Mountains" page, but up to now I haven’t organized photos based on subject matter. I mean, I’ve taken, oh, hundreds of desert pictures . . . but they’re scattered all over the place.
It can be done, I know: the organizing and categorizing of digital photographs . . . but the prospect of actually sitting in front of the computer and creating keywords, ranking systems, etcetera, strikes me as being incredibly tedious.


Photo: Contact Sheet #198

Thursday, April 17, 2008


OK, four more pix up at the web site: a Mountains page.

Captions, etc still to do.

Also, a "Prints" page as well.

Photo: Road & Snow—Placer County, 2004

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Lens

Well, I have just received the new lens I ordered from B&H: the Olympus high-end 12-60 telephoto. (35mm equivalent: 24-120.)

I’ll have more to say, I’m sure, about it. Used it for the first time yesterday, in Sausalito. (There for my haircut.)

Photo: Fire Truck—Sausalito, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Congressional Order of Merit!

I got an extremely exciting voice mail today. Let me quote:

"Hi Mr. Mundy. My name is Megan Myers with Tom Cole and the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington. For your role as a business leader in California we wanted to recognize you with our highest honor: the Congressional Order of Merit. I need to speak to you about it as soon as possible." She left an 800#.


I mean: the friggin’ Congressional Order of Merit!

For a while, anyway, my journey to the Dark Side was almost complete. I haven’t been so excited since the day I received an invitation from Ronald Reagan to be on the 1985 Republican Presidential Task Force!

Alas and alack: Curse you, Google! For I have now learned that this is, unbelievable though it may sound, a scam designed to solicit Republican donations!

Uh-oh. I think that I might just have run out of my daily quota of exclamation points.

The Way of the Geezer: Bishop Pass—Sierra Nevada, 2007

. . . from last year’s camping notes:

8:00 AM—Trailhead. Begin hike. Nice trail . . . shady.
9:45—Long Lake. Been here many times before, but really, no recognition of the place. M&Ms . . . yum.
11:30—12:00 PM—Lunch at the Saddlerock Lake outlet bridge.
2:00—Bishop Pass. Somewhat regretting my decision to push this far today: very tough ascent. In my memory, I had thought that I’d camped at the top of the pass in 1961, but no . . . far too rocky. Will need to descend to Dusy Basin side.
2:45—Camp site! Jeez . . . ended up going way farther than I planned. A "stealth" site, off the trail behind a group of boulders, about 200-300 feet from nearest water source (some frog ponds).


Mike's sleep was very altitude-impaired. Of course: his camp site was over 11,000 feet. Gasping for air, etc. However, he was able to adjust slightly as the night progressed, so decided to continue (at one point he was wondering!)

Photo: Bishop Pass—Sierra Nevada, 2007

Sunday, April 13, 2008

. . . from the archives #9: Bishop Pass—Sierra Nevada, 1961

After a family vacation in Yosemite I drove down through Owens Valley to the trailhead at South Lake, just west of the small town of Bishop. I managed to make it up to Bishop Pass and a little bit beyond. My backpacking equipment was very primitive—as I recall, I had no insulation between my sleeping bag and the ground, basically resulting in a sleepless night of tossing and turning.

But I did have a twin-lens reflex with me!

Photo: Bishop Pass—Sierra Nevada, 1961

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Legion of Honor

Another four photos on the web site, this time of San Francisco. (Captions still to come.)

This picture was used in San Francisco Rain, a Glen Drive Production publication.

Photo: Legion of Honor—San Francisco, 2001

Friday, April 11, 2008

Web Site (continued)

I’ve been working on my web site, as I said: tweaking, tweaking, tweaking. Since the subtitle for the site (and this blog) is "Photographs by Michael Mundy: San Francisco, Marin County & California," I want to have separate pages for photos taken in, yes, San Francisco, Marin County and California, starting with Marin County.

I’ve decided on four photos per page. Of course, the resolution and design remain a mystery, so that’s hit-and-miss. And then I need to have copyright info on each photo.

Interesting: got a phone call yesterday from a representative. He said he was responding to my email request for a consultation. I said that I hadn’t sent an email. Anyway, it turns out that my blog post/mini-rant titled "My Web Site" somehow got into the queue as a request for support!

At least someone is reading the blog.

Photo: Sunset, Mt. Tamalpais—Marin County, 2005

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Publications (#5): Cycles

No more sunsets? I think not.
Somewhere in some sylvan spot
The sun will rise, and flowers bloom,
And butterflies will flit and zoom.

A cycle and recycle thing,
One more Autumn, one more Spring.
Another’s orbit, not our own,
Our sun by then a lifeless stone.

Others have ideas, I know,
About what happens when we go.
A thousand virgins? Demons rare?
A fairyland beyond compare?

And others say beyond the tomb
Is nothing but an empty room.
But I—I think that I’ll just wait and see,
And hope for a recycled me.

Excerpt from Cycles by Richard Summers © Glen Drive Productions 2003.

Photo: Irises—Bodie, 2006.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Web Site

My official web site can be found here.

I have it as part of a one-price-pays-for-x-pages deal with For a fairly low price, you get a limited choice of pages, colors, fonts, templates etc. Then it's up to you to do what you can with it. Of course, they will gladly sell you their services in designing a better site.

Whatever. I'm not happy with it. The whole thing is a big trial-by-error operation: try one thing, oops, doesn't work, try another, oops, not that great but maybe I can live with it. My current color scheme is the best that I can do, but certainly could be a lot better. Unfortunately, the choices just aren't there.

I first got the site as a vanity thingie, but now I'd like to turn it towards a more commercial direction. I have in mind something like Dave Beckerman's site. The sad thing is that the whole web-building process is, in fact , very complicated. At first I assumed that all I'd have to do would be to read a few books. But since the project would involve selling prints there are a few quirks that would need to exist, mainly, the need for thumbnail pix with a link to bigger pix.

Now my thoughts are going in the direction of paying for a service. Fleeting Light, for example, is a local company that will design a site for you. They designed Alan Ross' site.

Nothing that I'm going to do any time soon, mind you. I'll stick with for a while longer, tweaking, tweaking, tweaking.

Monday, April 7, 2008

. . . from the archives #8: Fritos & Beer—Death Valley Road, 1994

If you travel east out of Big Pine in the Owens Valley you will be heading towards the famous Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains, a trip full of forests and far-reaching vistas. But before you arrive at the high altitude pines there is another road, a side road that you could take—oh yes, a secret way into Death Valley itself. We knows this road, we took it, long ago it was. (Gollum, gollum.)

Oh, OK, excuse the LOTR imitation. This road—the Death Valley Road—eventually meanders through Eureka Valley, heading south past some spectacular sand dunes to arrive at the main Death Valley highway near Scotty’s Castle. In this photo I’ve stopped at the road’s crest at the start of the Saline Valley Road: time for lunch and a little Fritos & Beer interlude. Not even a single car passed by the whole time I was there; I remained in splendid solitude with my precious Fritos & Beer.

This inaugurated a whole series of Fritos & Beer-themed pix.

Photo: Fritos & Beer—Death Valley Road, 1994

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thematic Considerations II

So I’ve spent some time putting together a little booklet displaying my work, with the opening section titled "Los Angeles & Environs, 1958—2008." As an experiment, I'm going to have the overall dimensions 11x11 inches, so I can use both horizontal and vertical pictures. (So it's taking some time: I'll have to print the pages onto 11x14 paper and then trim to 11x11.)

With those dates, I had to use something from 1958: my Pacific Electric photo, and then something from 2008: my jogger photo. Scattered in-between are various black and white photos from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I also wanted at least two color shots: I picked the one of the Oki Dog and then, the above Mural Painter photo.

The second section of the booklet has selections relating to my published work—quotes from Robinson Jeffers, Gary Snyder, Rebecca Saito and others.

Photo: Mural Painter—Los Angeles, 2006

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thematic Considerations

While waiting in the reception room at Kaiser the other day, I was leafing through my "handout," the little booklet I’ve put together to show my photographs to gallery people, interested parties, or anyone. It’s divided into two sections: "Photographs" and "Limited Editions." The Limited Editions section covers works produced by James Linden (letterpress editions) and Glen Drive Productions (inexpensive, spiral-bound editions.)

The Photographs section, though, is honestly a bit of a jumble. I’ve got landscapes, street scenes, old photos, new photos, black and white and color. As Rebecca Saito has written:

Going through a stack of Mike Mundy’s photos can be somewhat disconcerting. Some of them are color; some are black and white. Photographs of the Oki Dog and Trashy Lingerie in Los Angeles mix with serene autumn colors in Rhode Island. Black and white images of austere mountain landscapes are set against seductive Valentine’s Day mannequins in Macy’s. It seems clear that Mike has never been interested in cultivating a distinctive photographic style.

Well, that’s certainly true. But now I’m wondering. I think that I should, possibly, present a more unified image, at least in my little handout. I’ve been thinking of having, in the Photographs section, just images of Los Angeles (as representing one of my more consistent themes over the past decades.) Maybe "Los Angeles, 1973—2008."

I might just give it a try.

Photo: One Dollar Yard Sale—Los Angeles, 2007

Thursday, April 3, 2008


More on the wildlife theme. I saw this bobcat being chased by crows last year in Pinnacles National Monument.

Low light . . . hand-held . . . turned out OK!
At least you can see the bobcat.

Photo: Bobcat—Pinnacles National Monument, 2007

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In the Time of the Turkeys

Early Sunday A.M., on my way to the gym.

Yes. It’s The Return of the Turkeys in Fairfax.

Photo: Turkeys—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

San Francisco Federal Building

Designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis in Santa Monica. Very intriguing and artsy, with sculptural spaces and subtle details; in the higher floors, vistas of San Francisco. It’s my understanding that it can get very cold in the annex, which is where Social Security is housed.

I worked there (in the annex) for just one week in 2007—the last week of March, to be exact. Not long enough to totally get to know the building, but long enough for me to do my snapshot thing.

Photos: Federal Building, Evening—San Francisco, 2007; Federal Building Interior—San Francisco, 2007