Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dogs in Window


Found in the Marina District in San Francisco.

Photo: Dogs in Window—San Francisco, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Coming To A New Negative Was Like Coming To A New Mystery": The Film Mystique


I noticed at the Sausalito Art Festival that more than one photographer was marketing—as a positive attribute—their exclusive use of "wet" techniques (that is to say, traditional photographic chemical processing) as if this conferred upon their photos some kind of special attribute.

Aside from my doubt that this is a particularly effective marketing strategy, in fact I don’t see any significant advantage in using film. I myself don’t use film any more as a practical matter: the advantages of digital cameras are all too evident for me to indulge in sloppy sentimentality. Yes, digital images are different, but in fact they have their own seductive look.

Whatever. However, in scanning some older negatives taken in 1966 for my recent Japan series I came once again to the quite interesting topic of the mystique of film. Simply put, when I hold one of those negatives in my hand I am establishing a direct physical connection to the past. I’m reminded of this passage from Ransome Scott’s mystery novel, Muerte Con Queso:

The film I had exposed that day now lay in neat rows of developed and cut negatives before me. I experienced, once again, the realization that my negatives were like little time machines: they represented a direct connection to the past. I had been there at the Buena Vista Estates, and so had they. Just what had I taken that day that was so valuable?

Each roll of film—in this case, Tri-X—consisted of 36 negatives. I had trimmed the rolls into 6 strips of 6 negatives each. I now laid the first roll’s strips in order onto a piece of white cardboard and turned off the overhead light, letting my eyes adjust to the dim orange glow of the safelights. I had made so many contact prints that my actions were automatic, like shifting the gears on a car. But I was thinking: thinking about my negatives. In many ways, coming to a new negative was like coming to a new mystery.

I guess that’s the point—the negatives sitting up there on a shelf now filed away in glassine envelopes were once part of a roll of film inside my Nikon F; the same Nikon F that I held in June, 1966 as I walked through Kyoto and encountered a lady chasing a cat.

The Nikon F is long gone; and digital files . . . well, digital files: they exist in an odd kind of suspended animation on my hard drive, definitely ungraspable. But the negatives remain.

Come to think of it, maybe it is a form of sloppy sentimentality, as Colin Fletcher once remarked of his reluctance to discard old hiking staffs.

Photo: Negatives—Marin County, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

. . . from the archives #28: Icicles—Sierra Nevada, 1977


Taken during a backpack I took with Joe (my brother), and Joe (my brother-in-law), as we slowly made our way to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

It turns out that icicle displays like this are very rare. At least, rare enough that I’ve never seen another one like it. Now if I ventured out more in winter . . .

Photo: Icicles—Sierra Nevada, 1977

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Political


Obama . . . with mustache.

Photo: Obama Sign with Mustache—Marin County, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Farewell to Japan


Mike left his cozy little ryokan and made his way through Tokyo to Tachikawa Air Force Base via a bullet train.

Once there it turned out that all flights in and out of the base had been cancelled due to an impending typhoon. However, planes were still departing from Tokyo International, so Mike and several other passengers clambered aboard a small Air Force bus attempting to make the journey to the airport.

Streets were already starting to flood. In the gathering darkness, views of lashing rain and men in business suits trying to push their cars to higher ground.

Arriving at the airport: a quick run through customs and a sprint towards the waiting airplane. During the final moments on the tarmac the wind blew Mike’s military cap off and pinned it against a chain-link fence, where it was easily retrieved. Once in the plane Mike looked out the window at the wing: it was flexing up and down as if in flight, but still on the ground.

The flight took off uneventfully, and made its way towards the east, towards the sun. Eventually the brown and wrinkled hills of California appeared in the window and the plane landed in San Francisco.

***

Later it turned out that the Beatles had been turned back from Tokyo because of the typhoon. I hadn’t thought of it before, but that fact helps me to pinpoint the exact month that I was there. (Turns out to be late June.)

What I didn’t reckon on, was finding out that I’ve systematically been putting the wrong year on my photos. Should be 1966, not 1965! So all my Japan entries have had to be changed.

Photo: Ryokan People—Kyoto, 1966

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Temple


Temple in Kyoto . . . with pigeons.

Photo: Temple—Kyoto, 1966

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kitsune


Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox, which as we all know, is "a common subject of Japanese folklore."

Depictions of kitsune or their possessed victims may feature round or onion-shaped white balls known as hoshi no tama (star balls). Tales describe these as glowing with kitsune-bi, or fox-fire. Some stories identify them as magical jewels or pearls. When not in human form or possessing a human, a kitsune keeps the ball in its mouth or carries it on its tail.

Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I took the photo.

Photo: Kitsune—Japan, 1966

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By the River




Now, I couldn’t tell you what river . . .

It's evident that I only shot one color roll of Kodachrome slides when I was in Japan. These pictures were taken, probably, during my day trip to Katsura (also in color).

The overcast sky therefore accounts for the even illumination of these and the Katsura photos.

Photos: Boat—Japan, 1966; Bridge & Train—Japan, 1966

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kyoto Street Scenes




1. Cart being pulled past my ryokan window.

2. Anonymous shrine. I was taken by the Sapporo beer cans being used as flower vases.

Photos: Cart—Kyoto, 1966; Shrine—Kyoto, 1966

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Katsura


Very serene: the Katsura Imperial Villa. Advance reservations required, and a train trip and some route-finding ability. I guess that all three requirements were met, because here’s the photo!

Diffused lighting, from the visual evidence, but I have no recollection of the weather, nor even the time of year I was there. [Later: turns out to have been late June.]

Photo: Garden at Katsura—Japan, 1966

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lady & Cat


As I was walking down the street, a small cat scampered out in front of me. Chasing the kitty was a middle-aged lady who eventually caught the fugitive, then held it up.

All right Mr. Mundy, I’m ready for my close-up.

Photo: Lady & Cat—Kyoto, 1966

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kyoto Ryokan


While in Kyoto I stayed at a Japanese inn—a ryokan, with genuine tatami mat floors. On the table you can see the case for my telephoto lens, my lens cap, a box of 35mm film, my dark glasses, some change, and my guide book.

My guide book! True, some of the pages were misbound and out of order, but I found it to be very helpful putting Kyoto’s sights into their historical context as well as practical how-to-get-there advice. And apparently it's still in print!

Of course I still have it. I’ve been perusing it lately . . . I suspect that there might have been some changes since 1966. But maybe not!




Photos: Room, Ryokan—Kyoto, 1966; Guidebook—Marin County, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Okinawa Photos


It’s a little difficult to try and decipher the circumstances of photographs taken over 40 years ago. It was during my stay in Okinawa that I purchased a Nikon-F, the first SLR camera made. So these photos were made with that camera.

In 1965 Okinawa, although nominally part of Japan, was wholly controlled by the United States. A stark contrast existed between life on the base and the world outside the gates. Certainly the local populace lived closer to third-world conditions than one might have expected. Dirt roads: common. Paved roads: not so common.

Short haircuts were mandatory in the Army, requiring frequent trips to the barber. Luckily, I managed to find a good-looking barber!

But that’s the thing. At one point I would have remembered her name. But not now.

Photos: Kids Playing—Okinawa, 1965; Barber—Okinawa, 1965

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Movie Posters—Okinawa



Yes, one could see U.S. movies on base (I remember seeing A Hard Day’s Night there) but for a truly interesting experience one went to the local off-base theater and watched Japanese movies with no English subtitles.

Very entertaining. Involved a lot of guessing, as you can understand.

Please note: I have attempted to translate the movie title shown in the upper right-hand corner (a combination of hiragana and kanji) but to no avail.

Photo: Movie Posters—Okinawa, 1965

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Mysterious East


Here’s the only existing color photo documenting the view from the cafeteria near my base in Okinawa. Of course one can’t tell how accurate the colors are, but I toned down the red a skosh anyway.

The cafeteria, mind you. Of course one could always eat at the Mess Hall, but sometimes you didn’t want to.

Photo: East China Sea—Okinawa, 1965

Monday, September 15, 2008

. . . from the archives #27: Tombstone & Fence—Napa County, 1992


While I was going through my contact sheets looking for my Napa County agave photo I saw this 4x5 image. It looked interesting, so I decided to scan and post it. The interesting thing was that as I was scanning it I really couldn't recall where I had taken the photo. Usually I can tell from various clues in the surrounding pix, but not this time.

Once again: the internet. A search for "Rebecca Jane Kellogg" quickly turned up a site for the Pioneer Cemetery in Napa County, wherein we learn that:

Rebecca was born in Illinois and married F.E. Kellogg in 1837. The family came overland to California in 1846. They farmed in the Napa Valley where Rebecca later died of heart disease.

The ability to gather this kind of information in a few seconds is somewhat unsettling, if you ask me.

Photo: Tombstone & Fence—Napa County, 1992

Sunday, September 14, 2008

. . . from the archives #26: Agave—Napa County, 1992


OK, so here’s a way close-up shot of an agave, taken in Napa County. At one point I was considering using it as an image in my Muerte Con Queso project, but since the action in Muerte Con Queso takes place in Los Angeles (see this example), I decided against it.

Photo: Agave—Napa County, 1992

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Agave—Marin County


Photographers like to take way close-up shots of agaves. Here’s one example.

I, myself, have taken a lot of close-up agave pix and I’m going to do it again!

At first that’s what I was doing with this agave: close-ups. Then I realized that the background was kind of cool, so I backed up and got this.

Photo: Agave—Marin County, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

. . . from the archives #25: Approaching Storm—Oregon, 1984


Somewhere near Florence, I think, with me fussing with my 4x5 view camera, along with the light meter, the focusing cloth, the dark slides . . .

I had a great many technical problems with the larger format, mainly involving light leaks streaking the 4x5 sheet film. But now and then, I'd get lucky, as in this photograph.

Photo: Approaching Storm—Oregon, 1984

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grapes, Leaves & Vine


Scrabbling though vineyards looking for an appropriate mix of leaves, grapes and vines is interesting . . . at first.

I guess that it’s OK for me to admit that I find these little searches to be boring if they go on too long.

Luckily, I found this arrangement on the road to Ravenswood Winery before ennui got the best of me.

Photo: Grapes, Leaves & Vine—Sonoma County, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wolverine ESP

I have decided to return this device to Costco. I’ll repeat some of my earlier entry so all info will be on one post.

The Wolverine ESP (hereafter called the ESP) is a digital device that functions something like an iPod but is meant primarily for photographic purposes. It has various slots for all of the different memory cards that are now in use; upon insertion of a particular card the photographic files contained therein can be transferred to the ESP’s hard drive (up to 100 gigabytes!) Then you either set aside the memory card using the ESP to function as a backup, or you reformat the card and use it again.

To make it a real-life test I decided to take a bunch of pix, transfer them to the ESP and then reformat the card, relying solely on the ESP for photo storage.

So, off to Buena Vista Winery in the early AM, ambling around the various vineyards scattered just off the road. An overcast day, for a (welcome) change, helping to keep the contrast down. After a goodly amount of exposures I settled down in the back seat of the Infiniti, fired up the ESP, inserted the CF card, and . . . nothing. Nothing happened: no menu items, no pop-up window, no nothing.

Luckily I had brought the instructions, which had an alternate way of navigating and opening the CF card. Whoa!
But it worked. The remaining (important) issue is that when the pix are displayed on the screen the resolution is pretty poor: you really can’t use the device display to review your photos. When you think of it, this particular functionality is pretty important! At the very least you’d want to be able to review your photos that you’ve taken during the day in order to plan your next day’s shooting schedule.

(Next morning.) Hm. I’ve been shooting RAW . . . Olympus ORF files. Of course, I should have tried shooting some JPEGs, just to see. So I just went out to the front yard and . . . shot a bunch of JPEGs. Downloaded to the ESP, and voila, the display worked perfectly! Nice, crisp picture. Then, got out the Canon G9, out to the front yard and shot a combination of RAW and JPG. As expected, the RAW looked extremely blurry, the JPEGs looked fine.

An email exchange with Wolverine support confirmed my experience. Their explanation was that since RAW formats are proprietary—each manufacturer has a different way of storing data—the ESP can’t read RAW files the same way that it can read JPG files. Could be, although my friend Dan says that his Epson P-device displays his Canon RAW files with acceptable resolution and only a slight loss in functionality (can’t zoom in, etc.) But the Epson device costs considerably more, reaching into laptop price territory.

Found this on a dpreview forum: "I recently bought the wolverine esp 5000 and I have a Canon 5D. I am returning it. I wanted it to be able to view my RAW files when I am on a shoot. The RAW files were blurred. They looked fine on the computer, but not on the Wolverine. Their support was no help, although they did try. I am still searching for something although I may just use a laptop."

So the problem is not unique to me.

The Wolverine ESP (& Sonoma Wine Country)


Up into Sonoma County yesterday for two purposes:

—take pix of the wine country (finally), and
—test my new Costco acquisition, the Wolverine ESP.

The Wolverine ESP (hereafter called the ESP) is a digital device that functions something like an iPod but is meant primarily for photographic purposes. It has various slots for all of the different memory cards that are now in use; upon insertion of a particular card the photographic files contained therein can be transferred to the ESP’s hard drive (up to 100 gigabytes!) Then you either set aside the memory card using the ESP to function as a backup, or you reformat the card and use it again.

To make it a real-life test I decided to take a bunch of pix, transfer them to the ESP and then reformat the card, relying solely on the ESP for photo storage.

So, off to Buena Vista Winery in the early AM, ambling around the various vineyards scattered just off the road. An overcast day, for a (welcome) change, helping to keep the contrast down. After a goodly amount of exposures I settled down in the back seat of the Infiniti, fired up the ESP, inserted the CF card, and . . . nothing. Nothing happened: no menu items, no pop-up window, no nothing.

Luckily I had brought the instructions, which had an alternate way of navigating and opening the CF card. Whoa!

But it worked. The remaining issue is that when the pix are displayed on the screen the resolution is pretty poor: you really can’t use the device display to review them. I have sent an email to Wolverine concerning this issue.

Photo: Vineyards—Sonoma County, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just FYI

I have added two, ahem, political blogs to the recommended list (over there on the right.)

Andrew Sullivan is a conservative blogger . . . it has been really fascinating to watch his dawning realization about the incompetency of the current administration and his resultant fury.

Talking Points Memo is a fairly well-known liberal blog run by Josh Marshall with an emphasis on original news reporting.

I may add more as I see fit.

. . . from the archives #24: Oak Trees, Storm Clouds—Colusa County, 1994


(from the May, 1994 mikereport):

Mike leaves Marin early in the morning on his way to the perimeter of the Snow Mountain Wilderness for an overnighter. He is going there not only to have a camping experience—the first of the year—but also simply because he is intrigued by the sound of "Snow Mountain." It reminds him of ancient Chinese poetry, with reclusive Zen monks seeking enlightenment in the mountain fastness.

After Mike sets up camp in the Dixie Glade campground, it starts to rain. Mike is getting kind of hungry, but he realizes that the campstove would never stay lit in the wind-driven rain. So he reads. And sips some ‘88 Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon that he has thoughtfully brought along. And jogs around the campground. (By now it’s becoming obvious that no one else is about to camp here: the campground is Mike’s.)

Finally, Mike loses patience and, weaving slightly (effects of the ‘88 Cab) positions the campstove directly in front of the tent door. He sits cross-legged inside the tent, gets the stove started—no problem!—and dumps his can of Stokely’s Pork ‘n Beans (and a cut-up Costco frank) into the teflon pan. What an aroma! Stir it till it bubbles and steams, and then . . . mighty fine eatin’!! The night promises to be a troubled one, with gusts of wind shaking the tent and the intermittent sound of rain, but, surprisingly, Mike has an excellent sleep and wakes next morning to an overcast, but dry, sky.

Quick, the instant coffee, and the Van de Camp’s preservative-filled breakfast raisin rolls! What a gourmet experience this trip is turning out to be. After hemming and hawing and studying the sky, Mike decides that a day hike is not totally out of the question. The tent is put away, the camera and equipment are stashed in the new daypack, and Mike sets off on the Deafy Glade trail. (The campground is Dixie Glade, but the trail is Deafy Glade . . . ?)

The trail finally reaches the South Fork of Stone Creek and a ford that would require some wading. Mike elects not to wade, but instead wanders up and down his side of the creek, photographing. On his way back, he startles two deer drinking at a small creek. After reaching the camp site he breaks out a beer, cuts some salami, and changes into driving-back clothing.

During the trip back to Marin the sky is ominously dark, although Mike doesn’t experience that much rain. But the negatives exposed on the way back are (at first glance, anyway) the best of the trip: a line of oaks against the clouds, fences cutting back-and-forth through the grass . . .

Drinking a can of Orange Crush and eating some corn chips Mike finally makes it back home. And thus does another camping trip draw to a close.

Photo: Oak Trees, Storm Clouds—Colusa County, 1994

Monday, September 8, 2008

Deer Skull


As I was driving back from the Anderson Valley towards Cloverdale I kept noticing groups of photogenic oak trees clustered here and there throughout the hills. I stopped at the first available pull-out and got out my camera.

Of course, after taking photos of the oaks, I happened to glance down and saw this skull, prompting another exposure using a Minolta 35mm film SLR.

The photograph prints up nicely, but I’ve wondered about it—whether anyone would ever want to purchase it. In fact, it was one of the few photos that sold during the Fairfax Festival.

Photo: Deer Skull—Mendocino County, 2003

Sunday, September 7, 2008

. . . from the archives #23: Short Track—Los Angeles, 1977


As I recall, I used a twin-lens reflex for this shot of a railroad siding in the factory district of downtown Los Angeles. It appeared on the cover of the periodical Momentum for its Fall, 1977 edition.

Momentum was an avant-garde poetry magazine published in Los Angeles in the mid-70’s; it was edited by Bill Mohr, who was a fellow bureaucrat working next to me at Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Social Services. Yes, apparently this Bill Mohr! The internet can be really fascinating! As well as frustrating, since the fact that Momentum magazines had covers by the noted photographer Michael Mundy cannot be elicited via a Google search. We will have to wait until the little Google crawlers scan this blog page.

Photo: Short Track—Los Angeles, 1977

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Horse Camp Meadow—Sierra Nevada, 2001


As noted before, I have designated this meadow as Horse Camp Meadow. Here we see the reason: horses (and mule), let loose for the day, dashing for the supremely best grazing spot in the whole meadow.

This was during a horsepacking trip that Hali, Dan and I took in 2001. My trusty steed, Pilgrim, is in the foreground, moving too fast for the camera’s shutter speed, thus blurred.

Photo: Horse Camp Meadow—Sierra Nevada, 2001

Friday, September 5, 2008

Jewelry Hammers


Jenny shares a studio with other artisans on Valencia St, just off of 24th. These elegant hammers were hanging up in a separate room.

BTW, there’s a link to her website over on the right. Annoying—it’s much more professional than mine.

But I do have a way cool blog.

Photo: Jewelry Hammers—San Francisco, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That’s It (Again)


Into San Francisco yesterday for lunch (tacos and a Negra Modelo) with Jenny, in the Mission District on an unusually warm day.

Once again, a photo of the "That’s It" storefront. Someday I must actually go into the store . . .

Photo: That’s It—San Francisco, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Recycle Center & The Canon G9


Off to revisit the Recycle Center yesterday (by necessity) . . . what a treat! After pushing all the detritus out of the camper shell, I crawled back in with a whiskbroom and my new Canon G9 . . . got this shot.

Oh, did I mention my new Canon G9? It’s currently one of the best of the smaller "point and shoot" digital cameras. Now, of course, it’s been discontinued to make way for the Canon G10. But I needed to get a smaller camera to supplement my Olympus SLR and couldn’t wait. Seems to be fine.


Photos: Recycle Center—Marin County, 2008; Mike & Canon G9—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

. . . from the archives #22: Ryoan-ji—Kyoto, 1966


Another photo taken during my earlier visit to Japan. I seem to remember standing on a wooden platform overlooking the famous moss-covered rocks of Ryoan-ji, with large numbers of (Japanese) tourists being ushered in, then ushered out. Very difficult to attain satori under such conditions.

At least it was for me.

Photo: Ryoan-ji—Kyoto, 1965

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sausalito Art Festival


The booth price for the Sausalito Art Festival runs from a bare-bones 10x10 for $1050.00, to a "double with one corner" booth for $2800.00. I decided to go over there Sunday morning to check it out—take a look at the photographers.

$5.00 parking (the inexpensive lot: regular price was $10.00.)

$20.00 admission fee ($10.00 Senior Rate, thank god.) Hm.

Looks like the festival provides canopy roofs—gives it a nice uniform look.

Photographers: Almost all were showing landscape pix. I guess that’s not surprising. Some of the nicest photos, I think, were being shown by Darren Olson of Minneapolis. He had a number of his photos printed on canvas, which he does himself on his high-end Epson printer. Surprisingly effective. (See above photo. I didn’t want to get in any closer for fear of providing too much digital information.) This is his first Sausalito appearance: we wonder how it’s turning out for him.

A few photographers stressed the point that they used traditional photographic media ("Real wet process.") I don’t exactly see how that really gives them any competitive advantage.

There was one fellow who had posted a cranky note up in his booth to the effect that he did NOT want people asking him what kind of camera he used, him being a True Artist to whom the choice of camera was strictly a secondary matter. Huh.

Pricing: Many photographers were listing quantity "deals," i.e., 8x10: 1—$75.00, 2—$145.00, 3—$199.00.

A final note: I got there at 9 AM, hoping . . . no, expecting to be able to get some coffee and a nice festival pastry. No such luck. One van selling coffee (not very good) and zero pastries. But, plenty of beer, margarita and wine booths!

Photo: Sausalito Festival—Marin County, 2008