Tuesday, March 31, 2009

6:30 AM

Two Canon G9 photos.

First: Back to Mr. Obama. On my way over to Starbucks, I tried the old balance-the-camera-on-the-parking-meter routine. Not perfectly successful—a little camera blur. But still.

Next: early morning coffee in Monterey. I went ahead and set the ISO to 800 & took a few pix whilst consuming my scone and coffee.

Image very noisy . . . I ran it through some noise-reduction software, which reduces the noise but gives it a kind of plasticy look.

Photos: Obama & Homeless Guy—Los Angeles, 2009; Early Morning Coffee—Monterey, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009


A themed blog post.

Top photo was taken in San Francisco March 10, during a pro-Tibet, anti-Chinese occupation demonstration.

Next photo is a mural of the Dalai Lama (surrounded by Chinese soldiers) that I found in a back alley in Los Angeles last week. After some research I’ve determined that it was done by the artist known as "Mear One;" you can watch a video of him creating the mural on YouTube.

Photos: Demonstration—San Francisco, 2009; Dalai Lama Mural—Los Angeles, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunrise #2 / Quarterly Contact Sheet Time

I’ve been going through thousands of pix for my quarterly printing-out of contact sheets.

Deleting quite a few, of course. But every now and then, something comes along that had gotten overlooked.

This photo, for example. I posted a Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge sunrise photo earlier, but somehow I never opened this image in Photoshop. So now, Sunrise #2.

Photo: Sunrise #2—Sacramento Wildlife Refuge, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ministerios & La Yalalteca

Two more from the Pico expedition.

Digital black and white conversions sometimes look just a little bit off, since there’s no hint of film grain. Of course, one could always add-in some "grain" using Photoshop, but that seems to be backwards somehow.

After all, pre-digital we spent countless hours experimenting with various developers in an effort to reduce grain.

Photos: Ministerios—Los Angeles, 2009; La Yalalteca—Los Angeles, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009


On Pico, the camera pointing towards a mirror, therefore a self-portrait as well.

And, for extra points, there’s Joe off to the left. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Photo: Carniceria—Los Angeles, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pico Boulevard

I’ve posted Pico shots before, but this is the east side of West Pico, if you know what I mean.

When I mentioned to Joe Grant that I was looking for some more black and white Hispanic-themed photos for my Muerte Con Queso project, he kindly drove me over to the area around Pico and Western for some pix.

The Tejate shot was taken out the window of his very cool Scion!

I kind of like that method . . . having someone drive you around while you snap pix out the passenger window.

Photos: Tejate—Los Angeles, 2009; Pollos El Brasero—Los Angeles, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Wait a minute, guys.

This machine is using my blog template!

The horror!

Mount Tamalpais & Seminary

. . . with the San Francisco Theological Seminary in the foreground.

Another photo of the same subject was posted in October.

You would think that such a spectacular view would have its own designated pullout.

You would think that there might be a little interpretive sign.

But you would be wrong.

This viewpoint—and there is only this viewpoint—exists high above the insanely busy "Hub" in San Anselmo. It’s found next to a chainlink fence after a hike past low-rent apartments up a crumbling asphalt road. And then it’s a bit of a struggle to avoid the telephone wires.

Photo: San Francisco Theological Seminary—Marin County, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grapevine Sunrise

The good news was that I reached the Vista del Lago viewpoint just as the sunrise colors were reaching their peak.

The bad news was that I had been taking some low light pix the previous evening, had set the ISO to 800, and forgot to turn it back down to 200.

So: some noisy sunrise pix.

Photos: Sunrise, Grapevine Highway #1—Los Angeles County, 2009; Sunrise, Grapevine Highway #2—Los Angeles County, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Economy Fine Food

Alas, I never had the chance to eat there. Or should we say, I never created the occasion to eat there. The loss is mine.

As was written of San Francisco’s 7th Street:

Blown-apart VFW cripples, mendicants, slobberers, whores. A slattern wheels down 7th toward Market, clutching a roll of carpet under her arm. Ming Kee Thrift Store. Used and New Household Equipment. George’s Newsstand, Books, Magazines. (Smut.) Economy Fine Food, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Anytime.

—Andrey Slivka

Photo: Economy Fine Food—San Francisco, 2000

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Déjà vu All Over Again

I visited the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) in Japan back in the 60’s: I had routed myself through Japan as I returned to the U.S. from Okinawa.

I’ve posted one of my photos from that trip previously, here. (See below, as well.) Man Sweeping—Kyoto.

So it was that as Hali and I approached the entrance to Ginkaku-ji last year I suddenly halted, struck by the similarity between memory and reality as I came upon the same scene I had observed over 40 years ago.

But there wasn’t anyone sweeping! Keeping this in mind I continued to look for a man sweeping pix, finally finding one. I wonder if it's the same guy.

Photos: Ginkaku-ji Entrance—Kyoto, 2008; Man Sweeping—Kyoto, 2008; Man Sweeping—Kyoto, 1966

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Melrose Avenue #6: Im Creepin & Flasher


I think that this will be the last Melrose Avenue post for a while.

At least for a week.

Photos: Im Creepin—Los Angeles, 2009; Flasher—Los Angeles, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bay Bridge Reflected

Self-portrait, with the Bay Bridge doing a convenient little jump in order to avoid my head.

Photo: Bay Bridge Self Portrait—San Francisco, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nagano Evening Scene

This was the countryside leaving Nagano.

It was towards the end of the day. We had utilized all our energy reaching the snow monkeys: now we were on our way back to our hotel. As the train snaked its way out of Nagano it paused for a moment. I looked out the window at the panorama, got out my camera and took this photograph.

Here we have a landscape where people are living, working, playing, observed for one instant in time. Novels could be written. Movies could be made.

Then the train started back up and the evening scene was gone.

Photo: Landscape Outside Nagano—Japan, 2008

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oakland Railroad Yard

Another early digital photo. I had the smallish Olympus with me as I was riding BART to El Cerrito. The train kept starting and stopping, much to my gratification: it gave me a chance to photograph this railroad yard that normally got whizzed by.

I had to clone out an errant telephone pole, not very skillfully I suppose. I know that I wasn’t using adjustment layers back then.

Photo: Railroad Yard—Oakland, 2004

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Early Digital

I was so impressed with Hali’s small Nikon Coolpix that I bought an Olympus C-4000 at Costco on May 5, 2004.

4 megapixels. $249.99.

I immediately started taking the Olympus with me to work, replacing the Leica Minilux film camera—which went onto the shelf, where it resides today.

Here’s a shot from May, 2004, taken from the Larkspur to SF ferry one early morning.

Yes, "It looks like a painting!"

Photo: Ripples—Marin County, 2004

Monday, March 16, 2009

Melrose Avenue #5: Girl & Mannequins

As has been said before, Mike’s world is a happy, idealized world filled with pretty colors and geometrical compositions.

Photos: Girl (Poster), Melrose Avenue—Los Angeles, 2009; Mannequins, Melrose Avenue—Los Angeles, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rain Drops

I was wandering around Sausalito just after it had rained, looking at the boats, taking some pix, when I came upon a wooden planter box with some palm trees.

I noticed that they had planted various succulents at the base of the palm trees so I got, you know, really close and made some exposures. Black and white, but not, alas, 100% depth of field. (Hand held)

Photo: Succulent & Rain Drops—Marin County, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Melrose Avenue #4: Melrose & Stanley

Stanley Avenue is one of the little residential side streets off of Melrose. Venturing into these neighborhoods one finds nicely landscaped (for the most part) houses and bungalows.

Photos: Melrose & Stanley—Los Angeles, 2009; House on Stanley—Los Angeles, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shinbashi Pedestrian Overcrossing

The Shinbashi neighborhood has plenty of pedestrian overcrossings and underground walkways. Hali and I were navigating one such bridge on the outskirts of the Ginza District when we hit a gap in the crowds. I took this photo after noticing a reflective window opposite us.

Photo: Shinbashi Overcrossing—Tokyo, 2008

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Owens Valley / Sad Story

I was immediately impressed by my Owens Valley sunrise photo:

1) It comes with a good story (see last year’s entry), and

2) I somehow retained enough presence of mind to take enough vertical overlapping shots—remembering just enough digital/photo techniques—so that I could come up with the above panorama using Photoshop.

So the fact that the panoramic shot is made up of three separate photos means that it can be printed big. I made one print on 13x19 paper using my HP 8750, but I wanted something even bigger. So I sent a file to West Coast Imaging and got back a very nice 15x27 inch print.

Alas, from there things have gone downhill. My dry mount tissue is 16x20: not long enough. So I took it in to the local frame shop to be mounted and somehow miscommunicated what I wanted, so that a series of cobbled-together measures had to be taken to get the outer dimensions to fit my frame size.

And the latest: the frame that I ordered from Light Impressions (almost two months ago) now turns out to be too narrow for the mat/photo/backing combo.

What to do? I could pay to have it framed. I could order a wider, more expensive frame. Or, given the fact that the product as it stands just isn’t quite right, I could just chalk the whole thing up to experience and start over.

As I was complaining about all this over the phone to Joe Grant, I suddenly had the thought: "Hey, this could be a blog entry!"

Photos: Sunrise—Owens Valley, 2008; Owens Valley Print—Marin County, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

L. Ron

While walking down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, I noticed the street sign (click to enlarge). I crossed over and circumambulated the Scientology Building.

I don’t know—exactly—what it means to "Be one of the 10,000 to complete the Basics." Here’s the only mention of it I’ve been able to find. Of course, something to do with the tenets of Scientology.

Photos: L. Ron—Los Angeles, 2009; 10,000 Banner—Los Angeles, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

After the Storm

Big end of season rain in Northern California.

One morning last week, as the sun came up and started streaming though the clouds, I hopped into my car and headed over White’s Hill to the San Geronimo Valley. As I rounded the curve leading into the valley, I was greeted by a large rainbow arching over the road: I pulled off at the first opportunity and dashed across the street to get this photo.

The other side of the road had a rain-soaked meadow, cows and sidelit fence. I'm using black and white because the green grass was a little too green, if you know what I mean.

Photos: Rainbow—Marin County, 2009; Fence & Clouds—Marin County, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Melrose Avenue #3: Obama, Donald Duck & Einstein

Iconic figures all. Particularly Donald Duck.

Images found on and about Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.

Photos: Obama & Donald Duck—Los Angeles, 2009; Einstein—Los Angeles, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Los Angeles Sights

On top: entrance to the Self-Realization Fellowship church on Sunset Boulevard, next to the Scientology Building. (Scientology pix later.) Wikipedia has some details, with much the same photo. Of course, mine is better.

Then, the legendary Formosa Café on Santa Monica Boulevard. To be honest, I don’t really know why it’s legendary. It’s been there forever though.

Oh, all right. Here's the Wikipedia entry. Now we know why it's legendary: 1934, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner etc. etc.

Photos: Self-Realization—Los Angeles, 2009; Formosa Café—Los Angeles, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Melrose Avenue #2: Too Ki & Break Your Neck

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, Melrose Avenue was a humdrum, commuter-type street, mainly used for getting to the Hollywood Freeway.

Of course, now it’s been reinvented as a chic, trendy shopping area. (Must have happened when I was away.) I always find a lot of pix possibilities there.

Photos: Too Ki—Los Angeles, 2009; Break Your Neck—Los Angeles, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Melrose Avenue #1: Self-Portrait

Taken during my early morning Starbucks run.

I’m always on the lookout for mirrored/reflective surfaces. Of course I had the camera with me.

Photo: Melrose Avenue Self-Portrait—Los Angeles, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Exhibit Sign

I refuse to write an Artist’s Statement. If I may speak in my Spiro Agnew mode, almost all that I’ve read are pontificating pieces of pretentious pompousness.

For example: "Capturing the light is what I strive for every time I head into the field, for it is the light that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary." . . . etc etc blah blah blah.

But you need some kind of something for an exhibit. I was lucky enough to be able to use a little essay by Rebecca Saito, as follows:

A Larger Narrative

While going through a stack of Mike Mundy’s photographs it becomes clear that Mike has never been interested in cultivating a distinctive photographic style: a fatal amateurish flaw, or so we’re told.

But it’s evident that he does like to take pictures, and that he’s been doing it for quite some time. He started using a camera in the 1950’s, when he was going to high school in Los Angeles, taking photographs of, mainly, trains: a decrepit cab-ahead articulated at the Southern Pacific’s Taylor Yard, an abandoned Tower Car in the old Pacific Electric facility on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Mike himself resolutely refuses to commit to paper any kind of aesthetic philosophy. He has a collection of hilariously pretentious Artists’ Statements that he likes to bring out and make fun of. Needless to say, he avoids any kind of remarks that might be construed as an Artist’s Statement. And anyway, he says, not only would he be unable to put together enough coherent phrases describing his art, but any such attempt would be tedious in the extreme.

Maybe so. But while going through that stack of photos it becomes clear that all of his work forms part of a greater, unseen whole. Whether he’s aware of it or not, his billboards and taquerias, sand dunes and granite mountainsides are all perfectly coexistent. All are, or could become, part of a larger narrative, the infinite sum of particular things, that encompass and define the photographs of Michael Mundy.

—Rebecca Saito


Mike’s exhibit is up now. Whoa!

At the Fairfax Library through the end of March, 2009.

10 prints. Mike has a theory that any exhibit containing more than 10 pix will create a severe case of ennui amongst the viewers. His projects never have more than 10 pix.

Photo: Exhibit—Marin County, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Central Valley Rain

Yes, the long drive down to L.A. can be interminable. But a little weather can make things more interesting.

I encountered rain last week as I drove south. Dark, ominous clouds, scattered showers and some actual steady rain. Luckily, no snow going over the Grapevine.

Photo: Rain Clouds—Central Valley, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

. . . from the archives #39: Ducks, Airport—Mojave, 1998

We remember the car problems.

The hours-long delay in Sonora for a new thermostat. The wait for triple-A after getting stuck in mud and sand (more than once!). The overnight stay in the tiny Owens Valley town of Olancha waiting for a part to come by bus up from Los Angeles. (George the mechanic knew the perfect motel. The motel owner recommended the perfect restaurant. George’s wife served perfect ice-cold watermelon under the blazing sun.)


As Mike headed north on Highway 14 in his spiffy Celica 5-speed he noticed rain clouds off to the west, unusual for that part of the desert. Of course, as it was meant to happen, he looked for the next offramp so he could take a snap of the clouds. And of course, as it was equally meant to happen, as he pulled off the road his car hit mud and slid sideways.

After a walk back to the freeway's call box and a tow from triple-A Mike regrouped at the local airport, where ducks were enjoying the rare desert rain.


The perfect trips have long been forgotten; car problems are what we remember.

Photos: Ducks, Airport—Mojave, 1998; Celica in Mud—Mojave, 1998

Monday, March 2, 2009


I was in L.A. last week, but before I show any L.A. pix, I wanted to post this shot of rose petals at Lorna’s place.

Black and white seemed to work better, but I wanted the color of the petals to show. So I erased the black and white layer just over the petals, and voila. . . color!

Photo: Petals—Sonoma County, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

At The Stable II

I guess that you can realize I’ve taken a number of photos of the oak. I like that twisted and gnarly look.

I also liked the way that horse was posing in the background. Thanks!

Photos: Oak & Moss—Marin County, 2009; Truck & Horse—Marin County, 2009