Tuesday, June 30, 2009

. . . from the archives #47: Sunrise, Mono Lake—Mono County, 1994

At my booth, many people have mistakenly identified the location of my Owens Valley photo as Mono Lake. Understandable, since both places are hugely scenic.

Here’s a shot of Mono Lake, taken in, I think, May, when there was still snow on the Sierra crest west of the lake. I was staying in a motel in nearby Lee Vining, got up early and drove over to the visitor’s center parking lot. As usual at that early hour, nobody was there.

I set up my 4x5 view camera and took this photograph, shivering, as the sun rose over the desert expanses to the east. (Click for larger photo.)

Photo: Sunrise, Mono Lake—Mono County, 1994

Monday, June 29, 2009

Around Durham #1

Early Saturday morning. A visit to the local Farmer’s Market, checking out the produce and the cinnamon rolls, then walking over to the ballpark and then back to the hotel.

Photos: Carrots—North Carolina, 2009; Durham Ballpark—North Carolina, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Happy BBQ Story

We went to the Backyard BBQ Pit restaurant for lunch. Their web site is a little off-putting—the opening page is oddly high-tech for a BBQ joint—but the food was great.

Photos: Backyard BBQ Pit Restaurant Exterior—North Carolina, 2009; Backyard BBQ Pit Restaurant Staff—North Carolina, 2009; BBQ Before & After—North Carolina, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

That Photorealist Conundrum

Well, we were sitting in SFO drinking our coffee prior to our flight to Seattle when I noticed this very handsome painting (oil?, watercolor?) by James Torlakson—one of my favorite photorealist artists. Luckily the fellow sitting in the booth directly in front of the piece left so I could take this snap.

As it turns out, this work has been mentioned in the New York Times:

THE San Francisco airport's heralded art includes both a permanent collection and a series of premier temporary exhibits. Art hangs on corridor walls and in waiting areas, dangles over escalators and moving sidewalks, and lodges in cases along the walls of the tunnels that link the three terminals. . . . Pieces range from such San Francisco scenes as Glorias Cozzo Adams's "Cityscape No. 33," which hangs near Gate 81, to James Torlakson's "Behind Ted McMann's Garage," a stark work mounted in a lounge near Gate 69 that shows an unhitched trailer sitting on rich, dark soil.


In the literature of photography I have seen it said that part of the quality of a work of art derives from the amount of physical effort that has gone into it. Therefore, under this somewhat mystical concept, a platinum print—all other things being equal—would have more value than an inkjet print.

I’m trying to get at the essential difference between Torlakson’s trailer and my trailer (shown underneath). Could there be an inherent difference due to his spending much more time creating his work? I mean, he had to (probably) take the photo, re-compose, draw and paint the work.

His description of his working method is as follows:

When I paint an image, I break it down in my mind and put it back together in the second dimension as if it were a puzzle. The pieces of the puzzle are the compositional elements of shape, texture, light, value, hue, line, etc. If the elements are assembled harmoniously, the painting will function well as both an abstract composition and a realistic image.

So it takes him a lot longer. Still, I doubt that you can give it any extra esoteric value due only to the time factor. (And to be honest, getting the right look from a digital file sometimes takes quite a bit of work in Photoshop, anyway.) His is photo-based. Mine is photo-based . . . is a photo, actually. His is pretty big—I wouldn’t be able to enlarge the file that much. (I probably could if I took multiple exposures and used photomerge.)

No. As a Cal State L.A. alumni with an Economics degree (!), I’d guess that the extra time needed to produce these labor-intensive works serves in the main to restrict the output, thereby increasing the rarity value. Supply and demand. An analogy would be to the fine wine market where boutique wineries command premium prices in large part due to their small supply.

Note also that a major difference lies in the market for which both works were created. The painter’s market is a sophisticated one in which a large painting of a trailer can be appreciated and even find buyers. Large scale photos of trailers might sell at a Farmer’s Market, but probably not. (I like to show some things that are somewhat off-beat, but mainly the things that sell are the landscapes.)

So it’s both: the labor intensive limited edition product, and the market. (And of course, other things too. More discussion later, I'm sure.) The difference in audience is between those who attend art gallery openings and those who attend Farmers Markets . I’m hoping that one day I’ll get lucky and have someone at my booth who attends both.

Photos: Trailer (Torlakson), SFO—San Francisco, 2009; Horse Trailer—Marin County, 2008

Friday, June 26, 2009

North Carolina Hiking #2: Eno River

We drove to the Eno River State Park headquarters and spoke to a fellow (he used to live in Monterey, in the service . . . he always meant to live in California, but when he returned to North Carolina he met a girl . . . ) who gave us some advice on a nice hike, the Cox Mountain Loop Trail.

Again, very hot and humid. The trail started off in a picnic area, crossed the Eno River, then headed uphill for a ways. Once in the forest, the silence returned; looping downwards from the "summit" (not what we would call a real mountain) we saw a few deer and some turtles sunning themselves along the riverbank.

Photos: Reflections, Eno River—North Carolina, 2009; Turtles—North Carolina, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wall ‘O Pegboard (Fairfax Festival)

This was my second Fairfax Festival. Last year’s report can be found here.

This year I was able to check out some of the parade, including the Marin Sanitary District’s Precision Drill Team.

Bottom line: I did OK! Made back my entry fee and then some. I even had one lady returning from last year to purchase a Recycle Center print!

I pushed all three pegboard easels together to create a Wall ‘O Pegboard, so I could hang two large (22x28) prints with assorted smaller ones around the perimeter. I followed my earlier suggestion and arranged the ProPanels with the angle facing in towards the booth. The whole setup needs work, however. I need a tablecloth that hangs low enough to the ground to hide my clutter. And maybe something (a print? / a sign?) hanging from the canopy in front. Sooner or later I’ll probably get more ProPanels.

Photos: Fairfax Festival Stage—Marin County, 2009; Fairfax Festival Setup—Marin County, 2009; Fairfax Parade—Marin County, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sad BBQ Story

The one BBQ spot in the "Triangle" most mentioned and recommended by the foodies on Chowhound is Allen & Son. So we programmed the address into the GPS and soon found ourselves on a circuitous route from Durham to Chapel Hill.

We arrived at the spot, shot past, backed up, then stared, perplexed, at the vacant parking lot. Hali went up to the porch and found the "on vacation" sign taped to the window.

Oh, noes! At least there was the picturesque sign and the peeling paint-encrusted storage unit out back. We finally ended up at a generic BBQ place in Chapel Hill. It was OK, but it wasn’t authentic. We could tell.

Photos: Allen & Son—North Carolina, 2009; BBQ Storage Unit—North Carolina, 2009; Ribs—North Carolina, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The War of 1861-1865

A statue on the grounds of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. (Known as "Silent Sam.")

The inscription is revealing: What we would normally think of as the Civil War is referred to as "The War of 1861-1865." And everyone reading it would know that "their great commander" is, of course, General Robert E. Lee.

It reminded me of the last episode of the "Civil War" series by Ken Burns, wherein the memories of the hideous carnage of the war got gradually replaced by a sad, overarching nostalgia.

UPDATE: From Wikipedia:

On August 20, 2018, Silent Sam was toppled by protesters, and later that night removed to a secure location by university authorities. The pedestal base and inscription plaques were removed on January 14, 2019, following a letter that day from Chancellor Folt justifying the removal on grounds of public safety, and also announcing her resignation.

Photos: Soldier, Chapel Hill—North Carolina, 2009; Inscription, Chapel Hill—North Carolina, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Pelican Blogging

White Pelicans in Corte Madera.

Wires and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in the background, along with a lone egret.

It is said that Jerry Garcia conceived the idea for the Grateful Dead song Terrapin Station while driving across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Photo: White Pelicans—Marin County, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

North Carolina Hiking #1: Cedar Falls Park

Seen from the plane, the North Carolina countryside is thickly forested with no clue as to what might be underneath. But once inside the forest and away from the road, silence and the color green predominate.

The heavy, humid air somehow intensifies the green. Random bird calls heighten the silence.

We picked this hike at random out of a Chapel Hill guide book.

Photos: Cedar Falls—North Carolina, 2009; Forest—North Carolina, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Camera . . . Wow!

Verrrrry cool indeed.

Small, light, SLR-sized sensor, interchangeable lenses. And more.

Wow! More details at dpreview.

Photo: Olympus E-P1

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberry Fields

On our way to Chapel Hill we instructed the rental car’s GPS system to avoid the freeways. And so it was that we passed by this pick-it-yourself strawberry farm. (Passed by, then did a quick U-turn.)

While Hali did the actual legitimate work of strawberry picking, Mike wandered around taking pix of the dog (with, alas, an injured leg), the farm rules, and the hackneyed ladder and sink combo.

Photos: Dog & Strawberry Fields—North Carolina, 2009; Strawberry Farm Rules—North Carolina, 2009; Ladder & Sink—North Carolina, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

North Carolina

The bicyclists and joggers were traversing the sleepy summer-vacation-emptied Duke University campus. The magnolias were in bloom, the weather was hot and humid, the scent of BBQ was in the air.

OK, maybe the scent of BBQ wasn’t in the air. But all else was as written above.

Photos: Magnolia Blossom, Duke University—North Carolina, 2009; Bicyclists, Duke University—North Carolina, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

. . . from the archives #46: Mill Creek—Shasta County, 1990

Summer's vagrant breezes can be found in winter's chilly winds. It was the new desktop calendar that did it. Idly flipping the pages during one spell of endless Southern California rain—when was it?—January? February?—with thoughts of hours, days and months travelling through eternity, scattering beneath my thumb—I began to see myself as a traveler, not just through certain Northern California byways, but drifting cloudlike through the days and months of the coming year like the haiku poets of old.

—from Narrow Roads to the Deep North, by Rebecca Saito

Photo: Mill Creek—Shasta County, 1990

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Seen from above, they attain a solidity that normally eludes our worms-eye view: the plane, diving into the clouds, shudders and shakes.

And looking out the window I was pleasantly surprised to find an O’Keeffeian abstraction—quick, grab the G9!

Of course, if I had been shooting film, I would not have been so reckless in the amount of exposures.

Photos: Clouds 1—North Carolina, 2009; Clouds 2 (O’Keeffe)—Midwest, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Blue Jay and Cardinal Blogging

Two birds seen in Durham, NC.

Top, the well-known Blue Jay. Rarely seen here in California.

Below, the equally well-known Northern Cardinal, which I at first took to be a Scarlet Tanager, but no.

Also rarely seen in California. However, "A small introduced population exists in the Los Angeles area," according to my National Geographic guide book.

Photos: Blue Jay—North Carolina, 2009; Northern Cardinal—North Carolina, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

San Francisco to Durham

Taking off from SFO the flight went east towards Mount Diablo, passing directly over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a maze of interconnected waterways.

Thence over Nevada: isolated dirt roads forming hieroglyphics in a vast arid expanse.

No amount of tweaking could produce any kind of a pleasing color image with these pix shot through a plexiglas window. So, more black and white conversions.

Photos: Delta—Northern California, 2009; Intersection—Nevada, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Romance of Film

So what about the theory that shooting with film (in this case, for a year) is a useful learning tool?

What about darkroom nostalgia? The ceremonial mixing of the chemicals? The safelights? The developing trays?

Hmm. I just don’t see it. I used film, of course. Used it for . . . oh, let’s say, around 50 years.

Let’s say.

And, to be honest, it was always a struggle. My goal was to produce prints that looked just like Ansel Adams’ prints. Too bad for me that a) I never had Adams’ technical ability, b) I never had equipment that matched Adams’ equipment, and c) there were always a variety of little glitchy hurdles needing to be overcome.

It was the last that was the most irritating. There were film holders that were subject to disconcerting light leaks. I never did find a good film/developer combination (except at the very beginning: FR X-22 with Panatomic-X), and was always tinkering with my HC-110 development chart.

Dust and scratches. Don’t talk to me about dust and scratches.

And sheet film. I had to come up with an elaborate system for developing sheet film, utilizing old Tmax film boxes and rubber bands. (There was the time when I returned from Death Valley and inadvertently neglected to cover a whole boxload of exposed 4x5s . . . instant disaster.)

Nope. No film for me, thank you. Digital, I would say. And it’s not just the convenience factor. Digital prints look better. (As I’ve said before, but I’ll say again.)

Photos: Tmax 400 Box Used for Developing—Marin County, 2009; HC 110 Development Chart (scan)

Friday, June 12, 2009


Another pix taken in the Glen Park neighborhood.

Don’t know who is making the changes.

Photo: Changes (Self Portrait)—San Francisco, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Glen Park

Into SF last Saturday afternoon to have pizza with Hali, Shawna & Maz at a new Glen Park eatery ("Gialina". . . four stars on Yelp).

I used to work in the neighborhood, back in the 80’s. Usually I’d drive in, but sometimes I took the ferry to downtown SF, then took BART to Glen Park station, then walked for about 1/2 mile. Funny, but I never walked around the neighborhood. So I was pleased to have the chance to look around—to be able to check out the dog in front of a taqueria, and salt and pepper shakers in a closed deli.

Photos: Dog—San Francisco, 2009; Salt and Pepper—San Francisco, 2009; Menu—San Francisco, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

. . . from the archives #45: Alders & Sunlight—Point Reyes, 1990

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.

—from the poem "Cycles" by Richard Summers

Photo: Alders & Sunlight—Point Reyes, 1990

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Unusual June weather for Marin: cloudy skies and thunder. Hali pointed out the cloud formations from our house, but no pix possibilities. I ended up throwing the Olympus in the car and heading over White’s Hill to the San Geronimo Valley (as I’ve done before.)

This is a three-photo panorama. Yes, more cows.

Photo: Cows—Marin County, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Poodle Blogging

This is a photo of Joan and Al’s poodle, Kate. Very photogenic.

Photo: Kate—Bothell, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009


We were lucky to be in Washington when the rhododendrons were in bloom . . . spectacular displays.

Photos: Rhododendrons (1)—Washington, 2009; Rhododendrons (2)—Washington, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Mike had a very nice mini-pizza in Anacortes. And a pint of draft beer . . . some local brand. Quite good! Most of the businesses in the downtown area were closed.

Not as touristy as some coastal towns—still some industrial stuff. And a Memorial Day weekend Vets for Victory demonstration.

Photos: Smokestack—Anacortes, 2009; Vets for Victory—Anacortes, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whidbey Island

After crossing over the Deception Pass bridge you are on Whidbey Island. Seems like a nice enough place, agricultural and touristy.

The "shrimp" sign: quick, a sharp left-hand turn! Needed in order to get over to the early morning light slanting across the painted side of the building.

Mike made it down as far as Coupeville, with its restored bed and breakfasts and Memorial Day flags, before turning around.

Photos: Shrimp—Whidbey Island, 2009; Flags—Whidbey Island, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Deception Pass

Mike drove north on Highway 5, then west towards Deception Pass State Park.

Finally: some real forest. He hiked to the top of Goose Rock, passing under the famous Deception Pass bridge, where he stopped to take a three-pix panorama. Nothing much to speak of at the top: weather too hazy to see any of the promised landmarks. No goose, either.

Coming back down, though, he was excited to see the elusive black slug. Easier to take pix of slugs than birds, for sure.

Photos: Forest—Deception Pass, 2009; Bridge—Deception Pass, 2009; Black Slug—Deception Pass, 2009