Sculpture by Marco Cochrane on Treasure Island of a 40 foot woman.
I had seen photos of this sculpture but they were mostly night shots. I figured I wouldn’t get anything good because of the time of day. And then I started walking around and first noticed the shadow and thought about just shooting that or focusing solely on the shadow. But then I kept walking and noticing that the sun was right behind her head. I don’t have a filter on the 12-24mm and I clearly need to invest. This is as stopped down as I could go without losing the rest of the image. At night, you can control the lights with an iPhone app. Check out the Flickr shots from the above map for some very cool shots that show off the lights, the bridges and San Francisco skyline. At the time of day this was taken, with the sun at this angle, the only thing I could get of the city landmarks was Alcatraz.
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Daily affirmation: Smile first at/to yourself.
While everybody else was shooting the Bay Bridge from Treasure Island, I turned and decided to go super wide on this building. Kind of eerie and weird how vacant this looks when just out of frame a whole bunch of photographers are arrayed and shooting like mad. I edited out a tiny piece of tripod leg on the lower left side of the image because I missed it when shooting. Post processing for the win on this one.
The sky was super blown out because I don’t have a filter for the Sigma 12-24mm. But I was able to pull some cloud detail from the RAW file. Also? No people were harmed and/or removed from this image.
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Daily affirmation: Turn around.
Looking from Treasure Island into San Francisco. I shot this during the official photowalk of the Google Plus Photography Conference. I shot a bunch of these after the walk was over because the light was a bit more dramatic. I wasn’t sure I was going to share any of these shots until I took this into black & white. That simple change gave the image an entirely different mood.
As I shoot more landscape shots, I’m noticing the edge falloff with the Sigma. I don’t hate it, but it’s something I’m noticing more and more. I should have changed lenses and tried a longer lens, just to see what I could get. I probably could have done a series of portrait oriented shots and stitched them together for a much more detailed shot. That’s something to try soon. I’m getting more comfortable with shooting more manually with my lenses. To get usable stitched images, the white balance, exposure, lens correction and metering has to be tight. Next time I have the 5D Mark II I’ll give it a go and hopefully I’ll have something good to share.
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Daily affirmation: Stay on top of it.
Still Gray Lady
My love of the San Francisco Bay Bridge dates back to the summer of 1983. I took the Amtrak “California Zephyr" from Ogden, Utah to San Francisco with an old friend from high school. Back then, flying was three times the money and I wanted an adventure. We were headed out for a life-changing week. I had never been to San Francisco, nor had my friend. We stayed with my sister and her boyfriend on Castro. The Castro Castro. That’s another post.
When you take the train to San Francisco, the train stops in Emeryville and you get on a bus to cross the Bay Bridge. I’ll never forget walking off the train to the bus and seeing the skyline for the first time. It was my first big city skyline. I’d been to southern California as a kid, but never remember being struck by the skyline of Los Angeles or San Diego. It was like looking across the bay to Oz. The bus was a coach and we sat higher than the other vehicles. The view was stupendous. When you cross the bridge entering San Francisco, you ride on the top deck. It’s great marketing. Definitely a vista I will never forget. My girls will tire of me telling this story again and again. They have been raised differently. Leta has flown more in her eight years than I did before the age of 30. Marlo will never fly.
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Summer, 1989, I had access to a used Porsche 924 turbo. That car ruled. Killer Blaupunkt stereo. Some Saturdays, I’d open the sunroof, throw in Living Colour, early Red Hot Chili Peppers or Fishbone and head from Oakland into the city, full of music and exuberant. Stopping at the toll gate, I’d sometimes have my toll paid by the car in front of me and I learned to pay it forward, sometimes throwing a five dollar bill down so that four more cars could follow. It was amazing what that five dollars felt like. Bridge tolls on the weekend are a pain in the ass. During a normal commute, the majority of drivers know the drill and even if the traffic is heavier (it’s always heavy on the Bay Bridge), the commute vibe is drop the cash, move your shit to the cracked out traffic control lights and haul ass off the line and up the chicane of 16 lanes into 8. Having the stereo up and punching it was one of the best feelings I’d have all week.
I didn’t drive recklessly or fast. It wasn’t my car. I did like to move decisively. Even used, that car could rip it when necessary. Loved it. Loved heading into the city and then hitting Tower Records or Aquarius or any of the used CD stores on Haight, throwing whatever I purchased into the stereo and then driving back to Oakland on the lower deck, anxious to tape my new purchases for the Monday BART commute. Something about the sound of the car on the lower deck right before the Treasure Island exit thrilled a primitive part of my brain, especially with new music pumping.
The last span of the bridge into Oakland is a wake up call. The fantasy is over. It’s 20° warmer and everything slows down to a crawl through the maze. The bridge gives you a sense of timelessness before the jockeying begin for the myriad of freeway options.
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In 1998, I spent the summer in a sublet in the Inner Sunset looking for work. I had moved from Salt Lake City in earnest. I got an interview at CKS, prior to the merger with USWeb (fascinating story about one of the Utah-born founders of USWeb here). I was told that the building where CKS was located was called the Hills Brothers Building and it was on the Embarcadero. I walked from Market over with my portfolio. I can’t remember what floor I went to, but I remember meeting an art director in her office that had an amazing view of the Bay Bridge. I wished I had my 35mm with me that day, as the view was stunning; almost like the bridge was coming out of the building. I didn’t get the job. And for good reason.
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In December of 2008, I did a one day business trip to San Francisco to meet with Federated Media, who was in the top floor of the Hills Brothers Building at the time. I grabbed a shot of the Bay Bridge that has sold pretty well. I shot that one with a Canon G9 and I like what the zoom did for me with that shot. The overcast sky gave a great sheen to the bridge that day.
It was crazy to be back in that building and under such different circumstances than when I was there to interview at CKS.
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In May of 2012, I took a photowalk and after not finding the light on the Embarcadero to be the right angle for shots, I mentioned to my fellow photo walker Mark Esguerra that if we could get on the roof of the Hills Brothers Building, there would be some great shots of the bridge. Security said no to roof access. I mentioned that I had been their when Federated was there knew of a roof deck. I asked who was in that suite now. Mozilla! I asked if it would be ok if Mozilla let us shoot, would the building have any issues. Nope, it’s up to the people in the suite. Boom. We decided to go up to take a look.
The lobby wasn’t too busy. But there were no good bridge views from the lobby. After some pause, Mark pushed a tiny bit for me to ask the front desk if we could get out and shoot on the deck. I mentioned the Google and the Photo and the Conference. The receptionist walked us to the roof and we shot uninterrupted for several minutes. So big ups to Mozilla for letting us out there to shoot when a lot of companies likely wouldn’t have even let us in the door loaded with mobile photo gear, large cameras and big lenses. Very cool. Go download their browser right now if you haven’t yet. If you have downloaded it in the past, update it. Still a great browser and the cosmetic changes for the Mac version are pretty sweet. If anybody from Mozilla happens to read this, please don’t punish anybody! This was an ad hoc thing that will likely never happen again.
The only downside for me was that I was only carrying two lenses: a 12-24mm super wide angle and a 70-200mm telephoto. I think I was missing the sweet spot as 70mm was too tight from the shooting positions and 24mm was just a bit too wide. I think the 24-70 would have been ideal for the shot I saw in my head. But I left the 24-700mm back at my friend’s house because I wanted to push myself with both of the lenses I had with me; especially the super wide. I like this shot well enough, but wonder what images from the 24-70 would have looked like.
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Daily affirmation: When you smile and ask, good things happen.
"Blue is the Color of My Tears"
The title of this is from a poem that Leta wrote about the color blue. Talk about a gut punch. Kid can write. I can’t help but attach all kinds of meanings to her words, but I have to stop that and take a step back. They are her words. They are about her. Grief can jack the boundaries. It’s the thing I’m working on the most right now, today. Not denying the grief, but letting it in at appropriate times and working on not letting it pollute pure things it has no business polluting. My grief should not pollute my kids’ lives.
I was talking about grief with my family over the holiday weekend and I was struck by the time it took me to feel normal after my dad died. I figure it was around 3 years. There were other events that contributed, but the big one was that I lost my father. I moved around a lot. I transferred university three times. The second time was to matriculate into BYU after proving myself taking BYU approved courses at a state college. I did all of the transferring and then within about 20 minutes of my first day on campus at BYU, I realized I’d have to stick this one out, despite my misgivings. Strange to work so hard for something and then once I had it, knew it wasn’t right for me. That was the last of the convulsive fits of grief. I buckled in, talked to some counsellors, started a great band, had a good job and really focused on dating and finishing my bachelor degree. Those three years seem almost lost, when I look back. It was much worse during those years, living in it, wondering if I was ever going to make more than minimum wage, ever going to have a normal life given the personal loss I was trying to navigate. I should have been in therapy and I knew it, even then, but thought I could get myself through it. And I did. Mostly.
It seems luxurious to consider a three year grieving period now. Back then, I made a point of having a university experience that was entirely different from my father’s experience while he worked on his GI Bill funded degree. Being not married, childless and feeling an urgency to make music while I was in school took precedence. It took a few years to get to a place where I was living a university life to its most full. I thought that would be the best thing I could do; my dad’s death showed me the importance of living like there may very well be no tomorrow. While that might sound nihilistic, it was exactly the opposite. I was trying to honor him by making his sacrifices for me worth something more. I’ve had the luxury to look hard at myself and find things I love to do. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to be able to make money doing them. It’s when I have veered away from that effort that my life may have outwardly seemed the best and most safely normal, but inwardly felt like a lie. A big part of my current grief is that I’ve spent the last six years working on things I love; marriage, kids, the websites and the businesses. I’ve loved all of it. The real beauty of these years, aside from the beauty of my daughters, has been doing work that didn’t seem like work. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it.
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I temped the summers of 1987, 1989 and 1990 in San Francisco, Emeryville and Oakland. I’d walk around during my lunch and listen to jazz ballads and dream of really living in the city. In 1987, I learned just what it would take to be able to afford to live in San Francisco, renting a room in a shared house out on 14th Avenue in between Ulloa and Vincente. It was during one of those lunches in 1987 that I walked into the Rincon Center and was struck by the nicest food court I’d ever seen. My life experiences in food courts have long surpassed that initial wowing, for the record. But at the time, the art deco architecture and the way the atrium opened up struck a resounding chord. The year before, I had read a bunch about Frank Lloyd Wright and I was starting to pay more attention to art and architecture.
The image above was shot in San Francisco last week, in the atrium of the Rincon Center. 25 years later, the water feature is still there, not as clean as it was in 1987. The water is dripping from a platform 85 feet up and the telephoto lens is at 165mm, the sound of the water is reassuring even as that glass platform works on my anxiety about aliens and/or zombies attacking and what would happen to the water and glass if it fell. As I pushed the shutter release on the very sweet camera, with the very sweet lens, I was struck at how my life has unfolded since 1987. I was carrying camera gear that back then would have seemed ludicrous (and to some, still may) drove this point home: I am a very lucky man.
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Daily affirmation: I am lucky. Also? Be careful where you wave your grief.
Taken in San Francisco here:
This one was taken during an informal photowalk during the Google Plus Photography Conference with Mark Esguerra, a great photographer and very nice person. You can see his blog here, his portfolio here and his Google+ profile here. We had just shot the Bay Bridge and were walking back to the conference when I looked up and fired off a couple of shots of this building. I was playing around with a demo of Nik Software’s Viveza 2 (watch the video; the good stuff starts at 1:58) plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. My demo time ran out so I opened the above image in Snapseed and started to tweak. I love the ability to save TIF files from Snapseed, but for non-grungy, more straightforward edits, I’m looking hard at Viveza.
Adobe could do something similar with adjustment brushes in Lightroom if they wanted to. Snapseed is essentially Viveza with less daunting controls, grunge notwithstanding.
Treasure Island Molting
This is from the Treasure Island photowalk I took part in as part of the Google Plus Photography Conference last week. One of my fellow walkers, Alan Allum (hit that link, he’s got some lovely flower shots), pointed me towards a building that was boarded up and looked like an subject for durability testing for exterior paint. Kept shooting around until I got a larger version of this. When I zoomed to check my sharpening, this crop came up. It looked more interesting than the larger image. I am glad I had the 5D Mark II on this shoot, because the crop wouldn’t be as nice as this one.
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I’m back from the getaway with Leta. So good to be solo with her. Yesterday morning I got up early and went to shoot the sunrise. I almost didn’t do it because I knew that I’d wake up Leta, no matter how quiet I’d be. She did wake up and I told her to go back to sleep. Other family members were up and about, so it wasn’t like I was leaving her alone. She gets along really well with the cousins, but given the vacation mode late nights, I mistakenly thought she’d fall back asleep. When I returned, I heard her come downstairs and look at me with a smile. “I couldn’t get back to sleep and I tried your bed and my bed and it was too cold.”
I showed her the shots I took and gave her enough sugared cereal to fuel the rest of our day. Which backfired on our drive home. She complained for 85% of the trip about feeling like she “kind of might throw up”.
"Do you want me to pull over so you can barf?"
"Let’s pull over so you can get some fresh air."
As she reluctantly got out and walked three or four steps, I made a bed for her across the backseat and my hopes of her getting some rest were dashed when she kept moaning. She’s normally a great car traveller, so this was unusual. She made it home without incident and immediately ran inside the house when I dropped her off. I went inside to give Marlo some squeezes and say hello. I heard a toilet flush. Then I heard it again.
Leta came bounding downstairs to say goodbye, a changed person. Given the bowel family history, I’ll leave you to arrive at the cure.
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Daily affirmation: Speak openly with somebody close. But don’t be annoying and have weird proximity issues. Just speak openly.
I’m back from San Francisco. It was a great trip and so good to see my friends and meet new people. I attended the Google Plus Photography Conference that was run by Scott Kelby. Went on an official photowalk to Treasure Island and learned a few tricks about how to light people using a two then three speedlight flash units; one as master, one or more as slave(s). It was windy and cold. Surprise! But toward the end, the light got better and I’ve got a few good images to work on and share.
Later, I went on a Drink & Click photowalk that started in North Beach and ended in Chinatown. Ended for me. Several others stayed out much later and went to a couple more spots. I didn’t want to feel like crap the next day at the conference, so I left at a semi-reasonable hour. A very nice and good person gave me a lift back to my friend’s house to crash. Big thanks to Lotus Carroll and Juan Gonzales for setting up the photowalk and hosting a really great night out. Here’s a group shot.
I think I want to try to do some Drink & Click action in Salt Lake City. People who don’t drink would be welcome and under no obligation to drink. Any Salt Lake photographers who are reading this and have an interest, let me know via my contact page and we’ll set one up. Even if no one comes, I will be doing this through the summer because the after work light will be fantastic and hey, drinks and cameras. What can go wrong? Nothing!
- Drinks (Dinner as well?) at a good starting point to be decided later
- Walk around and shoot
- End up at another drinking location
- Shoot some more
This isn’t about getting lit. It’s about socializing and relaxing. It was really great to loosen up and visit with people I’d seen and circled on Google Plus at this informal event. Seeing all the cameras parked on tables while people visited was something else. Fortunately, we all pretty much owned the bar space of the last spot we hit, so there was not a deep concern about losing a camera. I still kept mine on. Because I’m paranoid and uptight.
The image above is from this walk and is a detail of graffiti on the side of a van parked in Chinatown. Because the walk took place on Monday night, there weren’t too many people out and we could roam and shoot with relative ease. The streetlights added some nice ambience, but I was shooting at 3200 ISO pretty much the whole night.
I did some noise reduction in Lightroom and then took the image into Photoshop for some more trickery to pull up the spray paint details.
Daily affirmation: Great things happen when I let them.