Chasing the Past
I keep trying to capture my childhood memories in these images. This one gets close. Something about riding my bike downtown & sitting on a bench sipping a tiny Coke bottle or a Pepsi while the sun hinted at setting. I knew that if I wasn’t home by 8, I’d be busted, but there were a couple of days where I got away with a few extra minutes. It’s not something I did a lot, but the memory of the light, the sound of AM radio and summer have stayed with me. If I was lucky, I’d run into one of the older neighborhood boys with a job and they’d buy me a pop or candy bar. One of the families in our neighborhood had a Husky and I loved that dog. I could never pronounce it’s name, but that dog was great. He drank Pepsi.
The thing that I go back to in regard to this particular image is being a small kid and walking around our cars to get in and out of them. While passing, I always looked at the details in the lights. I would think then, as I do now, that there had to be a reason for the placement of the diffusers and somebody had to design and make all those patterns in the headlights. How did they come to this particular design?
I did a bunch of crazy work on this one. But I love where this ended up.
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Daily affirmation: It’s summer! Get outside. Right now.
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.
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.
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.
Caught this off the hip using my 12-24mm super wide angle lens.
I’ve got a whole lot of shots like this from years past. This one is working its way up my favorites list. Most for the ghosts.
Daily affirmation: Look at someone in the eyes and smile a real smile.
Caught this guy on Market Street in front of Old Navy. Bucketman.
This was his finale. Impressive.
Daily affirmation: Stop trying to escape who you are. Turn and face it.