Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Reflections of Unseen Clouds: Trying to Get the Picture Right (Weekly Photo Challenge: Light)


Good Morning:

This represents the latest in a series of posts devoted to my fumbling bumbling stumbling tumbling experiments in trying to edit flawed but potentially decent photographs. I observed a beautiful phenomenon when walking past the Nema Apartments (NEw MArket?) construction project and took a pair of shots from different locations in an effort to record it. First, the unedited raw material.

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I should start by pointing out that the upper picture demonstrates a flaw that I like (!) in my Nikon S9100 point-and-shoot. See how the buildings on the left and right edges “lean” into the picture? That distortion is a weakness in the camera, but sometimes I rather appreciate the results.

Both shots have different lighting problems: the first is too dark; the second is too light. This won’t constitute the last I post where I write this, but exterior photography San Francisco presents a lot of challenges because of the intense and sharp lighting and shadows. So as usual, I had to edit. I’ll begin with the second one.


Using iPhoto settings, I selected the following: Exposure -0.25, Definition 100, Highlights 10, Shadows 35, Sharpness 100. The result becomes much truer to what I had seen, but the location where I stood does not do justice to the phenomenon I wanted to capture. I picked the wrong place to stand.

The other one turned out better.


Exposure 0, Definition 60, Highlights 15, Shadows 30, Sharpness 70. The blue sky is slightly more intense than in real life, but it helps capture what I really want to show: the clouds in the background seem to be visible through the building! Look especially closely at the right half of the construction project. Of course, this is an optical illusion–we see the reflections of unseen clouds in the building windows (and isn’t “The Reflections of Unseen Clouds” the awesomest title of something?! You know, like a blog post?).

I’ve published a similar optical illusion in Merge: Building & Reflection. I would have liked to capture the entire crane in this shot, but that was impossible, and this picture turned out satisfactorily.

Vonn Scott Bair


Pictures of West Oakland, 16 November 2013


Good Morning:

Still digesting the Thanksgiving dinner, with Hitchcock’s Vertigo playing in the living room. Hitchcock chose his locations brilliantly; everyone gets the iconic spots right, but he excelled at finding the perfect alleys and side streets. He even chose his bookstore well (in real life, the Argosy book store is the Argonaut, still going strong, and I recommend it).

Meanwhile, time to resume posting. Two weeks ago, I travelled to West Oakland to take pictures of shipping containers for the Layers Weekly Photo Challenge, but of course I didn’t limit myself solely to those, and I present some of the more satisfactory shots.

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If the cranes in the above shot look familiar to you, you have seen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone who has seen these cranes assumes that they inspired the giant four-legged walking tanks of the big battle scene on the ice planet, but people associated with the film insists it’s not true. If they say so…


A reminder of the old days of the rails.


“The Graffiti Experience.” Boy, was that ever true! But I also saw a few more murals:


I don’t know why or what the railroad people were doing with this engine; my best guess is that they wanted to test the results of recent maintenance. During the time I watched, all they did was advance it about 50 yards. stop, swarm all over it, advance it another 50 yards, then swarm some more.

A poster from a current/recent union election. Twas a brave man who posted it there.


Perhaps it results from living in San Francisco for so long, but whenever I see a normally busy highway or street with zero traffic, it makes me stop and stare.

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Have a good weekend–if you celebrated Thanksgiving, enjoy your leftovers!

Vonn Scott Bair

The Bubble Music of Haight Street (Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected)


Good Evening:

You expect buskers on Haight Street, especially during Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday weekends. Superficially, these two gentlemen seem hardly surprising:


But this group was actually a trio performing at the intersection of Haight & Ashbury late last Saturday afternoon.  See the gentleman in back wearing an olive zipper-front hoodie and blue jeans? He constituted the third member of the band.

And you will never guess what instrument he played.

He played this:


While bubbles are a frequent San Francisco phenomenon, I had never seen such a contraption before. Now don’t get me wrong: the machine made no music at all. The only sounds it produced came from the motor and the popping bubbles. However! It did do to passersby what good music frequently does.


It made them dance.


And dance.


And dance some more.

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It’s official; San Francisco is magic.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Tiger House & The Latest San Francisco Snippets! (Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected)


Good Evening:

San Franciscans face a paradoxical difficulty when faced with this week’s Challenge: in this city, the unexpected is all we expect, and only the expected is unexpected! So I have to ask myself: what would a visitor not expect to see?

I certainly did not expect to see this when I first moved here in 1982:

The Tiger House, San Francisco, California, 23 November 2013

The Tiger House, San Francisco, California, 23 November 2013

Those danged vehicles ruin the effect; the Tiger House (located in between the Upper Haight and Cole Valley) features such good trompe l’oeil that upon first glance the cute cuddly little critter can look quite real after each restoration. The paint job has been around since before I moved here in 1982, so a lot of money and paint has gone into the maintenance.

But the most unexpected things I’ve seen and heard recently were not photographable, with the possible exception of the tip jar at a food truck with the message “FEAR CHANGE: Leave It With Us.”

First I heard this snippet, and this was all I heard of the conversation: she said, “Office negativity is so less stressful when you’re in your pajamas.”

Then there was this other guy.

I was following a pair of young gentlemen on my way to the Rainbow Grocery when I suddenly realized that I had approached too closely.

MUCH too closely. Witnesses who overhear this sort of speech tend not to live long:

“So this one f—– has his gun on me, and I have my gun on the other f—–, but he’s using Natalie as a human shield, so I can’t do s—, when Trevor, who’s got his head up his a– as usual, just walks in not knowing what the h— is going on, and the guy with his gun on me draws down on Trevor, so I pop him, and the guy who’s got Natalie tries to pop me, but Trevor, that m—– f——, shoots him through Natalie!! I mean the first bullet explodes her HEAD and goes into his chest and Trevor keeps popping until they’re BOTH dead, and he turns to me and says ‘Too bad ’bout Nat, huh?’ and then he f—ing laughs, that pr—, and then he blames me for the all the s— gone down! He–blames–ME!!

“So we’re like this close to shooting it out right then and there, I mean, I am SICK of that crazy m—– f—–, but then he tells me he’s got this one last job worth like forty million, I don’t know, and he needs my skills, and after this we can both retire, ’nuff money for two lifetimes, and I decide like, OK, I’m gonna do it, but then I’m gonna pop that m—– f—–, f—ing POP him, but I know he’s gonna try’n pop me, too, but I know how to get to him first, he gonna die ‘fore he knows what happened and I will take his money and leave the country…”

Meanwhile, at that particular moment I felt that I had gotten too close this particular conversation and I rather needed to hear one particular tiny little detail…

“…so after all that s— went down, I saved my progress and went into Sniper Mode, which is totally beautiful, you have got to check out this game, man…”

…and that was the particular little detail I needed to hear. Not what I expected, but it was what I wanted.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Resurrection of Jake! (Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected)


Good Evening:

Jake was one of the Upper Haight’s great characters, human or otherwise. An all-white English Bulldog known as “The Mayor of Haight Street” whose pet human works at Blade Runners Hair Studio, Jake served as the store mascot, sitting at the entrance and watching the world go by with absolute phlegmatic calm serenity. Nothing could upset him, and Jake became such a famous fixture that when he finally shuffled off to the Great 24-Hour All You Can Eat Free People Food Buffet in the Sky, the San Francisco Chronicle published his obituary. For that matter, so did I.

I never expected to see anything like him again.

I should have known better.


Say hello to the resurrection of Jake the Bulldog (you can also say hello to me; that’s my reflection in the glass). The rookie looks about one year old, and he has some very big paws to fill, but he already knows not to move from his spot, so I think the kid has potential.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Literary Shower Curtain (Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected)


Good Evening:

Admit it–until you saw the phrase “literary shower curtain,” it never occurred to you that it never occurred to you that you never realized that you never thought that it never occurred to you that you never thought that you would ever read the phrase “literary shower curtain.”

The Literary Shower Curtain, San Francisco, CA 23 November 2013

The Literary Shower Curtain, San Francisco, CA 23 November 2013

Welcome to San Francisco.

Vonn Scott Bair

Signs o’ the Times, 22 November 2013


Good Evening:

When I visited West Oakland last weekend in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, I saw much more of interest than just shipping containers. I bet the folks who work at this union hall would feel quite surprised at how their building looks during the morning Magic Hour:

Western Service Workers Union Hall, West Oakland, CA, 16 November 2013

Western Service Workers Union Hall, West Oakland, CA, 16 November 2013

Upon closer inspection, I espied two signs on the door. The first one read, “Food Giveaway Fridays 6:30.” The second one read, “Please Do Not Trash Or Break In. We Will Give You More Than You Can Steal.”

I can’t wait for this recession to really end.

Vonn Scott Bair