Monthly Archives: February 2014

Bair’s Law of Almost Half-Decent Street Photography, 27 February 2014

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Good Evening:

“Take at least nine bad pictures of your subject and edit the heck out of the two least worst.”

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I’ll spare you the original nine shots–I’m trying to be a nice guy. For some strange reason, one shot seemed better in color whilst the other seemed better in black & white. I now present a few more pictures from this afternoon’s excursion around and about the Civic Center. Aside from City Hall, I used The 30 Shot for all of them and then did the best I could to fix them in iPhoto.

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Woman Sleeping on Her Dog, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Woman Sleeping on Her Dog, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Street Photographer, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Street Photographer, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Bicyclist in Front of the Library, Civic Center, 27 Feb  2014

Bicyclist in Front of the Library, Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Dog Walkers, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Dog Walkers, San Francisco Civic Center, 27 Feb 2014

Vonn Scott Bair

Wordless Wednesday: Grey Series, 26 February 2014

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Good Evening:

To celebrate the disappearance of my Malevolent Zero problem (no idea how/why it went away, it just went away), I present my latest additions to The Grey Series, my ongoing attempts to prove that grey is the most aesthetically underrated of colors. Both shots taken today with my iPhone 4 during a rainy lunch hour from the 12th floor of SFPUC headquarters. No filters.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Busking at the Civic Center Farmers Market (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

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Good Evening:

Busking for dollars has to be a paradox of difficulty; you get to do what you love, but you also get to see almost everyone ignore you. Take for example, a really good Country-Western singer-songwriter operating out of San Francisco named Dean Harlem. Can you even spot him in the first photo?

Civic Center Farmers Market, Sunday 23 February 2014

Civic Center Farmers Market, Sunday 23 February 2014

Lower left corner, in front of the food truck. As you can see, not many people paying attention. He’s good enough that I’ve parted with quite a few Washingtons, plus one Hamilton for his CD Baptism Road, but most of the time it seems as if he plays for no one but himself:

Dean Harlem, San Francisco Civic Center, 24 February 2014

Dean Harlem, San Francisco Civic Center, 24 February 2014

I had to convert to B&W; as you can see from the shadows, the sun was directly in the line of fire (so to speak), and messed with the color shot. Most of the time, buskers seem to play for no one but themselves, but I did espy another gentleman who appreciated Mr. Harlem’s hard work.

Filling the Tip Jar, 23 February 2014

Filling the Tip Jar, 23 February 2014

Even one dollar can make it all worthwhile.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Malevolent Zero, Or, Anyone Else Having WordPress Problems Today?

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Good Evening:

I can’t access anything today. When I click on the Reader, all that comes up is a “0” (that’s zero) just underneath the W. Same thing occurs when I click on Freshly Pressed. Not even that happens when I click on My Blog. I can access and post to my own blog and respond to comments, but that’s about it. I can’t even access the blogs I follow by other means.

Ever encounter this before? Comments are more than welcome.

Vonn Scott Bair

Sutro Baths At Sunset, 22 February 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

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Good Evening:

The biggest lumps at Seal Rocks (just offshore from the ruins of the old Sutro Baths) happen to number three, so they seemed a most suitable location for experimenting with this week’s Challenge. I had never heard of this idea of using “threes” in photography to tell a story, and figured that something had to present itself almost as soon as I arrived.

Not quite.

I ran into considerable difficulties for many reasons, but perhaps that was a good thing; how can we learn anything if we don’t run into difficulties first? Sunset at the beach on a cloudy day when the fog starts rolling in makes for really weird light that freaks out digital cameras and makes them question both their own sanity and the sanity of their photographers. I refused to blame my camera–’tis a poor carpenter who blames his tools–and tried my best anyway.

Another problem lay in–well, lay in nature itself. Turns out that nature does not conveniently arrange itself in such fashion as to make long, medium, and closeup shots of the same subject, take from the same angle and with the same object in the middle of each shot, yield fabulously perfect compositions every single time. Of the batches of three where I tried to pull this off, this set turned out comparatively best.

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Notice that as the camera zooms in, the quintet at the bottom right becomes more important. Incidentally, the so-called “king tides” of January (when the tide comes in very high and the surf slams the baths hard) have receded, but this remains a risky place to visit. Of the roughly 200 people attending this grey windy sunset, about a dozen consisted of photographers of varying skill levels ignoring warning signs and getting very close to the pounding sea. Me? High and dry and very safe.

Most of the time, better results came from tilting the camera up or down, creating the best composition possible given what I saw in the view finder. The next three are completely unedited.

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This time, The Cliff House, the object in the back, not the front, becomes more important as the camera zooms in.

Despite all of the challenges, I had a great time, especially about halfway through my half-hour session, when my “Masterpieces of Rock and Soul” playlist randomly launched the absolutely most perfect song for the occasion: “California Suite: Grey Day,” by Jesse Colin Young, from the Light Shine album. Because serendipity is a life skill that can be mastered. A song like that, during a sunset like that, will make me wanna (Shout!), kick my heels up and (Shout!), throw my hands up and (Shout!)–from “Shout, Pts. 1 & 2” by the Isley Brothers. In other words, the next song played.

Yeah, today was a good day.

Three more random shots, pictures that I believe prove I’m more lucky than good. Incidentally, the specks are birds; I stuck with a 1/13 speed for most of the afternoon.

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Seems that I did better when not trying to capture threes, but with enough practice and perhaps reading the manual, I might yet become a real photographer some day.

Vonn Scott Bair

3. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

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Good Evening:

I promise to publish less frivolous responses to this week’s Challenge, but I could not resist the temptation to indulge in just a little bit of fun.

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Vonn Scott Bair

The Sound of Silence on the Set on Mt. Tamalpais (Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence)

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Good Evening:

One fine spring day in 2002, I received the first of a series of phone calls from a casting agent in Los Angeles who said that he really needed me for the starring role in an episode of a television series. Well, that’s what he said. Given the size of the acting pool in LA (mindblowingly huge) and the size of the acting pool in the San Francisco Bay Area (um, not terrible), it seemed reasonable to believe that maybe a modest modicum of mistrust might come in handy.

After several more phone calls from him, and after I conducted a little online research, he seemed real, but I made sure we met in a very public location. I’m glad I did. Not only did everything prove legitimate, but I found myself with my first lead role in an episode of a foreign television show, a Channel 4 UK reality crime series called Supersleuths. The good news: I had and have the exactly right look for the role.

The bad news: the role was David Carpenter.

David Carpenter (no links), born 1930, is The Trailside Killer, one of California’s all-time worst serial killers and today he might be the oldest person on any Death Row in America. Yours truly in 2002 bore a striking physical resemblance to him circa 1980 when he committed a series of rape/murders in the Bay Area, many of them occurring on Mt. Tamalpais, the highest peak in the Marin Hills and one of the most beautiful locations in the Bay Area.

Therefore, we spent many days on “Mt. Tam” creating reenactments of the crimes on the actual locations where they occurred. In my experience, most film sets are boisterous fun places; for most people in the industry, getting a job is the tough dreary part, working the job is the fun part. By contrast, the cast and crew on “The Trailside Killer” episode of Supersleuths maintained by far the most sober and serious environment of any acting job on which I’ve worked, especially after the first day of shooting, which took place at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center. A woman who had worked with the detective who literally handcuffed Carpenter watched the first take of the first scene and immediately fled the set. When an assistant caught up with her, she kept whispering, “That’s Carpenter. That’s Carpenter.” We never saw her again after that day.

Everyone, both local and British, figured it out; the crimes remained very painful memories.

But early one grey, foggy, drizzling morning on Mt. Tam, the director, cinematographer and I studied some actual photographs of the crime scene we planned to recreate. Yes, actual photos, another reason for the sobriety. The crew prepped their equipment whilst simultaneously shielding it from the minimal wetness, while the actress who would portray the first of the four victims I would kill that day stood under an umbrella gazing at the place where she would die. We had set up our work site at a picnic area a little over 2,000 feet above sea level, normally a noisy environment: this part of the park can get very windy, and the Bay Area has so much vehicular traffic below us and so much air traffic above us that ambient noise always poses a challenge for sound crews.

Then I said, “Guys, did you hear that?”

The director, an Englishman, said, “I don’t hear anything.”

“That’s my point. I hear nothing.”

The light drizzle fell so lightly that it made no noise as it landed upon asphalt, grass, wood, or leaf. But it fell thickly enough that combined with the low clouds overhead and fog all around, the weather managed to muffle all of the sounds of the mountain and the San Francisco Bay Area without itself making any sound. The weather even managed somehow to stop the wind.

We listened to nothing. The crew stopped working, looked around and listened to nothing. The actress looked up at the sky and heard nothing.

The director said, “I’ve never heard silence in my entire life.”

I said, “Neither have I.”

The cinematographer said he had heard absolute silence once before. He was almost 60 years old. I remember one of the crew slowly stomping his right foot up and down on the grass, making no noise at all. Then he stood still again. We all held still for two, perhaps three minutes, and listened to silence, listened to nothing, and aside from the cinematographer, we were listening to the sound of silence for the first time in our lives.

Then we all grinned. Simultaneously. For the only time during the entire project.

The director said, “We’re falling behind schedule,” and we sobered up and got back to work. I still had to kill four people that day and we were losing time.

Vonn Scott Bair