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

Six-Legged Treasures (Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure)

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Good Evening:

Six-legged treasure? Well, if dogs are four-legged treasures, and so are your kids, then dog + kid = 6. And since my family’s first four-legged treasure, an English Bulldog named Archy, saved the life of my family’s first two-legged treasure (yours truly), not once but twice, I think six legs is a great idea.

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Both pictures taken on Valencia Street this afternoon, cropped to a square format, otherwise unedited.

Vonn Scott Bair

Two-Legged Treasures (Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure)

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Good Evening:

Of course, parents will treasure children over dogs, and who exactly can blame them? Here are a few pictures I took on Saturday near Market and Powell Streets, along with a bit of a conundrum.

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The conundrum is this: I can’t figure out if the next scene works better in color or black-and-white.

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The style of the black-and-white looks exactly like the kind of photograph taken in the 1950s; the sort of candid street photography that made the great New York City artists legends. No, no, no, it isn’t that good, nowhere near that good; style yes, quality no. What bugs me is that the color picture makes it immediately obvious what that round object is. If this was a satisfactory picture I think the problem would not exist. Oh, well. This happens when you point the camera behind you and you shoot blindly with no idea what you’re capturing.

Opinions welcome.

Finally, a quick snippet overheard at the Geary & Masonic Trader Joe’s, a father to his daughter, perhaps 7 and 5 years old: “Girls, I’m looking for three bags of organic spinach. Can you work with me on this?”

Vonn Scott Bair

Fur-Bearing Treasures, Or Is It Fur, Bearing Treasures? (Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure)

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Good Morning:

Say hello to a treasure named Porkchop:

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Porkchop is a French Bulldog, and like others of the flat-faced, squat-legged dog breeds (English Bulldogs, Pugs, et cetera), Porkchop can accelerate from zero to “Whoa! He’s really fast!” a lot faster than you might think. Porkchop also likes to play a game very popular among domestic canines, called “Let the Silly Human Get Really Close and Then Run Away Really Fast Before the Silly Human Can Attach My Enemy the Leash.”

But as you can see, his babysitter had attached his enemy the leash. For that, she had me to thank.

Here’s Porkchop ignoring that unfortunate young woman after yet another escape.

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But then he saw me.

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Porkchop decided that I was superbly qualified to shower him with petting and affection. And I am superbly qualified to shower a dog with petting and affection: I’m human, and I have at least one hand. So I gave him a good petting and rubbing, whilst covertly holding him until the babysitter could catch up with us.

But dogs do constitute one of the great treasures of a human’s life. Herewith I present more of them. I cropped most of the shots, but did not apply any filters.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Daily Prompt, 15 February 2014: Money for Nothing

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Good Morning:

Today’s Daily Prompt for photographers is Work. I present a few recent examples from my own, uh, work.

Busker Performing in Front of Puerto Alegre, Valencia Street, San Francisco

Busker Performing in Front of Puerto Alegre, Valencia Street, San Francisco

Construction Workers, 10th & Market, San Francisco

Construction Workers, 10th & Market, San Francisco

Underground Pipe Repairs, Polk Street near Market, San Francisco

Underground Pipe Repairs, Polk Street near Market, San Francisco

Naturally, every once in a while, you need to take a break. But cigarettes during the first heavy rainstorm of the year? What kind of break is that? A new California PSA aimed at teenagers portrays cigarettes as a bully, but methinks they could have aimed it at the adults, too.

Cigarette Break in the Rain, Redwood Alley, San Francisco

Cigarette Break in the Rain, Redwood Alley, San Francisco

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco Civic Center, Thursday Afternoon.

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Good Afternoon:

The clouds and fog broke, split, scattered and evaporated today, for the first time this week. To celebrate, a large number of San Franciscans seemed to get the Friday Flu a day early (well, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day; they probably planned to take that day off as well). The temperature in the Civic Center area felt like 70 degrees F; the City had just finished installing new soil and grass, so why not give the turf a workout?

Two Dogs with Their Pet Humans in Front of the Library, 13 February 2014

Two Dogs with Their Pet Humans in Front of the Library, 13 February 2014

Family Time, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

Family Time, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

In Love, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA 13 February 2014

In Love, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA 13 February 2014

Bicyclist @ Rest, Civic Center, 13 February 2014

Bicyclist @ Rest, Civic Center, 13 February 2014

I used The 30 Shot for all of these, and one thing I’ve learned is that the technique works best on distant subjects because I have a much better chance of getting the shot (all of these pictures are cropped, but I didn’t use any filters). I discarded about two-thirds of the pictures I took today because the subject was too close and I either missed completely or the angle looked weird.

Of course, some people were stuck working:

Back to Work After Lunch I, Market Street, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

Back to Work After Lunch I, Market Street, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

Back to Work After Lunch II, Market Street, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

Back to Work After Lunch II, Market Street, San Francisco, 13 February 2014

Infrastructure Work, San Francisco 13 February 2014

Infrastructure Work, San Francisco 13 February 2014

At about 5:10 p.m., I spotted these two couples heading home.

Two Couples, San Francisco Civic Center, 13 February 2014

Two Couples, San Francisco Civic Center, 13 February 2014

Vonn Scott Bair

And the Signs Say…

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Good Evening:

San Francisco’s middle class continues to depart a city where they can no longer afford to live, (over 5,500 per year from 2007 – 2011). Seems like part of a larger trend in America; middle class neighborhoods disappearing from the cities, leaving only rich and poor areas. San Francisco’s muralists and other street artists continue to comment using whatever media they have at hand.

I found this picture of Tony “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” Bennett in Hayes Valley–after someone performed a little bit of editing.

I Left...San Francisco

I Left…San Francisco

Meanwhile, on Haight near Divisadero, it appears that rival artists that taken the same medium (a poster for the upcoming Endless Love, a movie which might be a remake that doesn’t need to exist of the old Endless Love, an Eighties movie that didn’t need to exist) to tell the same message.

It looked like this a week ago…

Say Good-Bye to Affordable Rents

Say Good-Bye to Affordable Rents

…but it now looks like this:

Say Good-Bye

Say Good-Bye

Vonn Scott Bair

The Bowl (Daily Prompt: Ingredients)

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Good Afternoon:

I will keep this Daily Prompt simple.

  • A bowl.
  • A bowl of soup.
  • A bowl of chicken soup.
  • A bowl of chicken noodle soup.
  • A bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup that your mother made for you when you were eight years and the flu left you bedridden for four days and thereby ruined your Christmas vacation.
White & Blue Series, 9 February 2014. The Bowls.

White & Blue Series, 9 February 2014. The Bowls.

  • A bowl.
  • A bowl of chili.
  • A bowl of red.
  • A bowl of your uncle’s homemade 5-alarm beef and pork chili that once took Honorable Mention in the state championships, each cube almost exactly three-quarters of an inch along each edge, raising blisters on the roof of your mouth but that’s OK because your uncle also makes his own California-style Pale Ale and has won gold medals at the AHA national championships and has plenty on hand to douse the fire.

Let us all now pay homage to the humble bowl.

One of humanity’s earliest kitchen utensils, the bowl has become so ubiquitous, so universal that perhaps we do not appreciate how many of our happiest memories begin with the words “a bowl.” But that’s all right. I’m here to help you appreciate.

  • A bowl of homemade popcorn.
  • A bowl of buttered homemade popcorn.
  • A bowl of lightly salted buttered homemade popcorn.
  • A bowl of lightly salted buttered homemade popcorn in your lap on the sofa as your sweetheart curls up on your shoulder and you pop a popped kernel into each other’s mouth as you watch The Princess Bride for the 10th (or is it the 11th?) time.
  • A bowl of lightly salted buttered homemade popcorn in your lap on the sofa as your sweetheart curls up on your shoulder and you pop a popped kernel into each other’s mouth as the two of you watch The Princess Bride for the 20th (or is it the 21st?) time and your two rugrats sit cross-legged on the rug in front of you engrossed in the flick.

The bowl is such a simple item, serving as nothing more than the receptacle of the daily meal and your memories.

  • A bowl of pasta.
  • A bowl of chuk or chook (“rice porridges” on most Chinese restaurant menus).
  • A bowl of pozole.
  • A bowl of cereal.
  • A bowl of oatmeal.
  • A bowl of stew.
  • A bowl of pretzels.
  • A bowl of ramen (how many of you just remembered something from your starving college student days?).
  • A bowl of peanuts.
  • A bowl of miniature candies on Hallowe’en.
  • A bowl of ice cream.
  • A bowl of your dad’s homemade chocolate ice cream.

Admit it: you just remembered something you didn’t realize you had thought you had forgotten.

Vonn Scott Bair

Rainy Day Saturday (Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie)

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Good Morning:

My apologies, but I am not a fan of the selfie. Or at least, my selfies. I don’t take many of those for the simple reason that my world is a lot more interesting than I am. I live in San Francisco; how could my world not be more interesting than I am? So here’s my only contribution to this week’s Challenge.

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Vonn Scott Bair