Monthly Archives: August 2014

Still Life with Dishtowels, 30 August 2014

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Good Morning:

I don’t use these old dishtowels for anything anymore except holding very hot things. In fact, the only reason I had dumped them on one of my chopping boards on Friday night was to get them out of my way. But on Saturday morning, as I went to fetch another cup of coffee, the sunlight filtered through the miniblinds with the just the right intensity, and this happened (taken with my iPhone 4):

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They haven’t looked this “good” in years, and probably never will again.

Sunday Streets, 2014: Valencia Street Edition.

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Good Evening:

Sunday Streets has become quite the popular affair in San Francisco. Still free from major corporate sponsorship, the city blocks off an extended stretch of a street (this past Sunday, Valencia), and people just roam. Every year, it seems that the extended stretch of street keeps getting extended; this year they added four more blocks.

The Sunday Streets gives local small businesses a chance to show off: health clubs of all sorts conducted all sorts of healthy stuff.

Yoga Class, Sunday Streets

Yoga Class, Sunday Streets

Just like a nightclub; waiting list for a masseuse

Just like a nightclub; waiting list for a masseuse

Hula Hoops, Sunday Street, Valencia Street

Hula Hoops, Sunday Street, Valencia Street

Medicina Ball Work, Sunday Streets

Medicina Ball Work, Sunday Streets

Capoeira Group Performing Percussion

Capoeira Group Performing Percussion

Families and friends had a great time. Sunday Streets is free and there is much to see.

Robot Horse

Robot Horse

Dancing Robot, Valencia Sunday Streets

Dancing Robot, Valencia Sunday Streets

Sidewalk Time

Sidewalk Time

Cafe Time; Time for People Watching

Cafe Time; Time for People Watching

You could pose for a photograph with some unusual friends.

Please Stand Here for a Photo, You Two-Eyed Freak

Please Stand Here for a Photo, You Two-Eyed Freak

This gentleman had to keep the intersection of 16th and Valencia open for vehicular traffic, but it doesn’t seem to have required much effort.

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Some small businesses set up shop. This used furnitures store got creative, placing its wares on the street, and setting up a stage for a mariachi band. Potential customers could relax, sit, listen to music, and check out their possible next sofa.

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Craftspeople wandered the street as well, selling their wares. This one seemed successful:

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She sold one of her parasols to the woman pushing the wheelchair, and I saw two other women using their new purchases, so I suspect she met a need and met it well.

I don’t know if San Francisco invented Sunday Streets, but we have already made this new phenomenon an old tradition.

Vonn Scott Bair

Sunday Afternoon, San Francisco.

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Good Evening:

So how do you spend your Sundays? San Franciscans have lots of ideas, and they shared them last Sunday.

Some spent the day working, such as this manager at the employees entrance of Pancho Villa Tacqueria:

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Some spent the day with man’s best friend:

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Or their best sun and a good book:

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Or their best friends and some lollipops:

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Or their one special friend and some cool beverages.

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And someone spent the day creating more Surrealism at Our Feet.

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All important parts of a Sunday well spent.

Vonn Scott Bair

Brown. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Fray)

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Good Evening:

I have two brown leather jackets. The newer and heavier one dates back almost 20 years. The older and lightweight one is over 30 years old.

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Every once in a while, someone will compliment me and ask where they can buy such a cool stressed jacket. When I reply that the jacket I wear is almost 20/over 30 years old, they cringe and I know they’re thinking, the dude is so old and can’t afford new clothes he must be so totally broke, et cetera, et cetera.

I don’t care. I like my antique leathers, not matter how badly they have frayed.

I experimented with a few settings today that I don’t normally use. Here are the shots that I didn’t delete.

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Vonn Scott Bair

The Motivational Speaker at the Theatrical Intermission

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Good Afternoon:

Last night, I attended the world premiere of Marissa Skudlarek’s Pleiades!, overall a very good show and an auspicious beginning to what I believe will become a long and distinguished playwriting career. Three women about half my age, all about the same height, with the same shoulder-length brown hair and almost the same blue jeans, took seats next to me, and during intermission, the one on the right started talking television.

“It’s like that show, um, you know, that TV show.”

The middle one said, “Oh, yeah, sure we know what you mean, that show.”

The one on the left laughed.

Right whined, “you know which one, the mystery one.”

Middle said, “Which mystery one? Criminal Minds?”

Left chimed in with, “That show is so gross! A villain who gouges out the eyes of his victims and inserts them into the eye sockets of stuffed animals?!”

Right said, “Who comes up with that s—?”

Left replied, “The writers are the criminal minds on that show.”

Middle asked, “So is Criminal Minds the one you’re talking about?”

“No, let me look it up on my phone.”

Middle said, “No. Don’t do that. Put your phone away. You do not need your phone, you can figure it out on your own, you need to fight this dependency of yours and learn to think for yourself.”

“I do not need my cell phone to think for myself!”

“You do!” laughed Left. “You totally do!”

Middle said, “In fact, I have a better idea. Give me your phone. You don’t need it and I will prove it.”

“Will you give it back?” asked Right, timidly.

“Promise.”

Right surrendered her phone, gingerly.

Middle said, “Look, I can help you. Just clear your mind and think. Think about the stars. Think about what they look like, or what are their names? Forget your phone, focus on their faces.”

Right said, “This is so hard. Maybe Castle?”

“My mother loves that show! Castle is her favorite!” exclaimed Left.

The other two looked at Left and their upper lips curled up, a sure sign that Castle is an old people’s show, at least in the learned judgment of Middle and Right. Full disclosure: I’ve seen about two dozen episodes, and I’m old (by their standards), so perhaps they’re right.

Middle said, “So is it Castle?”

Right asked, “The guy has curly blond hair, right?”

“No, it’s brown.”

“Then it’s not Castle. Oh, I know! It’s The Mentalist! The cute guy does have blond hair, right?”

Middle said, “Right, you must be talking about The Mentalist. I am so proud of you. You can have your phone back. See what you learned? You figured it out for yourself, you did not need your cell phone. You are better than your device.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Left said, “So why did you want to talk about The Mentalist?”

“Uhhhhhh.” Long pause. “I, um, forgot.”

Middle and Left stared at her, but fortunately the lights went down and the second act began, and for a moment I wondered why three women about half my age, all about the same height, with the same shoulder-length brown hair and almost the same blue jeans, would even think about three hour-long television crime dramas at a show like Pleiades!, a play that bears zero, absolutely zero resemblance to any of them.

Vonn Scott Bair

Someone Notices the Contrast of White on White (Weekly Photo Challenge: Fray)

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Good Evening:

The SFPUC HQ is only two years old, but still feels like it’s under construction. The front doors needed work; a peculiar smell affecting the third floor took months to diagnose and solve; and in a few places the paint has already begun to do strange things, to fray, if you will.

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Found this on the stairway today and took advantage of the glass panel to produce the effect you see.

Vonn Scott Bair

“The sound of sidewalk;” Or, The Surreal Is That Which Lies At Your Feet, 21 August 2014

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Good Evening:

I did not invent the title of this post. I think. I remain convinced that I have quoted someone else, but when I google the phrase “the surreal is that which lies at your feet,” all I find is myself stating that I remain convinced that I have quoted someone else. Sigh.

Which brings me to the intersection of 16th Street and Valencia, where I found a genre of street art I’ve never seen before: masking tape art. Obviously doomed to a short existence, masking tape art consists of writings in felt tip marker upon the tape, which is then affixed to the sidewalk (bulletin board walls seem a better choice to me, but evanescence seems part of the aesthetic of the temporary arts). I did not photograph all of the sayings. Instead, I photographed the writings that I felt could become their own poem or story–your choice here. Please note that I did not write a single word and do not claim credit or copyright.

The sound of sidewalk” Copyright: Not me!

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It’s sort of like refrigerator magnet poetry.

Vonn Scott Bair

Saturday Afternoon on 13th Street; Or, The Photographer As Crocodile (Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette)

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Good Evening:

So there’s this street in San Francisco.

At the intersection with Mission Street, we call it Duboce (“Doo-BOHSS”). At the intersection with South Van Ness, only one block away, we call it 13th Street. Same street, different name. So while I took pictures of skateboarders on Duboce, only a few minutes later and only a few blocks away, “the photographer as crocodile” lay in wait at a new spot on a different street which happened to be the same street, awaiting silhouettes like a Darwin Saltie. Not that I actually intended to eat anyone, of course.

First I found a simple yet dramatic background.

Red, White & Black, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

Red, White & Black, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

And then, patience. Finally:

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I wandered a little bit and found two more interesting scenes.

Two Photographers & One Model, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

Two Photographers & One Model, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

Homeless Encampment, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

Homeless Encampment, 13th Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2014

Interesting Challenge for this week; forced to think a bit and use my imagination.

Vonn Scott Bair

The SOMA West Skate Park; Or, The Photographer As Crocodile (Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette)

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Good Evening:

The new SOMA West Skate Park (SOMA = South Of MArket) has proven so popular with local boarders that they like to climb the fences at night and play in darkness. On Saturday around noon, I happened to walk past on Duboce at the right time, when a bright background combined with the shadow caused by the highway passing overhead to create silhouettes of some of the boarders and their observers. So, as my boy Cartier-Bresson was wont to do, I found a suitable post across the street, and like a crocodile waited patiently for the “Decisive Moment.” The traffic got in the way too often and forced me to delete most of my pictures, but these few turned out OK.

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Vonn Scott Bair

The Most Popular T-Shirt in the Lower Haight.

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Good Morning:

Saw this in the window display of the D-Structure store and had to take a picture. Funny thing: I literally had to stand in line and wait to take the picture because I was the last photographer there.

I (Heart) (Can't Afford) SF

I (Heart) (Can’t Afford) SF

Forgot to check the price, so I don’t know if I can afford it.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Mudflats of San Francisco’s Crissy Field (Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture)

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Good Evening:

I had to go to the neighborhood early Saturday morning anyway, so I stopped by the mudflats of Crissy Field to take a few shots of some of the most interesting browns I know. But first, at Haight and Masonic, I saw this grey-on-grey and couldn’t resist snapping a shot.

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Some shots of the mudflats:

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And what the heck, a few non-topical pictures of San Franciscans enjoying the Bay, either by themselves or with their best two- and four-legged friends. Saturdays are fun in this town.

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Fun Challenge this week. Looking forward to Friday.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Retired Message Board (Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture)

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Good Evening:

On Haight Street near Fillmore you’ll find a nightclub that painted over a message board at its entrance with this mural:

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The message board was studded with literally thousands of staples. Far too much effort to remove them, so the artist(s) left them in the wood to produce an interesting texture when you look closely.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Stained Glass Windows, Notre Dame Plaza, San Francisco, 10 August 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture)

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Good Evening:

They didn’t need Photoshop in the Middle Ages!

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I attended a writers’ seminar Sunday afternoon at Notre Dame Plaza, a beautiful retirement community across the street from Mission Dolores near 16th & Dolores. We gathered in a chapel with stained glass windows, and during breaks I indulged in my hobby, using my iPhone 4. The original iPhone 4 has a flawed camera compared with later versions, but I’ve learned to exploit its weaknesses to my advantage, taking extreme closeups of the glass panes to use the textures created during the manufacture of the colored glass to do interesting things to the background scenery. No edits aside from cropping out distracting elements along the edges.

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I found this window at the bottom of a stairwell.

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Even the stairway has its “textural” interest.

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Vonn Scott Bair

White & Blue Series, 8 August 2014: San Francisco Skies (Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture)

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Good Evening:

The confluence of competing weather systems makes for interesting skies with interesting textures here in San Francisco. The first four pictures come from the morning of the San Francisco Marathon; the fifth and last is a typical Civic Center sky of a few days ago. To me, the middle three look typical of the work of J.M.W. Turner, while the first and last look more like Constable’s cloud studies. What do you think?

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Vonn Scott Bair

The Minimally Artistic Art of Instant Minimalist Art, 8 August 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture)

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Good Evening:

I explore texture very often in my photography: who knows how many posts of mine have the title “The Minimally Artistic Art of Instant Minimalist Art?” I sure don’t.

Recently, while walking to work down Redwood Alley, I noticed something on the south side of the street that I hadn’t before. The Superior Court building across the alley from the San Francisco PUC HQ has a generally dull facade of prefab concrete slabs that don’t deserve a second look under normal circumstances. But on this day, at this time, the morning sun shone down the facade at such an extreme angle (I call it “the sunshine shaving the subject” because I don’t know the correct technical term) that it cast shadows you don’t see most of the year.

Please look carefully.

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Do you see a faint pair of near-parallel horizontal lines? They don’t show most of the year, only for a few minutes on a few mornings. Take another look from a distance.

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More prominent this time. Here’s a slab with an arc in the middle.

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Quite obvious now, isn’t it? My hypothesis: the edges of the saws that cut the concrete into slices cause these. Funny how you can’t see them most of the year. Makes me rather wonder what sort of interesting sights I don’t see.

Vonn Scott Bair