Tag Archives: nikon d40

Land’s End, San Francisco, California, 4 July 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half)

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Good Evening:

Thanks to our famous fog, some of the pictures I took at Land’s End over the July 4th holiday proved suitable for the Challenge. All shots taken with a Nikon D40, a few slightly cropped in iPhoto.

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Vonn Scott Bair

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Aperture Studies (Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime)

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Good Morning:

Is it just me, or have the weekly Challenges become, well–challenging?

Night photography has always baffled me; even when the results turned out well in the post on fire spinners, it took over 200 shots just to finish with a handful of acceptable pictures. Aperture has always baffled me; a low number means what, a high number means what, why do camera speeds change with aperture changes, uh, how does that work again?

Might as well make a Challenge twice as challenging and combine my personal challenges.

San Francisco on overcast nights takes on the colors of the San Francisco Giants (who are back in the playoffs, yeah!): lots of orange in the blackness.

Out of 40 shots taken at 1:00 a.m., 9/28/2014, the most accurate terms of color.

Out of 40 shots taken at 1:00 a.m., 9/28/2014, the most accurate terms of color. 0.5 sec exposure.

Hardly a great shot, of course, but it gives you an idea of how the city looks from my fire escape. One huge problem consisted of the camera’s refusal to take any pictures depending upon the composition (which objects were in the shot). This angle was the only one that let me take pictures at any setting.

My ancient Nikon D40 DSLR has 17 aperture settings ranging from f3.8 to f22, so the project presented itself: one shot at aperture setting, letting the camera adjust time of exposure on its own, then crop and convert to B&W in iPhoto and see what happens. The results present some subtle differences, even though the camera auto-focused on the same area in every picture, the cluster of lights in the upper right quadrant.

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f3.8

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f3.8

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f13

San Francisco, 28 September 2014, f13

San Francisco, 28 Sept 2014, f22

San Francisco, 28 Sept 2014, f22

The f3.8 has the softest focus, the f22 had the longest exposure yet turned out darkest, and the f13 turned out brightest. Still baffled; just have to keep on practicing. Fortunately, photography has a tendency to become more enjoyable the more it baffles me. A good thing, right?

Vonn Scott Bair

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade of 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts)

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Good Afternoon:

The whole event stood as a contrast to 2013. 2013’s parade came mere days after the Supreme Court handed down two historic decisions favoring gay rights. These decisions provoked one giant weekend-long burst of joy throughout San Francisco as gay rights advocates poured into the city to celebrate these enormous victories. Incidentally, I wrote “gay rights advocates,” not “gays” for a reason. Gay rights advocates are not by definition gay; indeed, since San Francisco is mostly heterosexual, it would not surprise me if most gay rights advocates in this city were straight.

This year’s parade? Rather quieter. Years ago, I learned to beware the fallacy of assuming that personal experience = universal experience, but if my experience today holds true, the parade drew fewer people and resembled the well-behaved celebrations of old than last year’s wildly raucous and well-behaved celebration of new. Furthermore, last year’s parade universally celebrated gay marriage; this year’s went all over the map.

I wanted to find a few scenes epitomizing this’s weeks Photo Challenge, but had greater success finding sets of scenes with contrasting elements rather than individual pictures with two or more contrasting elements.

For example, some folks celebrated being gay and in love:

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Selfie on Market Street, LGBT Pride Parade 2014

In contrast, some folks protested gay-related issues:

Chelsea Manning Supporters

Chelsea Manning Supporters

In contrast, some folks protested non-gay-related issues:

Live Cage-Free or Die

Live Cage-Free or Die

I had to work hard to find a single picture with contrasting elements. This was my “best” success.

Pink Pistols, San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade

Pink Pistols, San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade

Gay libertarian gun advocates with rainbow Gadsden Flags. Those contrasts might make the heads of some non-San Franciscans explode, but it makes more sense here. Gay bashing remains a problem, and the Pink Pistols advocate gun ownership so that gays can defend themselves against physical violence coming from homophobics. Or as the sign says, “Marry Rights/Carry Rights/Equal Rights.”

The organized anti-gay protestors with their big bright signs of years past have disappeared (correction: this is the second straight year that I personally have not seen them), but I did see this gentleman who, like our Silent Preacher (didn’t see him anywhere this year), prefers to keep quiet and let God’s words do the talking. When I walked past, a number of other photographers were taking his picture, and he did not mind at all. Interestingly, it is not at all obvious that he is anti-gay. In another contrast, he was the quietest person at the parade.

So Then Every...

So Then Every…

However, a few other Christians made a contrasting amount of noise.

Dignity, A Catholic Organization

Dignity, A Catholic Organization

Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church

Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church

ReconcilingWorks! (Lutheran).

ReconcilingWorks! (Lutheran).

We Will Marry You!

We Will Marry You!

The Episcopal folks had quite the advertising slogan, didn’t they?

The commercialization of the parade continues unabated. I will let others debate whether the virtues of corporate acceptance outweighs the vices of corporate exploitation, but I will point out that the most popular fashion accessory I saw consisted of these:

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Yes–those are Burger King crowns.

Again, I caution both my readers and myself against taking my own observations for universal experience, but this year’s parade seems to represent a return to the norm; a fun annual get-together for all kinds of people (heteros definitely outnumbered gays this year) and all kinds of families.

The Artists Leave Their Mark (Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters)

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Good Morning:

And good Heavens, your faithful correspondent has gotten old, hasn’t he? Don’t know if the people who create San Francisco’s magnificent murals call themselves artists, muralists, painters, or taggers. Do know that they do like to leave their mark, and they do like to leave it artistically. All pictures taken on 26 April 2014 with a Nikon D40 DSLR, unedited.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape – San Francisco’s East Coast, 22 May 2013

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Good Morning:

“Wait a minute; how can a city on America’s West Coast even have an East Coast?!”

Bay Bridge & Fire Boat No. 2, 23 May 2013

Bay Bridge & Fire Boat No. 2, 23 May 2013

Not easy, by any stretch of the imagination; San Francisco sits at the very tip of a peninsula pointing roughly north and water surrounds it on the west, north and east sides. What’s truly odd is “East Coast;” as far as I know, yours truly is the only person in San Francisco who uses that phrase. Other folks prefer the names of specific neighborhoods: Mission Bay, the Embarcadero, Bay View, Dogpatch (yes, we have a Dogpatch). For this, my final escape during my vacation and final response to this week’s Challenge, a collection of shots focusing on Mission Bay and the Embarcadero.

San Francisco–the world leader in obsolete modes of public transit (and what else can one expect from one of the planet’s citadels of high tech?)–boasts a huge collection of colorful vintage streetcars from across the country and around the world, but none of them can surprise even the natives like the Blackpool.

The Blackpool.

The Blackpool.

Our only open-air streetcar, the Blackpool makes so few appearances that it arrives at a stop, people don’t get on. They assume it’s some kind of private car for a private party, and the operators have to encourage people to board. It only rides on exceptionally warm weekend days (and perhaps Fridays), making it about as often seen as a Coelacanth. Should you ever seen it, cancel all your plans and board it faster than immediately. The Blackpool has pleasant rumbling vibration and combined with the salt air, has the feel of a open boat on a calm sea.

Even on a midweek afternoon, the East Coast becomes a hub of human activity:

Hanging Out After the Giants' Day Game, 22 May 2013

Hanging Out After the Giants’ Day Game, 22 May 2013

Yoga Class, Embarcadero 22 May 2013

Yoga Class, Embarcadero 22 May 2013

Pedicab, Ferry Building, Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Pedicab, Ferry Building, Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Visting the TCHO Chocolate Factory

Visting the TCHO Chocolate Factory

Two of San Francisco’s great hangouts, the Hi-Dive and Red’s Java House, sit very close to each other just south of the Embarcadero and just north of Mission Bay, the home of the San Francisco Giants’ ball park.

SF East Coast 5 052213 SF East Coast 7 052213The boarder on the left of the picture below had a video camera and recorded the other boarders at work/play.

SF East Coast 3 052213Public sculptures in San Francisco have three stages of existence:

  1. Hideousness: “My tax dollars paid for that?!”
  2. Landmark: “Meet me by the hideousness.”
  3. Acceptance: “I love that piece of hideousness!”

On that note, say hello to Claes Oldenburg:

DSC_0068For the record, I’ve always liked Oldenburg’s “Cupid’s Span” and other enormous sculptures. Someone in the art world has to have a sense of humor, and a sense of humor writ (very) large.

How can someone, anyone, play a brass instrument and tap dance at the same time?

DSC_0130I think he’s playing a cornet, I think he’s maybe 12-14 years old, and I think he made it look easy.

This might be a good time to advise you to stop reading this post, plan a trip to San Francisco, buy tickets to visit our Exploratorium in its new home, and then return to reading.

Ah, you’re back. Good.

The new Exploratorium has stunned, amazed and impressed visitors since its opening. So important that the New York Times covered not only the opening, but also the science of the move to the new home at Pier 15. The designers, architects and landscapers created its new home with photographers in mind. For example, the Aeolian Harp used to sit on the roof of the old home, rarely seen. Today, you have to work to miss it.

SF East Coast 2 052213Hundreds of different versions of the above picture must already exist online. It can’t be an accident that someone put the Harp at this specific location. With a city view like this, it can’t be accident that someone put the entire Exploratorium at this specific location:

DSCN5203The Exploratorium even has its own fog machine, because if there’s one thing you never see in San Francisco, it’s fog:

DSCN5192The Embarcadero remains a work in progress ever since the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 forced the destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway. Civic leaders and citizens alike took one look at the new vista and realized that tremendous potential existed here, and we’ve worked on improvements ever since. I don’t know if the area will ever become “finished,” whatever that means; one still sees construction cranes everywhere.

DSC_0003I chose The Magic Hour for yesterday’s escape (approximately one hour before the sun sets). Photography in the Western United States poses interesting challenges for both digital and film cameras. The light in California and the High Desert of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah seems more intense than elsewhere; I can think of no other reason why photos turn out bleached and faded. Working around this is tough. For the pictures taken with my DSLR (I also used my point-and-shoot and my iPhone, I affixed a polarizing filter over the lens. The result produces rich vibrant colors, but as in the above picture, they can also become a little too intense. But as a matter of personal taste, I like the results and keep them.

My explorations yesterday ended with a pretty darn good meal at La Mar (Zagat food rating = 24), a better-be-pretty-darn-good-because-it’s-pretty-darn-expensive Peruvian restaurant at Pier 1 1/2 with sensational views of the San Francisco Bay, and yes, we have a Pier 1 1/2. I do recommend the place, especially the sea food, but bring your credit card(s). After dinner, I walked past the Ferry Building, in front of which a couple had placed a portable speaker and engaged in ballroom dancing on their rollerblades to the sounds of ADELE and for the entertainment of all.

It’s official: San Francisco is magic.

With a sampler of additional shots below, I conclude my series of San Francisco Escapes. My vacation was supposed to be an escape from work, but I have worked so hard on this vacation getaway that I need to escape to work to getaway from my vacation escape.

Or something like that.

Firehouse Home of Engine 35 and Fire Boat No. 2, San Francisco, 22 May 2013

Firehouse Home of Engine 35 and Fire Boat No. 2, San Francisco, 22 May 2013

Antique Ferry Boat, Embarcadero, San Francisco

Antique Ferry Boat, Embarcadero, San Francisco

Some buildings at the Embarcadero retain their original maritime uses.

Some buildings at the Embarcadero retain their original maritime uses.

City Reflection in Exploratorium Window

City Reflection in Exploratorium Window

Weird Symbol Thingie Near Exploratorium, San Francisco

Weird Symbol Thingie Near Exploratorium, San Francisco

Time to Go Home, 22 May 2013

Time to Go Home, 22 May 2013

Vonn Scott Bair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique – San Francisco’s Castro Theater

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Good Afternoon:

San Francisco’s Castro Theater is one of America’s oldest motion picture palaces and as of 1976, our city’s 100th Historic Landmark (the architect Timothy Phlueger also designed Oakland’s stunning Paramount Theater). Opened in 1910, the Castro has resided in its current location since 1922 (the original home now houses Cliff’s Variety), and might be the only one left in the country that still has a working “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” a huge pipe organ that musicians still play before the evening’s first showings.

So that part of “unique” is easy. The hard part is the photography.

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If you are not a Photoshop wizard, the subject presents tons of challenges, as this picture (which I know is pretty bad) reveals: traffic, overhead wires, a distracting sign, contrasts of very bright light and very dark shadows. It just isn’t a very easy subject at all. I used my Nikon D40 DSLR and set the speed to 1/60.

The next photograph is almost good: the wires don’t interfere too much (a photo-editing expert would simply erase them); interesting foreground; bright lights tones down to make the lettering crisp and sharp; no traffic or distracting signs; the shadows have been lighted to reveal detail. The big problem? Only the C-A-S is illuminated. Sigh. I had to grab the snap or lose the foreground.

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The Castro hosts a number of great film festivals each year. Next up is the Silent Film Festival, but this weekend marks the annual Noir City festival. As I’ve written before, my hometown is ideal for black and white film noir scenery, and has served admirably as the setting for classic hard-boiled private eye flicks. Film buffs from as far away as Europe come to San Francisco to see these gems, and since this is San Francisco, America’s 365-days-a-year costume party, many filmgoers come dressed in Forties and Fifties vintage clothing. Or in simple English, there’s always something to see, even between shows.

Ironically, the festival shuns the well-known classics in favor of obscure, long-lost, underrated gems. The best rediscovery this year in my opinion is a 1953 color 3-D neo-Western noir thriller called Inferno (have you seen Red Rock West? Bad Day at Black Rock? No Country for Old Men? That’s what I mean by “neo-Western Noir thriller”). Robert Ryan plays a spoiled city tenderfoot who wife (a gorgeous redhead named Rhonda Fleming) and her lover abandon to die in the desert after he accidentally breaks his leg. 20th Century Fox might do something with a re-release, and if they do, try to rent it or see it in a theater.

One more picture:

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Anyway, if you love film and the classic old film palaces, San Francisco’s Castro is one of the great ones and belongs on your list of must visit landmarks.

Vonn Scott Bair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond – More from the Sutro Baths

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Good Evening:

A very kind and encouraging individual asked for more photographs of my Sutro Baths sojourns. I will try to stick to the “Beyond” theme for this set, but will probably deviate in later posts, should I add more.

This first came from the sunrise visit on 12 January. I don’t know why, but many of the pictures, such as this, remind me of scenes from the old games Myst, Riven and especially Myst 3: Exile.

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During my Monday, 21 January, sunset visit (“The Age of Wonder“), I took this second shot with my Nikon Coolpix S9100 point & shoot on the Dusk setting for the effect. Frankly, the colors are by no means real, hardly resembling what I saw. However, there’s something to be said for aritificial intensity.

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Finally, a pair of shots of the same scene, a photography teacher and her young student. I’ll leave it to you to judge which composition is better. The first fits the “Beyond” theme, in that it gives the context of the event by showing all of the scenery “beyond” the people.

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The next is a much closer composition made possible with the aid of my friend, the zoom.

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I can say something positive about each shot, but I think the zoom-in picture is a little better. But I don’t know why. If you agree, I’d appreciate an explanation of my picture.

Vonn Scott Bair