About 8 minutes before sunset, on February 16, 2013, nearing civil twilight. (For more details on twilight — civil, nautical, and astronomical, see one of my favorite posts on this blog.)
Under challenging conditions, this is the best I can get from my iPhone (by the way, those are birds in the sky; not dust specks on the lens).
For an exquisite interpretation of this subject, check out this local photographer’s image of the Sausalito seal — la composition par excellence!
I have a love/hate relationship with the iPhone’s camera.
This twilight photo made over the weekend seriously stresses its photographic limits and although the camera is often good enough, it has two big flaws:
- Image quality: it cannot handle wide dynamic range and low-light conditions very well.
- Handling: it is slow to start up, clunky, and ergonomically infuriating.
Nonetheless, the old cliche still applies: “The best camera is the one that you have with you.”
And I almost always have the iPhone with me.
Still, for me, it’s a highly unsatisfying photographic tool. And, the tools we use in our daily lives — the quality of their craftsmanship and their aesthetics — are important. Right?
I recently sold two older digital cameras on eBay so I’m allowing myself to look at new cameras again. The highly touted Sony RX100 is a pocketable camera, but with image quality, resolution, and low light capabilities that vastly outperforms every other small-sized camera on the market.
Unfortunately, the Sony still does nothing for me from an aesthetic standpoint. It has few manual controls and no viewfinder, for instance. So it really only solves half the problem presented by the iPhone’s camera — i.e. vastly improved image quality. It does not fully address the handling issue.
That combination would be a truly satisfying photographic tool!
Here’s an Americanized version of a classic Dutch bicycle (the Amsterdam manufactured by Electra) spotted at the Sausalito Herring Festival on Sunday.
I like the chain guard and the front wicker basket. I really, really dig the rear pannier bags. These are the real deal — a Dutch company called Basil makes them.
But overall, I think I prefer Electra’s Ticino model over the Amsterdam. I just don’t care for the almost gooseneck-like curve of the frame’s top tube.
If you’re going to get a Dutch bike I like the Jorg & Olif, which I featured in this post.
I rode my Brompton down the street to meet some friends at the 1st annual Herring Festival, but I couldn’t believe they ran out of all their herring by 1pm!
I did manage to sample the grilled herring on a skewer and the pickled herring (I preferred the pickled herring).
During the afternoon, I also spoke with a CA fisheries biologist who filled me in on this local, commercial fishery — it seems we have at our doorstep a truly sustainable fishery. The season started in January and is open through mid-March. Last year’s catch was more than 1,600 tons of fish.
Interestingly, the primary product is the herring roe, which is sold to the Japanese. In Japan, herring roe is called Kazunoko.
I was excited to learn all this because in recent weeks I’ve been seeing awesome displays of bird life (and a few sea otters looking fat and content) out in the harbor. I captured a bit of this spectacle in this photograph.
Riding east on Bunker Rd. I found this picaresque spot, made even more so by the recent rain which created a mini-wetland.
It’s directly off the main road, but also at the end of a fork that connects to the Coastal Trail (used for hiking and mountain biking), which leads up the ridge to the traffic circle on Conzelman Rd. or (if followed in the other direction) down to the beach at Rodeo Cove.
The Coastal Trail eventually reaches Fort Cronkite, which houses an eclectic group of organizations including the Headlands Center for the Arts, Foundation for Deep Ecology, and The Marine Mammal Center.
This is Harry. I bumped into him at the tail-end end of the Marin Civic Center Farmer’s Market on Super Bowl Sunday. His chrome-plated 1972 Schwinn Paramount jumped out me like the organic strawberries my friends had scored earlier. I asked him to pose with his 1972 Paramount next to a nearby 1972 VW beetle.
The Brooks saddle has a well-worn patina from years of use. The components look mostly (if not all) original including a Campagnola Nuovo Record groupo.
The Nervez lugs look beautiful in full chrome.
Last week-end, I packed a light lunch and took one of my favorite rides out to Alpine Lake in Fairfax.
The sun was bright and strong, but it was still very cool in the shade. So I wore a pair of wool knickers and two cotton t-shirts (one long-sleeve and one short-sleeve), which was perfect.
During the long downhill stretches — through the redwood groves where the cold air tends to chill you to the bone — I put on a light wind jacket. On cold days, I always keep an inexpensive one stuffed in my handlebar bag. Mine is a basic, clear plastic, no thrills jacket that cost less than $20, but is the difference between freezing on long descents or being comfortably warm.
As it turned out, the long-sleeve wool layer (that I forgot at home) wasn’t even necessary.
These sunny, Northern California winter days are glorious!
The loneliest bike rack.
But an important one if you ride out here and want to visit the lighthouse.
Make sure to bring a lock.
Rust-colored moss, bright green plants, and a churning light azure, icey blue sea — a collage of color at the entrance to the Pt. Bonita lighthouse.
Unfortunately, I arrived 8 minutes after closing time (and couldn’t get into the actual lighthouse or up onto the high point of the rocks and the viewing platform).
To add further insult, the park ranger scolded me for showing up at the bottom of the paved, 10-foot wide, 1/4-mile path with a bicycle — even though I walked it all the way down.
Apparently this is a no-bicycle zone (not a “no-bicycle-riding” zone — simply “no bicycles” period), which makes this picture of me that much more scandalous!
A quick snapshot through the window of Golden Gate Transit’s #2 bus at approximately 7:20am.
It looks like something from Hitchcock’s The Birds – which incidentally was filmed locally in nearby Bodega Bay.
I’m not exactly sure what this graffiti artist is trying to communicate. Perhaps, it’s that war = destruction? (since the opposite of creation is destruction).
But speaking of language, the December 24th issue of The New Yorker magazine had a curious article by Joshua Foer about an amateur linguist named John Quijada. When he wasn’t working at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Quijada spent his spare time (extending over 25 years) engineering a new language and grammar system combining what he believed were the best aspects of all the world’s languages.
Here’s a quote from the beginning of the article:
In his preface, Quijada wrote that his “greater goal” was “to attempt the creation of what human beings, left to their own devices, would never create naturally, but rather only by conscious intellectual effort: an idealized language whose aim is the highest possible degree of logic, efficiency, detail, and accuracy in cognitive expression via spoken human language, while minimizing the ambiguity, vagueness, illogic, redundancy, polysemy (multiple meanings) and overall arbitrariness that is seemingly ubiquitous in natural human language.”
Ithkuil has two seemingly incompatible ambitions: to be maximally precise but also maximally concise, capable of capturing nearly every thought that a human being could have while doing so in as few sounds as possible. Ideas that could be expressed only as a clunky circumlocution in English can be collapsed into a single word in Ithkuil. A sentence like “On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point” becomes simply “Tram-m?öi hhâsma?p?uktôx.”
This is really quite odd.
Ithkuil seems to be a language devoid of nuance, implication, metaphor, and for that matter: poetry!
As a follow-up to the previous post, here’s one final traditional B&W darkroom variation called a duotone (For an in-depth, but slightly outdated photoshop tutorial and explanation of dutones see this article on the Luminous Landscape website.)
The highlights (i.e. the brightest areas of the tonal range) receive the sepia tint and the shadows (the darkest areas) receive the blue tint.
Actually, this may be my favorite version so far.
Happy MLK day!
Since today was a day off from work, I spent a leisurely morning luxuriating over breakfast and a cup of PJ Tips tea.
Here’s the idyllic view — from this morning — from my apartment’s dining nook.
I thought I’d use the image to demonstrate different types of traditional black and white tinting techniques — techniques that are now regularly applied digitally, but which photographers originated in old fashioned, physical darkrooms.
For example, here it is as a neutral, black and white image:
Here it is as a warm sepia-toned image:
Here it is as a cool blue-toned image:
Click this link to view the original image in color.
The coastal fortifications (as seen in the image above) from a time when nation-states confronted each other with crude, 20th century explosives and projectiles are hard to miss as you bicycle through the Marin Headlands.
These gun batteries are now quiet, but our world still does not embrace Martin Luther King’s practice of non-violent resistance or Mahatma Gandhi’s ethos of satyagraha.
King was influenced by Gandhi, who, according to the author Thomas Weber (Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor, Cambridge University Press, 2004), would quote the poet Shelley at his mass rallies in India.
Stand ye calm and resolute, Like a forest close and mute, With folded arms and looks which are Weapons of unvanquished war. And if then the tyrants dare, Let them ride among you there, Slash, and stab, and maim and hew, What they like, that let them do. With folded arms and steady eyes, And little fear, and less surprise Look upon them as they slay Till their rage has died away Then they will return with shame To the place from which they came, And the blood thus shed will speak In hot blushes on their cheek. Rise like Lions after slumber In unvanquishable number, Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you- Ye are many — they are few
–Percy Bysshe Shelley (from The Masque of Anarchy)
I first saw this image on the back cover of The New Yorker magazine. I find it to be a beautiful and tender portrait.
Forget that it is a Louis Vuitton ad. Forget that the world’s highest paid and most famous portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, created it. Just appreciate it.
And this reminds me to add Muhammad Ali to my personal list of heroes, which was published in a previous post.
From the days, when gunpowder was king.
These batteries housed guns 12″ in diameter with 36 foot long barrels that fired thousand pound shells 268 football fields out into the Pacific Ocean.
That’s my bike in the sunshine on the other end of the tunnel.
After riding uphill steadily for 4 miles (from the town of Sausalito), bicyclists will dive sharply toward the sea, before the road flattens out and heads toward the spit of land seen off in the distance where the Pt. Bonita lighthouse sits.
The section of road seen below is most certainly the steepest stretch of pavement I’ve ridden. Although the steepness may not be readily apparent from the image, looking at the elevation graph on the route map page, one can see that the road drops away precipitously right after the summit.
What a beautiful, clear winter day! The image below is a popular picture taking spot just where the road reaches a plateau (below Hawk Hill) and before it plummets back down to the sea.
The Park Service made some major infrastructure “improvements” along Conzelman Rd., expanding parking and creating new scenic vistas and pullouts. Now, more people driving up here in cars can enjoy the scenery, but my sense is there’s more traffic and delays. On this day, cars were lining up and I was sometimes overtaking vehicles on the uphill!
I have to admit, it was a rich, satisfying feeling passing snarled cars while pedaling uphill on my bicycle. The Germans, I believe, have a word for this sense of delight in the misfortune of others: they call it Schadenfreude. Studies have shown the human brain’s reward centers are activated in these schedenfreude-like situations, which confirms my own experience.
For the record, I’m not proud of this at all — humility after all is one of my velosophic tenets — but noticing unconscious negative habits, and then slowly perfecting oneself is what life is all about.
Overall, this is an incredible 15-mile ride. The loop has views that tourists come from a world away to take-in; roads in very good condition with a bike shoulder for much of the way; and, interesting and varied terrain.
If this ride were a restaurant, it would earn a 3-star on the Michelin scale!
Beginning at sea level in downtown Sausalito and cresting at the top of the Marin Headlands near Hawk Hill, I was surprised the elevation gain was only 800 feet. It felt like much more. That’s barely a third of the way up Mt. Tam (elevation 2,571′)!
Here’s a map and elevation chart extracted from the gpx file created by the gps logging device I sometimes carry with me.
[This announcement will remain at the top of the blog for the next week. New posts will show up below]
Some tragic news to report close to home: The same beaches I’ve been photographing and enjoying recently have claimed three lives in the last week. Read the rest of this entry »
January 1, 2013
6:05pm to 6:07pm
The little nub of land (barely visible) on the right side of the horizon are the Farallones (also known as California’s Galapagos), a set of small islands which help form a highly productive ecological web of sea birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles including the Black-footed Albatross, Chinook Salmon, and Great White Shark.
It’s also one of my favorite geotag locations. So make sure you click on the icon under the picture to see the location on a map.
Whenever I’m standing on rocky outcroppings like this looking out onto the Pacific Ocean, I think of the words of the Beat poet Lew Welch.
Here’s the last two stanzas from his glorious poem, THE SONG MT. TAMALPAIS SINGS:
This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.
Once again we celebrate the
Headland’s huge, cairn-studded fall
into the Sea.
This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.
For we have walked the jeweled beaches
at the feet of the final cliffs
of all Man’s wanderings.
This is the last place
There is nowhere else we need to go.
-Lew Welch (1921-1976)
Have a Happy New Year Everyone!
I spent most of the long holiday weekend in bike-friendly Fairfax (with my mother, brother, nephews and my brother’s extended family). Taking advantage of one splendid sunny day, I went for a short ride up into the surrounding hills — the same hills where legend has it the “mountain bike” was invented.
Make of this account what you will:
‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all thro’ the land,
not a storm cloud was in sight, not even in San Fran.
I set out on my ride with an Italian holiday treat;
’tis called Panettone, ’tis all I had with me to eat.
‘Twas packed with a thermos filled with hot tea;
but where to stop and enjoy I must wait and see.
My handlebar bag deftly handled the load,
as I pedaled my way up Bolinas-Fairfax Rd.
The summit was sunny, ’twas a true joy to be there;
yet riding down ’twas cold, so I descended with care.
Then who should I see — why it happened so quick.
But if I’m not mistaken it was good ol’ St. Nick!
I heard him exclaim, as his lugged, steel-framed bike disappeared out of sight –
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
And one of the creation legends surrounding Panettone, according to Wikipedia:
“…a 15th-century legend from Milan gives the invention to the nobleman falconer Ughetto Atellani, who loved Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To help her, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich cake to which he added flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins, and candied lemon and orange peel.
The duke of Milan, Luduvico il Moro Sforza (1452–1508), agreed to the marriage, which was held in the presence of Leonardo da Vinci, and encouraged the launch of the new cake-like bread: Pan de Toni (or Toni’s cake).”
Mailbox art work.
It’s pouring rain here in the Bay Area and Sausalito is windy and stormy.
These images are from a sunnier moment last weekend. I’m guessing the bikes belong to some of the nearby houseboat dwellers.
This hidden trail runs a short distance along the estuary behind Sea Trek kayak rentals to the small, but lovely little beach at the end of Liberty Ship Way.
Here’s the electric bike I mentioned in a previous post.
The electronic motor is a sensible addition for a city like San Francisco. The Faraday’s other design choices are simply brilliant and informed primarily by real bicyclist enthusiasts (rather than just by engineers).
I’m especially pleased that it comes with my favorite rack design (i.e. the porteur, a front rack pioneered by newspaper deliveryman in Paris in the 1940s and 50s).
Full disclosure: it may not be apparent from these glowing statements, but I am generally biased against electronic bikes. With the motor, it feels like cheating…a little.
I snapped this on an iPhone (waiting to transfer buses) on my way home from work last Friday.
Days like this make me think I really should be riding a bicycle over the bridge to work. But a few preconditions stop me in my tracks.
For instance, I stubbornly insist on:
- arriving at work sweat-free
- riding in normal clothes
With the hills and the distance (it’s a 19-mile round trip) there’s really no way to do both. In a flat city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen it might be possible. But the elevation changes and the considerable mileage preclude a Sausalito-to-SF commute that meets this criteria.
Maybe it’s time to lighten up and just adapt. But what then? Do I carry extra clothes; shower at a nearby gym; etc.? Things just start to get complicated.
I did consider the option of an e-bike (and I really, really love the Faraday Porteur), but the battery range is only about 10-12 miles. And, I do not have access to a charging outlet during the work day.
Still, the Faraday could be the answer to my dilemma.
It was a partly solitary Thanksgiving. I took a hike by myself and then gathered in Fairfax with a small group of friends and family. On the hike I made this image.
I’m so thankful this year. Words cannot describe how grateful I am. But here goes:
To all beings. To everyone who contributes to my sustenance wherever on this planet you may be. To those who came before me and brought me to life. And to anyone who needs to hear it.
Thank you…Thank you…Thank you!
Here’s another image from my hike, but I judged it too melancholic to lead off the post. In fact, I nearly deleted it for being too sad. Anyhow, if you’re interested check out some of my previous holiday images like this Christmas day photo or even last year’s Thanksgiving photo.
Ecker Place is a narrow, two-block, pedestrian alley that connects Mission and Market Streets. I love walking down this street!
The graffiti marks the entrance as you turn down the alley from Mission. The little street has a modern, urban, reclaimed vibe that just works for me architecturally. About half way down, there is a Dim Sum place and a little vegan cafe and chocolate shop. I’ve never tried either place, but may stop in for some Dim Sum soon!
I recently came across this little movie (made in 2011-12 when I was living and bicycling in Tucson, AZ). This was my second crude attempt at shooting video from a moving bicycle. My first attempt can be seen here.
The setting is Sabino Canyon — an incredible little jewel in NW Tucson replete with waterfalls and riparian ecosystems. The paved walking and biking pathway ends 4-5 miles up the canyon at which point there are only unpaved, steep switchback trails leading into the wild Santa Catalina mountains.
I pass this scene almost every morning riding from the Ferry Building to work.
On this morning, there was a feeling of intense presence infusing the whole cityscape created by the arrangement of the sculpture, the bridge, the plaza, the water, the sky, and the light!
Christopher Alexander‘s writings come to mind:
Centers are those particular identified sets, or systems, which appear within the larger whole as distinct and noticeable parts. They appear because they have noticeable distinctness, which makes them separate out from their surroundings and makes them cohere, and it is from the arrangements of these coherent parts that other coherent parts appear. The life or intensity of one center is increased or decreased according to the position and intensity of other nearby centers. Above all, centers become most intense when the centers which they are made of help each other. (From Volume I, The Nature of Order)
My apologies to Giovanne for snapping this image while he was in mid-chew — but I wanted to highlight the do-it-your-self trailer he added to the back of his Citizen folding bike. I had seen this rig pass by once before in the neighborhood, but this time I caught up with him and took a closer look.
I’m guessing Giovanne is a design student or something. I found him sitting right across from the Academy of Art University at the lunch hour, but who knows. We didn’t chat too long, but he did say he’s hauled about 40 pounds of stuff using this set-up, which is impressive.
The trailer looks to be made mostly of materials you could easily pick-up at a hardware store (plus a couple large milk crates). The attachment point is at the rear rack where a re-worked caster wheel acts as the swivel or pivot point — a rather elegant solution!
In case it’s not clear — this is supposed to be an ironic photograph. (hint: There’s nothing to see, beyond the sign except a dense bank of fog.)
Although it’s typically foggy and there can be inconceivably fierce crosswinds (going up Alexander Ave. from Sausalito), the ride up to and out Conzelman Road is quickly becoming my favorite way to get a little exercise in during the week.
It’s a relatively short ride, but has significant climbing, and there are different options and loops one can take.
It has some of the characteristics of the ride to Alpine Lake, which I loved so much when I lived in Fairfax.
I didn’t have my bicycle with me on Friday, but I was walking down Market St. toward the Embarcadero as bunches of cyclists began flocking to Justin Herman Plaza.
The Huffington Post and the SF Chronicle both have photos from the occasion. I particular like this aerial view by photographer Jason Henry. (You can see more of Jason’s photographs on his website. He’s a great, young photographer. Check him out)