50mm Fun in San Francisco

Old Green White Modern BuildingsI have a tendency to let my life get bogged down with work. Day job, side projects, chores, house repairs, exercise…it’s all work and it all adds up. I try to get everything done, every day and often forget that taking time outs, having fun and accomplishing nothing is just as vital for daily progression.

So last week I took a couple days off to be irresponsible in the Bay Area. San Francisco is the latest addition to my list of “Awesome American Cities,” joining San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Seattle (even though I’ve never been to Seattle, I can still tell it’s freakin’ awesome).

Golden Gate Bridge BoltsThe four-day journey felt like a month-long adventure. I:

  • Saw the lovely town of Sacramento where my sister lives
  • Partied in San Francisco bars, restaurants, street corners and at a friends-of-a-friends’ house in Presidio park, where a lovely afternoon bbq turned into a glass-shattering drama-bath when a few flying beer bottles gave guests the permission to flip a few tables over (a textbook case of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point’s theory of context)
  • Died a bit inside as Kobe Bryant put an end to the Suns’ basketball season
  • Shook my head in the bleachers of AT&T Park as the Dbacks blew a two-run ninth-inning lead and lost to the Giants in the tenth
  • Got to know my 50mm prime lens better at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies (Full House House), Haight Ashbury, Japan and China towns and Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a versatile lens, produces dramatic depth of field effects with unique angles, all for only $100. It’s the best addition to my photography arsenal to date.

Painted Ladies

I’m still happily reeling and itching to get back.

Click here to see more pics on Flickr.

Protesting Arizona SB1070

Arizona always makes me feel uncomfortable around this time of year. I can still taste the clear skies, 70-degree afternoons, march madness and spring training baseball fresh on the palate, but anxiously sense the sun getting stronger, the air getting thicker and the dusty dog days of summer getting ready to roll on in.

This year feels especially foreign for me. Instead of swallowing my annual dose of Suns playoff heartache, I’m awkwardly jumping for joy after a sweep of the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals. Instead of being overseas, hunched over a computer, dealing with language and cultural barriers, I’m back in my hometown, celebrating with my friends and family.

As good as it is to be home, for travelers it can still feel weird. The sun seems to be beating down even harder on Arizona these days due to the passing of Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

As I find myself anchored in the desert for the foreseeable future, I’m making a conscious effort to get to know my city and state more intimately by implementing some of the exploratory tactics I used in other countries.

One of the first, and most exciting, events I covered while working in Santiago was a protest. So I followed suit and set out to photograph the SB1070 protest at the Arizona state capitol on Sunday, May 1, 2010.

I knew that a protest in Phoenix wasn’t going to have the tenacity, danger and adrenaline of a Santiago protest, but I figured that our wild-west culture combined with the intense way this new law has been polarizing the public made this an ideal time to get my hands dirty in some Valley public assembly.

No flying rocks, tear gas or fires, but I’m pleased with the pictures and working on compiling the audio and video into something (ideas welcome). As good as it felt to be back in that arena, I still find myself in the awkward state of being happy and comfortable while waiting, feeling and burning for whatever happens next.

Sunday night at The Trunk Space

“And there’s nothing short a’ dying
That’s half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.”

–Johnny Cash from his song, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

I’m not a big fan of Sundays either.

But I’ve learned that to treat them best, you’ve got to alternate the dosage and keep the prescriptions fresh and unexpected.

This past Sunday, I was feeling slightly lethargic, hunched over the computer, with a list of chores and admin work on the agenda for the day and night.

Fortunately I was aware enough to assess the situation, scrap most of the junk on the list and find a band I’d never heard of playing at a place I’d never been.

Mount Righteous out of Grapevine, Texas headlined the show at The Trunk Space that also featured the “Haymarket Squares” and “Hello Mind Control.” Mount Righteous reminded me of a smaller, whiter, more up-and-coming version of one of my favorite Chilean bands: Banda Conmocion, with horns and percussion instruments played to shatter glass and cause whiplash. Just what the doctor ordered for my Sunday night.

This outing also served as a means to practice shooting with my new Speedlite 580 exii flash. I’m still figuring out all the bells and whistles, but am pleased with the purchase thus far.

Works well with a zoom lens and is great for eliminating shadows in bright day shots. Indoors at night is obviously trickier and I think I can set it to work better with a softbox to soften the shadows there too.

Saying Goodbye to Geebye

Every group has that one quirky person that gets messed with and laughed at constantly. Think Johnny Drama from Entourage or Milhouse from the Simpsons. Despite all the jokes, put-downs and abuse, this quintessential role player rarely gets upset and remains content, rolling with the punches and accepted among the pack.

What is fascinating about this person is that as much crap as they take, they are a pillar of the group’s structure and are sorely missed when they are gone. Think about the times when that fall-guy is absent from your group. When the jokester at the office goes on vacation. When the dorky kid at the lunch table is home sick. What happens? Things go way off kilter and the group does not function as it should. There are lulls in conversations, awkward pauses, few jokes and no zen.

In my family the quirky, lovable, blunt of our jokes was Ginger: our golden retriever lab mutt. She was the oldest dog of four in our pack, had one eye removed due to a tumor, part of her liver removed due to another ailment and had been through a lot in her 15 years.

As a puppy she was tied up in blankets, dunked under water and given batteries to lick. We put peanut butter on her nose and laughed hysterically at how long it would take her to lick it all off. And you know what? She loved every minute of it, relishing in her role.

Ginger, who also went by Gin-Gin, Geebye, YanYaWooz, Coorglios and Girgenhelper, loved chasing leaves when she went swimming and barking at planes flying overhead.

When she got excited, she would smile and show her teeth, shake her behind and bury her head in her front paws, almost out of embarrassment for being so excited. She loved being scratched (as most dogs do) and meeting new people. But the irony was that given how excited she got and the amount of fur she shed, most people hesitated before petting her.

Once you dug in though, she let you know she liked it. Groaning, twisting, wagging, nudging for more…she remains to this day the best dog to scratch behind the ears I have ever met.

On March 6, 2010 we had to put Ginger down.

The old age, arthritis and osteosarcoma in her leg took their toll. She was in bad shape for about two weeks before she broke her infected leg on a routine misstep in the middle of the night. The doctors said that she would not have been a good candidate for amputation or chemotherapy.

This was the first time we had had to pull the plug on one of our pups and it was one of the most painful and difficult experiences our family has gone through in a very long time. But as gut wrenching as it was, when I think about how she went out, I cannot help but smile because it went right along with how Ginger did everything else in her life.

Prior to Ginger’s departure, my brother and sister, who live out of state, came back home for the weekend. We knew the end was getting near and they wanted to see her in case something happened. When Ginger’s leg broke, it was only hours after we were all back together. Like she knew the pack was complete again and the time was right for her to go. Her exit was also her most beautiful act: she brought the pack together one last time, to say goodbye.

So today, take note and give thanks to the Ginger in your pack. Buy your buddy a beer in between insults. Take the office spaz out to lunch. Or, just give that funny, tail-wagging, fur-shedding family member an extra cookie and a nice scratch behind the ears to let her know how much she means to you.

All dogs go to heaven, and Ginger is up there smiling, helping everybody get along.