Shawn Clover San Francisco and the World Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:19:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Candlestick Park: Where the Magic Happened Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:55:34 +0000
The 49ers are gone. Out of San Francisco. They may as well be called the Santa Clara 49ers now. They’ve got a shiny, high-tech wonderland to play in, where the focus seems to be on everything but the game. Fans are literally dying in the heat, traffic is worse than ever, and the 49ers are off to a grim start in the new digs.

In late 2014, I had the opportunity to photograph good old Candlestick Park in detail during the early stages of light demolition work. From the dark depths of the musky under passages to the soaring sky-high press box, and from the cramped locker rooms to the cold secret jail cells, I got it all. In a few decades, who knows–the whole collection might be interesting to someone. I’ll just tuck the photos away until then.

For me, it was my final goodbye to the battlegrounds of legends that I grew up idolizing. Candlestick was my choice destination on many a Sunday afternoon from the early 1980s to 2013 (and a few lucky Monday night games where I snuck out of school early to head to the Stick). Of course our Giants abandoned the crumbling, moss-covered structure years ago, and I don’t really miss the Stick from a baseball perspective. They’re in a better place now.

A month after my photo spree of the empty Stick, I sent my drone skyward for one final peek inside. It looks like there are quite a few seats left (you can buy a pair for your man cave). The nearly-dead turf has sprung back to life from the recent downpours. I interweaved a few of my 1000+ photos of the empty complex with the drone’s eye view:

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World Series Champions III Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:17:12 +0000 The pop fly to third base foul territory seemed to linger in the sky in perpetuity. And then the most heart-stopping baseball game imaginable was done.

San Francisco erupted. The anxiousness instantly transformed to jubilation as horns, vuvuzelas, and cheering filled the tense air, echoing from the ocean to the bay.

I wasn’t out as long as years past, but I headed down to Market Street and then to Third and King for a few hundred photos of the street parties. Under a steady rain of champagne and fireworks, the fans rejoiced. I didn’t witness any violence or vandalism this year, just 99+% of the crowd celebrating and reveling in the Giants’ newfound dynasty.

This is part III in an ongoing series… (Part I 2010 & Part II 2012).

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

Marching from Civic Center towards the ballpark.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

World Series Champions 2014

The street celebrations at AT&T Park after the San Francisco Giants 2014 World Series victory.

Swipe left or right to view photos:



I took all photos with the Sony a7S and the Zeiss F1.8 55mm lens at ISO 51,200. The a7S is THE the best low-light, high-ISO camera on the planet and is made for nights when your team wins the World Series.

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The Loma Prieta Earthquake 1989 + 2014 Mashup Wed, 08 Oct 2014 22:47:13 +0000
October 17, 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

In 1988, a group of seismologists came out with a 30% probability of a M6.5 or higher quake in the Loma Prieta zone of the San Andreas fault occurring between 1988 and 2018. It happened a year later. After the dust settled and the fires were out, reporters wanted the answer to one question: was that the big one? The answer was no, not even close.

1989 + 2014 Mashup

Aside from yoga and spin studios cropping up on every block, little has changed in the looks of the Marina District since 1989. Many of the replacements for red-tagged buildings of ’89 seem to have been built with a half-hearted attempt to match the 1920s architecture of the neighborhood and tend to stand out with a more modern stucco style.

Most of the 1.6 mile long two-tier Cypress structure collapsed, killing 42 people. Today, a much nicer greenbelt parkway meanders along the footprints of the collapsed freeway.

I would have liked to include the Embarcadero freeway and Candlestick Park with these photos, but I could not get my hands on any 1989 images without copyright restrictions to work with.

I know that the 1989 quake hits much closer to home for many than my previous 1906 earthquake mashups. I create these images not to sensationalize the devastation and suffering, but as a reminder of the past that tends to be quickly forgotten.


Mandella Pkwy south of West Grand Ave. facing north, Oakland. Collapsed Cypress viaduct of Interstate 880 in Oakland. The second deck collapsed onto the first deck.


Divisadero and Beach facing south. Debris from a collaspsed apartment on the northwest corner spills into the intersection while the apartment on the southwest corner is shored up to hold back collapse. 1989 photo courtesty FEMA.


Beach and Divisadero facing north. 1989 photo courtesy Nancy Wong under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


Scott St facing north towards North Point. The first story of this three-story building was damaged because of liquefaction; the second story collapsed. What is seen is the third story. 1989 photo courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey.


A journalists prepares for a TV broadcast taking notes on a laptop computer. Fillmore and Bay facing southwest. 1989 photo courtesy Nancy Wong under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


E. Main St., Los Gatos. Failure of unreinforced brick masonry caused the collapse of the upper floor of a building downtown. 1989 photo courtesty USGS.

Swipe left or right to view photos:

Ready For Something 10x More Intense And 5x Longer Than 1989?

At the 1906 earthquake anniversary remembrance last year, I remember supervisor Scott Wiener proudly proclaiming to the crowd with enthusiasm: “We’re ready for the next big one!”

Well actually, we’re nowhere near ready. Many retrofit jobs are complete and new ordinances are speeding up the process, there’s still much work to be done.

If the ’89 quake taught us anything, it’s that San Francisco is woefully under-prepared for the next big one. The Loma Prieta quake was a mini rehearsal of what’s to come. Since the next big one may be similar to 1906, here’s how 1989 compared:

DurationApprox 60 seconds8-15 seconds
Magnitude (Richter scale)7.9 (modified from Richter’s original 8.3)6.9 (10x less intense and 32x less energy release than 7.9)
Modified Mercalli IntensityX (Intense)IX (violent)
Shake Area200,000 square miles25,000 square miles
MMI Shakemap(red is bad)IntensityMap1906IntensityMap1989
You can feel the difference between the two for yourself at the California Academy of Sciences’ shake table.

Seismologists predict two possible scenarios for the next big one: it may be very similar to 1906 or it may be a cluster of smaller quakes. The only certainty is that plate boundary stress has accumulated to the point that something big will happen soon.

Lessons Not Learned

You would think that San Francisco would have learned from 1906 and made sure that new buildings going up could withstand a similar quake, but in reality the opposite was true. In the rush to rebuild the city, fire codes were reduced and often completely overlooked immediately after 1906. Codes for wind loads and floor loads were reduced by as much as 50%. The priority was to rebuild the city as fast as possible.

The city has grown greatly since 1906. San Francisco’s population has risen from 460k to 837k, and sees over a million people on a typical workday and 14 million tourists a year. Only half of San Francisco’s geography was developed in 1906. Today the city is fully built out. The city has grown geographically too. The Presidio, Yerba Buena, Treasure Island, and SFO have been added. A few high rises in 1906 have grown to over 550 today, some three times taller than 1906’s tallest building.

In 1906, the SFFD had 580 firemen + 100 auxiliaries on duty. Today, SFFD has only 340 fire fighters on duty at a given time.

An insurance report predicted that an earthquake the size of 1906 could see as many as 48,000 buildings destroyed by fire unless the city can dispatch 142 manned engine companies. The city has only 42. To make matters worse, SFFD has a brownout policy that closes four to six companies on any given day for budget purposes.

One thing the city has done mostly right is its auxiliary water supply system. Large hilltop reservoirs are in place to gravity-feed hydrants and 177 cisterns are scattered around the city with 11 million gallons of standby water. However, these resources depend on a well-staffed fire department to deploy in a timely manner.

The city continues to grow, the probability of the big one continues to rise, and SFFD continues to be cut back.

October 17, 1989: The Right Place At The Right Time

The Loma Prieta quake had everything going for it. Most of the Bay Area was settled in front of their televisions tuned in to the World Series. Many Marina residents were still crowding the Marina Green and Fort Mason parks, enjoying an unusually warm, windless day.

The largest of the 35 fires after the quake broke out in the perfect place and under ideal conditions. The winds were uncharacteristically calm, demonstrated by the perfectly vertical column of smoke from the Marina fire. The large Marina District fire was bordered on three sides by fire breaks: the Marina Green, the bay, and a six-lane roadway. The bay was close enough that fireboat Phoenix could get an endless supply of water to the flames and hundreds of citizens volunteered to pull fire hoses.

Even with all the favorable conditions of October 17, the San Francisco Fire Department was pushed to its absolute limit that day, with 100% of its resources fully-deployed.

The Moment The Big One Hits

The next big one will likely go down something like this:

In the first minute, SFFD will experience a complete resource drain. It will respond to hundreds of immediate rescue needs including hundreds of fire calls and hundreds of building collapse calls.

In the first 15 minutes, at least 50 significant fires will break out that must be stopped immediately.

Every police officer, EMT, MD, and nurse in the city will be called upon to for immediate duty and challenged like never before. Resources in nearby cities will be drained with emergencies of their own and will face transportation infrastructure problems when they try to reach the city. Bridge approaches still cannot be counted on in all places. Ferries and helicopters will be in high demand and operate at capacity. Time and distance will be the immediate enemy.

25 Years To Forget Again

“I’ll worry about it when it happens” is the prevailing attitude by many who are tired of hearing about the looming big one. And there’s not much more you can do–as long as you’re prepared. But I would bet that most people are not fully prepared or even know what to do the moment it strikes. The media will do its usual blitz of reminders about preparedness for the 25th anniversary of Loma Prieta, but it will all go largely ignored.

I see it every day: restaurants with wine bottles lining shelves above patrons’ heads, bars with towering rows of bottles and glassware up to the ceiling, heavy planters precariously balanced on ledges overhead, frame shop walls covered with glass frames with not even a string to hold them back, gargoyles and other accoutrements hanging on nearly century-old concrete buildings high above the streets. These things will come crashing down by the tons one day. Many businesses everywhere seem to have absolutely no regard for the impending big one. We’re not in Kansas here.

The best you can do now is have your emergencies supplies in order, make sure your home is retrofitted if necessary, and know what to do wherever you are (Hint: getting under a doorway only applies if you are in an old adobe structure and sprinting out of a building onto the sidewalk is probably the worst possible thing you can do.)

]]> 0 Urban Ruins: The 1939 World’s Fair On Treasure Island Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:30:25 +0000
The 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition was the third of three World’s Fairs to take place in San Francisco. The expo was born from an idea to celebrate the completion of San Francisco Bay’s two new bridges. In 1933, the Bridge Celebration Founding Committee was formed to come up with a plan for the celebration. Candlestick Point was considered as a site, but the wise committee knew that was a ridiculous place to put any sort of recreational facility. Since we were celebrating the two bridges, why not celebrate right between them? After a few necessary approvals and a big thumbs up from President FDR, a 400 acre manmade island smack dab in the middle of San Francisco Bay began to take shape. The rocks already piled up what was then called Yerba Buena Shoals were relocated and everything in between was filled with landfill by dredging mud from the bay.

The massive air terminal and pair of hangars were added to the plans. After the fair was over, the island was to become the San Francisco airport. It was a perfect plan that would kill three birds with one stone: the shallow shoal shipping hazard would be cleared, the World’s Fair would have a home, and San Francisco would have a new world-class airport.

One of the primary committees formed when planning the Golden Gate International Exposition was the Insurance Committee. It operated behind-the-scenes and received no public acclaim. But with an island full of priceless works of art, valuable displays, and expensive machines there would have been no fair without proper insurance. Because of the attention to detail required for insurance, an insurance map was created by Sanborn Map Company to show every asset of the fair to perfect scale and accurate down to the foot. And thanks to the San Francisco Library and the David Rumsey Collection, we have a super high-resolution scan of the Sanborn insurance map that we will explore here.

1939 + Today

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the World’s Fair on Treasure Island, I used the tools of modern technology and overlaid the Sanborn insurance map in Google Earth, creating a 3D model of the island as it exists today with the 1939 plans seemingly drawn right onto the surface of the island.

With this, today’s Treasure Island can be explored from any angle to see exactly where everything from the 1939 World’s Fair was situated. I’ve provided the kmz file below that you can open with Google Earth and explore yourself.

A Three Hour Tour

I took some screenshots of the 3D model for a mini seven-stop clockwise tour of Treasure Island and a primer to the history of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. You can drive/ride/walk to these spots using the markers below:

1. Administration Building

We begin at the airport terminal building (now the Administration Building). This is the first big structure you’ll come across if you take the winding exit from the Bay Bridge around Yerba Buena Island and down onto Treasure Island. The streamline moderne building was built to become the San Francisco Airport terminal and control tower after the fair ended. It was carefully designed after studying airport terminals across the US at the time. A dash coat of cement plaster was added to the structure to match the finish of the fair’s temporary buildings.

Nov. 21, 1937. Dedication ceremonies. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.

Nov. 21, 1937. Dedication ceremonies. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.


Urban Ruins

The Administration Building remains. You can usually walk right in and see one of TI’s two galleries or catch a history lecture. The air traffic control tower is closed to the public. Six of the original 20 unity sculptures that were arranged around the Fountain of Western Waters are positioned on cinder blocks near the entrance.

2. Tower of the Sun

Our second stop is the Tower of the Sun. Right where the Island’s two systems of avenues and courts intersected rose the 400-foot Tower of the Sun, the icon of the expo. Any book, postcard, or poster of the fair will likely depict the Tower of the Sun as a focal point. The tower was crowned with a 22 foot golden phoenix that symbolized San Francisco’s rise from the ashes after the 1906 earthquake and fires. A carillon of 44 bells were borrowed from Grace Cathedral and placed within the tower. They returned to Grace Cathedral after the fair where they remain today.

June 23, 1940, Tower of the Sun. Courtesy FoundSF.

June 23, 1940, Tower of the Sun. Courtesy FoundSF.


Urban Ruins

Something very strange is happening today on the foundation of the Tower of the Sun. If you head out to the corner of 4th St. and Avenue C, take a close look at the ground where the guard shack sits. Once you spot it, you’ll know.

The 75 foot octagonal foundation of the Tower of the Sun is pressing up through the asphalt parking lot and is clearly visible as a perfect octagon in the pavement, as if trying to once again rise up to its former glory. Perhaps some liquefaction is at play here. Or maybe the trenching crew that cut a still-visible trench right up 4th St. ran into this strange giant solid-concrete shape and had to dig it out or trench around its perimeter. Whatever happened, the octagon’s outline is a perfect match on the overlaid Sanborn diagram.

3. The Wharfs, Bus Terminals, Parking Lot, and the Magic Carpet Great Lawn

Massive wharfs once protruded from the NW shore to receive ferries coming from San Francisco’s mainland.

"A Record is Smashed!" at the 1939 - 1940 San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition (San Francisco Chronicle).

“A Record is Smashed!” at the 1939 – 1940 San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition (San Francisco Chronicle).

The existing deteriorating wharf is not original and was probably built by the Navy.

The immense 14,000 space parking lot took up a good 1/4 of the island with electric signs and loud speakers mounted on each end of the Bay Bridge announcing when the lot was full.

The Things You Will Want To Know About The Exposition On Treasure Island guide (today we would just call it an FAQ) was published to help fairgoers get the most enjoyment from their visit. Among the recommendations: drop off the kids off in the play area with a “competent nurse” for 25¢/hour and enjoy a kid-free day at the fair. Bring your dog or cat? Fine as long as they are “left shut in parked cars” (no companion dogs back then).


Urban Ruins

The original wharfs are gone but their lumber is still strewn all over the rocks on the NW shore. They make comfortable seats for hanging out for some of the best views in the city or for watching fireworks on the 4th of July.

The Magic Carpet Great Lawn is still intact, simply called the Great Lawn today. It is used for events, including the Treasure Island Flea Market, and is home to the incredible Bliss Dance sculpture.

4. The Fun Zone: Rides and the Giant Cyclone Coaster

Among dozens of amusement rides, the giant Cyclone coaster towered above all. In 1939, two identical Cyclones were constructed: one for San Francisco’s 1939 World’s Fair and the other New York’s 1939 World’s Fair.

The Giant Cyclone Roller Coaster at Treasure Island.

The Giant Cyclone Roller Coaster at Treasure Island.

New York’s Cyclone still exists today. In 1941 the track, trains, and plans were purchased by what is now Six Flags New England. It was renamed the Thunderbolt  in 1964. You can ride it today to experience what Treasure Island Cyclone was like.

I can’t find any mention of what became of Treasure Island’s Cyclone.

A carousel was apparently a late addition to the fair as it is seen penciled in on the map, south side of 11th St. between Avenues H and I. This original 1914 Herschell-Spillman carousel was moved to Golden Gate Park after the fair, where it still operates most days.


Urban Ruins

Soccer fields now occupy the footprint of the roller coaster, Midget Autos, and Airplane Ride. Nothing of these structures remains visible today.

5. Incubator Babies, Midget Village, and More Fun

After an exhilarating ride on the roller coaster, nothing says good times like a visit to see rows of tiny premature babies in sealed in capsules. Or, perhaps midgets performing on stage is more your thing.Incubator Babies

The incubator babies exhibit was a premium attraction, meaning an additional quarter collected at the door on top of the fair admission. The spin was that the purpose of the display and admission fee was for scientific public education purposes and fundraising for the nurses, but in reality it was a common side show attraction at fairs back in the day.


Urban Ruins

Nothing remains visible today. Most of these attractions were temporary structures sitting atop the pavement.

6. Behind the Scenes: The North End

Behind the fair’s Livestock Pavilion were sewage plants, warehouses, and offices. The Sanborn Map overlay also shows areas such as fireworks storage, wire storage, machine shops, a milk depot, gasoline and oil storage, ice delivery receiving, and the electrical department tucked away in this corner of the island.

At the NE shore were the ferry docks where visitors from the East Bay would arrive on the island (if they didn’t drive).


Urban Ruins

Although the water and sewage processing plants occupy the same area today, there are few remnants of the original Treasure Island. Some concrete forms near the old ferry slips match the route of the old train tracks on the overlay, but the tracks are gone. A warehouse at the northern end of 13th St. occupies the same footprint as an original warehouse, but the building is obviously newer today. A Navy gas station used to be located at the site of the original “gas tanks” but was razed in 2013.

7. The Hangars

Like the terminal (admin) building, twin hangars were built for the future San Francisco Airport. Hangar A (farthest from the Admin Building) was the Fine Arts Palace for the fair. Hangar B was the Pan American Airways hangar which also contained aviation exhibits for the fair.


Urban Ruins

Both hangars A (right) and B (left) still remain, fully intact and in use. They are now labeled “Building 2″ (Hangar B) and “Building 3″ (Hangar A). For reasons unknown, Building 3 gained a blocky facade, ruining the art deco lines seen in Building 2.

A Pan American Clipper flies above Treasure Island and the hangars. Photo: Clyde Sunderland.

A Pan American Clipper flies above Treasure Island and the hangars. Photo: Clyde Sunderland.

Building 2 has been used as studios to tape everything from Battlebots to Nash Bridges (I was in the audience for an entire season’s taping of the former). I have no idea what goes on in Building 3.

Another warehouse was added between Building 2 and the Administration Building right on the site of the fair’s large octagon pool and women’s club which now houses the SF Winery and is also the Peter Hudson and Marco Cochrane studios where many of the large sculptures for Burning Man are built (stay tuned for future post on that). You can also visit the second of the Treasure Island Museum‘s two small visitor galleries here. There are still large concrete remains jetting slightly into the bay behind hangar A where the Clipper seaplanes docked. Also of interest is the “Californian Model Home” across Avenue 3 (Now California Ave) from Hangar B which still stands today, but has been improved and expanded in recent years.

After the Fair

When the fair closed, World War II derailed all plans to transform Treasure Island into a full airport. The Navy seized Treasure Island in 1942 and offered Mills Field in exchange. Mills Field became San Francisco International Airport.

Treasure Island’s years may be numbered. At a mean low water elevation of 13 feet, the island as it is will begin to submerge underwater sometime shortly after 2150 according to current sea level rise models. However, studies have been completed and proposals have been floated to construct a sea wall around the island to hold back the bay.

Explore More

Explore In Google Earth

Load the Sanborn Insurance map mashup into Google Earth (Mac, Windows, Linux). I’ve got everything lined up as closely as possible the layer opacity dialed down for a good balance of then and now. Happy exploring!

Recommended Reading

A good history of the 1939 World’s Fair from start to finish:
As always, I’m interested in feedback on historical accuracy or any other constructive comments.
]]> 3 Retroscans: San Francisco 1970 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 02:51:33 +0000
This post is part of my Retroscans series, in which I rescue and restore 35mm slides that may otherwise end up in a landfill. Unlike all other posts on my site, these photos are not my own. The original photographer is unknown, unless otherwise specified. I clean and dust each slide, scan at 7200 dpi, remove scratches with a separate infrared scan, then do the remainder of the cleanup in Lightroom and/or Photoshop.
These San Francisco photos were taken in 1970, probably in June or July. Unfortunately the photographer (unknown) didn’t seem to go far from Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. I’ve provided Google Street Views from today to accompany each image:
Fishermen's Grotto
Fisherman’s Wharf. This horrific tourist zone looks almost identical 44 years later with lots and lots of asphalt.

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Fisherman's Wharf
Russian Hill in the background. Parking is 35 cents per hour. Standard Station on the right. 44 years later, there is only one Standard Station left in all of California–on Van Ness Ave. (Chevron maintains one “Standard Station” in each state it owns the rights to branded as Standard.) 91% of cars in view are American cars.

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Russian Hill
Facing south up Taylor Street from Jefferson Street. The original 1958 Cost Plus store in the distance was rebuilt in the early 1980s at the same location.

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Hyde and Beach cable car turnaround
Today this area is more like a manicured queue for a Disneyland ride. The paper posted in the window is advertising the Bart open house in the Mission district, where one could go preview the 24th and Mission Bart Station. 11,400 people visited that open house, which also marked the return of Muni to Mission Street after 2½ years of absence.

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Powell Street
Down Powell Street from Pine Street. The “Starlite Roof” flag flies above the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Cars could drive on the cable car tracks in 1970 which must have made work much more difficult for the cable car’s gripman and brakeman. Powell Street connected directly to Market Street in 1970 (in the distance).

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Jackson Street
Down Jackson Street from just below Taylor Street. The turn in the cable car tracks emerges from the cable car barn, where cars from all three lines enter service each morning. The long gone and forgotten mistake known as the Embarcadero freeway is visible in the distance. Most of this block hasn’t changed much in 44 years.

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]]> 3 49ers & Candlestick: One Last Time Tue, 15 Jul 2014 05:15:20 +0000
July 12, 2014. It was called The Legends of Candlestick game, and the legends were there in numbers: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Brent Jones, Bubba Paris, Charles Haley, John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Jeff Garcia, and just about every other big name, hall-of-famer, and Pro-Bowler from the ’80s and early ’90s. On the other side of the ball: Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe, Tim Brown, and even Everson Walls–the poor Cowboy who was covering Dwight Clark in The Catch of 1981.

Thousands showed up wearing #16. I left my authentic ’84 Montana-autographed Riddell jersey at home, having retired it decades ago to a mounted frame, after one too many mustard spills threatened its survival.

They say 30,000 came, but there weren’t nearly that many. It was a small, intimate crowd. And everyone was happy. Raiders and Dolphins fans sat side-by-side with 49ers fans in peace and harmony. Everyone, that is, except one solitary troll who showed up in a Seahawks jersey, all alone and desperate for attention.

We met a woman on the shuttle bus who explained how she grew up on the east coast as a 49ers fan in the early ’80s. She traveled across the country just to see this game and let out a scream when Candlestick appeared through the window.


A Photo Sphere I made from the north endzone


It was flag football, but you could tell some of these guys still had the deep-rooted instinct to go for the tackle. And they weren’t messing around. The familiar look of intensity showed on Montana’s face as he called audibles at the line. Same with Steve Young. But it was the younger Jeff Garcia who still had the laser-focused passes and quick sprints in his step, with Jerry Rice and John Taylor running full-speed patterns. Roger Craig was fit as ever and high-kneeing it down the field, but it would be good-old Bill Ring making more receptions than any 49er by my count. On the other side of the ball, Marino could still throw a few bombs too.

Disappointingly, a reenactment of The Catch never happened, despite Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls all on the field at the same time. But more importantly, and to everyone’s delight, the game came down to the 49ers down by a point and the length of the field to go with only six clock-running minutes left. #16 took the field and the place went crazy. JOE! JOE! JOE! Time for one last magic Montana drive. And the rest was history.

After the game, Eddie DeBartolo spoke, and then Montana. Joe assured us everything would be ok with the new stadium. But I don’t believe it. I’d rather see Candlestick get patched up for another decade than move the 49ers out of San Francisco, no matter how nice the new place is.

That $12 ticket makes me feel very old

I just can’t seem to let go of the Stick. I’ve been there for some classic Giants games, including Dave Draveky’s comeback victory in 1989. And more 49ers magic moments than I can count: two championship victories, Joe Montana’s comeback, Steve Young’s miraculous 49-yard touchdown run, NFL records broken by the likes of Jerry Rice and Roger Craig, and both Bill Walsh’s and Joe Montana’s final home games. And then there were the concerts and soccer matches. I even drove a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder through an autocross course at full-throttle in Candlestick’s parking lot. I think Candlestick is my favorite building in the whole city.

I’ll be there just a couple more times, including to see 1/4 of the Beatles (aka Paul McCartney) play a final concert right where the Beatles’ held their final concert 48 years ago. I even went so far as to buy field seats at the exact spot where the Fab Four took the stage on August 29, 1966.

When Candlestick goes down in all its glory next year to the echoes of booming dynamite, I will be there, and I plan to capture the demolition from a unique perspective.

I only brought my little Fujifilm x100S with me, so no close-up shots of the action:

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

Just like old times.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

Endzone panorama.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

The mostly-empty upper deck.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

Halftime. Close game, but I think the 49ers will pull it off.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

That other side of the stadium where I rarely go.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

Montana is back in at QB to start the second half.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

One last Montana drive down the field for the winning touchdown. And the fans go wild.

Legends of Candlestick: Last 49ers Game In Candlestick Park

It's over. All over. 49ers "win" their final game in Candlestick.

Swipe left or right to view photos:
Goodbye Candlestick.
]]> 1 Retroscans: Disneyland 1958 & 1969 Wed, 09 Jul 2014 01:16:16 +0000
This post is part of my Retroscans series, in which I rescue and restore 35mm slides that may otherwise end up in a landfill. Unlike all other posts on my site, these photos are not my own. The original photographer is unknown, unless otherwise specified. I clean and dust each slide, scan at 7200 dpi, remove scratches with a separate infrared scan, then do the remainder of the cleanup in Lightroom and/or Photoshop.
Over the years, I’ve managed to accumulate a growing collection of other people’s slides. Some are given to me, and others I pick up whenever I happen by a box o’ slides someone’s trying to get rid of. And others are from my relatives.

I finally bought a decent slide scanner and I figured I’d share some of the gems with the world, rather than let them rot away in a box. This also marks the first time I’ve posted someone else’s photos on my own website, but why not.

For my inaugural Retroscans post, I’m going with some old photos of Disneyland in July 1958 and June 1969. All were apparently shot by the same family, whom I don’t know. By the looks of things, this family did a trip down the coast of California in both those years, 11 years apart. I have hundreds of other slides of their other destinations along the coast too, which I’ll save for later. I found these on a Saturday afternoon at the Treasure Island Flea Market in a big bag of old slides that was spilling all over the baking-hot asphalt. The guy selling them insisted the antique slide projector was part of the package deal. I tried to bargain him out of forcing me to take the projector and found myself offering him MORE money to keep it for himself.

The slides were in horrible shape, covered in dirt and with scratches everywhere. I thought it would be a good restoration exercise to try to recover the images. After cleaning up the slides, I used my scanner’s infrared scratch detection to mask out much of the scratches, and then handled the rest of the restoration in Photoshop.

Disneyland history is one of those quirky things I’ve studied over the years, and I’ve been there fifty some-odd times, so no better place to let the Retroscan series begin than the happiest place on earth:

June 1958: Jungle Cruise

Those poor hippos were shot by every skipper from 1955 to 2001. Note how immature the vegetation was in 1958--it is much taller today.

June 1958: Rocket To The Moon

The TWA Rocket To The Moon was an original 1955 attraction with frequent voyages in each of the domed theaters. The rocket disappeared in 1967 but returned in 1996 at 2/3 the scale of this original.

June 1958: The Pavillion

Taking a break at the Pavillion (yes, pavilion was misspelled in 1958 although the sign is out of sight of this photo). They actually had table service back then--those ladies in blue are waitresses.

June 1958: Storybook Land Canal Boats

In 1955, the canal boats gave guests a view of nothing more than mud and weeds. Here in 1958, the miniature models and bonsai trees provide a bit more interest.

July 1969: Submarine Lagoon

A Matterhorn bobsled, submarine, and Autopia car as seen from the Peoplemover.

July 1969: ALWEG Mark II Monorail and Autopia

This photo was probably taken in the final few weeks or days of the Mark II monorail, the last of the ALWEG models before WED would take over production for the Mark III. This yellow train was the newest of the Mark II fleet.

July 1969: Submarine Voyage

The Seawolf, one of eight cold war-gray submarines taking guests on a voyage under the North Pole.

July 1969: The Peoplemover And Rocket Jets

The Goodyear Peoplemover is just two years old here, as are the Rocket Jets above the Peoplemover station and the new rectangular Skyway cars in the distance--all part of the major 1967 Tomorrowland renovations.

July 1969: The Jungle Cruise

The poor old zebra on the banks of the Jungle Cruise. The vegetation is 11 years older than the previous 1958 photo.

July 1969: The Jungle Cruise

The "native village" along the Jungle Cruise river. The dead lion hanging on a spit over the fire is long gone today.

July 1969: Sailing Ship Columbia

A packed Columbia in Frontierland with pairs of Ray Bans everywhere.

Swipe left or right to view photos:
]]> 2 Sony a7R + Canon Glass = A Dawdling Delight Fri, 21 Mar 2014 03:49:48 +0000 The cotton candy man slowly strolled through Justin Herman Plaza, a melancholy glare affixed to his tired face with a 12 foot tower of fluffy multicolored spun sugar soaring over his head. As I turned to notice him, his reflection echoed in the large puddle between us. And there the scene unfolded: this solitary and poignant character, contrasting under bright colors, perfectly framed under a tree with his mirror image centered in the glassy puddle below. The sort of image for which publishers clamor to get their hands on.

My reflexes went for a Canon dangling by my side, ready to flick the power switch and simultaneously raise the camera to my eye while spinning the settings knob to C3–the custom setting I use for urgent quick-shots. It’s a move I’ve done a thousand times before, taking a mere second from grab to shutter click.

But today my Canon wasn’t by my side. I was breaking in my new Sony a7R with my Canon 24-70 2.8/L screwed on via a Metabones Mark III adapter. I had no chance of getting the shot and I knew it. Nothing is fast about the a7R wearing Canon glass. Powering on the camera is slow, dialing in settings is laborious, and manually focusing takes careful precision.

But this camera isn’t made for speed. It’s much happier at home atop a tripod with thoughtfully fussed-over settings dialed in. And this is where the a7R demolishes all other full-frame digital cameras on the market. It makes beautiful images with incredible dynamic range at insanely-high resolution. It’s definitely not a camera-to-replace-all-cameras, but it’s very good at what it does. I would never even consider bringing the a7R to shoot a bike race or an air show, but it’s my new go-to machine for anything shot from a tripod.

March 19, 2014 Update: Sony just released the first firmware upgrade to the a7R which significantly boosts startup speed, autofocus ability, and image quality. After a few quick tests, autofocus with Canon lenses seems to be semi-practical now.

a7R + Canon Glass

I didn’t buy any Sony lenses. There are currently only five Sony full-frame E mount lenses from which to choose, but they are getting remarkably well-favored reviews so far. With a small fortune invested in Canon lenses, there’s no way I’m about to start down the Sony road. Well maybe just one at some point….

Instead, I’m using the Metabones Mark III Canon EF to Sony NEX adapter. This is where much of the slowness of the a7R comes from. The Metabones may look like a simple adapter, but it’s filled with electronics and firmware of its own. Technically it can autofocus with newer-generation Canon lenses, but I abandoned the AF switch entirely after day one. The autofocus is so painfully slow, that it’s not even worth thinking of. (Note that Novaflex is working on a similar adapter which they claim will be superior to the Metabones.)

But I’ve actually come to enjoy the manual focus experience. It’s like going back to the SLRs of yesteryear, only the a7R gives you several high-tech tools to manually focus:

Focus Tool #1: Focus Peaking

Sony’s focus peaking experience is addictive. It’s like playing a video game with a heads-up display of the world around you. Edges of objects glow in your choice of color when in focus-peaked range as you rotate your lens’ focus ring. You can even adjust the depth of the focus peaking assist. After a few days, I got pretty quick with it. It gives you the simple freedom of choosing a focus-peaked point in when framing a photo with a long DOF.

Focus Tool #2: Focus Magnification

I chose to program this function into a prominent button in the center of the circular dial–a button my thumb can gravitate onto without looking, because I use this all the time when looking through the viewfinder. You get a two-step extreme zoom to finely-tune the focus to perfect sharpness. With camera on tripod, you’ll have more confidence of perfect focus that AF can ever give.

Shadow Recovery Like a Champion

Same Image with +3.00 exposure adjustment in Lightroom

Same Image with +3.00 exposure adjustment in Lightroom

Underexposed, (straight out of the camera)

Underexposed, (straight out of the camera)

Here is where the a7R really shines. The deepest, darkest depths of shadow hold a surprising secret: light! And lots of it. Nice clean light. The a7R can recover shadows like flipping on a flashlight in the dark. No Canon on the market can come close to this quality of shadow recovery performance.

I took the first photo (Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, San Francisco) very underexposed. I’m accustomed to losing the dark areas to a noisy mess. But with nothing more than a slide to the right of +3.00 in Lightroom, the shadows recover very nicely with detail and little noise.

If I came home with nothing more than this underexposed image, I could play around with it in Lightroom and come out with a nicely-balanced photo with balanced exposure throughout.

The end result is a photo with a wide dynamic range. Bracketing photos to cover the dynamic range of HDR is almost a thing of the past now.

The Battery

There seems to be a lot of complaining about the a7 and a7R’s battery life, but considering the compact size of the battery and the nature of a digital viewfinder, I think it does quite well. I do the following to get more miles out of each battery:

  • Turn off wifi (airplane mode)
  • Use the eye viewfinder rather than the rear screen
  • Turn off the auto image display

Just grab a couple cheap batteries and take them along.

Long Exposures

I haven’t been able to do any exposures longer than 30 seconds (like 10-stop neutral densities through my Lee Big Stopper). The first time I was going to try, I realized the timer I’ve been using with my Canon for years doesn’t fit into any of the holes on the a7R. Bummer. There has been one attempt at a mobile app so far to control the shutter via wifi, but it just doesn’t work yet.

And, since Sony seems to be on the cutting edge of photography equipment these days, why can’t they just go beyond the standard 30″ maximum shutter speed? It’s just firmware after all. Give us 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes directly in the camera. Of course, I’m sure they want to sell us expensive timers as an accessory. I’ll wait for a good mobile app to come along.

The Controls

There are plenty of reviews and YouTube videos that go into detail on all the a7R’s buttons, switches, and dials. All I can add is the layout is ingeniously intuitive and highly-customizable in my experience. You can program almost any control to do anything. After sitting down with the a7R for a few hours on day one, I customized everything, and then proceeded to change it all after my first real journey outdoors with the a7R. If you shoot only raw and don’t need all the jpg effects bells and whistles, there are almost too many buttons because you simply run out of things to program.

There are only two Custom settings positions on the main dial, but I stopped using these most of the time after I realized that any further adjustments I put in after selecting C1 or C2 gets reset each time the camera powers off and back on.

Mucho Pixels

The a7R packs in those beautiful pixels by the ton. I mean this thing’s 36.4 million pixel resolution is insane! Check out a slice of the detail on this wide-angle, long exposure:

Tripod Mount

The a7R likes to be still–very still. I use a massive Really Right Stuff TVC-45 tripod with an also massive BH-55 ballhead. This would normally be overkill for such a small camera, but it helps

a7R on Really Right Stuff BA7-L plate

a7R on Really Right Stuff BA7-L plate

once several pounds  is attached in the form of a Canon lens and adapter.

For the a7R, I bought a Really Right Stuff BA7-L plate which mounts the body directly to the tripod’s ballhead. The alternative would be to mount the Metabones adapter to the tripod. The former seems to work fine (even though quite a bit of weight is off-balance) but due to the a7R’s clunky shutter, I think the stability should be focused on the camera’s body rather than the lens. At some point I’ll do some more scientific tests of which method produces the better image.

Sample Photos

I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to test out the a7R, but I’ve got a few shots in. Here are a few shots:

Zero Hour 9 AM

Sherman Clay & Co., Steinway Pianos. San Francisco, CA.

The House On Hyde Street

Cable Car 14 heads into the evening.

Committee of Vigilance

Howard Street, San Francisco.

Here Comes The Night

Daniel Libeskind\\\'s modern addition to San Francisco\\\'s Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Roadside USA

Doggie Diner Heads and 1956(?) Ford F150 pickup.

3:51 PM
Each Face

A caricaturist takes a break.


After a brief sleep, Gum Lung, the magnificent Chinese dragon, is awakened with thousands of firecrackers. Chinese New Year Parade 2014.

Dragon on Kearny Street

Gum Lung, Chinese New Year Parade 2014.

11:46 AM
Another Day in the San Francisco Bay
12:05 PM
4:20 PM
4:36 PM
Four Blocks Ahead

Motel Capri, San Francisco.

Four Star Daydream

The Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, California.

On A Downtown Train

Western Pacific #918D, a 1950 diesel-electric 119 ton locomotive on the Niles Canyon Railway.

Little Red Caboose

Caboose on the Nilesi Canyon Railway.

Swipe left or right to view photos:


There are plenty of reviews around the interwebs that go into exhaustive detail of the a7R’s performance. And many conclude that the image the a7R produces is the best of any full-frame digital camera. And I have to agree. As long as you’ve got a steady hand or tripod, and the time to compose your shot, the a7R is a winner.

But for sports and portraits, I’ll be sticking with my Canon bodies. And for street photography, I’m plenty happy with my Fujifilm X100s.

]]> 5
Goodbye SLR, Hello Little Viewfinder: The Fujifilm X100s Fri, 12 Jul 2013 05:10:07 +0000 Well I’m not exactly getting rid of my SLRs and my army of lenses, but all that gear has been locked away for the past week. A little viewfinder camera has hit the market that scratches me right where I itch. Since the advent of digital cameras, I’ve been waiting and waiting for the killer small camera to hit the scene and that day has finally arrived. While the original Fujifilm X100 was off to a good start, it was plagued with a long list of shortcomings, and these weaknesses have been addressed in the new X100s. This baby is hands-down the best camera around for its size. I’m talking to you, Leica.


The X100s is modeled after the beautiful classic 1954 Leica M3 rangefinder and does a great job recreating the retro look. She’s packed with many of the same classic dials and switches of yesteryear, but upon closer inspection, not everything what it appears. For one, the timer lever is really just a toggle to switch between optical and digital viewfinder while the timer functions are handled via digital display. But other controls like the shutter and aperture dials remain true to their functional origins, completing that nice analog feel. But despite the deceiving looks, the X100s really is an honest-to-goodness rangefinder thanks to the digital rangefinder focus option.

This is little camera just begs to be slung over the shoulder on the way out the door. No choosing lenses or strapping on a backpack full of gear. Since there are no changeable lenses, you’re locked in with the built-in (and very capable) 23mm lens. This gives you a 35mm full-frame SLR equivalent focal length. No zooming in and out, just shoot things the way you see them. A refreshing benefit to having a fixed lens is you can kiss sensor dust spots goodbye–the camera’s innards stay nice and clean. Of course, not being able to zoom is a limitation in itself, but this focal length is really photography in its purest form.

The Controls

All the switches, dials, and menus take some getting used to. You have an option of composing photos using the electronic viewfinder, the lcd back display, or the optical viewfinder. I prefer the latter because it just feels more natural (not to mention kinder to the battery life). I found using the optical viewfinder in combination with the informational display on the lcd back worked best for me.

I love the old-fashioned hardware ring dials for aperture and shutter speed, but that also adds to one of my biggest frustrations: it really limits what you can store in the custom functions presets. In fact I have not found a single use for the three custom presets. They can’t store shutter speed, aperture, drive mode, or focus mode. The only useful thing you can store is your ISO setting. If you’re using all the photo effects features (like toy camera, etc.), then maybe you’ll have a use for it, but I haven’t played around with all those things. I just shoot RAW and add effects later in Lightroom. Since there’s no sense in making custom presets with just ISO presents, I reprogrammed the Fn button to simply pull up the ISO menu so I can just dial in any ISO I want. My three presets remain empty.

Unless I’m shooting from the hip, I stay locked in with the manual focus mode. In the X100s’s case, manual focus mode gives you not only the ability to manually focus with the ring, but it is also where you go if you’re like me and like to autofocus with a separate button than a half-press of the shutter button. This allows you to lock in your focus point, recompose the frame, and then hit the shutter. I like having the AFL/AEL button where your thumb sits do the focusing, just like on my trusty Canon.

One nice little touch is the 3-stop ND filter that mechanically pops between the lens and the sensor when you want it. I tried some test shots of water flowing through fountains in bright light, but even at f/16 and the minimum ISO 200, I wasn’t able to get much of that nice blurred water effect. I would have rather had something closer to a 5-stop filter. It would also be really nice to go down to ISO 100, but Fuji inexplicably decided to make ISO 200 the minimum ISO when you shoot RAW, while you can go down to 100 if you shoot JPG. That one still has me scratching my head. It would also be nice to be able to get to the ND filter faster than digging through the full menu to toggle it into place.


It seems that every new Canon SLR I buy means automatically dropping another grand on accessories. I couldn’t believe how kind to my wallet the X100s was: a nice leather case, leather strap, UV filter, filter adapter, lens hood, and two spare batteries totaled less than $100.

Here’s what I added to protect the body and lens while staying true to the retro styling of the X100s. You can see all this stuff in my cover photo of the X100s dangling over the old pay phone above.

Click to open in Amazon:


Here are a few test photos I took over the past few days in San Francisco. I am blown away by this baby’s high ISO performance. It shoots cleaner at ISO 3200 or 6400 than the Canon 5d Mark III. And the true f/2 lens shoots nice razor-thin depth of field wide open with some not-too-shabby bokeh. Not Canon f/1.2L-caliber bokeh, but very nice and buttery nonetheless.

I’ve found the camera tends to overexpose things. Maybe it’s just what I shoot, who knows. But I usually keep the exposure compensation (again a nice analog dial) set down to -1/3 or sometimes even -2/3.

And its tripod mount is still virgin–this is my new handheld camera and I have no intention of dragging around a tripod to pair it with.

On the Street

I love shooting from the hip, and with a little experimenting over a day or two, I’m happy with what you can do with this little marvel. With my Canon SLR, I have a custom program that I can quickly get to for this purpose, but as I mentioned above, there’s a lot of dialing and button-pushing involved to get the camera set up for quick incognito street photos. What works well for me is setting ISO 1600, dialing in f/4, setting continuous drive 3fps burst, and AF-C focus mode. Each one of these needs to be dialed in separately because the custom functions cannot store anything but ISO.

Here are a few shots. No one ever even noticed I was shooting except the guy in the Busted photo below:

4:27 PM
16th & Mission
Open Board
The N Judah
That 70s Girl
Cookie Dance
Outside J-Town
5:49 PM
A Day, He Calls It
Swipe left or right to view photos:


HDR haters, move along. Move along.

First off, the best you can do with auto-bracketing is set the camera to fire off three bracketed shots, no more than one stop away for each. This means the most dynamic autobracket you can program is -1, 0, +1. Of course you can manually spin the dial through a series of brackets if you want to take it further, but it would be really nice if Fuji changed the firmware to allow more brackets and more range with the AE bracketing. It could be handled by a simple firmware update.

Here are a few test HDRs, all AE bracketed at -1, 0, 1 and merged in Photomatix and adjusted in Lightroom. It’s a fairly mild HDR effect but I like it:

Hotel Civic Center
The Center of the City
Fujifilm X100s Test: HDR
Down On the Corner
Trickle Down
Rally Cat
The Hotel
11:53 AM
12:09 AM
Bug Blue
Swipe left or right to view photos:


And it can automatically stitch together panoramas quite handily. Rat-tat-tat-tat fires the shutter as you pan across following the artificial horizon line in the viewfinder (or on screen). There’s obviously no RAW option here because the camera is doing the stitching work for you and producing a jpg:

Straight-Out-Of-The-Camera ISO Test

Fuji X100s Test: ISO 1600

Fuji X100s Test: ISO 1600

Fuji X100s Test: ISO 200

Fuji X100s Test: ISO 200

And finally, two photos side by side without edits (just converted from RAW to JPG), one at ISO 200 and the other at ISO 1600. You’ve got to zoom really close to see any noise at all in the 1600 photo. (This is the dome at the Westfield Mall in San Francisco.) I don’t need to spend a bunch of time doing ISO tests because the fine folks at DPreview do a much better job at that, but this was more of an accident because I forgot to dial the ISO down for the first shot:

In Conclusion

Overall I absolutely love this little viewfinder. I won’t really be ditching my Canons anytime soon for things like sports, portraits, and landscapes, but the little Fujifilm X100s is just about everything I could ask for in a compact camera to hit the street with.



The Mediocre

  • Limited use for custom presets
  • AE bracketing only goes out 1 stop
  • No ISO 100 in RAW mode
  • People might think I’m a hipster

The Awesome

  • Amazingly clean at high ISOs
  • Nice bokeh when wide open
  • Goodbye sensor dust spots
  • Retro dials work to perfection
  • Internal pop-in pop-out ND filter

]]> 16
The Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s Mon, 01 Apr 2013 15:45:27 +0000
In the late 1950s, a military program in Dugway Proving Ground in the desert southwest of Salt Lake City was underway to develop a wheel-less vehicle that could travel on any terrain and skim across water. More importantly, the vehicle could theoretically skirt over landmines without problems. It was a simple concept, relying on counterspherical gravitational force (CGF) rather than the more complicated magnetic levitation method.

By the early 1960s, the technology had leaked through a government contractor and a private program was already underway to develop a levitating vehicle (LV) for the everyday driver. Without the friction of wheels, an LV could skim along roads while economically sipping much less fuel than the typical gas hog cars of the time. By the time the oil industry caught wind of the development, the LV disappeared into oblivion thanks to a joint conspiracy by the oil and tire industries who saw them as a threat to their bottom lines. The big automakers quietly shut down their levitation R&D divisions.

Today there are only a few remaining levitators left in the world, some meticulously cared for while others sadly rust away. They are technically not street-legal due to horrendously poor braking distances, but police officers tend to turn a blind eye to the beautiful streamlined classic floaters. But most people probably never even notice them.

Inspired by a levitating car he had remembered seeing as a kid, moviemaker George Lucas featured the Landspeeder in his 1977 blockbuster Star Wars. The film brought about a brief resurgence of interest in vehicle levitation, but the whole concept again faded quickly back into obscurity.

I met with Miles Weston, president of the North American Chapter of the Levitating Vehicle Owners Society (NACLVOS), and he pointed out where I could find a few LVs in the area. Here are a few shots of these beauties:

Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s: The Chevrolet Overair

The levitating cars of the 1960s.

Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s: The Fiat Floatista

The levitating cars of the 1960s.

Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s: The Chrysler Allay
Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s: The Ford F-Air

The levitating cars of the 1960s.

Levitating Vehicles of the 1960s: The Studebaker Light Hawk

The levitating cars of the 1960s.

Swipe left or right to view photos:

If you’ve spotted any floaters in your town, I’d love to hear about it.

EDIT: I’ve received a surprising number of emails about this post from people wanting to know more about these cars. I’m sorry to disappoint, but this was an April Fool’s joke. These cars are not real. There, I said it.

]]> 1
Inside the Grandi: An Abandoned Northern California Landmark Mon, 31 Dec 2012 04:55:01 +0000
Most visiting or passing through Point Reyes Station in Northern California have at least glanced at the huge brick and mortar eyesore and probably have not even given it a second thought. Standing on the main street through town (also Highway One), the building has been boarded up and abandoned since 1950. But the building had a much livelier past.

The town was called Olema Station when it was founded in 1875 and would not be known as Point Reyes Station until 1891. The first store was built in 1883 and a man named Salvatore Grandi purchased it in 1887 and Grandi’s Mercantile Company was born. When the 1906 earthquake struck, not only did a locomotive leaving the train station fall sideways off its tracks, but Grandi’s brick building also collapsed. It was replaced with what is now the Western Saloon. When Salvatore Grandi retired in 1908, he sold the lot across the street to his nephew, who built a much larger Grandi Company, which sold everything from cattle feed to housewares to pianos. The second story of the building was a 20 room hotel and dance hall. Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed in the hotel in 1940. In 1950, the Grandi closed.

The building has been derelict and boarded up for decades. A grand piano lies in silence on the floor of the old dance floor upstairs. The new owner had plans approved in 2005 to renovate the building, including the 20 room hotel in the style of the landmark’s heyday. In late December 2012, all plans for the future of the Grandi came to a grinding halt, tangled in a mess of bureaucratic red tape.

Let’s hope the Grandi doesn’t meet the same tragic end as San Francisco’s Fleishhacker Pool House, another historic landmark which survived decades of uncertainty and neglect, only to burn to the ground earlier this month.

Inside the Grandi
Inside the Grandi
Inside the Grandi
Inside the Grandi
Six Decades of Silence

A grand piano lies in silence since 1950. It once fillled the dance hall with music of the Grandi Hotel in Point Reyes Station, California and entertained the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Inside the Grandi
The Grandi
The Grandi
Swipe left or right to view photos:
]]> 6
World Series Champions Again! Mon, 29 Oct 2012 19:18:56 +0000
It seems like just yesterday I was posting photos from the 2010 World Series party.

Cars everywhere started honking at the first out in bottom of the 10th… not yet, wait for it! Come on Romo…let’s get this done!

Then it happened. Job done. San Francisco erupted. The tens of thousands watching the simulcast in Civic Center howled in euphoria and began pouring onto Market St., completely halting all traffic and Muni buses (thankfully Muni kept the classic streetcars away this time). The masses slowly marched toward the ballpark while others headed to the parties already in progress in the Mission.

By 11pm, it seemed like half the city was in front of AT&T Park celebrating. Street bonfires by the dozens lit the night, fireworks sparkled in the sky, and champaign and beer flowed freely. Brooms were everywhere to celebrate the 4-0 sweep, many blazing in flames. Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!

Things got out of hand way more than last time around in the vandalism department, including a security guard’s truck that got completely trashed and overturned on Market St., topped off by an attempt to light the gas tank on fire. These vandals were a fraction of a percent of the people out there and most weren’t even wearing Giants shirts–probably out-of-towners. And I have absolutely no problem turning over high-resolution photos of these people to the police. Charge them with felonies, hold them financially accountable for the damage, and make an example of them. That isolated behavior was despicable. Between taking photos, I made every effort I could to help some frightened wide-eyed tourists get their cars out of the area.

I stuck around until midnight, but things still seemed to be ramping up even more. I’m sure King St. looks like a warzone today. Go Giants!!!

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Win It 2012

The parties in the streets of San Francisco after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.

Giants Victory Parade 2012
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Fleet Week 2012: Stealthier Than Ever Mon, 15 Oct 2012 22:36:37 +0000
My two Fleet Week photo goals this year were: (1) get a good shot of the F-18’s transonic vapor cone and (2) get a good shot of the B-2 Stealth Bomber coming over the Golden Gate Bridge. I partially succeeded in the former (although I’ve seen much better shots) and completely failed in the latter. But I had an excuse: we were stuffing our faces with delicious Indian burritos from the food trucks at Fort Mason. When I realized the B-2 was arriving, I took off at a full sprint towards the end of the pier, only to see the silent black wedge floating by over the bay. Oh well, there’s always next year.

A new member to the Fleet Week family was introduced: the F-22 Raptor Stealth Air superiority fighter. And that baby could do aerobatics that I though were impossible, including coming to an apparent mid-air stop, along with maneuvers I would later learn were called the Herbst maneuver, Pugachev’s Cobra, and the Kulbit. The U.S. Air Force claims that the mach 2+ Raptor cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter types.

Most of the photos I took were during the Friday practice flights. I watched Sunday’s show from my balcony to retreat from the swarms of 100,000s of people, which pushed the city to her limit. (In addition to Fleet Week, we had the America’s Cup World Series races, a Bluegrass festival, a Jazz festival, Columbus Day celebrations and parade, Veg Fest, a film festival, the Giants NL division series, the 49ers game, multiple street fairs, several urban treasure hunts, and the remnants of Oracle world.)

Retract Gear
5 Pack

The Blue Angels over San Francisco Bay.

Her Howlin\' Roar

Blue Angles #7 over San Francisco


A P-51 Mustang, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-22 Raptor in tight formation.

Transonic #1

A US Navy F-18 creating transonic shock waves over San Francisco.

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1906 Earthquake Mashup Prints & Book Update Wed, 03 Oct 2012 03:52:13 +0000 Thank you for the overwhelming response to my 1906 + Today Earthquake photo mashups. In one week in August 2012, the story of my photo mashups hit the front pages of dozens of major websites including MSN, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Digg, Reddit, Popular Science, the Daily Mail UK, SFGate, KQED, Laughing Squid, the New York Daily. At last count, the photos have been featured on over 400 websites. I’ve been doing TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews from around the world and trying to reply to messages, comments, and tweets by the thousands, but I’m still far behind.

Two requests I’ve been seeing repeatedly is for prints and for a book. The good news is that some high-quality prints are now available and a book is in the works.frameandbook

Coming Soon: The Book

The book is a go, and now has its own page: Fade to 1906.

Prints Now Available

A limited selection of prints are now available from my 1906 + Today Earthquake photo mashups. Prints from this collection are printed by Smugmug partner Bay Photo and shipped directly to you using my full-resolution masters and contain no watermarks or borders. Prints are available in frame-ready sizes from 8×12″ all the way up to 24×36″. I’ve also made available float-mounted MetalPrints which I have in my own home and I can tell you they are awesome. Prices start at just $25 and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Please note that I cannot sign these prints as they are shipped directly to you from the photo lab. If the mashup photo you seek is not in the store, it is because either I do not yet have the right to commercially sell it from the owner of the original or it is of insufficient resolution to make a good print.

Browse available prints HERE.


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1906 + Today: The Earthquake Blend (Part II) Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:53:04 +0000 At 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906, San Franciscans woke up to a quick jolt. For the next 25 seconds, all was silent. And then it hit hard–42 seconds of intense shaking. Buildings fell, sinkholes in the streets opened up, railroad tracks bent, and collapsing bricks crushed cable cars sheltered for the night in the cable car barn. But the real damage had not even begun. It was the out-of-control fires that did 90% of the destruction to San Francisco. Over 30 fires, caused by ruptured gas mains, destroyed approximately 25,000 buildings on 490 city blocks. Worst of all, many were started when the military, untrained in the use of dynamite, attempted to demolish buildings to create firebreaks, which resulted in the destruction of more than 50% of the buildings that would have otherwise survived. The dynamited buildings themselves often caught fire. In all, the fires burned for four days and nights.

Mayor Eugene Schmitz put out an authorization for the federal troops and police to shoot and kill looters. Thousands of tents and temporary relief houses went up to house 20,000 displaced people. The city was in disarray. But photography was a common hobby by 1906 and thousands of photos have survived to this day. One photographer even flew his 46 pound camera on a kite to get aerial shots of the aftermath. Some color photographs have even been found.

It’s been two years since I posted the first installment of this series, 1906 + 2010: The Earthquake Blend (Part I). I kept running into delays. In the case of the Valencia St. Hotel, I had to return to the scene on Valencia between 18th and 19th four times before I managed to get it right. There’s quite a bit of conflicting information of exactly where this building once stood. And just when I was about to wrap things up, my dad announced that he had unearthed a local magazine published in late 1906 loaded with earthquake-aftermath photos that I had never seen in any library or online collection. On the plus side, I’ve got plenty more material for a part three now.

To put these photos together, I first create a catalog of historical photos that look like they have potential to be blended. Unfortunately most of these photos end up on the digital cutting room floor because there’s simply no way to get the same photo today because either a building or a tree is in the way. Once I get a good location, I get everything lined up just right. My goal is to stand in the exact spot where the original photographer stood. Doing this needs to take into account equivalent focal length, how the lens was shifted, light conditions, etc. I take plenty of shots, each nudged around a bit at each location. Just moving one foot to the left changes everything.

UPDATE: Many new prints now available and Fade to 1906 (the book) is coming soon.

Here is part two of the series (part one is here):


People walk beneath Old Saint Mary's Cathedral, which survived the quake but was gutted by the fire


Cars park in front of the brand new US Courthouse which fared well in the quake.


People walk up California St amid charred scraps of lumber


People walk through rubble on Geary St


People cross Market Street in front of the destroyed Hearst Building


People stroll by the original adobe Mission Dolores which survived, while the brick church next door was destroyed


A bicyclist rides towards the fallen Valencia St. Hotel and a huge sinkhole that has opened up in the street


The Conservatory of Flowers stands undamaged as now-homeless citizens camp in a tent shelter


People mill around Lotta's Fountain, which served as a meeting place after the quake


Cable car #455 rests halfway in the partially-detroyed cable car barn


Cars travel down S. Van Ness, which has buckled after the quake.


Horse carriages and cars park in front of Lafayette Park while a destroyed city looms in the background

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Historical Notes

  • The Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse was completely dismantled and rebuilt from 1982-1984. The Washington Street facade depicted is different in design than that of 1906, but the garage opening and tracks are in the exact same place to the best of my knowledge.
  • Lotta’s Fountain has moved around over the years. It was raised eight feet in 1916, smashed by a drunk driver in 1954, moved 10 feet in 1975, and completely stripped down and rebuilt in 1998. I lined it up the best I could, but it was obvious when I was overlaying the photos that things weren’t perfect. The Palace Hotel in the background was demolished after the quake and rebuilt to the “new” Palace Hotel that I’ve blended with the old one.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is 75! Mon, 11 Jun 2012 16:36:21 +0000
My favorite bridge is 75. Not only is it my favorite bridge, but I’ve always considered the Golden Gate Bridge one of the crowning achievements of mankind. It is a masterpiece of Art Deco design, perfect down to every detail and a symbol of incredible engineering achievement. No matter how many times I walk, ride, or drive across the span, it never grows old. There’s a magical feeling to a nighttime walk up the hill towards Battery Spencer in Marin and seeing the lighted bridge appear over the hill’s crest with the city twinkling as a backdrop. It’s one of the seven wonders of the modern world and I would argue it’s the most magnificent of the list.

75th Birthday Bash

After the debacle of opening the entire bridge to pedestrians on the 50th anniversary, the 75th anniversary went off swimmingly. My dad proudly displayed his 75 year-old Rolls Royce on Crissy Field while bands entertained throughout the day. I hauled around 45 pounds of photo gear all day to get some shots of the fireworks show. We headed down to the roadway to Fort Point to get close to the fireworks, encountering surprisingly few people down there. And no one had a radio so the show had a strange eerie feel as we watched it with no music soundtrack, just booms and foghorn blares. It was nice to see what the show looked like with the full soundtrack (not my video):

Strain at 50

The bridge’s 50th anniversary didn’t go quite as smoothly. For the first time in 50 years, the bridge’s roadway was opened to pedestrians. The people arrived. And they kept arriving. Organizers planned for a maximum

of 50,000 people. 800,000 to a million people showed up. A sea of gridlocked bodies squished together so tightly it was impossible to go anywhere but flow onward to the span. I was one of them. Many suffered from nausea and claustrophobia, but the bridge had bigger problems that day.

Here’s a picture I took at the 50th anniversary holding the camera over my head. We were packed like sardines.

Here’s a picture I took at the 50th anniversary holding the camera over my head. We were packed like sardines.

A potential disaster was brewing. Maximum load on the bridge in bumper-to-bumper traffic is 2,000 lbs/ft. The bridge was designed to withstand a maximum 5,700 lbs/ft. On May 24, 1987 the bridge was strained under a 6,000 lbs/ft load from the crushing weight of the unexpected crowd. The bridge’s normal bowed-arc flattened and even bowed down a bit in one section. The bridge’s vertical cables near the towers flapped in the 17mph wind while the cables toward the center of the span were stretched tighter than ever.

Structural engineers still debate how near collapse the bridge came that day.

An Interesting History

The bridge’s chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, led the funding, engineering, and construction of the bridge and you’ll find his name everywhere for his achievements. But he didn’t design the bridge you see today. Strauss’ blueprint for the bridge’s design depicted a utilitarian eyesore of cantilevered mishmashed steel, a design that was thankfully trashed.

The actual designer of the bridge is a name virtually obliterated from history. A man named Charles Ellis designed every elegant detail of the bridge down to the rivet placement. Charles Ellis’ name is nowhere to be found on the bridge’s credits on the south tower plaque. It’s an interesting and controversial history. If you pick up a book or catch a documentary on the bridge’s design, you’ll see the bridge in a whole new light.

Sounds of the Bridge

When the fog comes in, the bridge sings out in sweet harmony with rhythmic fog horns to guide ships safely through Golden Gate Straight. The horns are so loud that I can hear them nearly halfway across the city when I’m jogging laps at Kezar Stadium. Two short higher-pitched blasts at midspan followed by a deep wail from the south tower pier at 20 second intervals. Walk or ride to the south tower on a foggy day to feel the bone-rattling blast of the dual 4′ airhorns at the base of the south tower. The soothing harmony of the horns is one of my favorites sounds of the city.

The Fog Horns


The Bridge in Pictures

I’ve taken thousands of photos of the bridge over the years. Here are a few from different angles:

One Moment Before We Cross

Celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary with a spectacular firework show.

The Voice of Raze and Ruin

Supermoon rise May 24, 2013 over San Francisco.

South Tower
Speed Limit 45
North Tower Roadway
North Tower
Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands

The north end of the span disappears into the Marin Headlands.

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco
Bay Area From the Air: Golden Gate Bridge
Lamp and Tower
Under the Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge North Tower
Up the Cables
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