Shawn Clover San Francisco and the World Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:19:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.

]]> 3
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
Swipe left or right to view photos:
]]> 1
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.

Swipe left or right to view photos:
]]> 1
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.


]]> 4
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

Swipe left or right to view photos:

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.
]]> 182
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
Swipe left or right to view photos:
]]> 2
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Pool House Fri, 24 Feb 2012 03:57:31 +0000
It was the largest pool in the world and a San Francisco icon. At 1000 feet long by 160 feet wide and holding 6.5 million gallons of filtered saltwater pumped in from the Pacific Ocean across the street, the pool was so huge that the lifeguards patrolled in rowboats.

The Fleishhacker Pool opened in 1925 and welcomed thousands of daily swimmers and hosted national swim meets with thousands of spectators. The 25 cent admission fee (15 cents for children) bought swimmers pool admission, access to the pool house’s dressing rooms and showers, as well as a bathing suit and towel for the day. Admittance also included access to the mammoth pool house’s cafeteria and childcare center.

But with the cold ocean fog frequently blanketing the pool, the novelty began to wear off as shivering pool-goers sought out warmer climates. Attendance dropped and the pool’s cost to the city climbed. In 1943, the pool found a new purpose as it served as an ideal training ground for American troops training for amphibious beach assaults. After the war, maintenance on the pool was severely underfunded by the city, and in 1971, the pool closed forever and the pool house was boarded up.

In 1999, the city turned over the pool and its accompanying ramshackle pool house to the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo filled in the huge pool with gravel and converted the space to a parking lot. But the pool house has endured. The imposing structure still stands between the Great Highway and the zoo’s parking lot. The dilapidated building is riddled with holes in its soggy roof and is covered in moss and graffiti. A fence surrounds the derelict building with warnings of arrest for trespassing.

The haunting interior of the Fleishhacker pool house is like a scene straight out of a horror movie. Graffiti decorates every inch of the crumbling walls and scraps of bedding material, syringes, and cans of spent spray paint litter the dirt-covered wobbly floors. Homeless huddle in sleeping bags behind creaky doors in the dozens of rooms throughout the huge complex. Glowing beams of light infiltrate the collapsed rooftops and broken windows into the upper levels of the poolhouse. The staircase down to the basement takes a descent into a damp, pitch-black concrete expanse where laundry machines once sterilized towels and swimsuits for happy swimmers.

The future of the old Fleishhacker pool house is in limbo as its new owners debate what to do with it. For now, it continues to stand as a haunting edifice of San Francisco’s past.

 UPDATE: On Dec 1, 2012 the Fleishhacker pool house burned to the ground. It was a sad day for San Francisco history. A month later the building’s remains were demolished and removed, except for one small facade section which was preserved as a memorial for the building and is now visible from the zoo parking lot. Investigators deemed the fire “suspicious.”
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
My Silent Fears Have Gripped Me

Inside the old Fleishhacker Poolhouse.

Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Inside the Old Fleishhacker Poolhouse
Swipe left or right to view photos:

Historical Photos

The Fleishhacker Pool and pool house. Courtesy SF History Center, SF Public Library.


]]> 7
Welcome to Drawbridge: The Bay Area’s Ghost Town Wed, 01 Feb 2012 03:53:29 +0000
Welcome to Drawbridge, CA
Population: 0
Elevation: 7 ft and sinking

Over a hundred years ago it was a bustling town and weekend getaway destination. Today Drawbridge is a peaceful wetland sanctuary with strewn remains of the the old town’s structures slowly collapsing and sinking into the bay. It is the only ghost town in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It all started in 1876. A tiny cabin was built on Station Island 2 1/2 miles north of Alviso for a drawbridge operator for the South Coast Pacific Railroad’s line connecting Newark and San Jose. Before long, the drawbridge operator’s friends began to join him for some whiskey drinking, hunting, and fishing. Passersby riding the train saw all the fun to be had out in the secluded marshlands, and soon it became a regular train stop. By the 1880s, the tiny town would see 1,000 visitors flocking to its tucked away paradise on weekends for hunting and fishing.

By 1926, the town had reached its heyday, having grown to 90 buildings, many with wells and electricity. The residents split into two communities: The “stuck-up” Protestants lived in North Drawbridge, and the wilder Catholics resided in South Drawbridge. While quite a bit of feuding ensued, there were also “tide parties” where residents would row to neighbors’ houses for parties at high tide.

But as things were taking off for Drawbridge, the end was already looming. Booming construction in nearby San Jose pumped millions of gallons of water and raw sewage into the wetlands. Drawbridge began to sink…and stink. The nearby salt industry also grew and the waterfowl fled for a less salty environment, leaving the hunters with nothing to hunt. In 1955 the trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge, and everyone moved away…all but two last residents, that is. Charlie Luce and Nellie “Shotgun” Dollin refused to leave and fired upon anyone who dared approach them. They were gone by 1979. Drawbridge was a ghost town.

I set out for an impromptu trek to Drawbridge one warm winter afternoon, completely unprepared for an urban exploration journey. As the sun began to dip toward the horizon, I set off down the rocky trail with a camera and tripod slung over my shoulder. As the miles wore on, the sights and city noise of Fremont diminished on the horizon as the nature of the bay’s magnificent wetlands came alive. The old drawbridges for which the town was named have been replaced by modern rail bridges currently traversed by the frequent Altamont Commuter Express train. Getting to the town involves crossing one of the narrow bridges, wide enough only for the width of the 70 mph train. Reminiscent of the infamous train bridge crossing scene in Stand By Me, I stood at the end of the bridge looking off to the distance in both directions for any sign of a train. I moved onward. Exactly midway across the bridge, I hear it–the wail of a train horn. Traaaaaain!!! My walk turned to a trot as the flickering headlight of the train brightened. I made it across with time to spare.

With not a soul to be found, only the sounds of rustling wetland vegetation and the honking of hundreds of species of waterfowl filled the empty air. I spent a good hour exploring the twenty or so dilapidated remains of old gun clubs, a hotel, and houses. It’s the kind of place you can just sit and stare, soaking up the awe-inspiring scene of birds by the tens of thousands moving about. But with the sun slipping out of sight with nothing more than an eyelash of a moon in the sky, it was time for me to begin my flashlight-less journey back.

Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town

The sun sets in Drawbridge, CA.

Silence Unbroken

Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town

Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Drawbridge, CA: The Bay Area's Ghost Town
Swipe left or right to view photos:
Drawbridge is now part of the US National Wildlife Refuge and a part of the largest wetland restoration ever attempted. They could have restored the town’s old buildings and turned it into a tourist attraction, but the feds made the right decision here: let nature grasp the remains of the tattered town and reclaim her land. Experiencing the beauty of these wetlands firsthand, I knew this was the only way to go. Within the next few decades, all sign of human habitation here will completely disappear.

Note that Drawbridge is now completely off limits to the public. The only way to see it is aboard either the Amtrak Capitol or Altamont Commuter Express train which pass through daily.

]]> 8 China: Land of Dragons, Emperors, and 1.3 Billion People Thu, 22 Dec 2011 05:56:49 +0000
After nearly two weeks of braving the rain and snow, feasting on donkey meat and chicken feet, inhaling pea-soup smog, and running through the streets being chased by shopkeepers, we have survived China. (And why does everyone ask if I made it home alive? Do foreigners tend to vanish when they visit China?) The city streets are jam-packed with horn-blaring cars rushing to squeeze into every conceivable gap in the streets. And the pedestrians scramble to dodge them: the vehicle is the king-of-right-of-way here.

Yet despite all the furious-paced craziness of Beijing and Shanghai, China is a country of stunning cultural heritage. The palaces are magnificent down to every detail. Walking the courtyards of the Forbidden City is like taking a majestic journey through a turbulent history. And only by trekking over miles of the Great Wall can you appreciate its magnitude as it snakes over distant hills to a pinpoint on the horizon. Modern Beijing and Shanghai possess ultra-modern architecture and sleek high-speed maglev and bullet trains.

Despite the photo-challenging elements of smog, snow, and rain, I think I managed to pull of a few decent shots of the people, ornate palaces, and ultra-modern architecture of Beijing and Shanghai:

Radiating Shafts of a Passing Day

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests has four inner, twelve middle and twelve outer pillars, representing the four seasons, twelve months and twelve traditional Chinese hours.

Some Bright-Eyed and Crazy, Some Frightened and Lost

This green guy adorns one of the structures in the Temple of Heaven complex.

Temple of Heaven

The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor.

Under Tiananmen

Line 1 of the Beijing subway arrives at Tiananmen Square-East station.

As the Years Will Testify

Chinese tourists take a break outside the Forbidden City.

Blending Harmony

The Gate of Blending Harmony from the Inner Golden River Bridges in the Forbidden City.

Gate of Supreme Harmony

One of the massive bronze dragons guarding the Gate of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.

Fire Extinguisher

Cast in the 1400s, these giant pots held water for firefighting.

But Don't Think Twice

Inside the Forbidden City.

Looks Like I'm Here to Stay

Inside the Forbidden City.

You Shout and No One Seems to Hear

The Temple of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. This was the center of the universe in old China.

The Sunshine Peaking Through

A bedroom in the Forbidden City in Beijing.

And as the Fear Grows

Police officer, Beijing, China.

Street Eats

A food vendor on the streets of Beijing.

A Place to Call Her Own

On the streets of Beijing.

Street Food #2

Various insects insects as a delicacy on the streets of Beijing.

Street Food #1

A street food chef on Wangfujing Xiaochi Jie (Small Eats Street) in Beijing, China.

At the Center Of the Fury #2

A mall in Beijing.

Basic Beijing Wheels

On the streets of Beijing.

Winter Stroll
A Cuboid of Electric Blues

Inside the Beijing Olympics Water Cube.

I Was Made For Chasing Dreams

Inside the Beijing Olympics Water Cube.

Waiting On Cloud Nine

Inside the Beijing Olympics Water Cube.

Dreams Again I Recall

A waterslide park in the Beijing Olympic Water Cube.

Where Rays Of Liquid Shine

Outside the Beijing Olympics Water Cube.

In the Empty Air

The Beijing Olympics Bird's Next stadium on a quiet Fall night.

Nested Dreams

The Beijing Olympics Bird's Nest with snow on the ground outside the gates.

Unfurled Beneath a Clear Blue Sky

Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.

Of Fortification and Division

Both the outer and inner parapets of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China are crenelated with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides - a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall.

All Along the Watchtower

One of 22 watchtowers along the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China.

Spirit Tower

At the Ming Tombs in Beijing.

Hall of Eminant Favor

At the Ming Tombs in Beijing.

To Dominate the Impossible

A dragon carved into the stairways of the Hall of Eminent Favor in the Ming Tombs.

Long As I Can See the Light

Apartment buildings in Beijing.

Drying In the Color Of the Evening Sun

A panda bear sleeps at the Beijing Zoo.

Yearning for This World

The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake.

A Night of Reflection Hits

The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing is said to look like an egg floating on water, or a water drop.

Shine the Light on Me

The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing has titanium shell broken by a glass curtain in north-south direction that gradually widens from top to bottom.

Forever Let Them Fall on Me

Yuan Ming Yuan gardens in Beijing.

That Time is Right

On a partially-frozen lake in Yuan Ming Yuan gardens in Beijing.

Fix Your Mind on a Crystal Day

A bridge in the Summer Palace complex in Beijing.

The Unsinkable Unfloatable

The Marble Boat, also known as the Boat of Purity and Ease is a lakeside pavilion on the grounds of the Summer Palace in Beijing, China.

Outside in the Distance

Boats parked on Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace complex, Beijing.

A Vague Haze of Delerium

The Long Corridor is a covered walkway in the Summer Palace in Beijing, China. First erected in the middle of the 18th century, it is famous for its length (728 m) in conjunction with its rich painted decoration of more than 14,000 paintings.

Here Yearning for This World

Snow-covered rooftops in the Summer Palace, Beijing.

Will the Plot Ever Twist?

One of many stairways climbing up Longevity Hill in the Summer Palace in Beijing.

I Felt I Had Used up My Quota of Yearning

A worker rests in the Summer Palace, Beijing.

By Chance Two Separate Glances Meet

A woman roasts yams on the streets of Beijing.

Here Today and Gone

A metro arrives in one of the train terminals in the Beijing Airport.


Inside the Beijing Airport.

Save Tonight, Forget Tomorrow

The streets of Shanghai, China.

Of Gargantuan Tinyness

The centerpiece of the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum is a huge scale model of the city of Shanghai, showing all existing and approved buildings through 2020.

Trying to Keep Our Feelings Off the Street

A man reads a newspaper on the streets of Shanghai.

So Tell Me That You'll Stay

A bicycle chained to a building on the streets of Shanghai.

In the Empire of the Senses

The futuristic metropolis of Pudong in Shanghai, China.

And Now the Dark Begins

Traveling by cable car through the strange and wild Bund Tunnel under the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

Up and We Stand Above the Crowd

Mega skyscrapers in Shanghai.

Together We Stand

Two window washers work on the side of the World Financial Center, the 4th tallest building in the world

If You Only Knew the Power Of the Dark Side

Looking down the spiraling atrium of the 88-story Jin Mao tower.

The Ground I Rise to Grace

Lights low and high in the Pudong district of Shanghai.

Through the Roof of the Night

Cars pass through a roundabout under the Oriental Pearl TV Tower | Pudong, Shanghai, China

To Realms Beyond the Night

A futuristic bridge overhead in Pudong, Shanghai.

Gliding High Into the Sky

Two new sculptures resembling the Rolls Royce Flying Lady in Lujiazui Central Green Space with the World Financial Center (left) in Pudong, Shanghai, China

All Around Us Can't You See?

The pedestrian mall of Nanjing Road, Shanghai.

Tomorrow is Such a Long Time Away

A couple takes shelter from the rain under a huge sculpture in People's Square, Shanghai.

Give Me Shelter

A man stands in contemplation in Old Town Shanghai.

This Irresistible Grasp

Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai.

A State Of Bliss

Serene hallways of Yuyuan Gardens in Old Town Shanghai.

By the Morning Light

A peaceful section of the 16th century Yu Yuan garden in Old Town Shanghai

In the Timeless Maze

Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai.

Rush to Slow Down

Monorail shuttles whisk passengers through the Beijing Airport.

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]]> 2 The Old Abandoned Bayshore Roundhouse Sat, 05 Nov 2011 12:37:45 +0000 Surrounded by barbed-wire fence lies an old Bay Area relic: the abandoned railroad roundhouse in Bayshore, just south of San Francisco.

The Bayshore Roundhouse was built between 1907 and 1910. Originally designed as a 40-stall Roundhouse, only 17 stalls were built under cover, the remaining outdoor tracks were called “Whisker” tracks.

From 1911 to 1958 the Roundhouse, rail yard, track crews and shops employed as many as 3,000 people. Following the end of Steam power in 1958, the Roundhouse was used for stabling diesel locomotives. The workforce was gradually reduced and the shop buildings closed. The last day of work at Bayshore was Monday, October 25, 1982. In 1989 the Bayshore yards were sold. In October 2001 a fire started on one side of the Roundhouse, but was contained by the quick action of the Brisbane Fire Department and Brisbane Public Works Department.

Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Bayshore Roundhouse
Now It's Time To Say Goodbye

The abandoned Bayshore Roundhouse.

Bayshore Roundhouse
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