Author: Joe Wilcox

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San Diego River, Mission Valley

While walking home from UltraStar Cinema in Mission Valley, after watching “Ad Astra” on opening day, I crossed over San Diego River along Mission Center Road. Ripples upon the water delighted my eyes, which demanded capturing the moment, and I did using iPhone XS.

The film, starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, is in essence about the consequences of solitary living—astronaut Roy McBride, his hero father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), or all the living creatures (including humans) of Planet Earth. Somehow, looking down the river—even with the roar of Friday afternoon rush hour behind me—I experienced a moment of welcome solitude, ennobled by having just seen “Ad Astra”. Hence, the Featured Image and its companion.

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The Cats of University Heights: Zephyr

Later the same day—Aug. 11, 2019—that I met Dusty, another black and white presented, but blocks away, along Monroe between Campus and North. Zephyr (real name) is a friendly, seven year-old shorthair that I hadn’t seen before that sunny Sunday afternoon.

The Featured Image, and its companion, come from iPhone XS, which increasingly gets more usage than ever did Google Pixel 3 XL when I owned one. I carry a real camera less often, too. Vitals for the first portrait, using the secondary lens: f/2.4, ISO 40, 1/122 sec, 6mm; 4:14 p.m. PDT. The other: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/1916 sec, 4.25mm; 4:13 p.m. Both pics are cropped 3:2.

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The Cats of University Heights: Sentry

About an hour before sunset, on Aug. 6, 2019, my wife and I spotted an orange tabby comically placed—or so it seemed to my dry, wry sense of humor. I snapped a quick pic using iPhone XS, and we moved along, as to not disturb the sleeper. Eight days later, the kitty opportunely presented in the same place; this time I carried along Fujifilm GFX 50R and Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens, which produced the Featured Image (warning: 20MB file). Vitals, aperture and shutter speed manually set: f/8, ISO 500, 1/125 sec, 63mm; 4:34 p.m. PDT.

If somebody was supposed to be on guard duty, he shouldn’t siesta on the job. Hehe. For reasons hopefully obvious, the shorthair earns nickname Sentry. We saw him on Madison near the corner of Cleveland.

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Be Blue, Buggy

There is something oh-so-stereotypical about 1960s-70s Volkswagens and Southern California. For sure, vintage VWs are commonly sighted, and weather is one reason. With so much sun and so little rain to accommodate them, Cal cars […]

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The Cats of University Heights: Leo

Sign of the unpublished kitties backlog: Moments made using Pixel 3 XL, which I sold to a surfer two months ago. The Google device is praised by gadget reviewers for its image quality—something that initially impressed me. But over time, I saw that the artificial intelligence used to enhance photos made them look, well, artificial. I am more satisfied with the consistently more-realistic pics produced by iPhone XS. But that’s topic for further exploration on another day.

For this fine Friday, let me introduce you to Leo (yep, real name), who lives on Mississippi between Madison and Monroe. He’s a rascal, known to traverse his home’s roof. Mmm, by climbing a tree, perhaps? I only have seen the blackie once, but his owner and I frequently chat. I captured Featured Image on April 13, 2019 at 10:47 a.m. PDT. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 52, 1/2347 sec, 4.44mm.

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The Cats of University Heights: Dusty

As my wife and I strolled down Campus on Aug. 11, 2019, a shorthair sighting drew us down memory lane. Two years earlier—almost to the day—I watched stagers unloading furniture for placement inside the property for sale on the corner, at Meade. The following evening, Aug. 15, 2017, feral kittens presented half-a-block away; the next night, neighborhood teens trapped/rescued them and their momma. Two weeks later, Annie and I made an accepted offer to buy what we called the Schoolhouse, because of its proximity to Birney Elementary. We withdrew weeks later.

Seeing the black and white by a sidewalk tree at the Schoolhouse property line surely surprised. I initially thought that he might be Captain Blackbeard, who lives another block down Meade at North. But close examination of facial markings, similar as they seem, show subtle but distinct differences.

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Rainbow Ribbon

While walking along Lincoln towards Vermont—and the bridge crossing Washington that separates University Heights from Hillcrest—a front yard sprinkler nabbed my attention, on Aug. 15, 2019. I passed by then turned back to capture the […]

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The Cats of University Heights: Sable

Meet the forty-fourth feline featured from Alabama street, between boundaries Adams and Polk—and, unexpectedly, third seen at the same property. (Sprout and Zeppelin Pom Pom are the others.) My wife caught glimpse of the blackie as we walked to Smart and Final for groceries on Aug. 12, 2019. Coming up with new nicknames for so many kitties, whenever the real ones aren’t known, gets harder as we go along. I dub this one Sable, for the dark-colored coat.

The Featured Image comes from iPhone XS. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/160 sec, 6mm; 9:11 a.m. PDT. Photo is lightly edited.

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Making Monarch Moments

Surely weather is major explanation: Monarchs are uncharacteristically present this summer. I see more around University Heights than any year since moving our family to San Diego in October 2007. I wondered while walking around the neighborhood: How effective a photographic tool could be Fujifilm GFX 50R for capturing butterflies? After all, composing is deliberate rather than quick, and the Fujinon GF63mmF.28 R WR lens isn’t specifically designed for macro (e.g. close-up) work. I have experimentally used the oversized camera as a street shooter—since acquiring it in February 2019 to replace my Leica M10, which a Mexican wedding photographer purchased from me late last year.

The massive medium-format sensor collects heaps of data, which makes shooting with a 50mm-equivalent prime lens surprisingly satisfying. In post-production, I can crop in close, retaining amazing detail—something that the Featured Image and first companion demonstrate. The 50R is able enough, and more. Question answered.

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The Cats of University Heights: Jester

Oddly, I have a backlog of kitties; suddenly sightings are numerous. A few are different furballs in the same location—like the fine specimen spotted in the same catio as King. Someone else might say that his majesty needs a queen, but I say a jester—hence the nickname.

I used iPhone XS to capture the Featured Image, which is about a 100-percent crop. In Apple Photos, I first edited then applied the Vivid Cool filter. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/94 sec, 6mm; 5:10 p.m., July 24, 2019. I have returned since, hoping to snag a better portrait with the camera. But on subsequent occasions, Jester reclined on the second level, which is obscured by vines.

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The Cats of University Heights: Topper

Google Pixel 3 XL may be gone, replaced by Apple iPhone XS, but some kitty portraits remain from the device to be added to the series. Simple reason: Backlog of sighted, and photographed, furballs. Where do they all come from? I snagged the Featured Image on May 28, 2019, along Louisiana approaching Adams from Madison. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 78, 1/7813 sec, 4.44mm; 4:04 p.m. PDT. The portrait is heavily edited, such as pulling back contrast, enhancing highlights, and cropping in a way that preserves some semblance of streaming sunlight.

I initially passed by the blackie, because of its distance up the stairs and concerns about shooting into the bright, afternoon sun. But backtracking, I snapped four quickies, choosing to use the one where the shorthair looks down at me. For position sitting, the beastie earns nickname Topper.

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Cock-of-the-Rock

Confession: I conduct a test—to see how search engines or organizational filters might censor this post, or my entire site, because of “cock” in the headline. Or will something quite unexpected happen: Surge in traffic because of indexing that brings porn searchers my way? Now that would be hilarious outcome—and not my purpose.

The title refers to the name of the bird that you see in the Featured Image and its companion: The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which is the national bird of Peru. He posed for my wife and I yesterday, during a San Diego Zoo visit. Vitals are the same for both portraits, which were taken using iPhone XS: f/2.4, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, 6mm; 12:50 p.m. PDT. The first is composed as shot; the other is cropped 3:2 and slightly recomposed. Neither is enhanced, or otherwise edited.