Author: Joe Wilcox

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Happy Earth Day 2021

Good luck finding the field of focus in the cluttered Featured Image, captured today using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/2, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 3:01 p.m. PDT. Location is nearby the house where appeared Calm, who was profiled in my “Cats of University Heights” series in February 2019.

Think of the photo as my metaphorical commentary on so-called Climate Change theory, which truth isn’t so clear as political proponents of the science would have everyone believe. The hubris of humankind is to put ourselves at the center of everything—and that’s as much taking blame as claiming credit. Much is clear that the planet undergoes a warming trend. Focus on carbon emissions identifies sole cause and people to blame. But the picture is more complex, or so I say, like the one here presented for your viewing.

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The Sweeper

Two days ago, outside the same pharmacy where on March 18, 2021 lay a man death-like, another seemingly street-living gent swept debris and refuse. If only I had context but do not. As my wife and I entered the building, he cleaned up nearby his presumed belongings partially visible in the foreground of the Featured Image. He used a fairly good-condition broom, and there was nearby one of those jumbo, yellow, industrial dustpans—similar to this Quickie model, if not the same one. The well-weathered gentleman moved slowly about his task but deliberately.

When exiting, we could see that the sweeper had moved closer to the street. As we passed, I snapped three quick hip shots, using Leica Q2. This wild portrait is best of the trio. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 2:32 p.m. PDT.

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Day of the Dead Rabbits

Rushing out the door, on April 18, 2021, lugging Leica Q2 Monochrom, I stopped: suddenly seemed that our resin rabbits would look quite good in black and white. Hence the Featured Image. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 640, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 6:49 p.m. PDT.

On Halloween 2019, my wife repainted them in her version of a Day of the Dead motif. The cobwebs collected about them add ambience to the photo. Don’t you think? They are supposed to be creatures of the, ah, nice netherworld. Our bunnies were good and would never go to Hell. But they might stand guard.

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What’s Your Definition of Temporary?

I captured the Featured Image on March 18, 2021, presuming to never need to publish. How mistaken. As of today, more than 13 months after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued his first lockdown order and nearly a week after San Diego County moved into the (supposedly) less-restrictive Orange Tier, the Wells Fargo in Hillcrest is still closed.

You got to love that “branch temporarily closed” sign and wonder why it all seems so permanent. For anyone banking there or thinking that the state really is opening up, don’t be a fool: the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 misery is far from over—and I don’t mean you ever becoming sick.

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Do Not Pass Go

I vaguely recall capturing the Featured Image, during my early days with the Olympus PEN E-P1, and being dissatisfied. But in reexamining the photo tonight, something about the juxtaposition of red and blue colors and the odd composition appeals to me. Perhaps there’s some subconscious message blaring from the overly-large STOP. Vitals: f/9, ISO 200, 1/250 sec, 42mm; 6:48 p.m. PDT, July 19, 2009.

I have no idea the exact location other than a reasonable guess of somewhere on the West side of Park Blvd. in San Diego’s University Heights Neighborhood.

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Her Heart Soars

As explained nearly three weeks ago, I tend towards thrifty shooting with a digital camera—in this instance Leica Q2. The Featured Image is only one of three captures—the other two at f/5.6 and f/8, with the latter greatly expanding the field of focus. But in the end, wisely or not, I chose the photo made wider open, because of how the painted bricks lead the eyes to the graphic. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/2500 sec, 28mm; 10:28 a.m. PDT, April 12, 2021. In post-production, I used DxO Perspective Efex to tweak the geometry.

The evening before, I encountered two of my neighbors walking their dog. The husband said that I would want to stop by his house “and bring your camera”. You can see why. The couple live on Meade below Georgia, and they are long-time University Heights residents—about 22 years, if I recall rightly.

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The Bearded Tree is Gone!

And that’s not the worst of the devastation. Nearly three months ago, I wondered about the fate of the mighty palm after high winds ripped fronds from the trunk. Then, unexpectedly, on the First Day of Spring, under the direction of cute cottages’ new owners, men with chainsaws started clearcutting a lush landscape of shrubs, succulents, and trees around the buildings. The bearded tree is the last to go.

Every nearby neighbor to whom I have spoken about the destruction of the urban jungle is shocked. No one can fathom why the massive deforestation. Late this afternoon, one homeowner, who has lived in University Heights for more than two decades, told me that water can’t be the reason. He and his wife maintain a lovely backyard of flowers, plants, and trees, without wasteful watering.

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If You Work (or Live) Here, I’m Jealous

On the same day, April 11, 2021, that my wife and I walked across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, we footed down 1st Avenue towards downtown. We wanted to reminisce about our delightful after-theater walk—planes flying low overhead to land—after watching Jesus Christ Superstar on stage at the San Diego Civic Center. That was Nov. 16, 2019, near the start of the 50th anniversary tour, which SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns would end earlier than the planned Aug. 30, 2020 final performance.

At the corner of First and Kalmia, we came across the magnificent structure that is the Featured Image (warning: 30MB file), captured using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/320 sec, 28mm; 12:44 p.m. PDT. I reduced exposure in post-production, should you feel that the photo is too dark; that’s deliberately done.

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The Cats of University Heights: Schroeder

The series‘ 399th feline is also the 63rd seen on Alabama between boundaries Adams and Lincoln. Why baffles me. But that works out to 16 percent of the total. Louisiana sightings rise, likewise Madison, but far fewer than the other street.

My wife and I happened upon Schroeder in the alley between Alabama and Mississippi just as his owner popped open a gate looking for him. He resides in the same home as Peanut and Rocky—and the mighty Monkey before he passed away three years ago.

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This Building…

Is gone—and two others with it, a residence and auto-repair shop. The owner waged a war with graffiti artists, which he (or she) eventually won. The place was repainted several times, despite appearing to be derelict, before being leveled by (presumably) new owners. By all appearances, another fine cathedral of unaffordable housing will rise in the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights, at the corner of El Cajon and Mississippi across the street from BLVD North Park (located in UH, not NP).

I shot the Featured Image on Feb. 25, 2018, using Leica Q; many times since then, I planned to update with something showing more of the corner. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 28mm; 1:19 p.m. PST. Best I can offer for now is the first of two companion captures—a stuffed bear, sitting on the diagonal corner. Photo comes from Leica M (Typ 262) on March 31, 2018. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/9.5, ISO 200, 1/350 sec, 50mm; 11:47 a.m. PDT.