Category: Storytelling

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The Stranger

This afternoon, after I crossed back into University Heights, carrying bananas in one hand, someone called from behind me. I turned to see a bearded fellow who had seen my strapped, slung-back Leica Q2. He asked if I would take his photograph—because he was interested in modeling. Ah, okay.

I responded cautiously, but welcomingly, because that’s the kind of delaying ruse a thief might use. But he seemed to be genuine enough, there was good distance between us, and I was situationally aware of his movements and my exit options along an extremely familiar route.

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For Kuma

This afternoon, I made a ceremonial walk along the paths and places Kuma used to go. Ten years ago today, around 6 a.m. PST, he looked up at me quizzically before slipping under the apartment building’s back gate. I let him out an hour earlier than typical, into darkness and without accompanying him into the alley as usual. My eyes never met his again. Kuma vanished.

Sixteen days later, San Diego city workers recovered his collar from a nearby canyon. The inference was clear: Coyote, as we suspected about Priscilla—a neighbor’s kitty that similarly disappeared 12 months earlier. She inspired his adoption.

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The Grillers

From the same Greenbelt, Md. church picnic as yesterday’s “Pooh Party“, we present another moment. I used Canon EOS 20D and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens to capture the Featured Image on Sept. 18, 2005. Vitals: f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, 70mm; 12:22 p.m. In Capture One 22 post-production I applied style “Oslo 1”, working from an original JPEG. The portrait is composed as shot.

If the prognosticators of climate doom get their way, grilling events like this will someday soon be but a memory. We will all consume protein-infused plant matter made to look like meat because—so they say—cows and chickens produce deadly global warming gases. Eh, and people don’t?

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Pooh Party

One of my posting goals for 2022 is more people photos. But my catalog of recent choices is paltry pickings, so I reach into the past for the Featured Image, which comes from a church picnic in Greenbelt, Md. on  Sept. 18, 2005. I used Canon EOS 20D and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens for the portrait. Vitals: f/8, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, 43mm; 12:18 p.m. EDT. Composed as shot.

This is the first photo published using Capture One 22. In post-production, I applied styles “Stockholm 1” and “Effect—Red Only”, working from a JPEG original.

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We End Twenty-Twenty-One with an Electric Story

The last post of the year fulfills one of my personal resolutions for 2021: Publish something here every day, and I have. The process proved beneficial for honing storytelling, which often constructed around one (or more) of my photographs. Rarely did I sit down to write with clear topic in mind; often the prose unfolded as a storytelling process anchored, sometimes loosely, by the illustration.

Similarly, my continual need to have something to write about encouraged me to look for objects to be topics, improving my photographic craft, too. I lack the sense of composition and style necessary to be a professional shooter. My eyes instead see stories in the things I capture. I stare in awe at the pros producing photos as art; I can’t.

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Annie and the Snowman

Merry Christmas! My wife poses with an inflatable along Madison Avenue, between Georgia Street and Park Blvd, in our neighborhood. I photographed kitty nicknamed Alcatraz nearby the same spot 10 months ago; early March 2021, the black and white appeared in my “Cats of University Heights” series.

I left Leica Q2 at home and so used iPhone 13 Pro to take the Featured Image—first of four and best of the lot. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/328 sec, 13mm; 10:31 a.m. PST, today. As you can see, the snowman is quite large, and the smartphone’s wide-angle lens let me capture the inflatable and surrounding scene for context. We had heavy rain for the holiday. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas…

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To See Differently

Two years ago a new optometrist recommended adding prisms to my eyeglass prescription in response to slight vertical misalignment in my vision. I was skeptical and made an appointment for another refraction with a doctor at the office that performed my cataract surgery. He confirmed slight double vision, but after attempting to make corrective adjustments with prisms he recommended against them. Their therapeutic value was uncertain, he concluded.

But the first optometrist was so insistent, when I returned to make my eyeglass order and the Varilux lenses came with satisfaction guarantee: The Essilor lab would make a new set should the prescription change—all within 90 days of purchase. I relented. The overall quality of the lenses satisfied so much that I decided to give my brain and eyes some time to adapt. But I never got to choose: The SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 pandemic made the decision for me, as my wife and I hunkered down during February 2020 and lockdowns started weeks later.

Today, I switched lenses, with a new prescription. Prisms are gone.

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For Want of Two Dollars

On Nov. 28, 2021, I pulled into the local gas station to fill up the tank. Because debit card-skimmers are frequent enough concerns around San Diego, I always pay with cash and usually even bills (e.g., tens or twenties). But uncharacteristically, I only had two fives and eight singles—or so I thought.

I counted in the car and then on the way to the Valero’s door. When handing the money to the cashier, I stated the amount and pump number. Outside, filling stopped at $16—and I thought: “How unusual to top off at an even number”. I walked inside for my change, but there was none.

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Homeless in Hillcrest

This gentleman is one of the many street dwellers seen today, when I walked from University Heights to neighboring Hillcrest on an errand. He caught my attention for what the Featured Image fails to reveal: The large load of belongings on the cart and spread somewhat down the sidewalk. He also was overdressed for the unseasonably warm day—25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), when I used Leica Q2 Monochrom to take the street shot from the hip. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 2:20 p.m. PST.

While you might think otherwise from the profile and apparent skin color, he is a white guy. Anyone living long under the San Diego sun will become darker, with respect to skin tone; dirt and grime contribute to the change. This characteristic distinguishes the truly indigent from people begging for money; the grifter will often send off a benefactor with “God bless you”. The others offer thanks, with a sincerity of appreciation that is unmistakably authentic.

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Chickenbone Slim and the Biscuits

I came upon a blues band playing outside our auto mechanic’s shop on Oct. 16, 2021, while walking to fetch more Orijen dry food for our cats Cali and Neko. The place is closed on Saturdays (and Sundays, too). I listened for a bit before continuing along Adams Avenue, in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood, to Pet Me Please.

My wife met me with the car to take home the 12-pound (5.4 kg) bag of kibble. I plodded back to the service station, where I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image and companion, iPhone 13 Pro to film the one-minute video clip, and my hands to pay for and grab Chickenbone Slim CD “Sleeper”.

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Parents Protest San Diego School District Vaxx Mandates

Late afternoon, my wife asked: “What is all that honking?” Annie was right. Car horns could be heard in the distance, occasionally and repeatedly tooting. We turned to one another flummoxed over the sudden roar of cheering that reminded of sporting events. What was going on nearby—and where? I left to find out, following the sounds that piqued our mutual curiosities.

Our University Heights apartment is located about .8-kilometer (one-half mile) walking distance from administrative offices for San Diego Unified School District, where a sizable crowd had gathered with picket signs. As I arrived, a woman’s voice bellowed over loudspeakers advocating against vaccine mandates and for parents’ rights to choose for their children—not the government nor SDUSD. What I didn’t understand: The school board scheduled a 5 p.m. PDT meeting to vote on a proposal requiring staff and some students to be vaccinated. How ironic: They cowered in isolation via Zoom, while parents protested in person.

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You Can’t Call 911

This payphone is one of many things out of place along University Avenue in downtown Hillcrest. At my request, today, Annie dropped me in the San Diego neighborhood when she went out on an errand. I walked home, for a change in scenery. Eh, what a change.

As I stood at the stoplight, waiting to cross Sixth Avenue, something tumbled end over end over University and landed in the gutter across the way. Then a skinny, shirtless, suntanned dude strutted across the street—haughty and boisterous. He picked up what looked like a metal pipe or handle and began twirling it combat-style. I pushed the walk button to cross University rather than Sixth.