Category: Storytelling

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A Valentine’s Day Story

A favored walking route from Old Trolley Barn Park is the alley between Alabama and Florida streets. Occasionally, Pace (pronounced paw-chay, according to his owner) appears—and, on some days, Coon or Ghost (both nicknames) in an adjacent, expansive yard. Today, I passed by a woman either emptying recyclables or trash (not sure which) and she wished: “Happy Valentine’s Day”. She was cheerful, which emotion a higher-pitch voice accentuated. Her apartment overlooks the alley, and she recognized me from looking out her windows on other days.

The 35-year-old Salt Lake City native has resided in San Diego for about a decade. We talked about the terrible expense of living here, mainly housing, which she offsets by having a roommate and adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom’s several SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns put her on unemployment twice, which led her to become entrepreneurial, rather than depressed and destitute. Adapting her mom’s recipe, she bakes and sells chocolate chip cookies by the dozen—$15 a box.

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Nature Shaves the Bearded Tree

Over the past year or so, I regret not having taken photos of trees that were unceremoniously and needlessly cut down. There is a relentless culling that makes no sense when Southern California society obsesses about Climate Change. Aren’t carbon-dioxide-breathers that exhale oxygen good for the health of the planet and everything living on it? Ah, yeah. So why mercilessly hack them to pieces?

Another tree in my San Diego neighborhood of University Heights is in peril of being chopped down—but unlike the others maybe for legitimate safety reasons. Few months ago, during heavy rains and winds, some of the dead fronds covering the trunk ripped away about fourth-tenths the distance to the top. Overnight and throughout this brisk Monday, winds raged 48-64 kilometers per hour (30-40 mph) with fairly consistent gusts to 97 kph (60 mph). The few fallen fronds are now many, exposing the trunk. When viewed a half-block or more away, the top portion of the tree leans from the section laid mostly bare.

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The Bee Tree

I am not a photographer and bear no illusions about ever being one. My composition skills are raw, and rarely cooked, and I lack the post-production sense that someone else would use to create art. My camera, the Leica Q2, is professional grade and seemingly beyond my skills. But I handle the all-in-one well enough, and it is satisfying to use—enjoyable and versatile.

I am a storyteller, however, and use photos to mark moments or to illustrate a  narrative. Take as example the Featured Image (warning: 30GB file), which I captured today along Georgia Street between Lincoln and Polk in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/320 sec, 28mm; 11:36 a.m. PST. The original was portrait, but I cropped square.

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Flickr a Week 52a: ‘Where Mozart Lives’

Happy Christmas! For months, I searched for a holiday-specific, Creative Commons-licensed photo and found none that wowed me. Instead, we go non-traditional but other timely—when bow and string made merry music and smartphone distractions were beyond the imaginations of even the most prolific, prophetic science fiction writers.

Roman Boed captured self-titled “Where Mozart Lives” on Dec. 28, 2017, using Leica M and Summilux-M 1:1.4/50 ASPH lens. The EXIF doesn’t identify specific camera model. Vitals: f/1.4, ISO 3200, 1/60 sec, 50mm. The string quartet portrait is a keeper for atmosphere, composition, film-like texture, and timelessness (just ignore the lamp’s pull-string).

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Flickr a Week 52: ‘Llama Love’

What’s not to like about a child receiving a little “Llama Love“? Ian Sane used Canon EOS 5DS R and EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens to capture the self-titled portrait on March 23, 2019. Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 250, 1/800 sec, 50mm.

About the moment: “Here’s my granddaughter, Penelope, getting a kiss from an unlikely source at Riverfront Park in Salem, Oregon. Full disclosure: I love her wild looking hair”.

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The Tree Tragedy

I can’t speak for my wife, but to me a pair of benefits marshaled my interest in choosing our current apartment: The front windows and what I call the “squirrel tree” majestically before them—as expected, providing plentiful wildlife entertainment for our cats Cali and Neko to watch; for the humans, too. Yesterday, the management company overseeing the property snuffed out magic, and life.

Time is immeasurable this year, thanks to triple-P: pandemic, politics, and protests (e.g., SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2, also known as COVID-19; Election 2020; and racial riots). As such, I don’t recall how long ago the building manager spoke to me about the tree—two or more months, seems like). He said that the perennial would likely be dramatically trimmed back; being top heavy, the branches pulled the trunk into brickwork before it (see first photo). Some discussion drifted to removal, which I opposed, promising in threatening tone: “The day they cut down that tree is the day I give notice”.

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Flickr a Week 46: ‘Coming to America: Pursuing the American Dream’

I looked through several thousand Creative Commons-licensed photos to find one to use for Veteran’s Day. Nothing moved me more than self-titled “Coming to America: Pursuing the American Dream“—active serviceman Personnel Specialist 1st Class Patrick Mbayoh. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Hall made the moment aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on July 3, 2020, using Nikon D800 and 50mm f/1.4 lens. Vitals: f/8, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 50mm.

According to U.S. Pacific Fleet, which joined Flickr in October 2009 and whose Photostream is source of the image, Mbayoh is “assigned to the ‘Kestrels’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137”. A refugee from the Sierra Leone Civil War, Mbayoh arrived in “Brooklyn, New York, in 1998”, Hall explains. “Moving to the U.S. gave Mbayoh the opportunity to pursue a life-long dream”. Joining the Navy in September 2000 opened a path to earning a college education and to repaying the nation that harbored him. The sailor gained “his American citizenship in 2003”, Hall adds. “He and his wife have a child and live in Lemoore, California. Mbayoh hopes to one day retire from the Navy and go back to school to gain his PhD”.

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Flickr a Week 43a: ‘Lunch, San Francisco 2018, GR II’

I accidentally came to the Photostream of Greg Parish by way of his compelling portrait “7“, which would have taken the Sunday spot if not for my discovering “Lunch, San Francisco 2018, GR II“; the self-title identifies year and make of the Ricoh camera. Vitals: f/8, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, 18.3mm; April 16.

What’s not to like? Clarity, color, composition, contrast, graininess, light, shadows, texture, and tilt are recipe for a street shot that’s as tasty as the noodles the subject soon will eat. Yummy.