Category: Leica

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The Urban Pumpkin

Now here’s something you don’t see every day: A pumpkin growing among the decorative greenery-space separating sidewalk and street. My wife and I first came upon the thing sometime last week, while walking home from the grocery store (Smart and Final). Making the same journey today, we were surprised to see the odd round of orange undisturbed. Amazing.

What may not be apparent from the Featured Image (warning: 24MB file), which I captured using Leica Q2: The pumpkin grows precariously close to the street and entrance to a parking lot—on Alabama Street across from the Blvd North Park, which is really located in the less-trendy San Diego neighborhood of University Heights. But, hey, anyone living nearby Smart and Finally can claim to rightly be in North Park. Blvd is real-estate marketing fiction.

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The Cats of University Heights: Hope

SInce shooting the Featured Image and its companion on Oct. 3, 2017, I have long considered adding the tabby to the series but refrained. The mesh on the patio that turned it into a catio obscured too much, particularly given distance away. But like Candor, the kitty earns a place, on reconsideration; he (or she) is the third presented catio cat (King and Jester are the others).

The furball earns nickname Hope, for longing look and my hoping that the beastie still lives in the apartment (unlikely), which is along Carmelina Drive and behind Old Trolley Barn Park. I used Leica Q and iPhone 7 Plus to capture both portraits, respectively. Vitals for the first: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/250 sec, 28mm; 10:08 a.m. PDT. The other: f/2.8, ISO 20, 1/297 sec, 6.6mm; 10:04 a.m.

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Too Much for Some, Not Enough for Others

Today, while walking with my wife along Meade Avenue in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, I was reminded about the food giveaway still going on at Garfield Elementary. Four full cartoons of skim milk littered the sidewalk and, later, a twist-tied bag containing unopened cereal and other sugary breakfast eats that would appeal to children.

In mid-March, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of most businesses and all schools. While the state is now reopening and adults return to work, kids remain home—many with parents who are still furloughed or fired. San Diego County’s unemployment rate is a staggering 15 percent, up from about 3.5 percent before the lockdown precipitated by the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic. Select schools offer free food to needy families, and they are many.

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Why Watermelon?

As I crossed the Vermont Street Bridge from San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood to Hillcrest today, something strange stopped my morning walk. Why was there cut-up watermelon? Was it left for someone—perhaps the homeless gent wrapped in a blanket, lying still, and (likely) sleeping on the sidewalk outside the structure’s entrance? Was it a flavorless, abandoned breakfast? The slices looked fairly fresh and no flies swarmed about. So free from wildlife and human attention, the makeshift meal could have been the final feast of the apocalypse.

Update, June 19, 2020: Call me clueless! This morning, I showed the photo to my wife, who scolded: “You do know that there’s a stereotype about black people eating watermelon?” That’s news to me. “I love watermelon, and I don’t understand why there’s some kind of negative stereotype about it”. She, and me, is hyper-aware, given three weeks of protests about racism in America.

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Signs of Our Turbulent Times

Six minutes after seeing the squirrel treed by Bruce, I came upon something quite unexpected along the Florida-Georgia alley between Madison and Monroe in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. The Featured Image (warning 29MB file) needs no explanation—other than camera (Leica Q2) and vitals: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 10:15 a.m. PDT, today.

We started 2020 with a pandemic and subsequent, nearly-nationwide shutdown of most businesses and all schools. Just as states started to reopen, a black man (George Floyd) died in the custody of white police officers. People poured into the streets, protesting and rioting, in response. Seattle surrendered six blocks to vigilante demonstrators, who have cordoned off the area, which they claim to be a cop-free zone.

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The Cats of University Heights: Scamper

On May 29, 2020, as my wife and I walked through the perpendicular alley shortcutting between Campus and North, someone opening a garage door startled a ginger, which scampered (hence the nickname) away, with great stride and speed along the buildings and into a yard facing Meade. We circled around and found the kitty grooming, which he stopped long enough for a pose. I had hoped for a better photo on another day, but the skinny kitty hasn’t presented opportunity. The one you got is better than none.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image, which is more notable for the surroundings than cat portraiture. That’s the compromise I make using a camera with fixed, wide-angle lens. Cropping-in is no substitute for a telephoto (my favorite focal-length is 135mm prime, for whatever that information is worth to you). Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, 28mm; 4:34 p.m. PDT.

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Feel Free to Flee, Bud

Raging riots—er, protests—across the country shine spotlights on law enforcement, following release of citizen-captured video showing the death of George Floyd under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. A lifetime—oh, yeah, just eight days—has passed since the incident that precipitated looting, property destruction, and violence in major cities across America, including San Diego.

Is surveilling cops the new thing, in the wake of the alleged MPLS murder and its aftermath? I wonder. Today, as I walked through the alley separating Campus and North, flashing cop car lights along Monroe near Park caught my attention. Approaching, I saw some dude apparently filming what looked like an insignificant incident—something to do with a car that would later be towed. His iPhone pointed at one of the two “Protect and Serve” vehicles. I circled and captured four shots of him, using Leica Q2, from two different vantage points. Apparently, he saw me take the last photo, pulled back the smartphone, and walked off fairly fast—to the corner, around it, and away.

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The Incident on Cleveland Avenue

The overflowing mailboxes outside the US Post Office in Hillcrest seemed afternoon walk-reward enough until I came upon the ruckus along Cleveland Ave. between Tyler and Van Buren, which are in University Heights. As I approached from Washington Street, my eyes couldn’t reconcile a black mass moving amoeba-like on the sidewalk nearly two blocks ahead. Closing in, a line of parked cop cars hinted to what could only be a rather large number of San Diego police officers.

Residents looked on from the sidewalk, apartment stairs, and balconies at the commotion. As one gent exited his building, I ask if he knew what happened. “A murder”, he said, “in one of the apartments”. He pointed up the street. Yikes! But further along, I observed a policeman talking to another neighbor. I asked him the same question. Someone attacked one of the officers. Possibly a homeless person, he speculated.

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So This is Why They Call It Snail Mail

I rarely have reason to go to the local US Post Office—even less so during a pandemic—but there was need today and the weather was fine for walking. The journey made me wonder about the organization’s creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. Yes, but what about swift retrieval of outgoing mail?

As you can see from the Featured Image and its companion, the boxes outside the building were overstuffed—like they hadn’t been emptied for days. This at 3:52 p.m. PDT, when I clickity-clicked Leica Q2, and nearly an hour after the most recent scheduled emptying. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm. The other is same except for 1/160 sec. I prefer the second shot, which deliberately crops out the bird poop. But its inclusion, in the first, adds ambience of neglect.

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Gateway to Mid-City

When the Wilcox family moved to San Diego nearly 13 years ago, we encountered many things that at first puzzled but then made sense when thinking about how Southern California is portrayed in movies and on television. About 9:30 in the evening, during our first week in the University Heights neighborhood, my daughter and I encountered the sign on El Cajon as we turned off Park and drove to a nearby 7-Eleven. Rustic! Neon! The thing brought to mind 1973 (set in `62) film “American Graffiti” and cars cruising city streets. A few lowriders would have punctuated the moment.

The sign made quite the impression, lit up at night. But I hadn’t given it much attention during daytime until last week, when my wife wanted to walk over and take some photos of the thing. She used iPhone XS. I joined in, but with Leica Q2. Strange how novelty wears off and an object that so captivated becomes little more than background blur. The Boulevard charm returned as I looked into the camera’s viewfinder.

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The Cats of University Heights: Velvet

I first photographed this kitty on Oct. 1, 2019, lying belly up and not distinguishable beyond being bundles of fluff from a distance. Not until May 10, 2020 did this fine feline present for suitable portraiture. Thank you, very much. Sixty-second seen behind window or door, the fluffball earns nickname Velvet for its fur coat.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image, along North between Madison and Monroe. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 28mm; 10:05 a.m. PDT.