Tag: teampixel

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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Sign of the unpublished kitties backlog: Moments made using Pixel 3 XL, which I sold to a surfer two months ago.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: 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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The Cats of University Heights: Cat

On March 10, 2019, as I shot a fresh portrait of tiger-tabby Alley, someone walking by stopped and told me that there is a dude who takes pictures of the neighborhood kitties. I smiled: “Oh, that’s me”. The answer precipitated a delightful 20-minute conversation between two transplants—he and his family being in San Diego for about 18 months, because of a work transfer, but with tentative plans to return to Texas (employed by the same company) in perhaps a half year hence.

He also told me about his Tuxedo: Cat—and, yes, that’s a real name. So I made extra trips down Mississippi, between Meade and Monroe, looking for the beastie. Not until May Day did we finally meet. Cat started to approach me several times, as I called his name. But the camera continually scared the handsome animal away. That’s context for the Featured Image, captured using Fujifilm GFX 50R and Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens. Vitals, aperture and shutter speed manually set: f/3.6, ISO 1000, 1/125 sec, 63mm; 7:15 p.m. PDT.

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The (Honorary) Cats of University Heights: Ninja

Our sixth feline found outside the neighborhood’s designated borders could easily have been the seventh. Darth Mew originally was an “honorary” member, spotted on the other side of Texas Street going East up Meade towards Arizona. But I later learned that he, like Princess Leia, lives on Louisiana, which is one block back Westways from Texas and so within the boundary. Frightening: Thinking of Darth Mew crossing the bustling street, without getting killed in traffic. How could he?

Ninja (his real name) provided an unexpected explanation, during the first sighting in late September 2018—day before seeing a Bird scooter in a tree. As I approached the Texas crosswalk, the blackie walked down the Meade sidewalk towards me. But before I reached the opposite corner, the cat stepped into the street and slunk down the storm/rain gutter. I stopped, and looking back saw another behind me. Darth Mew could have crossed under the road, using the drainage pipe! Not over it. Clever cat(s)!

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The Cats of University Heights: Risky

Frisky is a common-enough kitty name, but we remove the “F” in nicknaming this disturbing shorthair—not for her behavior but location seen: Georgia and Howard, which is a dangerous intersection for traffic—whether foot or vehicular. My wife and I first met her on April 10, 2019, as we walked home from the Sprouts market. She approached us from Georgia. Next day, as I strode to the grocery, Risky greeted me along Howard.

The Featured Image, captured using Fujifilm GFX 50R and Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens, and companion (from Google Pixel 3XL) are both from the 11th. Vitals for the first, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 63mm; 6:45 p.m. PDT. For the second: f/1.8, ISO 57, 1/1805 sec, 4.44mm; 6:42 p.m.

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Say, Sunflower?

The rainy season may be (mostly) over, but the full flowering super bloom sweeping Southern California is everywhere. How about them lilacs down the street? Or this sunflower rising from a nearby construction zone? Road crews have worked that sidewalk and street all Winter, seemingly. It’s amazing there is soil enough to grow anything, let alone something so sudden and big. But, hey, the small patch of dirt sits at the bottom of an incline, where water (lots of it) flows fast and the right elements were just right.

By the way: Seems like nothing sprouting out of the earth can grow fast enough, this Spring. We are overtaken by plants not just thick and lush but towering upward. The newspapers prattle on about the super bloom, but I am awed by the super sizes of every green leaf thing. Gardeners and landscapers are overworked—and with the President tightening up border crossings, I can’t imagine there are enough (illegal) immigrant workers to whack weeds and mow the grass. Oh, and for the record, California has officially cancelled the drought. Too much of a good thing is…

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The Cats of University Heights: Rosie

When walking down Monroe from Maryland towards Arch, on Feb. 26, 2019, I spotted a pretty kitty close to where the Siamese Twins presented 11 days earlier. The owner carried in groceries, while her sister and I chatted. There’s a sad story to tell about one of the ladies, sometime later after I ask and if permission is granted.

I used Fujifilm GFX 50R and Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens to capture the Featured Image and first companion. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/600 sec, 63mm; 1:25 p.m. PST. Other is the same except 1/450 sec.

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The Cats of University Heights: Jake

For our last Caturday on Standard Time, before clocks jump (grumble, grumble) one hour ahead, we start an impromptu series of three harnessed felines. Two of them will lead us back to Alabama, where, for reasons that defy logic, more furballs have been seen than on any other street. But first we turn North—not the direction, but the avenue—between Madison and Monroe.

On March 7, 2019, while walking by where once lived Charlie and The Colonel, across the street I saw someone walking a handsome beastie. Of course, such sighting demanded investigation. I introduced myself to the friendly gent and met his beloved pet Jake. The kitty usually gets some out-in-the-yard supervised time; the harness and leash are the new thing, and Jake showed some resistance but not overt unwillingness to being outdoors this way.

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Candy Crush

If you believe the Wall Street Journal (and some other news outlets), “No One’s Making Sweethearts This Year, Crushing Lovers of Valentine’s Day Candy“. NECCO (New England Confectionery Company), the manufacturer behind the confection, closed its doors in 2018. Sweethearts’ new brand owner, Spangler Candy Company, hopes to have production lines ramped up for Valentine’s Day 2020, but existing supplies are limited for this year. Hehe, good thing this stuff has long shelf life.

Given the Sweethearts shortages, I was surprised to see a bowl of the candies strategically placed between the cosmetic and jewelry sections inside Macy’s Fashion Valley. Shouldn’t there be a security guard to protect these precious commodities from smash-and-grab robbers rushing the bowl? I imagine a sitcom plot where an attempted jewelry case robbery is merely a distraction for stealing Sweethearts instead. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Mewl

Wagering a guess, the shorthair that I call Mewl is a pregnant female. She was needy and noisy—hence the nickname—when my wife and I encountered the kitty along Spalding Place on Feb. 6, 2019. We approached from Madison Avenue through the alley between Park and Georgia, when we saw her walking from street to sidewalk. She turned when I pulled out Google Pixel 3 and loudly and nearly continuously meowed as she came up to us.

I spent some time tweaking the Featured Image and its companion, particularly for highlights and shadows. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 58, 1/1466 sec, 4.44mm; 10:43 a.m. PST. I let Google Photos auto-tune the second pic, for comparison sake. To my eyes, the first is more color accurate, as captured by the smartphone. The other has a more yellowish hue. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 57, 1/1565 sec; 4.44mm; 10:43 a.m. 

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The Joy Ride

Classify this story in the category of surprising Sunday dramas. Painters have been working on our apartment building and parking their lift truck along the street. Around 11:45 a.m. PST, I saw some stranger climb onto the lift and start it up. While he wore yellow utility belts that gave the aura of authority, his presence was suspicious, because: Neither he nor his buddy was one of the three painters; his companion drove a nondescript white utility truck, while the painters’ vehicle is branded and red; and he initially fumbled around like someone unfamiliar with the controls.

When the dude unparked the lift, I wondered: Is he stealing it? Off he drove down the street, with his companion following behind in the white truck. This is my neighborhood, it’s a sleepy Sunday, and I am more curious than a cat. I had to follow, first on foot and then by car. The pair drove about 1.8 km (1.1 miles) through University Heights to Rhode Island Ave., which is nearby an area called The Point and overlooks a canyon leading into commercial area Mission Valley below. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Ruff

Heavy rains gave way to summer sun this fine Caturday, as temperatures topped 21 degrees Celsius. I hauled out for a late-morning walk, with intention of calling my sister who winters in Florida. Her line went straight to voicemail. I rang my (last living) uncle, instead. Yikes, he prepared his Northern Maine homestead for impending heavy snow and possible power outage. About 15 minutes into the conversation, I asked that he wait while I used Google Pixel 3 XL to capture several quick portraits of a handsome dark grey shorthair sitting beneath a propped window and looking out through the screen.

The Featured Image is the second shot of four, taken along Meade Avenue not far from where Teach lives. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 67, 1/7813 sec, 4.44mm; 11:22 a.m. PST. Thirty-fourth behind-the-window watcher to appear in the series, the cat earns its nickname for fine white ruff.