Grandview Park, 17 December 2022

December 19, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I didn't get out for my walk until rather late in the day yesterday, so I took the N-Judah to where I knew there would still be some decent light—the Sunset District. Specifically, Grandview Park at Golden Gate Heights. I got off the train at 16th Avenue, then took the beautifully mosaic'd Hidden Garden Steps* from Kirkham Street to Lawton Street, and I really felt the thirty extra pounds I carry. And, of course, there was more elevation to climb. It's at least a little gradual from that point to where 15th Avenue picks up again and winds up and around the west-side base of the park. I paused at Aloha and Lomita Avenues to record the warm sunlight skimming the houses on both forks of the divergence and the western face of Grandview in the near distance.

20221217_154309443-20221217_154317250Edit0220221217_154309443-20221217_154317250Edit02 Up Lomita I trudged (at 67, walking uphill = trudging!), and while I have tended in the past to take the steps that lead up from 14th Avenue, which is on the east side of the hill, I opted for the sunlit west-side route, 15th Avenue. There, I thought I'd use the PhotoSphere mode of my Google Pixel 6a (which is designed to create 360-degree images I discovered just a day or so ago) to do an in-camera panorama of the hill I had left to climb.

20221217_154935147Edit20221217_154935147Edit After making it to the top of the hill, I took a bunch of frames for panoramas of one of my favourite views of the city, with this one being the best of the bunch. I still can't get over the fact that views like this exist but a couple of miles from my decidedly urban neighbourhood.

20221217_160026318-160040661Edit20221217_160026318-160040661Edit The last time I made the trek to Grandview Park, it was windy and cold. In fact, it's been windy most times I've gone there, but not this time. I didn't feel even the slightest of breezes. The clear sky, pending sunset, and warm temperatures meant others would be enjoying the park. 20221217_160341033Edit20221217_160341033Edit Deciding not to stick around for the sunset, I made my descent, and saw this fellow enjoying what might have been a cup of coffee as he seemed to be waiting for the sun to sink below the horizon. 20221217_160808178-160810806Edit20221217_160808178-160810806Edit There is a tree which sits in the middle of Moraga Street where it meets 16th Avenue, and I have photographed it often, but never quite to my satisfaction. This time was no different, really, but I couldn't help myself. I probably should take the Nikon with me one of these days as the mobile is just too limited in its capabilities. 20221217_162633345Edit20221217_162633345Edit On the way back to Judah Street to catch the N home, I tried another PhotoSphere panorama, inspired by the massive array of wires emanating from one of the utility poles on 18th Avenue. I knew that the wires would create stitching errors within the final image, but I think the splaying of the wires in every which way looks pretty cool. 20221217_163739823Edit20221217_163739823Edit When I moved to San Francisco thirteen years ago, I often felt frustrated by the omnipresence of the overhead wires and how they would—in my mind at the time—ruin perfectly good photographs. But over time I've come to make peace with them and work with them instead of against them. 20221217_163855098Edit20221217_163855098Edit *A funny thing about the "hidden" steps is that there is a big sign at 16th Avenue and Kirkham Street which reads: Hidden Garden Steps











Another 365 Project Complete

January 02, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Many years ago, I spent most of my online social time at Flickr. With the advent of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and countless other social networking sites, my Flickr time plummeted drastically. I continue to maintain a "Pro" account with Flickr, because I want to maintain not only the thousands and thousands of photographs I've posted there, but the conversations—they often were more than just comments—as some sort of record of the relationships I developed there, many of which became real-life friendships (I've met well over a hundred of my Flickr contacts), most of which migrated to Facebook as a sort of central "meeting" place. 

The point I was beginning to stray from was that there were numerous trends and memes that got started at Flickr. Some were very silly... DSCN3512DSCN3512

One that was quite cool but was not, I guess, a Flickr thing, consisted of self-portraits taken by people in basically the same place with the same pose— very passport-like in style—looking straight into the camera, for years on end. Watching someone's face and hair (whether on one's head or face) change in the form of a rapid-fire video was quite the sight to behold.

From that, I guess, grew the 365-day projects, some of which were self-portraits. One person, Phillip Chee, has been doing 365/366 Projects since 2007, his first being strictly self-portraits. I tried this the year I turned 50, with a thing I called Daily 50, but missed maybe a week's worth because I wasn't clever enough to really produce interesting self-portraits daily, and because I sort of got sick of it before too long and would just sort of forget to do my photo for the day. One friend of mine has chided me about it as being narcissistic, and while I guess a case could be made for that, I found it as a way to do portraiture, to play with lighting and processing techniques, which were quite new to me at the time. Also... I was my most convenient model. Had there been someone else available and willing to partake in such a project, I would have preferred that route.

All that said, I never got around to completing a project in which I took and posted a photo a day until 2017 on Instagram (if you don't have an account, you'll only be able to scroll so far). In 2020, I did an entire year's worth of photos that I ran through the Prisma app, which "artified" the photographs. I actually liked the results most days, but beyond the final images created, it was a rather grueling mental process looking for scenes that I thought would translate well to "art". I became intent on including (often solitary) people in my photographs during this project, as it added a dynamic that I think made the images more interesting. It also was grueling as I tried out various filters to see which one I liked the most, this while also wanting to not use the same filter day after day because yes, there were some which were consistently better in my mind. This process was time consuming, so I was quite glad when the year and project were over.

For 2021, I decided to do a year of only black-and-white photographs. While there was a similar taxing of my brain as I looked for subjects to photograph that would render well in monochrome, which often meant eschewing really colourful stuff such as murals, the time spent on editing the images once I selected them was less of an investment of my time than had been the Prisma set. If I spent any length of time on the postings, it was with the writing of the descriptions, which I've tried, loosely, to use as a journal of sorts when the Covid-19 lockdown began in March of 2020. I tagged all the photos at Instagram with #ptpower2021inblackandwhite, but have also created a gallery on this site here so that it can be viewed somewhat in its entirety, albeit separated by months. I intend to create similar galleries for 2017 and 2020.

I'm choosing not to be as narrow with my project this year. There likely will be a good mix of black-and-white and colour, maybe with some Prisma conversions thrown in. I won't bend on the square ratio because I'm weird that way, although I guess I dance around that a bit when I post panoramas divided into two or more squares. I'll probably be more apt to post a series of photos from any given day, especially on days I happen to go out for long walks.

New Galleries

December 29, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

During this extended COVID-19 hiatus, in which I've gotten very little work due to conferences having gone almost entirely virtual, I've been putting time into creating galleries of my photographs which I think might be of interest to others for purchase. Currently, 2021 in Black and White is the only one that is complete, but I hope to finish the 2020 in Prisma gallery in the coming months. The problem with the latter is that I'm expecting to re-do many of the images in high definition (the thought of selling prints from them didn't occur to me at the time I started the project), as well as cropping them to original dimensions versus the square ratio that I adhere to with my Instagram photos. Yeah... I'm anal like that! I'll also be going through my archives to see what might be worthy of inclusion and editing those as well. Also with regard to the Prisma set, since there were often several versions of the photo-to-art conversions that I liked, I likely will include multiple versions.

I've not done a huge amount of traveling in my life, but expect a gallery of photos from Paris, as well as some from New York City, Chicago, Oslo, and Prince Edward Island, amongst a handful of other places. Of course, there will be an immense collection of photos I've taken in San Francisco since I moved here that are somewhat off the proverbial beaten path; likely there will be some of the popular landmarks tossed in.

2022 here we come!


Anatomy of a Picture

December 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

This is a re-post—with minimal revision—of an essay I wrote for Medium in August of 2021.

In January of 2010, I moved to San Francisco. At the time, I coördinated the music for the now-defunct Great Lakes Folk Festival. Most of my work was done either online or over the phone, so it allowed me to take the leap of moving cross-country from East Lansing, Michigan. I also worked as a photographer, mostly covering events for a few departments/colleges at Michigan State University. So, the move to San Francisco meant giving up a modest amount of client work in the hopes of building a client base in a much bigger, conference-friendly city.

It was a very, very slow go.

To help make ends meet, I was fortunate to get several months worth of relatively well-paid work with the Census Bureau for the 2010 Census. I also ran errands for people. I put IKEA furniture together. I answered Craigslist ads looking for photographers, and posted my own ads looking for work. As best as I can find, I didn’t do any photography work until October of that year, and even that was a freebie portrait session with a woman as a matter of building portfolio and possibly getting my name out there. I did another freebie session with a couple whose wedding I would photograph the following September. My first paid gig was of a "Cupcake Challenge" event in March of 2011. I had responded to a Craigslist ad for a beer festival in October of 2010, and while I didn’t get that job, the fellow who placed the ad had kept my name and email at hand. Foot-in-the-door type stuff, right? Except that it didn’t seem to lead to anything.

On 8 October 2011, I got a Facebook message from one of my long-time Flickr contacts, Liz West (Muffet), who was in town, and she asked me if I were available that night to photographer her brother’s 70th birthday party. Liz’s brother is actor/activist/author/Ken Burns documentary voice, Peter Coyote, something Liz had mentioned in her Flickr stream years earlier, but never had made a big splash about. About ten minutes after I responded to her message that indeed I was available, Peter himself called me to ask if I were available and how much I’d charge. My evening was set.

To be completely honest, when I ended the call with Peter, my mind was on getting everything ready. I probably washed clothes and charged batteries for both the cameras I’d be using, along with the flashes, just as I would do for any other job. I gave not one moment of thought about what to expect that night. Not for a second did I wonder about who might be in attendance. When I arrived at the venue, Bimbo’s 365 in North Beach, I was immediately greeted with the sight of Robin Williams cavorting with people in the vestibule. (Oh!) Once I got situated, I started taking photos of the growing crowd that was mingling, being sure to snap a couple of frames of Robin amongst them because… of course.

20111008CoyoteDefiesGravity-DSC_000420111008CoyoteDefiesGravity-DSC_0004 Once the evening’s program commenced, and once everyone filed into Bimbo’s ballroom, I went about doing what I do — documenting what was going on as well as many of those in attendance. I didn’t give much thought as to who they might be. (The only other person I recognized was poet Michael McClure.) A band performed; a gorgeous woman sang; there was dancing. As I meandered about the ballroom, taking photos at this table and that table, at no time did I happen to see (much less look for) Robin Williams.

The time came for the birthday candles to be lit and blown out, and for the next forty minutes or so, various people, including his children, gave tributes to Peter. His wife sang a song for him. The last to give tribute — in the form of a short stand-up routine, of course — was Robin. (I tried to record some video but because I wasn’t familiar with that feature of the camera I was using, failed miserably, getting only nine out-of-focus seconds worth.) I got a few photos of him from a couple angles, but nothing special, really. It was sort of odd that Robin had been one of the first people I’d seen that night, but until he’d gotten on stage, I had not crossed his path once in the duration, regardless the number of times I circled the ballroom.

Once the formalities had ended at around 11:00, I was pretty much off the clock, so I grabbed a little something to eat. I’m unsure exactly how it came to be, but I’m pretty sure I was on my way back from the bathroom when I found myself walking virtually side by side with Robin as we both headed in the direction of my table, which was near the buffet. Seeing Peter ahead of us dishing himself a dessert, I lightly put my hand on Robin’s leather-jacketed shoulder and asked him if he wouldn’t mind me taking a photo of him and Peter. He obliged. In the course of twenty-four seconds, I snapped off three photos — the second one, although slightly un-sharp, did the trick. Peter Coyote, Robin WilliamsPeter Coyote, Robin Williams
Postscript: I originally wrote this for Medium, after posting the photo in reply to a Zak Williams’ tweet marking the seventh anniversary of his father’s death. I was satisfied that I was done by the time I went to bed, but didn’t get around to publishing it. The next morning, as I was scrolling through the daily Facebook memories notifications, this one appeared… LizWestFacebookLizWestFacebook


The Blog

December 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hi! Welcome to my photography blog, wherein I will most likely write about my own photography, my thoughts about photography, specific photographs I've taken... I'm not sure as I write this on the 362nd day of 2021—the 24,134th day I've been on this planet—what I'll write about that is of value to anyone else. But as the coronavirus pandemic drags into its third year, and my primary source of income—conferences—has essentially dried up, I've got more time on my hands than usual. So... off I go!

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