Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wind-up Babies

1/40 second, f/3.5

When we got back from the playground Mabel Watson Payne decided to enact the ritual of emptying my backpack. Above, she extracted the current book I am ardently enjoying (as documented here).

Delving deeper (below) Mabel discovered a pair of wind-up babies, one with pink diaper and one with blue. I suggested she might as well keep those at her house.

1/1000 second, f/3.2

1/1600 second, f/2.5

1/400 second, f/4.5

Then when my daughter came in I was treated to a demonstration of Mabel's famous Pillow Game where she pretends to be a pillow. This demonstration did not last very long. After it was over the normal world of books and reading got reasserted.

1/125 second, f/6.3

1/160 second, f/5

1/250 second, f/4.5

1/250 second, f/4.5

1/400 second, f/4.5


1/125 second, f/5.6

The light in this picture is structured the same way as the light I talked about a few days ago here when I was photographing doorways on Guerrero in the Mission. Both on Guerrero and in this Chinatown playground with Mabel Watson Payne, the subject of the photograph is in a shaded location while abundant sunlight is being reflected onto the subject from nearby surfaces. This bounced light is so soft that it creates almost no shadows.

Sliding & Climbing

1/400 second, f/14

1/400 second, f/14

1/400 second, f/14

1/160 second, f/14

Going down the slide at the Chinatown playground and scrambling around on the rope structure even a couple of weeks ago were still high-assistance activities, but Mabel Watson Payne now firmly prefers to manage her own athletic endeavors.

1/400 second, f/5

1/500 second, f/5

1/250 second, f/5

1/500 second, f/5

1/400 second, f/5

All the same, help is welcome if her shoe comes off.

1/500 second, f/3.5

Chasing & Throwing

1/2500 second, f/3.5

1/60 second, f/14

1/800 second, f/4

1/60 second, f/14

1/60 second, f/14

1/60 second, f/14

Visiting the Chinese bakery was one successful stroke of fatherly genius and bringing along a tennis ball to the playground was another one. Mabel Watson Payne can't exactly throw yet, but she can already chase like nobody's business.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bakery Snack

1/800 second, f/3.2

Mabel Watson Payne running toward her father, who had just returned from buying the afternoon snack at a Chinatown bakery. ISO 320 throughout.

1/400 second, f/5.4

1/1250 second, f/2.5

1/400 second, f/5.6

1/400 second, f/5.6

1/3200 second, f/2.5

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wooden Demon

1/40 second, f/1.8

Carved wooden demon from Japan with wickedly bloodshot eyes at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. In spite of how much I liked him, on this visit I tried to limit the comfortable close-ups and attempt more long-range perspectives. The ISO stayed at 800.

1/10 second, f/14

1/100 second, f/14

1/60 second, f/14

1/15 second, f/14

1/5 second, f/16

1/20 second, f/10

1/10 second, f/16

White Balance

1/100 second, f/2.2, ISO 800

Today must have been about the dozenth time I have attempted to photograph this saintly warrior prince at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, carved in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara (located some 2,000 years ago in what is now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan). The Greco-Buddhist art produced in Gandhara rather weirdly and wonderfully combined influences from India with Greek forms and ideals. Always before (with various point-and-shoots) I have been totally photographically defeated by reflections and distorted highlights and bleached-out colors caused by the intense spotlights aimed at this beautiful head. Today was the first time using the new camera when it actually occurred to me to invoke White Balance, which I set to incandescent. Then underexposed to reduce glare. Underexposing also meant the shadows became too dark (to the point where they conceal detail that should be visible) but that seemed like a worthwhile price to pay for gaining a reasonable impression of the overall texture and suavity of the thing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seven Glass Lampshades

1/200 second, f/10, ISO 500

I had the camera along with me while doing errands, but the light was too flat outside to offer much. Then this spectacular man-made light unexpectedly revealed itself inside one of the antique street cars from Milan that run up and down Market. Then I was happy.

1/60 second, f/11, ISO 500

These trees along Dolores are a kind of ficus that flourish in this neighborhood. They are remarkably sturdy and fast-growing trees, but I read that Friends of the Urban Forest has stopped planting them, because their roots are too aggressive and protuberant. Everywhere you see specimens like the ones above surviving, the sidewalks have had to be repaved at least once for their accommodation. It does seem worth the effort, considering how attractive they are.

Art of Cruelty

This morning in a rush to get out of the house in time to catch the usual pre-dawn bus I forgot to pick up the book I am reading and shove it into my backpack which later (on the bus) made me particularly sorry because The Art of Cruelty is such an enjoyable & well-written book. This is because Maggie Nelson is such an eager and fearless pursuer of her Big Question. She wants to talk about the significance of violence in the arts (both as concept and as depiction) while fully aware that practically every other thinker in the history of the world has already talked about this same volatile subject. I like the energy in Nelson's book and that she is persuading me to look at some unfamiliar contemporary art but I also like the fact that most of the 20th century critics and artists she quotes or references are already favorites with me – such as dear Francis Bacon & Artaud & Brecht & Marina Abramovic & dear Ivy Compton-Burnett & Hannah Arendt & Susan Sontag (the last-named a big presence, even a presiding spirit here). Nelson does talk some about pop culture / mass media, but refreshingly asserts there are severe limits on that sort of academic interrogation, so fashionable since the eighties (and Camille Paglia) and by now so predictable. I like it that Nelson lets herself moralize from time to time about what she thinks is deplorable and that she honors her own squeamishness yet never dismisses 'cruelty' in art as gratuitous or negligible. And in many particular cases she can analyze its vitality with wit. She is also very good at contextualizing. Her model intellectual is uncertain rather than certain. And I like that fact best of all.

*Image from CalArts (where Nelson teaches)

Book Baby

My daughter originally took this picture a couple of weeks ago and she used it yesterday here. I know she will indulge my grandfatherly wish to see it replicated above. Having recently turned sixty, I am (with the wisdom of the elderly) in a better position than ever before to judge and to say what my personal preferences are, so can assert with greater confidence than ever before that sitting on the floor and reading one hard-page book after another to Mabel Watson Payne (or the same book over and over) easily trumps all other pleasures (or potential pleasures) life has ever offered or could ever offer. Plus the fact that pictures of me and Mabel together in the same frame are rather rare, for the simple reason that I am generally the one behind the camera.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Rain

1/100 second, f/16

Downtown San Francisco from Dolores Park in the rain in March. This is a 50 mm f/1.4 prime lens (without a zoom). When I got back from the library in the afternoon it was just starting to rain and the light looked different from any that I had tried so far with this new camera. I grabbed it and went back out in a hurry while the rain was still just getting started, vowing to be cautious about getting the precious gadget wet. These were all taken at ISO 500 in and around the park, mostly from underneath the shelter of trees.

1/160 second, f/16

The little tower (above) belongs to Mission High School, across the street from the park. The architecture of that high school is hard to describe. Colonial Baroque Moorish.

1/50 second, f/16

1/40 second, f/16

The Christian Science dome again, gleaming wet this time.

1/60 second, f/16

1/80 second, f/16

1/80 second, f/16

1/30 second, f/16