Thursday, December 18

Al, Arnie, George, John, and the Graying of America

I love grayscale.  Sometimes it works well.  Other times, well ehh.  But this one really works for me.  I met these fine gents at Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles.  Initially, I noticed the guy on the left as he was calling his friends.  I made small talk.  One of them noticed my camera.  The Fujifilm xpro-1.  I love it when people notice it.  It looks retro that most people mistake it for a film camera, which I think got its attention.

They tell me that they go to lunch once a week at different places.  Thus far, they have gone to more than 200 restaurants.  If my calculation is correct, they have been doing this gig for the last four or five years.

I asked how they met.  I think it was Al (the guy with the baseball hat) who told me that they all go to this Lutheran Church out in Santa Monica, and they all hate the people at their church - a commonality that binds them together.

One of them commented on my shoes.  Interestingly, I had the same size shoes as them. They love my shoes because they were designed for old men with orthopedic issues.  It's nice to emphasize with one's age.

I just love these folks.

Last night, I got an email from one of them - inquiring if I still have their photo.  I sent him this one.  I hope they enjoy it.

#GroupPicture #BlackAndWhite #BW #OldMen #Fujifilm #Xpro1 #35mm #XmountLens #DowntownLA #LosAngeles #GrandCentralMarket #GrayScale #Downtown #urban  #IAMGenerationImage #SeniorCitizens #street

Wednesday, December 17

Ikonta and the Migrant Mother (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

Ikonta in front of Dorothea Lange photo
I have always suffered from anxiety.  Even as a young boy, I have tried every imaginable solution.  Think good thoughts.  Try not to think of going to the bathroom. Don’t listen to what the priest tells you.  Etc.  Etc.  Sad to say, I have not really overcome it.  I have merely placed rescue flags along the way – so when anxiety strikes I have those flags I could reach for to wave for rescue.  The flags were not always within reach.  And that would mean mental breakdown in my part.  It does not happen often.  But when it does, I’m pretty much useless.  

One thing I have learned about being anxious is I could spot one who is experiencing the same thing. Such is the Migrant Mother.  An iconic poster person of the Dust Bowl era.  Shot by the great Dorothea Lange.

Who could not be moved by Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother?  This is one of my favorite vintage photo.  In today's standard, the photo documentary can be considered flawed.  Yet everything about it seems to work. Lange used an uncorrected lens in most of her portraits.  She preferred the soft focus, which perhaps made this photo more appealing.  The softness aptly captured the mother's tenderness.  I heard that Lange staged this shot.  So in a sense, it is not candid.  But I don't care.  Whether it was contrived or not, the mother's anxious gaze appeared real to me.  

For this photo, Lange is known to have used a 4x5 format viewfinder camera.  I don't have one but perhaps one day I can get my hands on an old one.  So instead I used my Zeiss Ikonta medium format as prop.  My Ikonta goes back to late 1930's.  About the same time that the Dust Bowl happened.  I've fantasized about my Ikonta.  Perhaps it has been used to memorialize events nobody cared about.  Except for the photographer who took those photos.  Could have been at the Dust Bowl.

#StillLife #camera #VintageCamera #ZeissIkonta #DorotheaLange #monochrome #vertical #portrait #MigrantMother #scratched #textured #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute #IAMGenerationImage #IconsBehindTheLensSeries

Monday, December 15

Throwback Fed 4 (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

 Andreas Feininger's The Photojournalist Behind a Fed 4
A few years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a Street Photographer.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I sucked at it at times.  Sometimes I would get fortunate in getting killer shots.  But oftentimes my best shots are miserable lots.  But this is the essence.  Perhaps, that is why I fall back into portraits.  And nowadays when I'm sober I just take pictures of non-moving objects.  They usually don't complain a lot.

Like any other skills, I need to practice taking pictures.  I've always wanted to take photos of vintage cameras.  I do own a few but I felt that I didn't have the right elements to make it work.  Until today.  I just remembered Feininger's photo of Dennis Stock, the face behind the camera.  Stock went on to become a leading photojournalist with Magnum Photos, which is famous for their street photography.

Which brings me to vintage cameras.  The Fed is a neat rangefinder that kind of works like a Leica, the most coveted camera by every street photographer.  Not really comparable as far as quality.  But it's a poor man's Leica.  I could count with my one hand how many fine photos I've shot with the Fed.    Actually, I'm lying.  I don't have any decent shots I made with it.  But the camera looks cool.  For that, it scores some points.  It has to.

This is my tribute to  Andreas Feininger's iconic photo: A picture of my Fed 4 in front of the picture.

#StillLife #Monochrome #camera #Fed4 #AndreasFeininger #ThePhotojournalist #MagnumPhotos #IAMGenerationImage #vintage #textured #scratched #analog #DavidStock #IconsBehindTheLensSeries

The Road Less Travelled

What is a poet?  A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. – Soren Kierkegaard

Days have been terribly lonely.   I am chasing the wind and whistling in the dark.  Today the leftover steak that Rose cooked two weeks ago before she left will be all gone.  I have been rationing myself with the meat as I was too lazy to cook.  I'm lazy because I have forgotten how to cook.  I think the last time I made Sloppy Joe was 20 years ago.  Besides, I don't have all the ingredients to make Sloppy Joe.  Don't think this is the time to experiment.  My hope is that I could be in the Guiness Book of Record to have survived on a single piece of steak for two weeks.  I haven't eaten anything else.  At least, nothing substantial.  Liquid food like  wine and beer do not count.  I may be on my last bottles of liquid food.  Sooner or later I need to go out and replenish my supply.  Again I am too lazy - even going out seems like a chore.  I may have forgotten how to drive.  This could pose a problem when I fetch Kamilah at the airport next week.  If we survived the traffic, I could let Kamilah pick up Rose the following day.  

It is very cold today.  I'm typing this post outside because I am smoking a Cuban.  Rose would never allow me to smoke inside the house.  My cell phone tells me it's 52 degrees F and it's already noon time.  My fingers are freezing.  I'm such a weakling in terms of cold.  I don't have enough fat to keep me warm, which is one reason we live in Southern California.  So I decided to smoke because the forecast is it will be raining soon.  Perhaps for another couple of days.  This could be the only time to smoke before it rains.  

So much for that.  I have now forgotten why I'm writing in the first place.  I can be easily distracted.  I'm one of those who needs to focus because I can't multitask. "Concentration slips way, because your baby is far away..." There is a neat line in the Crosby Stills and Nash song that goes, "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with."  Nowadays, I'm loving the dog and the cat.  They have been keeping me warm during the nights.  We would snuggled up in this little sofa with an army blanket.  Both of them would be competing who gets to sit on my face.  

I realized that I'm not much of a dog person.  Walking the dog everyday can be quite a challenge.  Especially when she poops on somebody's front yard.  I'm always on the look out if the neighbor catches us with this situation.  I think I'm more of a cat person as they tend to be less maintenance.  Although our cat is 16 years old and requires a lot of maintenance.   For instance, he demands to have a clean litter every time he uses it, which is like every hour.  We should have trained him how to use the toilet.  Once, we had another cat who almost learned how to do it.  In the end, we just gave up.  The cat won and he had his litter back.

So here I am - somewhat home alone.  It's been almost two weeks since Rose left for the Philippines.  I guess I can go at it alone for another week.

If you have gone reading this far, you may be asking what the picture above has to do with my rambling.  The honest answer is nothing.

#Flickr #StillLife #conceptual #blur #vignette #guitar #FretBoard #Music #IAMGenerationImage #macro #CloseUp

ISO 1200 Magazine | Photography Video blog for photographers: Bert Stephani reviewing the Fuji X100T on street p...

ISO 1200 Magazine | Photography Video blog for photographers: Bert Stephani reviewing the Fuji X100T on street p...

Friday, December 12

I think my rose needs some Southern California soaking

To borrow my friend's wit: This image certainly stirred a disturbance and the gods offered sympathy and willingly drops of very cold water from heaven come tumbling down, profusely... today....

#rose #DriedRose #petals #WhiteBackground #StillLife #botany #flower #DriedFlower #stem #macro #CloseUp #flash 

Wednesday, December 10

It's always sunny in Socal

While the rest of the country is knee deep in snow, my flowers think it's spring time.

#macro #flower #collage #botany#Canon60d #CarlZeiss100mm #JuznoOfTheDay

Monday, December 8

Smile like Nirvana

Once in a while I'll go through my archive and see an apparently botched shot and then I'll ask myself what was I thinking.  This botched shot is cool.  A lot of times it was my state of mind.  I was seeing the trees for the forest, which can happen when I have taken several shots - perhaps scores and scores that I couldn't see the forest anymore.

Jackie came with her dad and her sister one winter morning.  "What do I do?" she asked as she gazed at her cell phone.

"Uhmm ... do a few somersaults and we'll see how that work," I answered as I moved the soft box lighting.

Jackie looked at me with disbelief - still holding to her cell phone.  Worst is her dad's yellow teeth started to reveal how ugly they were.  Well that obviously didn't go well.

"Maybe I'll play some stuff from Tony Bennett."

"Who is he?"

"Maybe you can ask your dad... Look, just be yourself.  Maybe think of good thoughts.  Do you like ice cream and hot apple pie?"

"Hmm... ice cream and hot apple pie."

Click.  Check the view finder.  Nah ... file under archive.  Maybe one day I'll print it.

Today is that day.

#portrait #AsianWoman #YoungWoman #EyesClosed #smiling #Brownhair #square #SquareFormat

Saturday, December 6


Sir Walter Raleigh is such a stupid get, and Satan is talking to his nearest mate, with head lifted up high.  Make me another shot of that absinthe.  The dregs are wormwood. And fire up that last stogie we shared – I think it’s no longer wet.  I wanna take you higher.  Oh, sleep - it is a gentle thing. 

I remember watching Woodstock.  I mean the original one.  Not there physically.  But in the movie and the record.  I was too young to be there.  So vicariously I try to live the moment by listening to the scratched vinyl record I borrowed from an older schoolmate.  This was early 70’s.  Maybe ’73.  I had just taken my first hit of pot and I thought I was one of the coolest guys in school.  The experienced seemed to have changed everything.  From a young scrawny punk to a damned-right-I-got-the-blues kid.  I was still a punk.  That never changed.  What changed was the right of passage.   It’s like smoking my first cigarette.  My grandpa taught me to smoke when I was 10. 

Oh yea, Woodstock.  Quite frankly, I was more impressed with the film footage than the music itself.  I had already been listening to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and the music that got played at Woodstock bored me.  Even the famous Star Spangled Banner that Hendrix played sounded old.  It’s not the musicians’ fault.  Or anybody’s.  I was merely two years too late.  

#Flickr #portrait #smoke #cigar #AsianWoman  #conceptual #textured #EyesClosed #culture #Lensbaby

Thursday, December 4

Desolation seen back in time through a tarnished window

My grief is my solace.  The world around me is dead.  Sometimes I try to think of my youth and my first love but my memories are all blurred.  Were they all just dreams - of longings and hope and youthful desires?  I have lost the art of remembering.  I have become a master at forgetting.  I do so effortlessly.  I have consigned all past things to oblivion.  They are to be forgotten - so that they can be remembered.

#Flickr #portrait #blackandwhite #BW #woman #oldwoman #textured #grainy #gritty #square #SquareFormat #NightTime #conceptual #melancholy #desolation #Loneliness #Time #Age #window #LookingThroughWindow #Story #fujifim #xpro-1

All I had was you

Melancholy music finds its way where the sun refused to shine.  Yet all it is and will ever be -  a momentary distraction blurred in the background.  I find no comfort.  Life is meaningless.  Wine can no longer make my heart glad.  What is the use?  My soul is impotent.  My heart has lost its strength. I am solitary as always.  Forsaken not by the world, which could not hurt me.  But by my own creation.  Everything that I did and loved are all but dust now.  My memories are continually being swallowed up by the background music.  One time, happiness beckoned me. I stretched out my arm to its warm embrace. Where is he now?  He was all that I had. And now I couldn't even remember his face.

#Flickr #portrait #blackandwhite #BW #woman #oldwoman #textured #grainy #gritty #square #SquareFormat #NightTime #conceptual #melancholy #desolation #Loneliness #Time #Age #window #LookingThroughWindow #Story #fujifim #xpro-1

Monday, December 1

Harnessing Jack Bauer

I live in a somewhat boring community -  a middle class suburbia in the middle of four counties. People sometimes asked where I am from. One time in Marrakesh, a Moroccan vendor asked me where I was from.  I quickly replied, "Iceland."  Without hesitation, he told me that he had lots of friends in Iceland.  I lied and I thought he did too.  The next vendor asked the same thing and I told him I was from "Idaho".  He told me he knew a lot of people in Idaho.  It doesn't matter.  All they want is to small talk you to gain your confidence.  There would be times that I wanted to tell them that I actually live in Los Angeles and I personally know who Jack Bauer is.  In fact, the story of Mr Bauer was borrowed from my own when I used to work for the FBI.  I've faced near death so many times but I was always able to escape.  I can't tell them all the events that have happened but I hinted that most of the events in the television series were based on true stories.  Such is my way to add excitement in my life. "Tita, give me another shot of Tequilia, will you?"

#portrait #JackBauer #people #BlackAndWhite #monochrome#lensbaby #blur #square #man #hipster #urban #retro #textured#grainy #candid #UnsuspectingProtagonist #portrait