Downtown Los Angeles & Beyond

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This was an unusual day when it came to light. There was great distance visibility. But, there was also a good deal of moisture in the unsettled air. The result was a kind of soft-clarity that tended to obscure details and one’s sense of distance. It was as if the very far and the not so far away had been drawn into each other.

With winter on its inevitable approach, this photo reminds me of the kind of light that comes with the cooler and sometimes moisture-laden air of the season. It’s always been a difficult season for me to look forward to, but I’m working on it.

This was taken just beyond the Cobb Estate in the foothills above Altadena, CA.

Downtown Los Angeles & Beyond

Untitled 1: On the San Gabrielino Trail

2010 was the last year before the start of the Great California Drought. That year, heavy downpours drove mud and debris down from the foothills through what are ordinarily dry, or nearly dry, river beds all the way to the Hahamongna basin.

The San Gabrielino Trail above JPL is an odd one, unless you’re from Southern California. Toward the bottom, near where this photo was taken, it’s a strangely disquieting mix of the suburban and natural worlds. There’s an asphalt walkway that gives way to a broken concrete one before direct contact between foot and mother earth finally takes over.

I caught this view through the chain link fence that keeps the locals out of the river bed on the lower part of the trail. I stood there for a quite a while, pointing my humble Panasonic LX3 between the links of the fence. I didn’t think much about the image until days later.

Maybe it’s my envisioning of the massive flow of water that came in the days and weeks before the image was taken. Maybe it is my wonderment at the idea the trees had withstood that muddy onslaught. Maybe it’s the little touch of vibrant green. I’m not sure but I always enjoy this photo when I come upon it.

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Untitled 1: On the San Gabrielino Trail

The Schaeffer Fire, Bonnevile Salt Flats, US 395 & the Sherwin Range

Smoke from the Schaeffer Fire
Smoke from the Schaeffer Fire

The Schaeffer Fire had been burning for well over a month by the time I caught this image on the road to US 395 west of the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns in Inyo County. There were no fewer than three wildfires fires burning in California at the time (mid-August).

Bonnevile

When I was a kid I was fixated with the land speed record attempts that took place at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. I was around eleven when I finally got a chance to see the place for myself. Much to my delight my father even took our 1966 Pontiac Bonneville (no kidding) out on the flats for a few high speed passes.

Those, indeed, were the days.

I took this photo with my father’s Argus C3 on that trip way back in the early 1970s. The negative was buried somewhere in a box of over 6,000 images left behind by my parents. Most of the images were out-of-focus castoffs, but there were a few gems among the rubble.

I’ve not been back to the flats. I’ve learned that the salt on the flats is thinning, but no one is quite sure why. It makes me want to go back to that day when the salt was flat and thick and dustless and I sat beside my father, speeding across the horizon.

395 south toward Bishop
Looking southwest toward Bishop near US 395
Sherwin Range at sunset
The Sherwin Range at Sunset

It never fails to amaze me how often the humble iPhone 5 ends up seeing duty when a better camera would have been more suitable. Just a few minutes earlier the light was even more spectacular and the lenticular clouds were nearly luminous.

The Schaeffer Fire, Bonnevile Salt Flats, US 395 & the Sherwin Range

Thinking about cameras & a quick review of the Road Runner Bags Camera Strap

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about cameras.

Me? I love a good used camera. First of all, they’re cheap. I bought my Nikon D300 for $200. I mean, was there ever a better value in the history of the world? Second, I tend not to worry about used cameras. I always make sure the stuff I bought has seen some actual use. That way any bumps and bruises are easier to regard as marks of character rather than evidence of carelessness on my part.

The sad news is that my Fuji X100 gave up the ghost; very disappointing. Or, to channel our 45th president; sad. If I were given to complain (and I am) I would say that it’s pretty dang disappointing that Fuji is unable to fix what they regard as a professional camera that’s little more than a handful of years old. I ended up in the funny spot. Fuji could either ship back my pretty much useless X100 or I could pony up some cash and they’d sent me a brand-spankin’ new X100T.

Fine, fine, fine…here’s my credit card number.

Thing is, I knew I wasn’t going to keep the X100T. I’m kinda soured on the Fuji thing at least for now. Eventually, I may get myself another small mirrorless camera with a 1″ or m4/3 sensor but for now I’ve decided to simply toggle between my aforementioned D300 and a battle-scared old Panasonic LX3.

Sure, I used to own an LX3 (and later and LX5 and an LX7) but this little camera has me enamored for some reason.

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The mighty LX3 and its new Road Runner Bags strap in olive & black…yes sir!

This little camera rocks hard. I picked it up well-used over at Fred Miranda for $55. Nearest I can tell the little fellah has over 100,000 clicks on the odometer and it works perfectly. Heck, I even bought a second Panasonic battery for it; yup, I’m going all out. The neat little Leica lens is quite sharp over its entire range and the focus and metering are spot on. If Panasonic would upsize this exact camera with the same zoom range and a 1″ sensor I’d buy it.

The cool olive & black Road Runner Bags strap was supposed to be for my repaired X100 (sniff, sniff…) but I put it on the LX3 out of spite for Fuji. Like another favorite company of mine, Courier Ware, Road Runner isn’t much on self-promotion. The strap doesn’t even have their name anywhere on it…just a small label that says, Handmade in California. The webbing that Road Runner uses is very smooth on the skin and their form-follows-function-factor is admirably high. Road Runner Bags is a neat little company. All their stuff is made right here in Los Angeles and they certainly did a fine job with their first camera strap. I’m hopeful they’ll continue to work on more bags and straps for all the two-wheeled photographers out there on the streets and trails of Los Angeles.

Check their website out today and buy something.

Anyway, I enjoyed the Fuji because it was so easy to bring along. I disliked the Fuji for the same reason everyone else did. It was rather fussy, sometimes inscrutable, and the focusing was always marginal and then it got worse. How does that even happen? I also found the X100 rather fragile feeling. I don’t know if Fuji got it right with the S or the T or the F. All I know is Fuji’s naming convention for the X100 series is going to be tough for whatever follows the X100F. I’m not off Fuji forever; then again, maybe I am.

I can’t quite get my brain around how some folks are able to get along with an iPhone as their sole camera. Of course, I wear a wrist watch. Still, I do see the appeal to less is more when it comes to cameras. With the departure of the X100 and now the sale of the X100T I’m left with the LX3 and the D300.

Both of them suit me just fine.

Thinking about cameras & a quick review of the Road Runner Bags Camera Strap

My Personal Web Domain Expired (and I didn’t notice)

That’s right, and it happened over a year ago.

Sure, I could moan about the lack of notice from the domain registration company (and that’s exactly what I did when I found out). But the fact is I didn’t notice my site was down for an embarrassingly long time and it makes me wonder why I had it in the first place.

I’m impressed by people who maintain a blog, a website, a Facebook presence and who write (and read) stuff on Twitter. Don’t get me started on Instagram.

I’ve decided to let the domain go for now and maybe forever. Sure, Tom Wolfe needs his own website but the again he’s got more than a dozen novels under his belt. A man’s got to know his limitations.

On a more optimistic note, I’ve done some work on my novel and can faintly see its completion somewhere beyond the horizon. I’ve also snapped a few humble photos so let’s a take a look.

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Southern Sierra Foothill Sunset
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Untitled 11: Taken east of US 395
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Looking West: Taken just south of Independence, CA
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Bridge to the 9th: Soule Park Ojai, CA
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Marsh & sunset

There now; aren’t those a lot more fun than reading about my expired domain?

I should hope so.

My Personal Web Domain Expired (and I didn’t notice)

One strap, one bag; Crumpler & BBB

Man, talk about bored. Bored is the only possible motivation to write about a camera bag and a camera strap.

There you have it; I’m bored.

First the strap. You all know the Crumpler name. You know the make nice stuff, especially their somewhat unusual bags. But, did you know they made a nice strap, too?

No, not their lackluster and bulky Industry Disgrace. Today I’m talking about their very lightweight (and somewhat light duty?) Popular Disgrace. This 2.5 centimeter strap is da bomb for a lightweight camera like my aged Fuji X100. Its magic resides in its simplicity, and also the perfectly textured neoprene that covers the conventional strap material.

I hike a lot with the X100 so it spends a lot of time slung across my back. The neoprene has just the right about of traction and just the right amount of slip (dare we call it, perfect coefficient of drag). The strap material underneath is quite stout. It would be totally suitable for a larger and heavier camera, if the neoprene section were a tad wider.

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Me? I don’t like heavy cameras. My old Nikon D300 is as heavy as I can stand. That’s what keeps the X100 nearby so often. If you have an X100 or any other lightweight camera you might want to check out the Popular Disgrace, if you can find one.

In case you’re one of those folks who find camera bags slightly less dull than camera straps, I have a good one for you. The Bare Bones Bag (BBB hereinafter). I’m being kinda charitable to the folks at Figital Revolution. They’re not really the ones who’ve done the heavy lifting (stitching?) in the creation of the BBB. The real work was done by the hard-core, hard-asses at CourierWare.

For those of you who are even more bored than I am (come on,  you’re reading this aren’t you?) feel free to check out my review of yet another CourierWare bag here.

No, you cannot stuff a lot of shit into the BBB.

And, no, the BBB is not possessed of a great deal of padding. Heck, my version of the bag doesn’t even have a velcro closure for the top.

And, yes, the BBB may be able to pass as a purse, assuming that the woman who’s carrying it is good looking enough.

Still, for me it’s just dandy for carrying the (wait for it) Fuji X100. It holds that, my beater Panasonic LX3, both their chargers and spare batteries, my faithful Benchmade knife and a lot (but not too much) other crap. There’s a touch of padding in the bottom of the bag but the rest of the bag is just plain (if very high quality) waterproof 1000 denier Codura nylon.

If you’ve been living under a rock you may not be aware that CourierWare makes a superb bag. They are light yet totally bombproof and guaranteed for life. The care and quality of the stitching is beyond reproach. Now, the truth is that I’m not even sure that you can buy the damn thing. I got mine used and you’re never getting mine, believe me.

But, if you have a load that’s the right size for it, and if you can find one, the BBB cannot be beat. If you value function and give not one shit about style, it may be the bag for you. If you need a larger bag, check out the CourierWare website. CourierWare’s owners, Diana & Eric, are amazing, salt of the earth kind of folks and they’ll make the bag of your dreams.

 

 

One strap, one bag; Crumpler & BBB

Change of Seasons: California Oaks

Southern California is a place of slow and subtle shifts. Traffic moves slowly and the differences of our seasons can sometimes be hard to discern, especially for people from non-Mediterranean climates.

I’ve spent all my life here and can tell the different seasons by a number of different clues. I can see the how the light differs on a clear summer day and a clear day in winter. I can also smell the seasons, especially the spring & summer. As winter glides into spring I started to think about another seasonal clue.

Oaks.

We have no fewer than twenty different varieties of Oaks in California. Even in our vast urban and suburban sprawl, Oaks are common and for the most part venerated. We even like naming communities after them like Sherman Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Oak Hill and of course, Oakland.

The Santa Monica Mountains is home to scores of oaks and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy does a marvelous job of preserving the hills and valleys where the oaks thrive, often times surrounded by upscale housing developments.

I thought it would be fun to capture the transition of some of our oaks from winter to spring, from cold to warm, from brown to green.

Allow me to start with a short poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost / 1923

Oak 8
Oak 8
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Oak 7
Oak 6
Oak 6
Oak 5
Oak 5
Oak 4
Oak 4
Oak 3
Oak 3
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Oak 2
Oak 1
Oak 1
Change of Seasons: California Oaks