Archive for April, 2008


April Achievements in the Garden

I love being in the garden more than ever. I think working on the computer all week, days at my job, nights at my hobbies, has really got me appreciating being in contact with real earth. Here are some shots of recent little things that have happened.


Spanish lavender planted last weekend in the parking strip next to our driveway. I am hoping they will soon look like  the ones I planted a couple years ago. The little tree there is an Eastern Red Bud.

Blue Nova drives by lush lavender in Albany
Spanish lavender growing in the parking strip outside my house in Albany.There’s some redish grass there next to it that grows really big and i cut it down to the ground every winter. Albany, CA. 2008. 

Eastern Exposure
Looking south along the garden on the east side of the house. I guess you can’t see too much from here, and there is not much color right now, but I kind of like the shot anyway.

Down the Garden Path

Looking north along the garden on the east side of the house. Not much color right now, but I kind of like the shot anyway. Apricot tree in the foreground, doing much better this year. Some vegetables in the round area: tomotoes, carrots, parsnips, lettuce. The green carpet is a few varieties of thyme. The golden poppies that come up around the garden are all volunteers. I have had them last few years but never planted any myself.

Six Varieties Grafted Espalier Apple

THIS is the thing I am most excited about this season. I just planted this espalier-trained apple tree with six varieties grafted on to it: braeburn, gala, fuji, red delicious, golden delicious, and gravenstein. It is actually on an eastern exposure, but near the south corner, so I’m crossing my fingers and going for it.

Vegetable Path

This spring’s project was getting rid of the last of the tons of lanscaping pebbles that once covered the entire garden. I had them confined to some path-like shapes, but they were still kinda awful. I managed to give away almost all of them, and that opened up the area to the left to wrap around the path of Arizona Red flagstone. The log-themed raised beds are the last vestiges of the prior landscaping schemes.


Indulgent Parent or Crafty Photographer?

Caleb, House and Topiary, originally uploaded by neocles.

Saturday was a long day. It started by my rushing around trying to get various domestic chores and to-do’s done before helping good neighbor friends the Fosters with day two of their move to a new place. Dig the topiary.

So after grocery shopping, collecting up mom’s laundry, getting a hair cut, last minute trip to the drug store for more allergy drugs–damn! The decongestant-antihistamine-pain reliever combo drug is TWICE as expensive with real pseudo-ephedrine in it!–I arrived to help with the move. I’m sure glad my neighborly friends and pillars of civic life in Albany, CA found a place in town to hatch the next one, and didn’t have to move to, say, Albany NY. Housing prices have managed to stand pat around here. They say it’s the schools.

Meanwhile, we had strongly intimated to, if not outright promised, Theo that we would go check out the free telescope viewing at Chabot Space and Science Center. Well, by the time the packing, loading, unloading, organizing, pizza, and beer was done and we got home, it was durn near 9 p.m. That’s pretty late for chilluns to be heading out to party.

But a promise is a promise, as we were repeatedly, like a skipping CD, reminded. Indulgent parent that I am, I agreed to take him up there to see what we could see. Theo had a disco nap in the car on the way there, and I had to wake his ass up upon arrival.

It was a good night for viewing. We saw the Beehive Cluster, M3 Globular Cluster, Capella binary star system (I think), and Saturn with four of its moons! Seeing Saturn through a big telescope is pretty awesome. Theo is totally into it; looks like we’ll be coming back often. And since we were going anyway, I took camera and tripod along for the heck of it. Results below.

Theo looking like a demon on a light fixture


what hath flickr wrought?


Maverick Xpro, originally uploaded by neocles.

My photographer friend, Joe, who himself pulled a Houdini on a substantial flickr presence, IM’d a link to me today. It is to Tim Connor’s blog post about a New York Times article about flickr and the rise of a flickr style of photography. I found it very interesting and cause for reflection about what I think I am doing with with the creative impulse, photography, and flickr. I don’t have any answers to that rumination just yet. But I did notice that telephony is not yet one of the technologies by which this came to you. So far, it’s newspaper, blog, IM, blog. If only I could have twittered in to your wireless refrigerator or toaster oven. Or something.

In any case, let me know how you think my stuff like the shot above fits in to the “style” described, or not.


Family Affairs

Well, it goes like this. Sarah returned last week from London where she goes every year for the London Book Fair. You might have guessed that’s where the London Book Fair would be held. Although, a couple years ago it was in the Docklands, which apparently did not SEEM like London to many of the attendees, prompting a return the following year to a more central location at Earl’s Court. This year, Sarah reports having a bit more time to see something other than the inside of the convention hall. She hung out with her boss and his wife.  Fine meals and beer were had at The Blackbird Pub, an upscale vegetarian restaurant called The Gate, an interesting Asian fusion place successfully mixing Indian, Thai, and dim sum, and finally another pub at Tottenham Court. Much fun was also apparently had at the Ingram party.

Meanwhile, back the ranch, Theo and I did our best to entertain ourselves. There were photo walks around the neighborhood, dinner at friends’ in the SF, yard work, and play dates. Finally, on the last night of Sarah’s absence we had a rather too exciting evening with the in-laws at Kensington Circus Pub. The excitement started when a less-than-perfectly behaved child throwing toys and intimidating other children (Theo included), finally caused my mother-in-law to march over to the other table and dress down the mom over the lack of oversight. We quickly paid and left.

Then the fun really begins. We went out to the parking lot to find that a beat-up, mid-80’s BMW was parked immediately behind our Honda CRV in the parking lot, thus blocking us in. While I tried unsuccessfully to maneuver around the heap, the father-in-law went around to the restaurant and other stores trying to find its owner. After a bit he comes back and says, “She’s coming to move it. It’s a psychologist with an office across the street, and she says she’s made her point.” I was already steaming, having convinced myself that this HAD to be intentional, not accidental. So she walks up and says, “That’s what you get for parking at an angle.” Of course, my car was now at an angle because I had spent the last 15 or 20 minutes trying to get around the heap.

While my car began not at an angle, but quite parallel to the other cars in the stalls, it was taking up the last two stalls at the end of the row. The reason for that was the last stall had a bench jutting out into it and a extra concrete parking bumper in its midst, and they are narrow to boot.

Needless to say, I had nothing but unkind words for her. We spent the next 5 minutes with all five of us yelling at her, Theo included (“you’re a bad guy”), to move her heap immediately. As you would guess, someone sociopathic enough to do this in the first place had plenty of cuss words and inanities to spew back. Theo probably learned all of George Carlin’s seven words in the exchange.

I told her she clearly had issues and needs to see a psychologist, to which paused, stumbled and exclaimed, “I AM a psychologist!” I said, “I know, that’s the joke in it dearie.” (As far back as my community college psych class I’ve thought that some of them go into it the hope of curing themselves. But they never do.) And with that, she moved, we left, and we came home for dessert. And a shot of of whiskey!


Turning Points


 Vintage Car and Topiary #3, originally uploaded by neocles.


I had decided early in 2007 that I really wanted to get back into photography and that I wanted a decent DSLR for the family trip to Greece. So in spring I got the Nikon D40x and started trying to learn it and get used to seeing my world through the viewfinder.

I got a fair amount of practice in before the trip and took over 700 shots while there. That was a lot of shots to curate and process, so I slowed up on shooting for a couple weeks. Of course, I threw hundreds away. And there were few that were any good at all.

It didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere very fast trying to improve my photographic skills, at least not insofar as satisfying myself with the results went. But then in October I took some shots around the neighborhood and also landed on a post-processing approach that resulted in a look I really liked a lot. It was a turning point of sorts.

I guess what is going on in these photos is this. Sarah and I have been into vintage “everything” for a long time—deco, 50s, space-age, etc.—ever since our punk/new wave days in the early 80s. My middle-aged nostalgia has ramped this up lately. And obviously I am not alone in this as there is a pretty huge retro scene that has moved from the underground into the mainstream.

And of course, flickr provides a great forum for people interested in documenting the cars, buildings, furniture, signs, graphics, and ephemera of the last century. In terms of photography, I enjoy documenting this disappearing world. I try to photograph it in the wild, as it were. In other words, I don’t seek out shows or conventions where stuff is on display. Rather, I am interested in things in their natural context of use.

This leads to the second part of the turning point, which is the processing of the image to look more like an old photograph of a “new car” than like a pristine digital shot of an “old car”. But not quite. There’s a juxtaposition of old and new together in the image that I can’t quite articulate, but that is part of what I am trying to get to. If I were reading more about art and photography, I would have a ready-made description of the approach I am struggling here to describe.

Chimpin' ain't easy

Another important influence is my co-worker Joe Reifer. Talking with Joe and going out together for a lunchtime stroll to shoot has taught me lots. Joe is a great photographer and has been very generous with his knowledge of photography, on everything from taping up a Holga to the business of selling usage rights for one’s work. I can’t thank him enough. And this shot of Joe and the Travelall was really popular among flickrfolk!



shorTCar, originally uploaded by neocles.

Last evening I attended for the first time the sf flickr group meeting. It was really nice to meet everyone and have a chance to shoot at the Palace of Fine Arts as the sun went down. A quick review of the download didn’t reveal any particularly great photos. Perhaps with some post-processing, something interesting will come into view.

One of the interesting things that happened was there there was a person their interviewing folks for a magazine story about flickr and the digital revolution in photography. I was so amped up from driving like a maniac to get there on time that I ran my mouth off about this, that, and the other thing. Talking about it did help to clarify some of my thoughts about more about what I think I am doing with photography. [I’ll talk more about that in this space later.]

In any case, after walking around the POF for awhile we retired to the Grove Cafe (?) for food, drink, and conversation. A great group of people and all around good time.



Chevy Shadow

Chevy Shadow, originally uploaded by neocles.

It is sort of odd. I have always been interested in photography, and used to shoot with an old Canon FTb back before going away to grad school. I used to shoot mostly slide film for my little multi-media pieces for which I also composed weird electronic music. But somehow the passion did not come back after I finished school. Even after working at a photo lab for the last several years now, I didn’t really go beyond the usual point-n-shoot photo ops.

Then last year the passion came back strong. I have been having a blast, first with my Nikon D40x, and then also with a Diana+ and a Holga. Now I am obsessed. I almost always have a camera of some sort with me. In fact, THAT is about the only way for me to really take pictures because there is rarely, uh never, time enough in my week to go out on a dedicated shoot. So, if I’m gonna shoot, it is gonna be while I’m commuting, eating, working, etc.

Of course, Flickr has had a big role in feeding the obsession as well. The way this occurred was made much clearer to me last night while attending a BayCHI meeting where the topic of one of the talks was how to effectively build elements of game-playing into social network Web sites. (More on the BayCHI talk later.)

None of this is to say that I have been particularly successful at the “gaming”, or advanced my photography skills very quickly. Nonetheless, I still pretty damn excited about taking pictures, so here is the first of many photo posts to come.



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