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Under the Maze, West Oakland, CA

The Macarthur Maze is a prominent structure in Bay Area traffic. It serves as a funnel into San Francisco from the East and south East. And it seems to spew traffic coming out of San Francisco to the East and South East. To understand how important this structure is, consider that San Francisco itself is tiny—only 49 square miles and home to less than a million souls. By contrast, the East Bay is home to 2.4 million million souls. Yet, San Francisco is the economic hub of the entire area. Lots of people need to go there every day, and they all have to come home.

It is impossible to appreciate the maze when you are in it. For the initiated, it can be terrifying, with all the overpasses and underpasses swooping every which way. And God help you if you miss your exit because it will take much longer than you would ever expect to right yourself get back on the path to your destination. For the people who do this often, it is only a chore. The delays, the congestion, the pollution, the idiotic fender benders and yes, the road rage are simply a tax for the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

A history and more detailed background can be found in Wikipedia—the link is here.

To appreciate both the beauty and the engineering of the Maze, one must get under it. From that vantage, the elevated structures with their beautiful sweeping lines and the fluidity of their designs are easier to see and appreciate.

The access is not easy, and the environment is not that hospitable, with the homeless encampments, the trash, the active railroad lines and the grit and filth. But if you look up, you will see something that I think is worth seeing.

Camera:     Nikon 800e

Lens:          Nikkor 24-70/2.8

Exposure:  f/16, several exposures, covering 7 EVs

B&W Rendering: Silver eFex Pro

HDR Rendering Photomatix Pro


West Oakland Overpass #2 BWc

West Oakland Overpass#1


West Oakland Overpass #3BW


Just Where is the Uber-Partiot Militia Movement Now?

I am doing my best to stay out of politics and devote my energy to my first passion–photography. But sometime, I need to return to the political fray.

Like now.

One of the animating factors in the militia movement is to protect us from the tyrannical government:

So I am wondering, where are these uber-patriot protectors against tyranny in the wake of what is beginning to look like the cold blooded murder of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson MO? Or the over-militarized police reaction against lawfully assembled citizens seeking a redress of grievances?


Fergeson 1

Getting ready fr urban combat


Feregeson 4

Time to kick some unarmed teenaged ass…

Are they not outraged by police sitting atop armored vehicles pointing a tripod mounted weapon at what appears to be unarmed citizenry? Under what circumstances would they open fire on these citizens?

Fergeson 2

Ready to open fire on unarmed citizens


Fergeson 3


Or are they only outraged by a petty land dispute brought on by a Nevada grifter?

Come on, militia uber-patriots. An unarmed citizen with with his hands up being gunned down by a police officer is the streets is government tyranny. Leaving the man’s body in the street is tyranny. Overwhelming police reaction, with automatic weapons and full tactical gear facing unarmed citizens is tyranny.

Where are the militia men “Praetorian Guard!!” when we see this kind of tyranny on the streets on an American city?

Protecting Cliven Bundy’s cows, thats where.

So militia types, either show up with your guns to protect the citizens or admit that all of your big talk at the Bundy ranch is nothing but hyperventilated bullshit.





The Great Mosque

The Great Mosque.

The Great Mosque

In the fall of 1990 by then-girlfriend (now wife) and I took our first foreign trip together to Spain. Neither of us had been to Spain, so the trip was designed to see as much as possible in the shortest time possible. The pace was frenetic and what we saw was the Cliff Notes version of the country.

As a matter of fact, we developed a catch phrase which we still use to this day: “Very nice…Very nice…Lets go!” You get the idea.

But there was one place that stopped us in our tracks. Literally. As we blasted into Cordoba, checklist of must-see attractions in our hands, we encountered the Great Mosque. The history and background of this structure from Wikipedia can be found here.

This is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of medieval Moorish architecture in the world today. But it symbolizes something else.

When the Moors were evicted from Iberia, the Christians erected a giant, gothic cathedral in the middle of the mosque. They did not destroy the mosque and replace it. They simply built their monument in the middle of the religious structure of the (in their minds) infidels. I choose not to photograph any of the Christian parts of this structure because one can see this kind of thing in any European city. The Moorish parts, however, are unique.

The Iberian peninsula has a long history of violent religious conflict. This building in its current form is an architectural travesty. It is a perfect symbol and sober reminder of the travesty that results when people wage war over God.

From the inside from the the Great Mosque:

Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M

Lens Zeiss 50mm Distagon

Film: Kodak Plus x Pan 125

Exposure: Not recorded


Inside the Great Mosque, Cordoba Spain

Inside the Mosque #1


Inside the Grand Mosque #2 Cordoba Spain

Inside the Mosque #3


Inside the Grand Mosque #2

Inside the Mosque #2

What We Discard

What we discard can say as much about us as what we carry. Sometime in the fall of 1980, I found an abandoned church in rural central Indiana. It caught my eye because this obviously derelict building stood alone with cultivated land all around it–except for the dirt trail that led to the site. There were no visible remains of other buildings like a parsonage, no broken sidewalks, not an abandoned cemetery. Nothing but cultivated farmland around it. Why was this tiny patch of ground not plowed under? How long had this building stood unused? Inside were the leftovers of what must have been an active, indeed vibrant community of believers. Leftover hymnals, the fans used in the humid Indiana summer heat (with the obligatory funeral home advertisement on them) the long unused coffee pot in the back. What happened to these people? Did the community outgrow this humble building and now were worshiping in bigger and brighter surroundings? Or did they just die or drift away? Were they…raptured? Many questions–no answers. The only thing I know is that whatever was here is now gone and only this sad artifact remained. I now carry  photographs of what they discarded.

Empty Pews #1

Empty Pews Central Indiana 1980


Empty Pews #2

Empty Pews Central Indiana 1980

How the images were made: Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M Lens: Zeiss 50mm Film Pan-X 125 Exposure not recorded although it was a pretty small aperture given the depth of field. The exposure time must have been between three and five minutes because I illuminated the open doors and  windows by running around the outside the church with a hand held flash while the shutter was open.


You can see more on other topics here.

Chihuly Glass

Sometimes I am happy to realize that, at this age, I can still be stunned. On a recent trip to visit my brother in Seattle, my wife scheduled a stop at the Chihuly permanent exhibition near the Space Needle. I had never heard of Chihuly so I did not know what I was about to see.

For background and context, I turn again to Wikipedia:

Dale Chihuly (born September 20, 1941), is an American glass sculptor and entrepreneur. His works are considered unique to the field of blown glass, “moving it into the realm of large-scale sculpture,” (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). The technical difficulties of working with glass forms are considerable, yet Chihuly uses it as the primary medium for installations and environmental artwork.

These works were quite unlike anything I have ever seen. We toured the exhibit snapping away on our iPhones (along with everyone else). Not only was I surprised that we were allowed to take photographs, but images recorded on our phones were amazing.

I thought if we could produce these images on a smarty-pants phone, what could we do with a “real” camera (sorry iPhone buffs, but I think you know what I mean. An iPhone simply will not match a modern, full frame digital camera paired with high quality glass). I returned the next day with my Nikon 800e paired the Nikkor 24-70 mm zoom.

The exhibit space is very dark and the only light I had is the rather weak on-board flash. What I would have given for an external light source, but sometimes you have to make the best with what is at hand. The original images were about two stops underexposed. But they were within Photoshop’s ability to salvage.

Everyone going to Seattle should make time to see this exhibit. You won’t be sorry. Here are two examples of what I saw:

Glass Sculpture #1

Chihuly Glase Image #1

Glass Sculpture #2

Chihuly Glass Image #2

Lake Merritt

I live in the small hills that lie just to the east and south of Lake Merritt, near the center of Oakland, CA. This lake is a short downhill walk from my house (the walk back, however, can be a bit of a slog).

This is a very popular place among Oaklanders–perfect for birdwatching, walking/jogging, picnics, gondola rides and family gatherings.  Or a peaceful respite from the noise and waste inflicted by urban life. The lake presents new perspectives every time I look through a viewfinder. My study of the lake will continue as long as long as I live here.

Background and context from Wikipedia:

Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon in the center of Oakland, California, just east of Downtown. It is surrounded by parkland and city neighborhoods. It is historically significant as the United States’ first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. The lake features grassy shores; several artificial islands intended as bird refuges; an interpretive center called the Rotary Nature Center; a boating center where sailboats, canoes and rowboats can be rented and classes are held; and a fairy tale themed amusement park called Children’s Fairyland. A popular walking and jogging path runs along its perimeter.[3] The circumference of the lake is 3.4 miles (5.5 km) and its area is 155 acres.

Here a couple for photos from my Lake Merritt collection.


Lake Merritt #1

Bird Islands Lake Merritt

This is of a couple of the artificial islands built as part of the bird sanitary. The buildings in th background issultrates the very urban setting of the lake. Nikon 800e, Nikkor 24-70 zoom. f/22. Exposures not recorded, but this image was made using 3-4 different exposures. HDR rendering-Photomatix Pro. BW rendering Silver eFex Pro 2.


Lake Merritt #4 BW

Lake Merritt Sunrise

Nikon 800e, Nikkor 24-70 zoom. f/22. Exposures not recorded, but this image was made using 3-4 different exposures. HDR rendering-Photomatix Pro. BW rendering Silver eFex Pro 2.


Lake Merritt Dawn

Lake Merritt Sunrise

Same picture in color. Geekie stuff the same, without the BW rendering.






Golden Gate Bridge

It is impossible to be a photographer and either live in, or visit, the Bay Area without making a pilgrimage to the Golden Gate bridge. This iconic structure may well be the most photographed in the world. Some history and context, again from Wikipedia:

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.[7] The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world”.[8] It opened in 1937 and had, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,300 m)

This  needs to be in every photographer’s viewfinder. Here are some examples of what I saw when it was in mine.

South Tower #1

South Tower Before Dawn

Geekie stuff: Taken from Marin headlands, Nikon 800e, Zeiss 80 mm lens, ISO 100, f/22 Exposures 4 seconds, 16 seconds, and 1 second. HDR rendering Photomatix Pro.


North Tower #1

North Tower at Dawn

Geekie stuff: Taken from Marin headlands, Nikon 800e, Zeiss 80 mm lens, ISO 100, f/22 Exposures 4 seconds, 1 second, and 1/4 second. HDR rendering Photomatix Pro.



Bridge at Night

Bridge at Night

Geekie stuff: Taken from Fort Baker, Nikon 800e, Nikkor 24-70 mm mm lens, ISO 100, f/22 Exposures 30  seconds, 8 seconds, and 2 seconds. HDR rendering Photomatix Pro.


Old Bay Bridge Under Deconstruction

With this post, I am taking a break from the hypocrisy and flabbergasting buffoonery of the right wing fringe extremists. Although they are amusing in their own way, I am turning my attention to something that interests me far more: photography. In this series, I will share some images of things that I find interesting and I hope that others will as well. Also, I will include some contextual narrative as well as the technical detail of how the image was captured and made.

We start with the old San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. First, a little history and background, from Wikipedia (of course):

The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge) is a complex of bridges spanning San Francisco Bay of the U.S. state of California. As part of Interstate 80 and the direct road route between San Francisco and Oakland, it carries approximately 240,000 vehicles per day on its two decks.[3][4] It has one of the longest spans in the United States.

The toll bridge was conceived as early as the gold rush days, but construction did not begin until 1933. Designed by Charles H. Purcell,[6][7] and built by American Bridge Company, it opened for traffic on November 12, 1936, six months before the Golden Gate Bridge. It originally carried automobile traffic on its upper deck, and trucks and trains on the lower, but after the closure of the Key Systemtransit lines, the lower deck was converted to road traffic as well. In 1986, the bridge was unofficially dedicated to James B. Rolph.[8]

The bridge consists of two sections of roughly equal length; the older western section connects downtown San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island and the newer eastern section connects the island to Oakland. The western section is a double suspension bridge. Originally, the largest span of the original eastern half was a cantilever bridge. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a section of the eastern section’s upper deck collapsed onto the lower deck and the bridge was closed for a month. Reconstruction of the eastern section of the bridge as a causeway connected to a self-anchored suspension bridge began in 2002; the new bridge opened September 2, 2013 at a reported cost of over $6.5 billion[9] and is currently the world’s widest bridge, according to Guinness World Records.

The San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island span was a lovely double suspension bridge. However, the Yerba Buena Island to Oakland (San Francisco’s ugly and troubled little sister) span was an eyesore from day one. It was a cantilever design that looked like it had been built from a giant erector set. All utility-no beauty.

And now it is being taken down. Although I am glad that it is no longer in service, the deconstruction of the old bridge could yield interesting images of industrial decay–a subject that I return to often. The problem is that access to Yerba Buena island is extremely limited. My friend Eric and I went on a scouting trip to see if we could, by hook or by crook, find a position that could yield interesting photography. This was only recon, and I did not even have my favorite camera or lenses to work with. We were only going to take test shots.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than smart. Here is what we found and the image produced.

Old Bay Bridge #1

Eastern Span of Bay Bridge Under Deconstruction


For the Photo geeks:

Camera: Nikon 7100; Lens: Nikkor 18-105 zoom: Exposure: 35mm, ISO 400, f/7.1 , 1/200. BW rendering Silver e/Fex Pro 2

Right Wing Mythology—Voter Fraud Edition

This is the second installment of a series of how the right wing is motivated more by myth than facts. This edition: Voter Fraud!

It appears to be tribal knowledge among the right wing of American politics that our electoral process is in grave danger from the scandal of in-person voter fraud. This is why, in nearly every State legislature controlled by Republicans there are right wing politicians working feverishly to pass laws that actually make it harder to vote. Voter identification requirements are not the only tool at their disposal, but it is the tool that is in the forefront of their defense of our sacred democracy.

On the surface, it makes sense. If we require a photo ID to have a driver’s license, why not the same sort of requirement to exercise the right to vote, they reason.

But as it turns out, these requirements will suppress the vote of the part of the electorate that Republicans would really rather not vote at all: minorities, new citizens, the elderly, the poor, the disabled and the young, especially students.

What a happy coincidence. Eliminate voter fraud and skew the electorate to the right. Two’fer!

Just for the sake of discussion, lets leave the realm of right wing myth and enter the realm of actual facts.

First of all, there does not seem to be any significant, actual in-person voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice finds the allegations either baseless or greatly exaggerated. Politifact rated Dick Morris’ allegation that there is proof that over one million people voted twice in 2012 “False.” Snopes rated various urban legend-type stories circulating as False. The New York Times finds “scant evidence” to support such claims.

Jay DeLancy of North Carolina is so convinced of rampant voter fraud that he has formed an organization an organization called the Voter Integrity Project which serves mostly as a voter vigilante organization to harass voters in Democratic precincts.

What? Democratic precincts? Anyone wonder why he is only concerned about fraud in Democratic precincts? I am sure it is just about the fraud.

Secondly, whatever fraud exists appears to be perpetrated by Republicans. Republicans or Republican operatives have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar in both Texas and Virginia. And lets not for a moment forget the Republicans who managed to lock themselves in the courthouse in Mississippi overnight with unsupervised access to the actual ballots.

Well, that’s awkward.

So it turns out that Republicans are doing nothing to eliminate voter fraud (in fact they appear to be the real perps) but they are managing to harass and suppress the part of the electorate that they would rather not vote.

I guess one out of two isn’t so bad.