Category Archives: San Francisco

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Brothers.jpg

These are my brothers.

We hang out.  We have a good time.  We look alike.  Our favorite pastime is sending awkwardly close-up selfies to each other in group texts.

The one on the left is older.  The one on the right is younger.  I’m the oldest.  The youngest just turned 21.  So they came to visit me, and we explored San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Here is what we did.

Lands End with the Brothers.  A Photo Essay.

59200034

592000355920002659200027lands-end-2lands-end-3

lands-end5920003159200030

Traveling with my brothers, while exhausting, is a rare pleasure.  They both live in Maryland still, where our parents are, and I don’t see them often.  Even though technology allows us to communicate easily and frequently, it isn’t the same as seeing them in person.  They’re both still in school (graduate and undergraduate), so traveling out to California to see me is difficult.

But when they’re in town, I love being able to show them all my favorite places– from my favorite photo opportunities to the best cafes and bars.

And it’s also good to get to know my brothers better.  I’ve known them both their entire lives, but little things that occur in day-to-day living are missed when you only see each other once in a blue moon or through the lens of a text, snapchat, or post on Instagram.  So when we’re face to face, especially after it’s been a long time, it’s like I’m hanging out with a completely new set of people.

Plus, being the older sister, I am still sometimes astonished that these younger brothers of mine, long thought of as babies, are actually thoughtful, deliberate human beings with ideas, beliefs, and opinions of their own.  It’s like they’re adults.  Or something.

We have a good time.

This is the first of a couple posts I have in mind for documenting their visit to see me in August 2016 and celebrate Baby Brother’s birthday.  We spent part of the trip in San Francisco just eating and wandering and enjoying the life of a San Francisco tourist.  This part of the trip included wandering the cold edge of San Francisco: Lands End and Sutro Baths.

For those of you who have never been to Lands End and Sutro Baths in San Francisco, you need to do it.  It’s a beautiful park, with paths to walk and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.  Where ocean waves create lace on the grey sands of Ocean Beach.

59200036

// All photos taken with my Canon AE-1 on 35mm film (Portra 400, if I recall correctly).

James Turrell: “we are dwellers at the bottom of the ocean of air.”

james-turrell-1-2

James Turrell is a master of light.

We went to the de Young in San Francisco to check out the Ed Ruscha exhibit a couple months ago.  We had tickets to see the museum, too, and we were excited to explore properly.  A friend of mine was married at the de Young years ago, but we weren’t able to fully explore the museum then.  Plus, I wasn’t too interested in photography yet.

Thus, years later, we devoted a day to exploring art.  In addition to the Ed Ruscha exhibit, a main push to visit the museum was my desire to visit the James Turrell exhibit just outside of the de Young: Three Gems, 2005.  (For those of you in San Francisco this fall, the exhibit will be open on Friday nights with a light show.)

james-turrell-1

The sculpture is a calm dome of space, and one could sit there indefinitely, watching the atmosphere flow by overhead, contemplating peace and quiet.

In fact, I was almost embarrassed at the loud clack of my camera as I pulled light in to rest on film.  A silent agreement to observe in silence was made.

dual

We were in a vase of air, the frogs at the bottom of the well, believing, even for a moment, that the sky was merely a changing disk of light at the top of the upturned bowl.  The soft curves of the walls drew me in, held and cradled me like a babe.

Nothing could find me here, I felt.  A breath of a moment.  A slice of peace in our tumultuous world.

It was literally poetry for my eyes.  For my soul.

james-turrell-1-3

james-turrell-1-4

Things I think about when I’m left to the whims of my brain:

  • How do I get the same feeling of peace on my own, when I’m not surrounded by a structure that was carefully crafted to force upon someone a feeling of gentle surrender?
  • How did James Turrell decide on the angle of these curves?  What inspired him?  What inspires me?
  • Why don’t I go to art museums more often? Why don’t I seek out art more often, when it makes me so happy?
  • Then, darker . . . What am I doing with my life?  Why did I choose my career path? Why didn’t I choose art?  Wouldn’t sculpture or photography be better?  Where was I going?   Was it the right place to be, at the right time?

Perhaps I should spend more time on my own, thinking, browsing, feeling.  Soul seeking is always a good idea, I think.  I haven’t done enough of it, recently.  Instead, I hide behind a curtain of work and the fog of daily minutiae, never confronting what my teenage self once relished– the art of picking myself apart to find my weaknesses.  But then picking myself up to face the next day all over again.

How long could I have sat there, pondering?

I didn’t want to leave.

But I kind of did, too.

in-and-out

So off we went.  Sculptures awaited outside, and we walked those green gardens for a while.

squiddy

The entire De Young is a work of art, from the artwork hanging within its halls to the surfaces that form the building, and, with an entire afternoon to meander quietly, we did so.

james-turrell-1-5

For those of you who wonder what I look like.  Hello.  I need to cut my hair.

Sidebar: Tomorrow is our election day.  Let’s see what happens.  May there be plenty of James Turrell to go around if the results go awry.

//35mm film photos taken with my Canon AE-1 at the De Young in San Francisco, CA in September 2016.

Last Summer Hurrah (in Napa, CA)

chilling-3

From a technical, Western standpoint, summer is still here.  The autumn equinox isn’t occurring for another seven days.  A week.

Yet it already feels like fall.  The days are crisp, and the everything feels fragile and delicate.  I grow melancholy in the evenings as the shadows grow long too soon.  Long days shorten.  Nights grow long and cold, and spicy scents fill my nostrils as I go about my day.  For those of us who celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, the full moon watches over us and declares that it is fall.

chilling-4

However, today I am not talking about the fall.  No, sir!  Today, I’m talking about the summer!  About how I’m still trying to grasp the last wisps of summer before they escape and give way to the chill of the winter.

I think I cherish summer more so than the other seasons because I’ve been without one for so many years.  Summers in San Francisco are chilly affairs, filled with fog and cold and no-sun.  So any day when the sun emerges or I’ve left the San Francisco bubble and entered the sunny, hot days of summer, I am excited.

Napa, California is one of these places.

California wine country is a hop, skip, and a jump from our home.  In fact, it’s probably faster to get to the fringes of Napa or Sonoma than it is to get into San Francisco proper.

So we frolic.

chilling-7

The strands of full berries greet us from vineyard to vineyard.  Winery to winery.

We aren’t tourists.  So we don’t try to cram as many wineries into one day as possible.  One, maybe two, at most.  Otherwise, by tasting flight three or four, the wines all the same, tannins puckering our lips and taste buds.

The Boys.jpg

Instead, we take our time, joy ride in the sun, and stumble upon random wineries in Napa.

As a last hurrah for the summer before our friends and we went back to teaching, working longer hours, etc., we went for a joy ride to Napa.  We found this gem, a quiet winery in the lazy wine country with outdoor seating, wood fired pizzas made to order, and bocce.

I am spoiled.

chilling-5

chilling-6

//35mm film photo, taken with my Canon AE-1 with Kodak Portra 400 film.  Sonoma, California, August 2016.

Climbing a Mountain (Figuratively)

59460014

I think it’s the 79th anniversary of Golden Gate Bridge. Happy birthday, dude.  You rock.  Keep on going.

59460012

This used to be my view every. Single. Day.

I miss it.

It probably still could be my view, if I didn’t mind paying an arm, a leg, and my firstborn (and possibly my second) in order to afford rent in San Francisco.  I have come to the conclusion that those kids living n San Francisco (they’re all kids, no matter their age) must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Independently wealthy (from the parents or perhaps because they sold their start up for at least $500 billion)
  2. Work at one of the few places that pay enough salary to accommodate for housing prices in San Francisco
  3. Under the age of 35, childless, and relatively new to San Francisco

I do miss it.

59460011

I am flying to Hong Kong tomorrow.  It’s the eve before I fly, and I haven’t even finished packing.

Oops.  I should get started on that.

But before I do, some background about these images.  These are all photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from different vantage points. These were taken over the course of the past few months.  Look at the hills: they’re still green, which means we were still enjoying a Northern California spring at the time I took these photos.

Nowadays, those hills are yellow in hue.  We’re not called the “Golden State” for nothing.  Those hills are pure gold.

So these photos were all taken after work one day.  Some days, when I drive in to the City after work, I take a break from the traffic to seek out the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge.

59460013

How is this not absolutely breathtaking?

When I took this photo, I had to shove a middle school kid aside and out of my way.  (Punks!)  It looked like a school field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Dozens upon dozens of students getting into my shot.  So I was lucky to get a few.

59460017

It’s been a long week.  Maybe it’s time to go pack.

See you in Hong Kong.

//35mm film photos of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge taken from the Marin side.  If you look carefully, you can see Sutro Tower in the background.

Roses in Napa

59430007

Somewhere along the way, I was lost.  But then I found myself.  Or, at least, pieces of myself.  Step by step, like Hansel and Gretel picking up the crumbs they left behind, I am following the crumbs of who I am.

I’ve gone through many iterations of “me-ness.”  My haecceity.  (That’s a new word I learned this past weekend from reading a young adult book.  Makes me wonder about the level of my vocabulary– or it’s saying something about the authors when I can still learn new words to add to my lexicon.  Anyway, this is a very verbose way of say– look it up.)

59430005

Many of my friends are still figuring out who they are– what makes them tick and keeps them going.  Is there a midlife crisis before you’re in your midlife?  Because that’s what’s going on.  Many of my friends are changing their careers, leaving lucrative, high powered jobs, departing the known to pursue the unknown.  Others have hopped around, seeking the right fit.

How do we find the right fit?

I have friends who left and are now writers, calligraphers, artists.  That wasn’t the plan when we started out.

But then again, who were we, to presume to know our futures?

59430006

I changed direction, too.  I’m a million times happier now than I was two years ago, but it didn’t happen overnight.  I write a lot when I am stressed, and maybe one day I’ll do a photo shoot of the notebooks I write in.  Page after page, I dug into my soul with ink.  It was a stream of consciousness, rambling much like I am now.  Stormy ideas and thoughts, tumbling rough and unpolished, onto paper.

It helped a lot.

I’m not at the final stage of discovering who I am– and I may never really find that out.  I sometimes wonder why I’m not doing something different.  For now, though, I’m still following that little stream of clues of haeccity through life.

I’ll figure it out as I go.

59430008

{{Oh yes, these are 35 mm film photos of roses taken outside of the Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, California from a couple weekends back.  Aren’t these petals dreamy?  The grain of the film (Portra 400) makes me so happy, too.  I fall in love with film every time. }}

Ending a Roll

End-5

Shooting film means shooting in sets of 16, 24, or 36 frames.  What ends up happening sometimes is that I don’t quite finish a roll, and then I’m left with a few extra frames to shoot before I can bring the roll in to be developed (I hate waste!).

Last time this happened, I grabbed C and told him that we were going to run around San Francisco for a little bit and finish the last few shots before dropping off the film.

A good sport, he agreed.

Drove in and found a cute little spot in the Mission in San Francisco.  Park. Run. Ooh, chilly. Pose. Snap. Pose more. Snap. Snap.

End-2

Run back to car.

It took a total of five minutes.  Probably less.  It was really cold.  And windy.

There may or may not have been some people in the car next to ours staring at our 5 minute shenanigans.

End

(Weirdos. Cool weirdos.  I think he was giving the people staring at us a weird look back.)

05610032

End-4

Hi there, male model!

Did I mention that it was the perfect lighting? Golden hour, in the shade– A natural light box of filtered sunlight.  Approximately 3 minutes after these photos were taken, after we had loaded ourselves back into the car and I was winding my film back into its canister, the light was gone.

05610036

Thinking about beautiful light gives me chills.  It really does.  It makes me happier than I can even explain.  Lights and shadows are among my favorite things in this world.  This photo right here, for example.  The sun is waving adieu to the sky, and the leaves trail shadows of varied light across textured surfaces.

I really should write a post dedicated to light and how it works in my photography.  Maybe that will be an upcoming post.  Stay tuned!

And because I rarely ever have photos of myself, here’s one of me:

End-6

And it’s a wrap!

Sunset Views: Albany Bulb

Albany Bulbtastic

Sunsets on the horizon. 

Albany Bulb Albany Bulb Silhouette

The weather’s been getting colder, and the winter rains are coming.  Wrapped in a fuzzy blanket next to a pile of sweet smelling, fresh laundry, I find my mind wandering.  Wandering over the last year.  Wandering through the photos, the places, and the people.  Wondering what I’ll do and where I’ll go next. 

I’ve spent the past year soul searching.  This time last year, I was struggling with my career and my direction in life.  I wanted a new job; I wanted to shoot photography; I wanted to be someone and do something. 

It didn’t come easily, though. 

I was so lost. 

And, I realized recently, I’m still not there yet.  It’s kind of like that feeling you get after browsing Facebook or Instagram for a period of time and leave, feeling like everyone else in the world has their life together and are out doing wonderful and beautiful things.  (Yes, I just linked to my Instagram.  I am unabashedly self-promoting my Insta- I can’t help it sometimes.  As for Facebook, I lurk, but I want to detach.) That’s how I feel sometimes. Left out and forgotten. 

So I’m on a journey.  To find myself.  To find what makes me tick.  I’m not satisfied with living a life merely going through the motions.  The circumstances of my departure from my last job left me with bouts of nervousness at my new job, which I’ve used as motivation now to be the best I can be.  I’m still nervous, but I know I won’t feel this way forever.  Is this life?  Waking up early to work out, wading through my work, fighting traffic to get home, ultimately eating dinner and collapsing in bed in order to wake up and do it all over again?  I freaked out the other day because my mind (my traitorous mind) had explored the possibility that I was too old and too far down a path to be able to achieve everything I desired.  Sunsets on the horizon, if you will.

No.  I refuse.  This isn’t it.  I’m too young and too ambitious and too excited to do other things.  I’m going down a good path now, but I refuse to let it be a leisurely path, and I refuse to let it become a dead end.  I’ve been down this road before.  But this time, I have the ability to make my own life and make my own time for things that I want.  I’m looking into art classes; photography classes; reigniting my artistic spark and flexing my creative muscles.

I just need a reminder every now and then.  Let’s go.  Let’s be!

// 35mm film photo taken with my Canon AE-1 a Albany Bulb in Albany, CA, just east of San Francisco.  On clear days, you can see all three bridges (Golden Gate, Bay, and Richmond) from this vantage point.  A quiet place for quiet reflection.