Monday, December 19, 2011



One of my Christmas gifts from Betsy last year was a membership at SF Moma. Since it's due to expire at the end of the month, I decided I would get the most out of it with one last quick trip through the place. I'd seen signs for the Richard Serra exhibit all over town (even in local cafes in Mountain View!), so I decided I'd hit that first.

I've seen Serra's massive metal sculptures in a lot of places -- the De Young, on top of MOMA, etc. This exhibit was more about drawing as a theme, which made it a little interesting. Some of it was stuff that felt more like a visual study to me -- kind of answering the question 'What does it mean to draw at scale?' Other stuff appeared to be pointed more towards abstracting away everything but the essentials of a three dimensional shape (e.g., reducing it to lines or solid blocks), or musings on repetition, like this one.

This scene was immediately recognizable as a photo to me -- took out my phone and had the shot on the first take. It came out a little overexposed, and I helped matters more in that way in post, since that's clearly where the image needed to be headed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hell is a Caltrain Stop

Hell is a Caltrain Stop

Up in the city yesterday for my last photo walk in SF of the year, and Caltrain came through for another lengthy delay. :)

Snapped this with my phone as the mood started to head south.



This is a PSA.

Julie Michelle, the photographer behind "I Live Here: SF", is going through some rough times.

 Here are the relevant details from All City:

There is a fundraiser this Sunday (12/18) at the San Francisco Motorcycle Club to help All City friend and fellow photographer Julie Michelle and her partner Lee.

As some of you know, Lee recently suffered a massive stroke mid-November, leaving a lot of uncertainty in the couple’s lives. As you can imagine, the medical expenses are through the roof, even with insurance. Julie and Lee are currently in the midst of trying to relocate to a new home that will better fit Lee’s needs. 

In addition to trying to run Lee’s companies, Julie is currently staying with friends and working on packing up their life belongings in preparation for the move. Julie has done a lot of great things for the San Francisco photography community and beyond, and chances are that many of you reading this either know Julie personally or are familiar with her work, so I’m hoping some of our local readers are able to attend Sunday’s fundraiser. If you cannot attend, you can still help out here: 

Your support is great appreciated! 

San Francisco Motorcycle Club
2194 Folsom Street (at 16th Street)
San Francisco, CA 94110 

If you're not familiar with the "I Live Here" project, Julie started it by posting an invitation on the internet to take portraits of people. She asks people to pick the place in San Francisco that means the most to them, and then will meet them there. Total strangers, sometimes in some totally strange places.

The result has been not only some interesting portraits, but also people doing the same thing in other cities.

Julie needs our help if she wants to continue her project -- if you'd like to chip in, just follow the link above and donate whatever you can.



Flew back from Alabama by way of New Orleans, which meant a day with B and the French Quarter. While she was working on a paper, I went for a walk, and saw a man entering a shelter for some building work. I chased after him so I'd get this shot just as he stepped into the light.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Last Jam

The Last Jam

The night after my grandmother's funeral, my uncle Scott and my cousin Jacob got together and started jamming. Every came to the room to the listen, and my great-aunt Janet got to listen up close.

I've heard Scott play the guitar his whole life, and he's always been really good, but that night was singular.

Absolutely brilliant -- he and Jacob were on fire.

When I heard them playing, I walked into the doorway, and I instantly knew I had my shot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


My grandmother, Norma Landry, died this week at the age of 81. Yesterday was her funeral, and this was the eulogy I gave. 

The picture is one I took of her in May of this year, on a road trip Betsy and I took across the country. My mother had asked me then if I could take a picture of her, telling me, "I'm worried she won't be with us that long".   She'd been telling me this for years, but I decided I needed a picture of my grandmother anyway.

When I asked my grandmother, she insisted that she get to put on her lipstick and take off her oxygen.

It's a simple portrait -- Betsy held the flash with a little LQIII portable softbox off to camera left, and I took the shot.


Mamaw always had a special place in my heart: She was the one who told me stories. I say this as someone who will always love my parents for reading to me when I was young -- it's just that I would sometimes be insistent on new stories, that no one else had heard. My grandmother would take bits of character and plot from movies or television we'd both seen, and begin there. Over time, the adaptions became more elaborate, and with a few years to refine her handiwork, they began to take on a life all their own.

Princess Leia became "Queen Pearl". A cloaked starship became hidden by "invisible paint" (helpfully suggested by my grandfather) -- and plots that began as space operas began to become shaped by the narrative trajectory of skits from Saturday Night Live and the Golden Girls. Every so often, I have occasion to tell a story of my own. When I do, my friends invariably comment (some charitably, some perhaps less) on where I could have dreamt up such things, and I just smile.

I know where the stories started.


One of my earliest memories of Mamaw was being at her house, and seeing one of the brass horses she had on the mantle. 

I asked her why she had it, and she explained to me that it reminded her of her horse Bob, which she'd ridden as a girl. As she told me about the horse, her eyes lit up, and both she and I were transported back to the days where she was young, and had her very own horse to ride. 

You could trace everything my grandmother did back to one central truth: She always had the heart of that girl she used to be. 


Growing up, the thing I looked forward to every week was that come Friday, I got to spend the weekend with my grandparents. When people talk about the idyllic days of youth as a metaphor, those weekends are the literal image that springs to my mind.

Imagine a weekend where you could wake up on a Saturday morning, take off in a fishing boat you'd helped your grandfather build, shrimp for your own bait, then catch a double dozen redfish from a fishing hole in an undisclosed location in the marshes of Lower Alabama and Mississippi. Not enough adventure? Imagine the same trip, except with the biggest squall you've ever seen zapping the water feet away from you with lightning bolts. 

Still not enough? Imagine being taken with an uncle to ride in a monster truck through a swamp. Or riding ATVs through that same swamp a few months later, only to discover there are considerably more snakes at ground level than at monster truck level.

At the time, these all seemed like regular occurrences. Sometimes, you don't realize you're having an adventure till it's over. 

After a day like this, we'd generally end up nipping a few oysters from a bed, and then heading back home. The part of the day that came next was the most important. We'd get home, tired and exhausted, and my grandfather would sit outside shucking oysters on the porch. I'd come in, and there'd be Mamaw. Who'd fuss over me, listen to me talk about the events of the day (and whether I'd been scared or not), and then we would bake a pizza in the oven together.

Every Saturday, like clockwork, for years. 

For me, this was the definition of a happy childhood; but speaking it out loud, it sounds a little like a lot of people's idea of heaven.


I could tell you a lot more about my grandmother, but I think most of you here already knew her and have a big list of what made her unique. In the days since she's been gone, I went through just such a list in my head, since a list that describes who she was also describes why I would miss her.

What we lost when we lost Norma is a big list, but the biggest for me was the hour when I realized that if I or my sister ever have children of our own, they would never get to have those Saturdays.

It's just a story now: 

"Mamaw and Brandon's Son, and the Saturdays that Never Came."

But if there's one thing you take away from the life of this 81 year old woman with a young girl's heart -- generous to a fault, and so loving of her children and her children's children, it's that her story doesn't have to end here.

Remember the best part of her. Remember what she gave to me, and what she gave to you, and try to give the same thing to the people you care about.

When you remember her story, remember that one too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Airport Therapy

Airport Therapy

I had a family emergency this week that ended up with me flying out of SJC at 6am. I was staggering bleary eyed around the new terminal, and I saw this. I had my d700, but it would have been just too intrusive to shoot with that in the largely empty terminal at 5-something in the morning, so I had to iPhone it.

I will say that photography is about the only thing that keeps me sane in airports, but maybe this is a sign I should take up meditation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Time to Roll the Dice

Time to Roll the Dice

Snapped this at my company's holiday party. The theme was 'Carnivale', so they handed out masks at the door. Every photographer there should have written thank you notes for those masks -- can't get enough of this guy at the end of this table myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shop Till You Drop

Shop Till You Drop

My girlfriend messaged me from a Wal-Mart in North Carolina last night, where she was with her sister, waiting for Black Friday. I asked her what it was like, and she texted back:


Earlier in the day, I'd been to Whole Foods to Thanksgiving supplies, and it was like a scene out of a bourgie Bosch painting, so I suddenly was filled with visions of how it could get worse. So, I went to the local Target and Wal-Mart around 12:15. I figured to get the good rush pictures, I'd need to be inside first -- so no point in standing in line. I had to use my iPhone to remain unobtrusive, and this made things very touch and go -- even the 4s struggles to get a usable shutter speed in 'Wal-Mart light'. But when it worked, it *really* worked -- the stuff I saw was just total madness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Streets of New Orleans

I just got an iPhone 4s, and I've been messing around with its camera functionality. The short summary is: This is the best cell phone camera I've ever seen when it comes to noise, range, and probably overall default image quality. Apple also finally stopped being retarded, and now let you use the volume control as a shutter release.

The result is that the phone now makes for a really fun tool for doing street photography -- I snapped this shot in New Orleans last weekend when I was out for lunch with Betsy and my sister, while we waited in line and watched the pedestrians go by.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Return to the Camellia Grill

Return to the Camellia Grill

We went back to the Camellia Grill again after my red-eye arrived in New Orleans. Along with the mix of locals and tourists there, I discovered I can't get enough of that zig-zag-y bar. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Streetcar Vignettes

Streetcar Vignettes

New Orleans has streetcars: not trolleys, not cable cars, but streetcars. They're all still super old school, and you still get a mix of locals and tourists taking them to school, for the view along St. Charles, or (of course) the French Quarter. If you sit and watch them as they go by, they're nicely partitioned, and have one window per seat, which (I think) makes them like a little stage, where every person sitting is an actor in them.

Probably the most famous photo from Robert Frank's The Americans is of a streetcar in New Orleans:

That one is an indictment of the racial segregation in public transportation in the South, and you could make a good case the entirety of The Americans is itself a political act.

While I think it's fascinating (and probably in agreement with Frank's POV), it's a lot more interesting to consider the viewpoint that catching a streetcar as it rolls by gives you. I snagged this shot at night, fascinated by how each seat of the streetcar is its own little cell, lit up like a stage for us to peer onto. The shades vary like a bar graph, and my eye catches a real sense of flow here.

I think this photo could be done a number of ways -- on my next trip to New Orleans, I'm going to catch this again with a longer lens, and break it up into three chunks. It'll give me better image resolution on the drama inside the streetcar, but I also think it might make for a fun study as a triptych.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Reds and the Golds

The Reds & the Golds

Today's photo is a little break from the Folsom Street Fair -- it's from my trip to New Orleans a month ago.

I went back and forth on this photo, and now, a month later, I'm sure I like it. I'm not alone in going back and forth on it either -- I pointed a good friend of mine to it, and he said, "The more I look at it, the more I like that man on the right, and HATE that woman on the left on the phone".

If I can't produce a thing of beauty, maybe at least I can show up with something that will enrage? ;)

At any rate, along with the contrast in color and the rhythm of the pedestrians here, it reminded me of one of my favorite facts about ancient Byzantium -- the city was split into political factions who manifested their disagreements by chariot races and eventually rioting.

Every time I see people wearing competing colors, I think of that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Attack of the Y Chromosome

Attack of the Y Chromosome

Taking a photo of just men at the Folsom Street Fair is an interesting constraint, and I think it yielded some fun results here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rapture in Jade

Rapture in Jade

Shot this over at the Gold's Gym area of the Folsom Street Fair, where they had people on pedestals twirling these colorful flags.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Yesterday was the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, and I was up there about thirty minutes before the fair started.

I believe I've said this before, but it's worth saying again:

By far the most disturbing aspect of this fair is not any of the sexual or generally bdsm-themed activity that goes on. It's that the same vendors who sell garlic fries and grilled corn at the Mountain View Art and Wine festival also show up here, for this event. It makes me wonder: What is the life of one of these vendors like? One day, bourgie art & wine festival. The next, sketchy Central Valley carnival. Then *bam*, naked people are tying each other up in the street and getting whipped, and you're still there, peddling the same old fries. Anyway, just a fun thought -- maybe there's a photo essay in the lives of those folks. ;)

Anyway, back to the FSF. The light was awesome. I stayed for about four hours, and felt bad to leave even then, since the light was still going great.

The subject here is a man doing a demonstration of various types of masochism at once -- being blindfolded, whipped, and then also have more sensitive parts roped up. For my part, the hard part wasn't imagining dealing with the pain -- it was imagining how much time this guy has to spend at the gym. Regardless, he made for a wonderful subject, and the alternate title could almost be, 'Grace Under Pressure'. ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Lonely Road

The Lonely Road
While I was walking around SF on Saturday, I found a road I'd never seen, called "Maiden Lane". I was taken by the fact that it's this little pedestrian only lane in a city that despite all the hype seems to love letting people drive everywhere, and at increasingly odd angles. The light there is particularly interesting this time of year, with the sun flaring around the edge of buildings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors
I pass this guy on Geary Street all the time. Lots of photos of him, none I was super happy with -- pretty easy to take pictures of a hard bitten guy who loves to smoke. This one though, it seemed to work for me -- nice time of day, nice rim lighting, nice slouch against the wall, nice reflections. * 

Speaking of dozens of photos, this is now my 200th post. I hope if you're reading this you've found an image here that really sings for you -- something that makes you go back and look at it again, or when you see it again months (or years) later, you remember the feeling it gave you the first time you saw it. A good photo is always like taking a trip to this crazy new world -- one you've never seen before, but maybe was already there right in front of you.

So, hopefully there have been an image like that for you here. If not, keep watching -- the photos are likely to continue until they pry the camera from my cold, dead hands.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Breakfast, Camellia Grill

Breakfast, Camellia Grill
The Camellia Grill is an institution in New Orleans -- a place that manages to stay fairly awesome despite being a destination for tourists and even a southern-flavored hipster or two. I shot this after about three hours sleep on a red-eye out to New Orleans, so for my part I was happy just to not be face down in my omelet. Despite not being damaged in Katrina, the place ended up closing for about two years, and is owned by someone new. Despite being all new wait staff and owners, the food and service still seemed pretty top notch -- and any place you can get pecan pie as a breakfast dessert is OK by me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulez

Laissez les bons temps roulez
You know the parade is going well when the people marching bring bottles of tequila to pour down the throats of the crowd.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ann Street Scene

Ann Street Scene
The crowd on a corner of St. Ann street during the Decadence parade was a nice mix of French Quarter denizens and people there from out of town for the parade.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This is another shot from the French Quarter during the Decadence festival. The intersection of the jazz aesthetic and gay men being wonderfully shameless about their sexuality made for some fun pictures. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eye Opener

Eye Opener On a plane back from New Orleans, I was going through my shots from SF a few weeks back, and I found another one from 4th & King that I really liked.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Decadent Jazz

Decadent Jazz
Still in New Orleans, and it's still raining, but the tropical storm is at least edging its way north and out of drop-a-foot-rain-six-hours territory. This afternoon, I took the bus (the street cars are out because of branches on the tracks) over to the French Quarter, where they're busy having Southern Decadence, billed as a kind of gay Mardi Gras. True to New Orleans form, Decadence has a parade -- and in fact they managed to still have their parade right after Katrina. Unlike the Pride events in larger cities like SF, or even the big Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Decadence definitely seemed to be the sort of parade where you could get right out in the street with the marchers. Got this shot right near the end of the parade, as the jazz band marched right around the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rainy Gaze

Rainy Gaze My girlfriend Betsy is living in New Orleans while she gets her masters degree, and I decided to spend the long weekend here with her. Naturally, just as I arrived, the mayor was on television, announcing a state of emergency while the city got ready for Tropical Storm Lee, which is estimated to drop 10-20" of rain our heads before Tuesday.

 Undeterred, we went out for dinner at Antoine's in the French Quarter last night, and I happen to snag this shot in our cab on the way home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

They Might Be Giants

We Might Be Giants
More fun from the Caltrain station this weekend. I went back and forth on this, but I think the contrast makes it a good choice for a b&w conversion. If you'd like to see it in color, check it out here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All Mouths Today

All Mouths Today
Another shot from what is becoming one of my favorite locations: the 4th & King Caltrain station.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Despite the name, not shot in the Dogpatch. ;) The last few weekends I've been up in the city, it's gotten super overcast in the last hour of the day (at least in the Market Street/Union Square area). In that sort of overcast light, if you see something light, it tends to go blinding white in b&w conversions. The result was some contrast and geometry that I liked as this woman's dog parts the crowd before her.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Uptown Girls

Uptown Girls
My ongoing quest to find interesting photos outside of the train stations as they whiz by continues. One day, I may publish a guide for when the best times of day are. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Ever notice how some couples end up in subtle ways? Photographers do.

Round the Bend

Round the Bend
I walked a little closer to the tenderloin this Saturday, and I got a couple of shots there I liked. With the overcast and the stark setting, a black & white conversion suggested itself.

If Looks Could Kill

If Looks Could Kill
The last shot I posted was driven by the looks of the people in it, and I think this one is too. There's a range of emotions upon disembarking from Caltrain, most of which are not pleasant. ;) Irritatingly, this is best viewed in a browser other than Chrome, which seems hell-bent on tinting it just a little orange.


Despite my doom cold, drug my self up to the city yesterday so the weekend wouldn't feel like a total waste. Caught this moment when there was some really good partial directional light working in my favor.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lookin' for a Ride?

Lookin' for a Ride?
Caught this one on the way back from the city on Saturday -- as usual, fascinated by what's going on with the people at varying Caltrain stations. If the train is empty enough, I actually have a pattern of which side I should sit on for which station. ;) Trend towards more color in photos continues -- not sure why it was, but I was seeing a lot more of it this weekend.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Shot this on O'Farrell -- was up there last week, and thought I would come back and check out some of the afternoon light there. Lots of building reflections, and just a bit of drama. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Caught this moment on Powell Street yesterday -- had gone up to the city to catch a few hours of afternoon light near Union Square and to wander around some streets I don't normally spend a lot of time on. Powell is an old favorite though, and it didn't disappoint.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Boy in Green

The Boy in Green
There's a bridge between the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace in Vegas. Every year I go there, and every year I think it's one of my favorite places to photograph people. Caught this one in a rare, partly cloudy moment -- the color and the expressions really caught my eye.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Man in Red

The Man in Red
Just spent a week in Vegas, and came back with photos. :) This one is with the x100, which still managed to turn out something interesting in really low light and a subject all in red (where camera sensors traditionally go to die). Love this guy's expression, and the odd cut of the frame works here for me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Airport Zombie

Airport Zombie

I started out thinking this was a marginal image, but it's grown on me as I've viewed it large. Certainly, the geometry and the expressions reflect the bleak and somewhat askew world of air travel.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Yucca Man

The Yucca Man

Not to overdo a good thing, this is another portrait from that make believe Haitian village. Superior light here, and love this guy's expression.

He's grinding yucca back and forth on a log here, which they in turn baked into bread, which was yummy. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011



Whilst on our cruise, our one and only one shore excursion was the "Haitian Cultural Excursion".

Let me back that up a bit: When I say our cruise ship went to Haiti, it didn't actually go to what you might think of when you think of Haiti -- it went to Labadee, this private island leased by the cruise company. This island has about the same relationship to actual Haiti that Disneyworld does to the Florida panhandle: Which is to say, almost none.

They do have this little excursion where they take you to a 'model' Haitian village though, where you supposedly see how people live in an actual Haitian village. Super, super, super cheesy, although, I guess, there was peanut butter?

Oddly, the "cast" of the village all had an intense amount of character -- I found them all to be great portrait subjects, despite doing things calculated to appeal to ostensible tourists like myself.

This dude ran the arts & crafts hut at the end of the tour, where they upsell you on stuff they carved out of wood. Love his eyes, particularly set against the pattern of the staves and statuettes all around him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rough Seas


My girlfriend and I decided to go on a cruise after our successful apartment hunt in New Orleans. Long story short: Cruises, even nice ones, are actually pretty horrible. After Betsy was attacked by a giant crab this morning, we decided enough was enough -- we're flying out of Jamaica tomorrow and spending our vacation somewhere actually nice. :)

This shot is from Haiti -- we didn't go to any of the unfortunate, gritty parts of Haiti -- just some private island owned (leased?) by Royal Caribbean. Liked the angle here as these folks pushed our boat out to sea. Did I mention the motor broke on the way out here, and then again on the way back? ;)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Express Lane

Express Lane

Another shot from walking around the French Quarter in New Orleans with my new x100.

As you might expect, the French Quarter is a pretty amazing place for street photography. In an abstract way, it reminds me of that area around Market and Powell -- obviously very touristy, but also a place where there's a sort of collision between legitimate locals, tourists, and various seedy forms of entertainers. Seeing the interaction between these groups is a thing to behold.

In this case though, it's all about the interaction between Mr. Cool lighting up in his wheelchair and the woman dutifully pushing him, with the Quarter for atmosphere. The lighter tones at the top of the picture are a result of some flare from the front lighting -- the x100 needs a lens hood, but it's been backed ordered for months -- expect the flaring to continue until morale improves. ;)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rain Break

Rain Break

I'm in New Orleans this week, helping my girlfriend find a place to rent before she starts grad school here. I shot this from across the street when we got caught in a classic New-Orleans-style-downpour.

Simple and effective, and for once I felt like this shot worked well in B&W or color.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Angels Above

This is another shot from the Cheer SF contingent, and as you can see, the only thing more awesome than flinging one person into the air on Market Street is flinging a bunch of people into the air. :)

I struggled with this photo, because I knew as I shot it there was something going on there that worked for me. At the same time, the other photographers involved got closer just as I shot, giving me a different composition than I wanted. Then in post, I realized I'd gone too hot on the exposure -- had been shooting at 2.8 before I switched to my ultra-wide, so I could blur the background behind people -- taking that to this sunny intersection, people ended up a bit cooked. I agonized about whether I still liked it or not, then finally found a square crop that made it go for me, and captured the feel I had while I was standing there -- and then someone instantly posted, saying they loved it. :)

In general, I feel like that it is a way (way) bigger problem in photography to not be self critical enough. Photos can be tied to feelings and emotions in your head that end up blinding you to the quality of the image. People have biases about what they like -- and fetishes about what they love, that is great for producing images only of interest to you. So, I tend to take a razor to images I post here on this blog, and can and do agonize over them for too long. Also a problem, but still nicer than having no self control and ending up with a photo blog just of cats or mannequins or the like.

Another great example of this phenomenon:

This is one of my favorite shots by Avedon. Fantastical, dreamy, gorgeous, masterful use of b&w, etc. I saw an interview with Avedon about the image, and he kept pointing out that had he to do it over again, he would have her dress flying out to the left. He said that over the years, he'd love the image, but he could never look at it without thinking what might have been.

Regret is bad, but photographic regret is a bitch.