The Great Eclipse of 2017!


I’m posting this today because meh, lazy. Anyway…

There was an eclipse on Monday! It didn’t get very much coverage in the press so I doubt you heard about it but I guess I was one of the few and decided to tell the family. Lucky for us, Ann’s parents also heard about it and bought us those nifty eclipse-viewing glasses.

But before any of that started, we had to make a run to 85 Café and Bakery to load up on some eclipse munchies.

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Their cookies are bomb-tastic. So is their bread and everything else they make. Yeah, I know Krispy Kreme was selling their crazy-themed Eclipse Doughnuts or whatever but 85 Café sells their famous sea salt coffee for the amazingly low price of – wait for it – 85 cents on Mondays. And it was soooo good. I’d pay regular price for that over anything from Starbucks.

Bluetooth speaker ready with cheesy, somewhat appropriate (oh, George…) songs playing. Food ready. Let’s go blind!

There was a window of about 2.5 hours here in California where you could view the eclipse which was only at 61% totality from this vantage point. The eclipse began about 9:12 or so with maximum eclipsage at roughly 10:21.

So we donned our glasses and looked up, and it’s pretty impossible to not look like an album cover for a German synth band* when you do that.

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And do you know how difficult it is to blindly take a selfie? These glasses are pitch dark so I didn’t know what I was shooting, but I’m glad I have long arms to say the least.

Shooting others, however, is easy.

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This is Anthony and his friend since toddlerhood. They’ve had their moments but a true friend always sticks around through thick and thin. I wish I could say that about certain other “friends” of his.

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Lookie here! While the easiest way to view the eclipse without looking like a dork or burning your retinas like a goddamned fool is to simply poke a hole in tin foil and project that image onto a smooth surface, you didn’t even have to do that. Nature, as always, shows us the way by taking the sun’s eclipsed rays and shining them through the trees, giving you these crescent-shaped objects.

Stupid nature. Why does the “President” hate you so much?

Finally at 10:21, we reached maximum coverage for our neck of the woods. Friends in Missouri and Oregon reported that their street lights turned on and the cicadas started chirping. We weren’t that lucky but we were able to see this.

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You could mess with your iPhone until the cows came home to get a decent shot but there’s a good chance you’d get an oversaturated, non-eclipsed blob. Not me. Ohhh no, not me.

I took this shot with one eye of the eclipse glasses over the lens of my iPhone. I then used MuseMage camera app for iPhone which allows total control over mostly everything. In this case, I chose a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) coupled with a high ISO (more sensitivity to light), and maxed out my zoom. All that to get this. Totally worth it.

I remember the last one and it was much better because the sun was giving off this really weird blue color. They say the next one won’t be until 2024. That’s not too far off and I’ll be eligible for senior discounts by then – which sucks.

Either way, barring my untimely demise, I’m almost certain we’ll be out there looking up yet again. And maybe the next one will get a *little* more press than this one.

 

*Yes, I know that’s a fictional band from The Big Lebowski. Just go with it, man.
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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 3


Yesterday we logged just under 100 miles in our adventure down south to San Clemente. This is when we’re happy to have such a fuel-efficient little vehicle, even if Anthony is starting to have difficulty fitting in the back seat. He’s a tall kid.

Today, we headed the opposite direction and hit a few places we hadn’t been to in a long, long time.

First on the list: the historic Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, which was and still is a place where Hollywood luminaries spend their day. It’s not like I would recognize any of today’s stars but it’s cool knowing that folks like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and The Beatles strolled through there.

And remember when I said we hadn’t been there in a long time? Here’s a shot of Anthony I took the last time we were there. I was testing out a film camera I had recently acquired.

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He doesn’t even remember being there. Honestly, I’m not quite sure it was even in 2009 but I do know it was a long, long time ago when you compare it to the picture I took today:

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A little difference, no?

At any rate, we had planned to arrive at their opening time of 9am. Amazingly, we did just that. If fact we were so early that we parked in the regular parking lot and not the structure at The Grove, a stretch of stores located next to Farmers Market. There aren’t many there that interest me and it’s nowhere nearly as interesting.

Farmers Market, on the other hand, is a photographer’s dream.

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There is color and interesting subject matter everywhere you look. In addition, it’s a place where the art of the hand-painted sign comes alive.

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I love typography and art, so seeing all of these signs is always a real treat. And if the sign wasn’t painted by hand, it looked like it was a remnant of a time when there was still a sense of pride in sign-making, even if machines were starting to have an impact.

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Look at that sign. Those letters look like something from the credits of Gilligan’s Island and they might just serve you drinks in a coconut with a straw. I absolutely love this stuff.

Then, of course, there’s the food.

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We bought a handful of meringue cookies from Normadie Bakery along with a fresh baguette. It was about the cheapest transaction we had while there because most of the other stores are pretty expensive. You know, tourism and all.

Pizza, seafood, Chinese…you name it, they have it. In the end, we opted for Mexican from a place called Loteria Grill. I almost had to – their booth is decorated with the likenesses of cards from the famous game, some of which I’d never seen.

And the food wasn’t too bad, either. Did someone say chicken tacos?

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We stayed just long enough to do a bit of shopping, take an abundance of photos (sorry, my fault), enjoy our lunch, and just be a part of what’s made Los Angeles famous since 1934. But it was getting hot so we decided to move on.

I had asked the family if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in the Hollywood area. They didn’t so with me being familiar with the area, I just went in whichever direction I thought would be interesting.

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Taken by Ann, this shot is of the Jim Henson Company lot. Before that, it was home to A&M Records which was co-founded by Herb Alpert. And while the list or artists who called A&M their label was impressive, this lot was also home to Charlie Chaplin Studios before that. If walls could talk, indeed. (Granted, Chaplin’s films were silent…)

As we meandered our way through Hollywood, the family caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and even though we were still way down the hill, they’d never seen it that close. I had to change that.

I kept driving and pointing out places such as Hollywood High School which has its share of famous alumni. Then I got to Beechwood Drive and made a left. That’s the main way to get up there.

And the streets are super-narrow and filled with tourists and people walking/hiking. That’s fine. I knew where I was going.

Once I got to Ledgewood, I made a right and took it as far as I could go which has been a dead end for years. You could once park and take pictures but residents put an end to that a long time ago, so I made a left and wound my way around to a decent vantage point.

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Taken from Lake Hollywood Park, this is about as close as anyone can get (legally at least). And what, you didn’t know there was a lake up in those hills? Silly you.

This was about it for the day. I still had to head over and help Mom move some stuff around her place since they are remodeling her apartment complex. So we hopped on the 101 and headed back home – but I made one more stop.

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Located in Downey, CA, this here is the oldest operating McDonald’s in the country. It was dangerously close to being demolished after the Northridge earthquake but fortunately, was saved. They have menu items most other locations don’t have and their food seems to be better. Must be that oh-too-cool retro vibe.

So by the time we got home, we had logged about another 90 miles in this, A Summer That Won’t Suck.

And so far, every single one has been worth the effort.

A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 1: Petersen Automotive Museum


Well, if there’s anything that will get me blogging with regular frequency, it’s going out and doing things. And that’s exactly what the kid and I did today.

He had heard about an event going on at the Petersen Automotive Museum months ago: a Lamborghini cruise-in. He’s really into said cars right now (to the point of my wishing to never hear the name again) but figured he would really enjoy seeing the cars roll in.

Oh, and the museum would be hosting the North American debut of the Lamborghini Centenario, a car so rare that all 40 of the planned models have been sold already – at $2 million each.

Must be nice, no?

Anyway, the cruise-in was scheduled to start at 8am which meant waking up at the crack of dawn to give us time to battle whatever L.A. traffic we happened to encounter along the way. Fortunately, none of the highways were backed up and we made pretty good time even if it was drizzling pretty heavily almost the entire trip.

I would hesitate to call it rain – even as a California native.

We arrived and parked the car then waited near the entrance to watch some of the cars pull in.

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Anthony has been using Ann’s old digital camera for his Photographic Journalism class in school and he brought it today to get some more practice.

Once it got closer to 8am, we walked upstairs to the 3rd level of the parking structure to view the parked cars. And wow, what a collection of old and new. Here’s a Lamborghini Mura (foreground) and Espada (background). Just beautiful cars.

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Granted the old ones sounded nothing like their newer siblings but they were still beautiful. And as we walked around, more started to arrive.

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This is the Batventador, or an Aventador with Batman logos all over it. Interesting to say the least and Anthony knew of it right off the bat because he’d seen it on Instagram. I later sat by the owner of the car, Debbie, at the debut of the Centenario. We had a little chat over the empty seat next to me and a few laughs about it (since the woman who was sitting there never returned). Turns out she’s super-nice and also ultra-cool to kids.

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These are all new models. I peeked at the window sticker of the white one: 12 MPG and a price of over $530k. The rest were more “reasonably” priced by comparison.

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Then there was this young man who was well-known by museum volunteers. He sat in his chair and rendered a Lamborghini 350GT. Quite a talent to say the least.

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I really could shoot car details all day long, no matter the model.

But all of this, of course, was only part of the reason we were there. The debut was scheduled for 10am so after getting an eyeful of these exotic cars, it was time to go into the museum and see yet another one.

And it was near chaos. Those who purchased tickets for the day got a sticker and also early entry to the debut. Everybody else had to wait, despite submitting my RSVP last week and having my confirmation.

Security had no idea. People were getting a bit angry and while it’s only a car, I can see their point. Why RSVP if you’re not going to let us in?

After about 10 minutes, those with RSVP emails/printouts were let in while those without had to wait even longer. Seemed fair.

Two people spoke at the event: one from Turn 10 Studios who produces the Forza Motorsport games for Xbox, and a representative for Lamborghini. Their speeches weren’t long as the crowd was big and pretty excited to see the Centenario.

Well, a replica of it at least. None have been made yet.

And after their speeches, the car was unveiled.

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With all the crowding, these were the best shots I could get and unlike the all of the previous images, I used my phone. It was just easier.

By now, the both of us were getting hungry and also needed some fresh air. Apparently the AC doesn’t work too well in the museum (my assessment at least) so we went outside and walked around. Of course, I still took pictures.

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I like how the building practically matches the shape of the museum’s architecture from this angle. Frames is perfectly.

And I had spotted this early on but didn’t get a good shot of it until after the event.

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Johnie’s Coffee Shop was temporarily turned into Bernie Sanders HQ and still has all the propaganda in place. It’s normally closed but has been used in a bunch of movies including The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs.

At the end of the day, the kid was more than satisfied with the event and seeing his favorite brand of car up close and in ridiculous quantity.

And honestly, I could have done this on my grocery store salary since the event was free and parking only set me back $12. A fun day indeed.

And with that, A Summer That Won’t Suck has officially begun! Stay tuned for more.

Friday 5: Into the Lens


Look, I know this is a day late but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about it after seeing a fellow blogger do it. The topic is relevant to me so it’ll be a good fit. Now just keep in mind that I’ve also worked in photo labs and have been shooting for years so the answers could be much longer than you bargained for.

The topic is Into the Lens, in which we answer photography-related questions. Let’s get to it!

What was your first camera like?
I didn’t own a camera of my own until high school when I took my first photography class. Until then, I had only used my brother’s Canon Snappy a few times. In 1985 I believe, I got my first SLR for Christmas: a Minolta X370 which I still have (even if it isn’t working at the moment). I shot with it for many, many years and captured some cool stuff, including George Brett’s 3,000th hit. Yes, I was a part of baseball history!

What kinds of accessories have you purchased for a camera?
What didn’t I buy for this camera? While the set I got for Christmas came with two lenses, a flash, cleaning accessories and one of those ugly camera bags that nobody but a hipster might be seen with in public today, I bought my share of goodies for my camera and mostly on the cheap. I had different colored lens filters for black-and-white photography, back when you had to imagine the image before you shot it.

“Hmm. The sky is a nice blue and I want to bring out those clouds. I need my red filter for that. Wait, this is the 52 mm diameter filter. Where’s my 55 mm one? NOOOO!”

I also had a cable release and tripod for long-exposure shots. Ann and I actually drove to the middle of nowhere in 1997 to capture the Hale-Bopp comet on film. True story.

I once picked up a zoom lens at the local thrift shop for around $10 and years later found a motor drive for the same price. What’s a motor drive, you might ask? See, old camera didn’t advance the film on their own and if you wanted to take a sequence of shots (known as Burst Mode today), you needed an autowinder. A motor drive took the idea of an autowinder to the next level by giving you the luxury of a shutter button on the side so when you were shooting portrait-style images, the button would be on the top — no twisting your wrist to release the shutter. And, even better, this mode allowed me to shoot up to 3.5 FPS (frames per second, not first-person shooter). Can you imagine how much film I went through when I used that feature?

When did you last shoot photos on film, and how many rolls of unshot film do you have in your house?
Strangely, I shot a roll of film just a few weeks ago because I was feeling retro. I haven’t developed it yet because I don’t even know if any local stores still do it. As far as unused rolls, I have two blank ones for the next time I’m in the mood.

Digital photography has all kinds of advantages over film photography, but what’s better about shooting on film and having to get it developed and printed?
The beauty of using film was that it was pure alchemy. You shot your film based on what your vision was at the time and you most likely only got one chance at getting things right due to the restrictions of available frames (24 or 36, since nobody used 12-exposure rolls). You had no idea what the results would be until you got them back in an hour or week or whatever time-frame you chose. As the filter example above clearly indicates, getting a good shot on film required a lot of work and quick thinking. It’s nothing like it is today, where you can just take another shot if the first one wasn’t any good.

How do you manage your digital photos?
I have a few backup methods for my digital photos. For ones I shoot with my DSLR, I back them up to my external drive and burn them to DVD so that I have at least two copies. I name the folder with the date I transferred them plus the event/location: “2015-04-02 Knott’s Berry Farm” or whatever. This method, of course, does no good if the house should burn down and both copies went with it. (I really should hand over the DVDs to the in-laws to be safe.)

As for those taken with my phone, since they seem to be more personal and require more attention, I wait until I reach a certain threshold then back them up the same way but also put them on my private Google Photos account so that I can access them whenever I need to. For DSLR shots that I want to share online, I drag a copy into Dropbox then download it to my phone. Dropbox is great for sharing data but horrible for managing photos. Google Photos is pretty amazing and does an excellent job organizing them, plus unlimited storage. Can’t beat it.

Okay. That should do it. While shooting digital is fun, most people today don’t even know what they are missing with film cameras. Use one for a day to understand and appreciate what us old[er] folk lived through — and how much we liked it.

Wordless Wednesday: Tied Up


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Monte.