One Magic Second

Just divine.

One Magic Second.

Date: July 2, 2011
Place: 24th and Folsom Streets, San Francisco
Modus operandi: Loitering about.
Weather: Fabulous morning light.
Time: 10:10:46 and 10:10:46
Gear: Panasonic G1, kit lens at 86mm FFE
Medium: Digital
Me: Creating an indelible memory
My age: 59

Our boy has been taking cartooning lessons at the Sirron Norris studio on Valencia in the Mission District. Sirron is a marvelously talented cartoonist and his work is to be found on murals all over the Mission District. As he relates it, the only thing he recalls wanting to do as a child was to draw, and his vocation has become his profession. While Winston labors away under Sirron’s watchful eye, I traipse around the area hoping to catch a snap or two of the vibrant street life that is everywhere. Truly, few square blocks of San Francisco so abound with possibilities as do these.

Phil’z Coffee at 24th and Folsom is very much at the center of Mission District culture. On any morning you will find the locals gathered for a cup of joe and some gossip. And, if you get lucky, you will see some beautiful people there.

Phil’z Coffee at 24th and Folsom Streets. G1, kit lens @ 23mm, 1/500, f/4.7, ISO 320.

I was meandering along 24th Street yesterday morning and idly turned the corner onto Folsom where my eye was instantly drawn to this serenly beautiful young woman, posed as if for Titian and his oils. She saw me raise the camera deliberately to my face, gazed back at me untroubled and unthreatened, then looked down, lost in thought, the morning sun outlining her swan-like neck. The magic moment was over so quickly I found myself wondering if it had really happened, yet the processed film suggests it did. This is the sort of thing any street snapper absolutely lives for. Literally, One Magic Second.

Swan Neck. G1, kit lens @ 41mm, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 320.

So fleeting was this moment that a check of the EXIF data for the two snaps shows both were taken within the same magical second of time – 10:10:46 am, July 2, 2011.

This sort of thing used to be the province of the rangefinder Leica but, frankly, that camera’s antiquated, slow manual focusing could scarcely be a worse choice for the modern street snap genre. Quite why anyone buys these anymore leaves me mystified – too slow for street snaps, no zoom lenses, too limited for anything else and silly-priced. Doctors and dentists, I suppose. Or should that be hedge fund managers?

Update: I shared these snaps with a friend who writes eloquently:

“That look…… the right half shows the shyly flattered contentment …(wild inward pleasure)….at being considered actionably photogenic.”

The embrace

Edvard Munch lives!

The embrace

Date: Feb 6, 2011
Place: The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Modus operandi: On the BikeCam.
Weather: Just perfect.
Time: 2:07pm.
Gear: Panasonic G1, kit lens at 28mm, f/5.6, 1/160th, ISO320
Medium: Digital
Me: Seeing Edvard Munch
My age: 59

While the gender rôles may be reversed, Edvard Munch saw the same vampiric behavior in the enamored lover in his painting Vampire (1893) and I confess that was my sole thought when pressing the button:

Edvard Munch – Vampire – 1893.

Minuet in Green

My favorite color.

Green


Date: July 28, 2009
Place: Nob Hill, San Francisco
Modus operandi: Light and lively with the Panasonic G1
Weather: Typical overcast San Francisco day.
Time: 11:20am.
Gear: Panasonic G1, kit lens at 45mm, f/5.6, 1/80th, ISO100
Medium: Digital
Me: Just timing it right. Lucky, really.
My age: 57
Green, green and green.

It was nothing but a conditioned response that had me raise the camera to eye level and snap this picture.

About the Snap: Lonely

Lonely.

Date: July 28, 2009
Place: Between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, San Francisco
Modus operandi: Happy to be leaving the Tenderloin.
Weather: Typical overcast San Francisco day.
Time: 10:40am.
Gear: Panasonic G1, kit lens at 45mm, f/6.3, 1/80th, ISO100
Medium: Digital
Me: Thrilled to still have an eye for this sort of thing.
My age: 57

This reminds me of my picture of Perry’s taken at the very end of the last millennium. I had been tramping around the Tenderloin and was pretty much happy to be leaving the area. There’s really very little good that can be said about it.

Heading East, I saw this one from far away and was lucky that the lady remained as still as when I first saw her. Her deeply unhappy face speaks of a date broken, a heart crying.

There was a brief break in the traffic after what seemed like an age (in reality a couple of seconds!) and I managed to get the snap with that sweet kit lens on the G1 racked out as far as it could go – 90mm equivalent.

Just like using that old Leica 90mm but a lot faster and easier. No lens changing, no focusing, no light measurement needed. Words fail me in trying to convey just what a perfect camera/lens combination the G1 makes for street snaps like this. If this is your preferred genre, I strongly recommend the G1 and 14-45mm kit lens. It is all you will need and your ability to give near-100% attention to the subject will make you a better photographer.

In this case, I was fortunate to be able to balance the outward looking figure with the door on the right.

Taken not long after yesterday’s snap and a few blocks east. Seconds later the lady was gone. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Absent the usual sharpening using a Lightroom import preset no other processing was required – the naturally muted contrast of the G1 and my default underexposure setting makes for a low effort camera-to-final-image setup.

About the Snap: From Grace’s Steps

From Grace’s Steps.

Date: July 28, 2009
Place: California Street, San Francisco
Modus operandi: Just in time
Weather: 100% humidity but no rain
Time: 9:45 am
Gear: Panasonic G1, kit lens at 29mm
Medium: Digital
Me: Just exiting Grace Catedral
My age: 57

Grace Cathedral is one of those edifices erected by the self-important so that all can wonder at the greed which made their munificence possible. Atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, you exit it wondering what it is that you have just seen, with the word ‘big’ being about all you can articulate. Some of the truly tasteless murals testify to the bourgeois burghers who made it big and built it even bigger.

So I was sort of standing outside this Cathedral of Commerce on the south facing stairs, a tad lost in thought, only to be confronted by yet another memorial to purported goodness masquerading in the shape of an overbuilt granite monstrosity, the Freemasons’ temple across the road.

Glancing down I spotted these two – one just leaving the Tenderloin, not two blocks West, the other about to enter that worst of the city’s neighborhoods. And you thought people carried their life’s possessions on a stick slung over their shoulder only in children’s books?

The play of the figures against the backdrop was just perfect as I watched them fall into place. You don’t get two opportunities at this sort of thing and I grabbed mine no less greedily than the financiers all around me had grabbed their share of Nob Hill. Lady Luck arranged for the break in traffic and absence of vehicles on the road. Those with shutter lag need not apply!