Wednesday, January 30, 2013


As I walked through Little Tokyo in Los Angeles on Saturday with my friend, I spotted these two guys on a bench.  Based upon their proximity, it's obvious they know each other, yet they were so absorbed in their own worlds on their small screens there didn't seem to be any kind of interaction between the two of them.  As someone pointed out on the 365 project, they could most likely be texting each other.

Maybe, or maybe not, but I don't think they would have noticed me had I snuck up to get a closer shot. It's really too bad though because it seems like our society is getting more and more like this and it's not just the young age group either.  I spotted many older people on their phones seemingly oblivious to the world around them.  Perhaps these two guys were waiting for their girlfriends to come out of a store but still, couldn't they have had a conversation with each other as opposed to with other people somewhere in cyberspace?

This particular shot had all sorts of lighting problems with lots of shadows playing in the bright sunlight.  I felt the B&W was the best way to go with this shot.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Street Photography

This past Saturday, I boarded the Metrolink to ride it into Union Station in Los Angeles.  I was meeting a friend there and our purpose was to find some of the local geocaches there, but the primary objective was to do a photo walk together.  Union Station is located just southeast of Dodger Stadium near downtown and it's in walking distance of several ethnic neighborhoods, so the photo opportunities were almost endless.

We ended up walking first through Olvera St., a Hispanic shopping district just outside the entrance of Union Station.  Unfortunately, most of the shops, at 10:00 in the morning were still boarded up so the place wasn't really hopping yet, we we walked up and then over to Chinatown which was only slightly busier.  

As we walked along the streets, I convinced myself that I was going to push myself to take some street shots today.  Just aim the camera and see what I could take.  Hopefully, I could get some interesting shots.  I think I got more than just some.  One of the things this area of Los Angeles is not lacking and that's homeless or down and out people, not necessarily homeless, but basically hurting for many creature comforts most of us consider commonplace.

Chinatown is a bustling area with many people coming and going and yet you could still see people trying to make do with what little they had.  I saw more than one person trying to catch a short nap on a bench before someone wearing a security badge rousted them and had them move along.

Street photography is very much different than taking a landscape photo.  It's easy to take a photo of a deer in the woods, or a mountain stream.  It's quite another thing to take shots of complete strangers, most going about their daily business.  This is sort of one step down from the 100 Strangers project which I've written about in the past.  With that project, you actually have to go up and ask the person's permission before taking the photo.  With street photography, you just take the shot.  Sometimes they come out OK, and other times they don't look so good.  

Many times I was literally shooting from the hip because I didn't want the person to know I was taking their photo.  There was nothing really clandestine about that, I just saw something that looked interesting and wanted to get the shot.  If the person knows they're being photographed, they will change their expression or possibly their posture.  I wanted a raw image of what I saw.

With street photography, there's somewhat of an ethical question about whether people are being exploited by photographers in general.  I'm sure I will get a variety of responses regarding that issue, but I look at it this way.  If photographers don't take these shots, how are we ever going to know about certain situations?  Do we not show it because people are uncomfortable about certain aspects of what was seen?

When I take photos, I feel like I'm telling a story of my day or hour, depending upon how much time I used my camera that day.  This was my story for most of Saturday. I don't see this every day, but I did see it on Saturday and I'd like to share it with you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Flashback Friday

A neighbor down the street has an excellent front yard garden.  Repeatedly, over the past couple of years I've walked down there because there seems to be so much activity with butterflies flitting about, ladybugs doing all sorts of things and an occasional squirrel.  

This particular squirrel, however, is an European Brown Squirrel and it's an introduced species into the environment here.  We should see lots of gray squirrels in this area, but they are being pushed out by the more aggressive brown squirrel.

I can remember talking with my neighbor about seeing this squirrel in his olive tree and he said with a disdainful look, "Oh, that's Fred."  or something of that nature.  It was clear my neighbor wasn't happy with Fred at all and would probably have liked to have seen the demise of Fred.

What I remember about Fred is he stayed perfectly still for me while I stood about 10 feet away from him and composed my shot.  I liked the way he was peeking out from behind the tree trunk and how the small olive branches framed him.

Photo originally taken March 25th, 2011.

Monday, January 21, 2013

More tech, less paper

With my wife and I, it's becoming less and less a need for us to get gifts for each other, especially at Christmas.  When we need something, or would like something we usually talk it out and then go out and make the purchase. We've been talking about getting some kind of e-reader for some time now, probably close to 2 years since our daughter had a job at a Barnes & Noble bookstore and told us about the Nook.

What was pushing us in that direction was the cost of getting the Los Angeles Times everyday.  Both of us still like to read the newspaper, but it was becoming cost prohibitive.  So we talked about it and decided to get an iPad for us to share.  We'll obviously be using it for more things than just reading the Times.  I've already downloaded some apps that I either wanted to try out, or had on my iTouch.  

If you're an Apple fan, going into an Apple Store is like a heroin addict going into a store that sells various grades of heroin.  Our closest Apple store is over in Rancho Cucamonga at Victoria Gardens, which is an outdoor mall.  Every time I've walked by this store, it's been literally packed to the gills with people and sales clerks.  Amazingly, you could actually walk around the store this morning and I didn't have to wait too long to be helped.  

My sales clerk was Jeff, who, coincidentally had the same last name as me.  We commiserated about how people always mangle the spelling of our name, usually adding an extra "e" in there when none is needed.  Sound it out, it's spelled the way it sounds.  But I digress.

As you can see, I came home with a new WiFi iPad.  As my wife says, it's my new toy.  I think she'll end up using it quite a bit, but she knows me all too well.  I did not get the retina display on this one, since this is our first tablet/e-reader and we figured this would be a good test ride.  If it works out well, we will probably end up getting a second one since I can see times where we'll both want to use it at the same time, especially in the mornings when we want to read the paper.  At the moment we'll still be getting the paper, but sometime in early March, that will stop and we'll just get the digital version of it.  That will be a new step for us.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slowly filling in the grid

Yesterday I went on a hike with two of my geocaching friends.  Our goal was to find the oldest cache hidden in Orange County, which is also the 6th oldest cache in all of California.  I know some of you are already rolling your eyes over this, but finding a cache that was hidden over 12 years ago, at least in my mind, is pretty cool.

I first started geocaching back in March 2001 and didn't think anything about finding older caches.  I just went out and found caches, period.  Of course, with the hobby only less than a year old at that time, there weren't a lot of caches out there, so most weren't very "old" anyway.  

Fast forward to about five years ago and someone came up with Challenge caches.  These are caches that you have to do something geocaching related before you can go out and find the cache.  I found a very easy Challenge cache yesterday that involved having found already 10 caches with some family member (Dad, Mom, Grandma) in the title of the cache.  I looked over my list and discovered I have 7 caches with the word Dad in it, so I knew I qualified for that challenge already.

Some challenge caches require a lot of planning.  One of the challenge caches I've already completed, but haven't found yet is the 58 California county challenge which challenges geocachers to find a cache hidden in every county in California.  I found the last four counties back in August 2011.  I just haven't gotten out to find the final for that one yet, but it's high on my "geocaching things to do list."

Finding the cache we found yesterday filled in another square on the grid that is the Jasmer Challenge.  The Jasmer Challenge challenges geocachers to find a cache hidden in every single month that geocaching has been around.  The older caches are getting harder to find and there aren't that many of them, so time becomes a factor in all of this as well.

As you can see by the grid above, the months I still need are May, June, July, August and October of 2000 to complete my grid.  Those last four months are going to require some traveling if I want to fill in the grid.  The closest cache to me that was hidden in October 2000 is 328 miles away from my home.  The distances for the other four months are likewise as far.  If I want to complete this challenge, I'll have to travel to Oregon for sure, and possibly to Kansas.  The oldest cache, hidden in the United States is there.

Since we do go camping every summer, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we have this challenge completed in just a couple more years.  Hopefully, the old caches on my list will still be there when I get around to finding them. Either way, it's the adventure of challenging myself to do something new that keeps me going.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Flashback Friday

As I read through other blogs, I notice that many people, when they can't think of something to write about, or more likely want to give themselves a break from the daily writing, have a day where they just post photos or something else to that effect.  Wordless Wednesday are like that as one example.

Since I don't publish on a regular basis, but want to give my readers something to think about on a regular basis, I may try something similar to this, but this will be Flashback Friday.  What I plan on doing is going into my 365 Project and clicking the flashback button on my main photo for the day.  Anyone who's posted 30 photos will get a flashback link on their photos too.

By clicking on that link, the website will take me to a random photo in one of my three albums.  I'll post that photo here and write a little bit about it, perhaps expand on it from what I wrote over there.

This was Tom.  He was my stranger #11 back in September.  I met him up in Santa Clara, CA while I was saying goodbye to my daughter after a quick visit with her while taking my older son back to his school at Santa Cruz.  It's complicated I know, but it worked.

My daughter and I were having one of those last minute chats before I got into the car to head on home and Tom walked by us and struck up a conversation with us.  He noticed my t-shirt with the University of the Pacific on the front and was very interested in the educational aspect of our conversation.  He was very proud of the fact that he'd been involved in the education system in Santa Clara for 46 years as you can see on his baseball cap.  He had also just been inducted into the Santa Clara Unified School District's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Taking some of these stranger shots are sometimes very difficult.  Getting up the nerve to ask someone if you can take their photo can be intimidating.  I think if it wasn't it wouldn't be so gratifying afterwards.  There's one thing about saying hi, or having a passing conversation, but it's quite a bit different to then take it to the next level and ask if they'll let you take their photograph.  I've had turn downs in the past, but Tom readily said yes.  I can't say this is the best portrait I've taken, but I sent him a 5x7 copy of it.  I've never heard back from him, but I hope he liked it.

That's my first Flashback Friday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

And away he goes...

As I write this, he's now somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean more than halfway to London.  I took this photo of him back in September 2001 just before he went off to school at Santa Cruz to start his junior year.  That year, he would be living in his own apartment for the first time.  I went up with him over Labor Day weekend to help him move into his place and we had a good time.  

That Christmas, he came home for a short stay and approached us with the prospect of him studying abroad sometime during his senior year.  We all thought it would be a great experience for him and so the wheels were set in motion for him to go to England and study.

I didn't seem him much in the next year and a half because he stayed up in Santa Cruz to work to save some money for his trip.  I went up over Labor Day weekend again to bring home a lot of his stuff since he would be moving back into the dorms for the first quarter as it would be easier to deal with that type of housing since he would be leaving in January.  He was home for about a month during Christmas and today I drove him to the airport.  I miss him already.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Studying abroad

My middle son was the one who wanted to see the world right now.  His due date was August 18, but my wife went into labor with him for the first time on July 4th of that year.  Again on July 17th and once again later on.  He finally decided to make his appearance for good on August 12th, a day after my parents 35th wedding anniversary.  The one thing that stands out in my mind is the panicked look on the nurse's face as she raced to the door of the delivery room and screamed at the top of her voice, "SOMEBODY BETTER FIND DR. LEE, OR HE'S GOING TO MISS THIS ONE!"

My son is now grown and a senior in college.  He's been attending the University of California at Santa Cruz for the past 3 and a half years.  Tomorrow, he takes off on his latest adventure, studying abroad in England for the next five months.  He'll be studying at the University of Sussex in Brighton which is south of London along the coast.  

This past week, we've been doing last minute things to help him prepare for his trip.  Yesterday we ended up exchanging money to get his some spending money when he arrives in London.  I like the look of English pounds.  They're colorful.  They're different sizes.

We're, obviously, very excited for him.  But at the same time, I'm a little bit sad.  It's not that he's not coming back, but I have really enjoyed this past month while he's been home.  He has been very pleasant company, very engaging in conversation at the dinner table and very enjoyable to be around.  He will be missed, but he'll come back and be a college graduate, our second.  This will be a very exciting period in his life, one I hope he enjoys thoroughly.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Last hike of the vacation

Today is the last day of my winter/Christmas vacation.  The break is mostly an eating break, or so it seems with two holidays crammed into a short time frame, there just seems to be eating, and then more eating.  We had a New Year's Eve party at our house and we're still eating leftovers from that shindig.

Since this was the last day, I decided to go for a hike to burn off some of those excess calories.  There was a geocache I wanted to find and it was about a two mile hike to get to, so it looked like a good outing for the day.  The hider of the geocache had found an old geocache of mine I had archived back in November 2008.  He found the remains of the cache over 100 feet from where it was supposed to be while finding another of my caches I placed after archiving that one.  Got that?  

The gist of the matter is he used all the stuff that was in my old cache and created a new one.  How could I not go after it?  With blustery winds and brilliant clouds in the sky I set off.  I stopped here and there to take some shots including the one above.  I found one cache before finding the other one, so it was a successful hike and geocaching experience.  The second cache was situated on top of a hill with a commanding view.  With the cool weather we've been having, it was very easy to see a long distance.  In the second photo, you can see the sun shining off of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island beyond, perhaps 50 miles distant from my location.

Unfortunately, what you can't see in that photo is the rain coming right at me.  Just off to the right of that photo, I could see rain in the distance.  I'd cut it too close and as soon as I put my camera down to look at the image I'd just taken, I saw a rain drop plop into the middle of my LCD screen.  Taking the camera and putting it underneath the photo vest I was wearing, I hurried as best I could back down the hill, but the rain was coming too quickly and I had two miles to walk and/or run to get back to my car.

I was able to trot along for a little bit but the trail was steep in spots and it was also getting slick with water and mud, so walking seemed to be prudent.  Me going down while trying to protect camera gear would not have been pretty, so I opted for getting wet while keeping the gear as dry as possible. To add insult to injury, a mile and three quarters down the hill with only a quarter mile to go, it started hailing on me.

By the time I was down, I was soaked through to the skin in most places.  Fortunately, the extra layers of my photo vest kept the camera dry and the extra layers of my pockets kept my iTouch and Cellphone dry, so I'm going to call it a good day.  

I think that's only about the third time where I've had to hike a prolonged distance in the rain.  The worst time was when I was backpacking in the Sierra Nevada back when I was in college and we had to camp in it.  This hike today seemed worse at the time, but since I've had a hot shower, it doesn't seem so bad in retrospect.  It could have been a lot worse.  I could have a lot of damaged gear.  All I really have is a bruised ego from getting caught in the rain.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ray - The Stranger that got away

Back in August of last year, I wrote about the 100 Strangers Project I was embarking upon.  This is a story about a stranger who got away.  Not that he really got away, but he was one of the people I approached who said no to me.

On my walks through the Claremont Village area, I'd see Ray sit on various benches on the sidewalk and converse with people who knew him. Sometimes he'd even converse with people if he didn't know them, he was that kind of guy.  He had long white hair and a long white beard which was one of the things that I noticed about him and why I really wanted him to be part of my 100 Strangers project.

I met Ray in October, I believe, although the exact date eludes me.  I had been walking through the Village looking for some interesting shots and I saw a bird up in the tree next to the bench where Ray was sitting.  After some unsuccessful attempts at getting a good angle on the bird I struck up a conversation with Ray.  We talked about the bird in the tree and some of my photographic endeavors I had been doing at the time.  This brought me around to the 100 Strangers project and I asked him to be part of my project.

He politely declined and I said if he ever changed his mind, I'd love to photograph him.  His response was, "But we wouldn't be strangers anymore."  Every time I'd see him on a bench somewhere in the Village, I'd say hi to him and he say hi back to me.  We had a connection that wouldn't have happened were it not for the 100 Strangers project.

Today, as I was walking around the Village, I noticed a memorial on a bench, the bench that Ray would frequent the most when he was enjoying life in the Village.  I saw this and realized what had happened.  Ray had suffered a heart attack five days before Christmas and had died Christmas Eve.

What I hadn't known before this was Ray's full name.  He was known as Ray Collins, the lead singer of the Mothers of Invention, and the person responsible for bringing Frank Zappa into the group.  Ray was the lead singer for the early Mothers of Invention albums, but parted ways over the direction the band was going in and never really got into music again after leaving the Mothers of Invention in 1968.  Apparently, in his later years he was living out of his van in Claremont, CA. 

The bench has been dedicated by some citizens as "Ray's Bench."  There was a poem attached to the left of the memorial.  It read:

"Come a Day, any day.
Sit on this bench, Ray's Bench.
Speak awhile with him, then leave.
You have not wasted your day,
Just lived it better."

I shall miss seeing Ray on his bench as I walk around the Village.  I'm glad I got to know him, even if it was just for a passing conversation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Road Not Taken

I went geocaching today and when I got out of the car at this cache site, it reminded me very much of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken.  This is the old highway leading up to my father-in-law's house near Lake Arrowhead.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Resolutions and this and that

I'm not big on resolutions, but I think I might try a couple here this time.  The first resolution is to blog more in 2013.  When I started this blog last year in January, I had high hopes of writing at least twice a week, which would have meant over 100 entries.  28 entries, with the last one being in August doesn't quite measure up to that hope, so I resolve to write more than I did last year.  Now there's a high bar.

I think resolutions in general are a bunch of fluff.  People say them, but they know by the time next December rolls around all the other people who heard them will have forgotten all about them.  Yeah, I want to lose weight.  Do I set a goal for poundage?  What happens when it gets to December (the worst month to lose weight) and I haven't reached the goal?  Do I starve myself then so to reach the goal?  A more realistic goal might be to live a healthier lifestyle.  I think everyone can agree that almost everyone around us could stand to do that.  

Resolutions are good intentions gone astray.  Lose weight, be kinder, don't have so much road rage, don't sit in front of the computer so much.  Can you see a pattern developing here?  And as I'm proofreading this entry, I think I'm trying to talk my way out of making anything.  The photo above is from last January 1st.  Not much alcohol in that shot as most of it is sparkling apple cider bottles.  No one went home drunk from our party last year or the year before.  So why did I wake up with a headache this morning?  Probably because I didn't get enough sleep the night before.  Eh.  I'll live.

I'll go out for a hike today, find a couple of geocaches and call it a day.  With no cable, I have the grand choice of one football game to watch today, so I doubt that I'll do that.  It's not a game I want to watch anyway, so I'll save some electricity and just keep the TV off.  There we go, part of my last year's resolution was to recycle more.  Using less, is the same thing right?

Changing subjects a little here.  Yesterday was the first day in 732 days where I didn't turn my camera on and take a photo.  I started the 365 project in earnest on January 1st, 2011 and faithfully took at least one photo every single day for the next two years.  It also includes the last two days of 2010 which is why the number looks a little odd.  Yesterday, the 366th day of the year and a bonus day for a 365 project, I chose to make a collage of my favorite shots from last year.  As I noted on the photo page, many of these shots are sentimental favorites.  There's a shot of my wife on our 25th anniversary.  There's a shot of my daughter graduating from college.  Other shots are artistic in nature.  Still others are shots where I just got lucky, like the one of the hawk soaring.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Some of these shots made the popular page at the 365 Project.  In reality, I feel they all should have, but then again I'm biased.  I resolve not to take it personally when one of my shots doesn't make the popular page.  That should be easy since very few of mine ever see the light of day on there anyway.

I guess what this ramble is really all about is that I'm back here again after a long hiatus.  I resolve to write more this year.  I hope you resolve to read this again.  Thanks for stopping by.  I'll be back shortly.