2007/06, June Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Classic duality of purpose: police or fire
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Unusually warm that day in San Francisco. Officer McBryan walking off duty down the Lyon Street steps. The year was 1960, so he wore slacks and a short sleeved dress shirt. His pistol, a snub-nosed 38, was obvious in his shoulder holster because he carried his coat over his arm. His shiny black leather shoes felt hot.

McBryan paused and looked out over the city glowing warmly under too blue a sky. In the corner of his eye he caught motion faintly dressed in stripes. He turned to watch. A man in a bathrobe ran down the street waving his arms and yelling, "Cheated. Cheated."

McBryan hurried downstairs and met the man next to a combination police phone and fire call box, one of the few in the City, located on a landing by he steps. He asked, "What's the problem?"

The man bent over, out of breath from running. McBryan noticed the man's thinning gray hair and thought sadly of his own thinning hair. McBryan noticed the man reeked of pipe tobacco and booze.

"Fire," muttered the man, somewhat breathless. "I set fire to my cheating wife."

McBryan didn't hesitate. In one move he pulled his keys from his pocket, unlocked the police call box, and with the other hand broke the glass and pulled the fire lever down on the other side. He cut his knuckle when he broke the glass.

"This is officer McBryan of district 15 off duty, reporting a fire and possible murder at Lyon and," he looked around to find the name of the cross street and paused when he noticed the man in the striped pajamas laughing.

Officer McBryan said into the phone, "Wait, don't send anyone yet. Hold on a minute while I check this out."

The man noticed McBryan's look. He stopped laughing and turned to run.

McBryan dropped the phone and leaped. He grabbed the man by the robe's collar. It felt like silk. "Why'd you laugh?" he demanded.

"When you pulled the fire alarm I realized what I said." The man squirmed nervously. "What I meant was I really turned my wife on, like fire, so she would never want to cheat."

McBryan retired in 1985, and to this day loves to tell this story in taverns. He tells this story so often, in fact, his friends no longer like to hear it, but humor him just the same.

(2007) Pacific Heights, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted Monday, June 12, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Reflection on Street lights
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Street lights reflect on what a rainy day it is

Some believe a world exists apart from our own in reflections. Like ghosts, the images in reflections are often blurred or distorted and seem unreal. When viewed overhead, the world hangs upside down above us. When viewed straight on, left and right are reversed. And when viewed below, the the world hangs feet first from the soles of our feet.

Some look at puddles and only see the puddle. Rain and gray skies can make such a person blue. Lacking in imagination, a puddle is just a wet place to be avoided and part of the landscape on a rainy day.

Others look into puddles and see the reflections there. Despite the rain, such people understand the beauty in the world and the magic it holds for those willing to see. The other worlds that lie behind the reflecting boundary. The other people there that look back at us and wonder why we are looking at them.

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted Saturday, June 2, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Fuzzy thinking
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Inside of a bar at night

Ever been drinking in a bar, and had your attention drawn to an odd bowl of something on the counter? At that moment, the rest of the world fuzzes out and your entire world becomes that bowl.

Because this is France, the bowl probably does not contain pretzles or nuts or any other of the salty tricks intended to get you to drink more. Nor does it appear a bowl of anything that anyone would want to snack on.

Sadly, we left that place internal link without ever finding out what was in the bowl.

(2007) Carcassone, France, E.U.   •  Photo posted Sunday, May 3, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Locks and locks
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A rarely seen 130 lock

With scissors you can cut off a lock of hair and use that hair to voodoo another, or scare away the competition. With skill you can lock in a good job and become a working stiff for the rest of your life, unless as a wrestler. With strength you can put a hammer lock on another wrestler and wonder what will happen if you let go. With a boat you can travel up or down a lock on your tour of a fine canal, at least in your mind while you hold onto that wrestler.

With the right hardware you can lock the gate to your garden, as here on the border of Trebes, France. With the wrong exercise you can lock up a muscle and hobble around your garden wishing for a bench. With bad canned food you get lock jaw so always strive to eat fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grain. Naturally you eat the ones you raised in the garden you protected from wrestlers with the lock on your gate.

(2007) Trebes, France, E.U.   •  Photo posted Monday, May 4, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Life inside a glass of beer
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The point of view from which a story is told determines how the reader interprets it. In the Stan Freeberg audio play "United States Of America" Columbus discovered Indians on the beach. But an Indian said to Columbus, "No. We discover you on beach here. It's all how you look at it."

The beer glass was so worried about the people inside that it fell over to spill them out. A sacrifice of its precious beer, it knew, but worth dumping because of the two lives it saved. Only after the two escaped did it wonder how it came to be self aware.

Trapped in the glass of beer, the woman screamed, "Help. Help. I will tire and drown." She dog paddled trying to keep her head above beer and paid no attention to the idiot who got her into this mess.

A man approached a woman in a bar. He felt like a bad joke when he asked her, "Would you like to join me in a beer?" But the joke was on him when he and the woman suddenly found themselves swimming in a huge glass of beer.

One god nudged the other and said, "Let's have some fun. See that guy down there. What say I grant him whatever wish he next utters?"

Look at the picture again. How does it feel to be inside a glass of beer that may be kinder than you? Now pretend you're outside the glass peering in. What might you want to say to a glass of beer if, that is, you believed it would listen?

(2007) Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California   •  Photo posted Tuesday, May 5, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Young ball leaves home to join the circus
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A big, bold basketball married a pretty little soccer ball. Over the years the couple had three children. The football was the oldest and already on his way to a sports scholarship at Cal. A graceful tether ball was second oldest and just knew she would marry and spend her days hanging around the house.

The playball was the youngest and both parents worried about his future. Unlike his brother and sister, the playball was not a ready fit for any clear vocation.

One night the playball heard his folks arguing about his birth. "None of my family ever had stars!" yelled his father. "Well none of my family ever had stripes," countered his mother. The argument ran late into the night and by the time the playball fell asleep that night he was in tears.

Before dawn the next morning, the playball snuck out the back door and headed down the street away from home, and toward what? He couldn't say. Passing the sporting goods store he found a poster on a phone pole that advertised a circus in the next town. That's it, he suddenly realized, a circus! Then aloud he declared, "I belong in the circus."

The playball rolled like the wind all the way home. He burst through the front door and found his father rocking nervously. "Dad," he yelled.

"Where were you?" his mother asked as she came into the room.

"I found a poster and it showed a circus and I now know I belong in a circus."

His father bounced once, a big bounce. "By jove," he said. "I should have seen it. Yes. Yes, you're right. With those stars and stripes you belong in a circus."

"Hmmm," his mother seem less sure. "Well, okay. I supposed that's better than your uncle, spending all day in a tiger's cage. I mean what kind of job is that for a ball?"

(2007) Trebes, France, E.U.   •  Photo posted June 6, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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F-line trolley sidelined for a while
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The F-line runs from the Castro to Fisherman's Wharf on surface track. These trolleys are restored classic trolleys from all over the world. A ride on one of these beauties is like stepping pleasantly back in time. It is too bad there are too few of them for reliable service.

There are no pictures of the E-line. That line was built to run from the Caltrain Station at 4th and King to Fisherman's Wharf complimenting the F-line. The E-line was constructed then never used.

The T-line runs from Sunnydale at the south end of Third Street to the Castro past the Caltrain Station. This line is fraught with breakdowns and is deemed by locals as less reliable than the 15-line bus which it replaced.

Fourth and King now has two trolly stations. The original on King Street and a new one on Fouth Street. The original (right next to the train station) has a sign on it that says "Closed except during commute hours."

I somehow fail to see any master plan at work here.

(2007) Embarcadero at Mission, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted Thursday, May 7, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A small statue of mother and child
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Email from Dr. Carter arrived recently that held the claim: Thought I'd fix your photo up a little, so that it would look more "realistic" . Below you can see the image he supplied that he claims improves upon the above image.


Alan Detrich external link caused a scandle at the Toledo Blade external link when it was discovered that he had been routinely photoshopping his news images. Yet art photographers feel that photoshopping is desireable and a usual means to improve images.

We feel that the original image should be presented as-taken. But in the interest of debate offer alternatives. Below is a similar interpretation as Dr. Carter's above but produced using software that comes free with Nikon cameras.


As a final note, ovserve that the Nikon software can also convert a fisheye image into a panaorama shot, which we show below.


In closing, what should be marveled at, rather than debated, is the varied and cool interpretations that can be derived from a single fish-eye shot.

George Jansen Friday 8 June 2007

Email from Dr. Carter arrived recently that held the claim: Thought I'd fix your photo up a little, so that it would look more "realistic." Below you can see the image he supplied that he claims improves upon the above image.

I like the fisheye best.

Dr. William Carter Monday 11 June 2007

On your blog, you wrote:

"In closing, what should be marveled at, rather than debated, is the varied and cool interpretations that can be derived from a single fish-eye shot."

I couldn't agree more, with the proviso that it be understood that a lens is simply a tool; one of many tools used along the path to some visual objective.

But, you also wrote:

"We feel that the original image should be presented as-taken."
That seems to me an odd, if not disingenuous, notion --unless you consider your camera a toy, in which case there is no point to this discussion. Or are you following some Dadaistic tradition of the illogical and absurd, exchanging control of the final image for chance, inconsistency, and surprise? external link

"As-taken" by what? Your camera manipulates the numbers its Sony CMOS generates. Its on-board computers probably set the gamma and exposure for you. Your camera recalculates those numbers into some kind of digital JPEG or RAW file format which can again be translated into some quasi-depiction of a scene. There is no objective "as-taken" "original image" anywhere in the process.

If you prefer "snapshots" to taking the time to refine those numbers into a more personalized or representational image, that's fine. But, I hardly see your position as a point of art, esthetic, or cause célèbres. It might even be construed as hubris masking laziness and ineptitude. But, I suspect, it's most likely venial bullshit

Film is substantially the same process as digital. Here, the darkroom replaces the computer. Instead of algorithms, your tools are mostly time, temperature, and chemicals. You can opt to have "Speedy Print" decide the end product, or you can control and refine the development to meet your personal preferences.

At Brooks (Institute of Photography) the mantra was to "expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights." But, that's not even a starting point. You must first decide how you want the final result to look.

Back in the 70's, I had a discussion with our mutual friend Suzie Shaw external link about the relative amounts of metol vs. hydroquinone we chose to use in developing film and prints. Suzie shot much of her work using a funky single element lens taped to a tube stuck on the front of her camera... something akin to a Lensbaby. external link Although not strictly representational, Suzie knew what she wanted, and exactly how to achieve it... She knew her shit. Examples of her work have hung in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

I think the point I want to make is this: At best, a photograph may be representational art. But though it may appear realistic, there can be nothing "real" about a photograph.

A photograph is a combination of the photographer's skill, sensitivity of vision, and opportunity. One can create opportunity. One can develop skill and sensitivity. A competent photographer will define the objective and control the process. Yet, when you say "We feel that the original image should be presented as-taken," you proffer that there exists such a thing as an "original image," something with which I don't agree. Nor do I accept, in that context, "as-taken" to have any meaning at all.

Bryan Costales Tuesday 26 June 2007

William Carter said in part,

But, you also wrote:
"We feel that the original image should be presented as-taken."
That seems to me an odd, if not disingenuous, notion --unless you consider your camera a toy, in which case there is no point to this discussion. Or are you following some Dadaistic tradition of the illogical and absurd, exchanging control of the final image for chance, inconsistency, and surprise?

Curiously unprofessional the way William external link (a Brooks external link attendee) chose to focus on two words of an essay (the "as-taken") and base all his conclusions on those two words out of two hundred. A friendly suggestion would have worked much better to convince me to change those two words into, perhaps "as presented." Had he chosen, that is, to be civil rather than insulting.

(2007) Musée du Louvre, Paris, France, E.U.   •  Photo posted Friday, May 8, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The "Learning Wall", Artist Keith Sklar copyright 1989 Sklar
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The artist Keith Sklar created this mural on a huge wall facing the street. He has also been shown in many exhibitions. We should be proud to have such art on public display in San Francisco. It is a shame that it is beginning to show signs of damage due to graffiti.

A sign of how some governments "get it" and some don't, is the littering of the landscape with art. The suburbs are often public art starved, while the cities often overflow with a wealth of art. And, surely, nowhere better shows this than the cities and countryside of Europe.

(2007) Gough at Hayes, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted Sunday, June 10, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Amgen Tour of California
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Stunt riders await a turn to ride stunts

Stunt bicycle riders are a very strange breed. They always seem too large for the tiny bikes they ride. yet that is the point. With small bicycles many tricks are possible.

Notice the pegs that stick out form the center of the front and rear wheels. These are stood on to lift rear or front wheels off the ground. Also note that the front fork is straight which eliminates the castor effect. This requires strength to keep the bike riding straight, but allows the front handle bars to spin and the front wheel to travel in either orientation. For an example of such bikes in action, visit this youtube videoexternal link. I am sure you will agree that stunt bicycle riders are a very strange breed indeed.

(2007) Embarcadaro, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted Friday, June 1, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Vertical Growth
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Many recommend vertical growth as the means to counter the scourge of suburban sprawl. The SOMA (South Of MArket) area of San Francisco hosts several new residential high rises illustrative of this goal. Each is 50 or more stories high and represents 200 or more new homes. That is 200 or more homes in the same footprint that, in the suburbs, would contain roughly 4 single-family homes with yards.

Suburban sprawl is a serious problem that adversely impacts the environment. But suburban sprawl is minor when compared to cemeteries. Not only can they never be multi-story, but they are also always single use.

Pere Lachaise internal link in Paris is one example of a densely packed urban cemetery. Like all cemeteries, it was originally beyond the edge of the city but is now enclosed by the city internal link. It is now surrounded by five-story buildings, but in the next half century it may become surrounded by fifty story buildings. As population pressure increases so will the need for more parks and open space. Will Pere Lachaise someday be moved again to be outside the city?

Compared to most U.S cemeteries, Pere Lachaise is a palatial internal link. park indeed. U.S. military cemeteries are probably the worst. Instead of dealing with the dead as once human, the military lines up graves with impersonal military precision thousands of uniform headstones all standing at attention. Never, it feels, at ease in the parklike setting in which they have surely earned a rest.


© 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Garden-like field for sale
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One means to owning a park is to just purchase some parklike land, like that in the picture, and use it yourself. By excluding the public you have created a private park. If you were to do this in the center of town you might become resented. Imagine buying a vacant lot, surrounding it with a high fence, planting trees and lawn, installing a picnic table and barbecue, and voila you have created a private park.

This is not at all far fetched. Every day people buy single-family homes and put a fence around the back yard. Each such back yard is a private park. Sure that sounds selfish, but it is actually worse.

Consider a square mile of land with 100 single-family homes on it. A person on one corner would never want to walk two miles to the opposite corner to buy groceries. Neither would someone who lived in the middle want to walk one mile to any corner to buy groceries. In fact, a grocery store anywhere in the square mile would only attract 10% of the homes to walk to it. Everyone else will drive. And we all agree that needless driving harms the environment.

Now lets examine four square miles of land arranged in a square. At the corner where each meets build four high rise residences, one on each corner. Each high rise would hold 100 residences, with commercial space at street level. A grocery store at this corner would have 400 homes within easy walking distance. In fact, such a concentration of homes would attract all sorts of services: pharmacies, dry cleaners, flower shops, cafes, and other commercial offerings. Such a corner would be the perfect stop for any public transportation system. And all the unused space in the four square miles could become public parks and open space.

The unenlightened possession of private parks is one more symptom of suburban sprawl.


© 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Blue mouse expects spring to arrive soon
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Little Joey's dad had carved him a top, not a fancy one because his dad was unskilled and kind of dumb and died that previous winter. But Joey loved that top because his dad had made it. Every afternoon after school Joey would sit in the shade on the sidewalk and spin his top. The top was not the kind that spun with string, instead it was the kind that Joey had to spin with his fingers.

Older kids would ride by on bicycles and skate boards. Each time an older kid passed, Joey would grab the top and hold it close to his chest until the threat to his top had passed. But that afternoon was too hot and Joey felt slow. A frisbee wisked in from the side and, before Joey could move, struck the top and sent it tumbling. Joey jumped up. He saw his top spin over the edge of the sidewalk and disappear down the storm drain.

Joey wailed. He stood on the sidewalk both hands clutched hard at his side, and wailed. His mother ran outside and picked him up. Her heart broke for him when she heard what had happened to his top and she too felt helpless for his loss.

Near the River

Harv was tall and skinny and had been out of work for months. He came home that hot afternoon with eggs. "Here," he said, and handed the carton to his wife. Harv poured himself a tall glass of tap water and watched his wife open the carton and saw her frown.

"You idiot," she said and held the open carton out for him to see. "Somebody put a wooden egg in here."

Harv swallowed wrong and coughed.

His wife pulled out he wooden egg and hefted it. "How many times have I told you? A dozen? A hundred times? You always feel the eggs to see if any are broken. If you'd done that you wouldn't have been fooled."

"You think all I have time for is to shop for you," said Harv and immediately regretted it.

"You pig," said his wife. She threw the egg at his head.

Harv ducked and the wooden egg went flying out the window into the hot sunlight. Harv looked out the window and watched the egg tumble across grass and down a storm drain. Harv shrugged.

The warehouse district

Sammy had turned twenty-one the day before and was hung over. He struggled to fix the carburetor on his motorcycle. The garage was hot and one piece seemed stuck which frustrated Sammy. He picked up a pair of channel locks and tried to muscle the piece open.

With a lurch the piece jerked free. Sammy set down the channel locks and spun the top off with his fingers. When it came free a slim spring leaped from the opening and flew across the garage.

Sammy watched the spring stop and quiver at the top lip of the driveway. Sammy listened to the first of the afternoon thunder as it rattled down the alley. Sammy took a step toward the spring and saw the spring start to roll. It rolled quickly down the drive and fell straight into a storm drain.

Sammy walked out and stood on the drain. He looked down, his shoulders slumped, and shook his head sadly. Then it started to rain.

The Beach

The next morning was crisp and cool. Old Mr. Gill liked the beach best after a storm because it meant the best things could be found. That morning he'd already found a wooden top, the old fashioned kind that spun with fingers. Later he found a wooden egg and just beyond that a slim silver spring.

Mr. Gill was an artist of sorts and displayed his art in a window of his house near the board walk. He painted the top blue and the egg pink and rigged them together on the spring.

The following Saturday, little Joey was walking with his mother near the beach. They stopped to look in a window full of art objects. Joey saw a blue mouse suspended by a spring. "My top," he yelled. "The mouse's head is my top."

"I don't think it is," his mother said, putting her hand on his shoulder.

"It is too.", said Joey. "And, boy, I'm really happy it's a mouse now. I like the mouse. It looks happy and cute."

Old Mr. Gill watched through the window as mother and boy walked away. He felt happy too. He saw the smile his mouse given that little boy. Mr. Gill smiled too.

(2007) Carcassonne, France   •  Photo posted June 15, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Shadow's futile attempt
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Wonderful indeed to have a helpless shadow that lays among the bird poop and shell scraps, unable to pick up even a piece of rope. Next time you notice your shadow, thank it. Your shadow does always what you cannot.

Your shadow is drowned by puddles, stepped on by strangers, evaporated when you enter a store to shop, and mangled unrecognizably on cloudy days. No other part of you suffers such abuse so stoically. Have you ever heard a shadow complain? Even once? No. Your shadow is your friend but will never demand your friendship.

When a spy shadows you, that spy moves so carefully he will never be noticed. Just like your actual shadow that too moves in a way you'll never notice. When was the last time you noticed your shadow. In winter, of course, because it is so long. In summer, no, because it is just a blot under your feet. Step outside the next time the sun shines and say howdy to that inseperable buddy of yours. You'll be happy you did. Wave and your shadow will always wave back, but smile and it can never smile back.


© 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Mom shoots kid pointing at fish
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The mobile phone is becoming the ubiquitous camera. It is almost impossible to travel anywhere these days without finding dozens of people snapping away with cell phone cameras. Fortunately, the resolution of phone cameras are low so they are little threat to professionals. But their quality can only improve and someday, the heavy SLR will become a quaint footnote in history.

And if that were not enough, the mobile phone is becoming the ubiquitous video camera too. In the future, will you pay $US 20 to attend the latest feature movie, entirely shot using cell phones?

(2007) California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco   •  Photo posted June 17, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The actual tide hut
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The Sacramento River, and other rivers, feed the San Francisco Bay complex of bays, wetlands, and estuaries. The outward flow of river water through the Golden Gate and into the ocean is immense. But as immense as that flow is, the opposite flow of a rising tide is even stronger. When the ocean rises in response to gravitational pulls, the difference in levels causes the ocean to try to fill the bay. When the salty cold ocean water collides with the warmer fresh river water huge upwellings occur on the bay, sometimes tens of meters across. These upwellings look like flat circles of calm in the middle of a choppy bay.

When we think "tide hut," we don't envision a massive collision of forces. Instead we picture gentle waves climbing slowly a little higher on a hot tropical beach as the afternoon sun sets.

Once I visited a reservoir in the middle and flat part of the country. The visit was during drought years so the water level was low. My reaction to seeing that reservoir was wrongly to announce, "The tide is out."

People who live near an ocean live with tides. The ebb and flow of tides become a part of their being. Tides parallel the phases of he moon.

Those that live inland all life long never are so blessed. They only know the rhythms of land, annual events like spring thaw, and daily events like dawn. A particular bird may sing at 4:00 p.m. each afternoon, or a fire station may sound its siren at noon each day, but those events are not the same.

A plus tide is frighteningly exciting as waves lap too high and booming spray sends rainbows into the sky. A minus tide is awe inspiring and reveals things almost forever hidden like shipwrecks and sea stars. Tide pools teem with life when the tide recedes and exposes pockets of sea water brimming with life in abandoned holes in rocks. Seals will settle on rocks just below the water and later appear to have circus-like internal link. balanced on stones above the water, merely because the tide recedes. The tides, in short, are magical.

(2007) Bay Model, Sausalito, California   •  Photo posted June 18, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Roots admire grass-like hair
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The roots that line the Canal Du Midi can be very attractive, yet serve an important purpose. By tangling with the roots of neighboring trees, they form a strongly woven mesh that holds the shore together. Where trees are absent, because of the presence of a town or a river crossing, the roots are replaced by stone or concrete. The shore must be held together against the eroding effects of boat wakes, especially the wakes caused by drunken youths that motor too fast down the canal.

In the same manner, grass hold the dirt of a hill together, not because grass is strong, but because the roots of grass create a strong tangle. Clear cutting of trees for lumber, or the removal of topsoil due to strip mining for minerals, damages downhill-side streams and rivers because the dirt lacks vegetation to hold it in place. Dirt and industrial waste wash downstream.

Farmers use crops to hold the land together. But aisles between rows are used for irrigation and tractor runs which allow some dirt to escape. After the crop is harvested, the waste is plowed under exposing more dirt. Agricultural runoff into rivers clouds the water. San Francisco bay is filled by the Sacramento river, so it is cloudy, just like the river that feeds it. The Bay is so cloudy, in fact, that its murky water extends almost a hundred miles out to sea. It extends so far that clear water is not found until one reaches Monterey.

The lack of a tangle of roots has consequences found, sometimes, miles away from that lack.

(2007) Canal du Midi, Franc   •  Photo posted June 19, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Drain under outdoor shower near swim area
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Too close is ugly but can be beautiful. Imagine a country stream, bubbling, and gurgling under flowering trees on a warm afternoon. Now get down on your hands and knees and look at the banks of that creek. Strangely ugly crawly things exist there. Look closer and see scaly lichen and limp moss. Now pull out your handy magnifying glass and look again. "My god," you think, bugs have hairs.

Walk through a lovely town or a dramatic city and marvel at the beauty there. Walk by a swim area by a lake and wonder about the outdoor shower. Now get on your knees and look at the drain. Too close, perhaps yes. But interesting and strangely not repulsive.

Try this exercise in your own town. Go for a walk and let your eyes be drawn to something pretty. Now move close and look over that pretty thing in detail. Note the rust, or cracks, or worn places, or pigeon poo, or candy wrapper. Does the ugly of the detail abrogate the beauty of the whole?

The Japanese possess a concept called wabi or wabi san. It means the one flaw that creates perfection. A flawless vase is not perfect. To be perfect it needs a flaw (a weakness). The vase with a crack in its face is perfect. A shower by a lake has crud in its drain so it is perfect. A skilled teacher smokes a pipe at home, so is flawed, and is therefore perfect.

Imagine changing your own mind-set, bending your thoughts around another way and living in a world where flawless is imperfect and only the flawed can be perfect. With your new wold view, will you keep that old thing you had earlier decided to discard? Will you appreciate that movie anew despite that one bad performance? Will you accept that some people get in your way while most don't and find beauty in the exceptions?

Why, you might ask me, do I photograph garbage, weeds, dead animals, and drains? Perhaps it is because I find beauty in places you do not. Is your inability to see that beauty the flaw that makes you perfect?

(2007) Hyde Park's Serpentine, London, England   •  Photo posted June 20, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Pier 26 highlighted by wires under bridge
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One wants get a shot of the bridge with a warehouse underneath. But, drat, those pesky wires are in the way.

Person-A composes the shot with no regard to the wires, because person-A uses photoshop at home and knows how effortless it is to remove wires from any shot. To person-A the wires are at least invisible and at worst a nuisance.

Person-B moves his camera under the wires to exclude them from the shot, and shoots using a wide angle or fisheye lens. Person-B has photoshop at home and plans to normalize the wide-angle shot so that distortion is removed and so that the shot will appear as if it was taken from across the street (where the wires would have appeared).

Person-C too moves across the street and under the wires to shoot the shot, this time as a series of shots, using a normal lens. Person C has "stitching" software for photoshop and will combine the many shots into a single shot. The effect will appear as if the shot were taken from across the street.

Person-D moves under the wires and attaches a bellows to the lens. The bellows flatten the image so that it appears to have been taken from straight on. But bellows are expensive so person-D returns home and uses photoshop instead.

I see the wires and realize they could appear to outline the name of the pier. I shoot the shot with the wires included. But, alas, because I posted it without removing wires I will be faulted by person-A through person-D In fact, some might call it a "snapshot."

This morning, on the way to the train, I saw a photo on the cover of a newspaper rag. I thought to myself, "I could make that shot better." In that instant I realized that to change that picture after it was published would be to alter reality. Like our current Whitehouse, I would have the power to go back in time and change what was done, into what (I believed) should have been done. So I thought to myself, "That's just plain wrong." And caught the train and wrote this instead.

(2006) Bay Bridge, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 21, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A pair with mushroom to grow
(20 of 27) (37449 views)

One mushroom was talking to another mushroom in a relativistic way. "I love the snappy look that needle gives to your cap," he said.

"Thanks," whispered the second with a blush. "And I like the way the green grass sets off your beige."

A worker ant happened to be strolling by just then and heard thunder far above that sounded like speech. "Oh giants," he yelled up to the mushrooms. "Oh powerful mushroom shaped clouds towering over me, please let this lowly, humble one know what you say."

"Did you hear something," said the first mushroom to the second.

The worker ant heard the thunder again and that roar sounded impersonal and distant. Disappointed, the ant walked away.

After a while the ant came upon a guard ant and said, "I talked to god."

"Get lost," said the guard ant. "If you talked to god, what did god say?"

"God told me that worker ants should get more food than guard ants."

The guard ant accused the worker of heresy and ate him.

One mushroom said to another nearby mushroom, "Do you hear thunder?"

A strangely appendaged flying animal swept in from the sky and yanked the two mushrooms from the soil.

The two mushrooms screamed but their screams were unheard by the uncaring gods that had harvested them.

The father grinds the mushrooms into a powder and burns the powder in a pipe so that his son may become a man.

The son breaths in the smoke and his eyes glaze. "I hear god," he says.

Outside, a Inquisitor overhears the boy. He calls soldiers of the church to his side and they break down the door.

"Heresy," declares the Inquisitor.

The father fights to save his son but is slain. The son does not witness his father's death because he is too busy trying to be heard by god.

The pipe is knocked from the boy's hand and sails out the door. Unburned inside it remain a few still-alive spores. The boy would have been dead a year when new mushrooms grew where the pipe fell.

The wife of the Inquisitor picked mushrooms and cooked them into dinner for her husband. She did not know they were toxic. The looked just like the native non-toxic sort she was used to.

The Inquisitor died a horrible, painful death. Through his ordeal he prayed to his god, prayed over and over. The mushrooms caused him to hallucinate, and in his visions he witnessed god. God appeared as a huge impersonal cloud of fiery smoke in the shape of a mushroom. The roar was so loud it became clear that god could not possibly ever hear him, could not possibly have ever heard him.

The Inquisitor was buried in a pine coffin and, from the grass over his grave, the following year sprouted two mushrooms.

One mushroom talked to the other in a relativistic way. "I love the snappy look that needle gives to your cap," he said.

(2007) Coastal Trail, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 22, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Jawbreakers laying in wait for unwary jaws
(21 of 27) (37226 views)

Jawbreakers, known as Gobstoppers in Europe, are a hard round candy that a kid can suck on for hours.

Steve considered himself wise when he reached age fifty. He'd managed, or so he thought, to try most everything by then. He'd smoked, tobacco and pot, drank all sorts of bad things, used drugs, and tried his hand at crime. On his birthday he woke up at ten in the morning, alone as usual, and headed to IHOP for a birthday breakfast. He almost ordered the Grand Slam, then remembered that was a Dennys meal, so ordered waffles instead.

After breakfast he let his belt out a notch and walked to Pier 39 to see if the magic store was open. A week earlier he had ordered the needle through the balloon trick and wanted to see if it had arrived. The store was busy so he waited and killed time by looking for new things in the glass case. A box with a large gum ball in it caught his eye.

"What's this," he asked and pointed.

"That? Oh, that's a magic jawbreaker. We got it in yesterday and haven't had one spare minute to learn about it yet."

Steve smelled a rare opportunity. "I'll take it," he said and smiled. He thought he would be the first to learn a new trick and that thought pleased him.

The owner quoted him a surprisingly high amount, so Steve charged it to a credit card and left, carrying the never-before-learned trick in a bag.

At home he read the instructions printed in tiny letters on a thin strip of paper. "Do your normal tricks, then step backstage. Put the jawbreaker in your mouth and suck on it. Move out front again and act like a child. You will be convincing. Go backstage again and remove the jawbreaker. Finish your act as an adult."

Steve popped the jawbreaker into his mouth and sucked. The room changed size which made him dizzy. His clothes were suddenly many sizes too big. He looked at his hands and they were tiny. The effect was too weird for him so he spit out the jawbreaker and put it back in the box. Just as suddenly his clothes fit again.

Now Steve was not an imaginative man. He puzzled for an hour how he could use the jawbreaker to make money. He sifted through everything he'd ever tried and settled on a scam he'd once read about that needed a kid. He spent the rest of the afternoon buying kids clothes at Goodwill. Old clothes, he figured, would make the kid look poor.

That night he was ready. He sucked on the jawbreaker and dressed in kids clothing. He headed downstairs and out onto the sidewalk. A Chinese gang stopped him at the corner and Steve realized he was too small to fight. One of the gang kids shoved him hard onto his back. The jawbreaker lodged in his throat. Steve feared he would choke so, instead, he swallowed the jawbreaker. The Chinese kids started to kick him but he was saved when a police car drove by.

Steve sat with his back against the wall of the corner store and wondered. He swallowed the jawbreaker and didn't know what that meant. "Will I be a kid forever?" he muttered. "Or will I one day get old again, unexpectedly?"

The kid Steve started to cry.

(2007) Pier 39, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 23, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Big wheels and GE motors power the cable cars
(22 of 27) (37135 views)

Huge wheels and powerful motors are required to pull cable cars up and down the hills of San Francisco. Each cable is roughly 2 inches (5 cm.) in diameter and made of steel. A one-foot long piece on display felt like it weighed thirty pounds. Imagine how much weight the whole system weighs and how much work those wheels perform daily.
One man's job internal link. is to watch the wheels as they spin. He watches and waits for flaws in the cables to become evident. The gestalt is one of endless smooth movement like a river without ripples. The slightest change will bring an immediate reaction from the watcher.

An automobile accident causes metal to drop down the cable slot. The cable is nicked. A shiny place where there should be none flashes by the eyes of the watcher.

A cable car, while still gripped to the cable, is hit from the side by a truck whose driver ran a red light. The smooth movement of one of the wheels is interrupted by an unexpected hesitation. The watcher notices.

You wonder why in the 21st century, a man must still sit in a chair watching an endless cable? The cable system is not precise. It wanders all over the city from downtown to the bay at Fisherman's wharf, and from the base of California Street by the Ferry Building over the hill to Van Vess Avenue. Each cable makes turns and crosses other cables. The system is in constant motion, constantly being grabbed and released by cable cars full of passengers. It is a fluid system, stretching and giving yet strong and holding. Changes in such a system are not digital. Only the human gestalt will work to monitor a system like like that of San Francisco's cable cars.

Next time you ride, think of that lone man watching out for your safety.

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 25, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Huge rusty chain rests
(23 of 27) (37193 views)

Big links, especially huge rusty links, can be symbolic of aging friendships. No matter how corroded or roughly coated they become they still hold fast. A hot torch might cut those massive links, any such cut would take a long time to happen and could never go unnoticed.


Some focus not on the chain but on the holes in the chain. They notice that no matter how tightly the links hold, there will always be a few molecules of space between them. They find fault in the chain, not because it is weak, but because the character of the air between the links appears wrong. Gradually such chains grow apart, no longer touching, but forever balanced apart.

Some strike the chain to hear its tone. If the tone is too high or too low, or if is unharmonic, they will fault the chain rather than the method used to obtain the tone. Outsiders wonder why anyone would test a friendship by striking it.

Some dislike rust. They will buff down to metal and repaint the chain. They discredit the chain because it had a natural coating. They like the chain better in blue or red or any color other than the original. Friendship for them is all about appearance.

Some feel they own the chain. The stronger the chain the more they wish to destroy it rather than share it. The chain is a thing of itself and cannot be owned. This dichotomy will forever be, within them, the tension.

Some find the chain too heavy. They replace the chain with a fiberglass replica. The fake chain breaks too easily, and ends up discarded in a dumpster. Children find the pieces and wonder what they might have been. The children never realize they hold in their hands the pieces of a broken friendship.

(2007) Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 25, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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New years eve downtown
(24 of 27) (36952 views)

Originally, this photo was taken with the idea that it would appear under the "streetlights" category. Later, when processing, discarding, and categorizing images, it was clear that the streetlights pictured were not the point of this photo. One option was to put this photo under night shots, but that required creation of a new category, and we shoot so rarely at night that creating a new category did not seem the correct thing to do at the time.

This shot was taken on new years eve which suggested one category, but it was also taken as part of a wedding reception which suggested another category. But when all the dust settled, it found a home in the "Spokane," Washington category.

Some photo sites use a different approach. All photos are dumped into a database and keywords or tags assigned to each. To get to any photograph requires crafting the correct search, and there is no guaranty that a given search will yield the same results two different times.

Our category approach allows a given photo to be found repeatedly no matter how many photos are added, and no matter how categories evolve over time. It requires more up front effort but, thus far, that effort has been sufficiently useful to be retained.

(2006) Post Street, Spokane, Washington   •  Photo posted June 27, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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British flag in, where else? San Francisco
(25 of 27) (37032 views)

When Americans fly their flag it can represent a wide range of motives. Perhaps it flies in support for the war, in support for our fire fighters, or in support for the president. But it, almost certainly, does not fly in support of taxation.

When an American sees a British flag, a vacuum forms where an idea might have occurred. A bit of something slowly leaks in like a lost puppy whining at the edge of thought. Perhaps that vacation long ago, or that box of crisps a relation sent, or the American version of English muffins on sale two for one in Safeway.

A French flag is unrecognized by most Americans unless flown in context, such as above a French restaurant. When recognized, most Americans think of mustard and cheese. Californians muse about inferior French wine. Some confuse the French in french fries or french toast with the French of France.

When Americans see a foreign flag, they almost always remember travel or associate the flag with products. It is only the American flag they treat differently.

But this has not always been so. During war, for example, such as the war with Japan, the foreign flag did, for a time, represent a country to hate. Long after the war, that same flag resumes its former role as a reminder of travel or products.

So here's to the British flag, hung outside a San Francisco window, to marmalade, and fish and chips, and warm beer, long may it wave.

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo posted June 28, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Eroded concrete thought to reveal a map
(26 of 27) (37037 views)

People see all sorts of things in clouds. Imagine lying on your back on a blanket spread over newly mowed grass, hands behind your head watching fluffy clouds. "A bus," you announce, then chuckle. "With ears."

"No," your companion counters. "A French bulldog crouched because he is tired."

We each see what has meaning to ourself. Just like the random patterns in concrete shown in today's photo. One sees a map of islands. Another sees a bride tossing multiple bouquets.

A similar effect happens in email. One may perceive an insult while another perceives a compliment. Mention the need to wear a hat to a bald man and he may find offense. But mention a hat to someone with hair and he may find it a compliment.

Whether with clouds, concrete, or writing, one's own ego will always try to interpret the ambiguous. So, when presenting to another, always try to tailor your presentation uniquely to the other. By knowing and addressing your audience you avoid ambiguity and thereby avoid misinterpretation.

Try it yourself. next time pause before you hit send. Reread what your wrote. Pretend you are the recipient and read it as the recipient would. Try to misinterpret what was said, read into it what was not meant. Then go back and rephrase your email to say what you intend. You'll be happy you took the time to review.

Now that you know how to write email go find yourself an old blanket and some freshly mowed lawn.

(2006) Mountain View, California   •  Photo posted June 29, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Bridge dated 1893 crosses to the island
(27 of 27) (37053 views)

We all learned when young that retailers will price goods a penny or two under an even dollar so that we will "feel" that an item is cheaper than it really is. Visit any large or discount store and look at the prices. Is there any reason other than trickery to price an item at $2.98 rather than $3.00? For the average shopper, the $2.98 seems more like $2.00 than like $3.00.

The same effect is evident with dates too. Look at the date on this bridge. Doesn't this bridge seem far older having been built in 1893 then another bridge that may have been built in 1900. Isn't it like saying one was built in the 1800's and the other in the 1900's? But they were actually built within 7 years of each other.

In our system of feet and inches, a man six feet tall is vastly taller than a man five feet eleven inches. The emotional difference between those two heights is more that the difference between six foot and six foot one inch. The six-foot man is tall, the five-foot, eleven-inch man is short. Does the same thing happen in metric? Is a 180 cm man tall and a 179 cm man short?

Or is this strictly an American phenomenon? All the American sports require a winner. There is always one winner and a loser and the difference between them is infinite. Internationally, soccer is the most popular sport. In soccer it is possible and not surprising for a game to end in a tie.

In the Sates we are preoccupied with lines. Above is good, below is bad. Consider the poverty line and that to be below it means you are poor. A millionaire is rich, a $199,999-aire is not. The winner of the best actor Oscar is vastly (not slightly) better than the nominees.

Imagine a world in which all baseball games ended after nine innings whether or not there was a winner. Imagine a world in which the honor is to be nominated, and there follows no vote to spoil the honor. Imagine time measured in days rather than years or centuries. Imagine a $2 world in which a bridge was built without care for when.

(2007) Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco   •  Photo posted June 30, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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