Monday afternoon in early December

Monday Afternoon – Portola Valley Town Center, California

One of my favorite local destinations is the Portola Valley Library. Near the parking area is a beautiful field of trees leading up to the hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

As I arrived yesterday afternoon, this tree was glowing in the afternoon sun – at a low angle in the sky on this day in early December. Image shot with iPhone Xs Max and tweaked in Snapseed.

Seeing the Future: Amazon Go

On Friday, while walking up California Street in San Francisco enjoying a morning of street photography, my friend Doug and I happened across the new Amazon Go store at 300 California Street. Neither of us had been in a Go Store before so we went in to check it out.

Turns out I had months ago downloaded the Amazon Go app to my iPhone – so I was enabled for the Store. I needed to login to the app to complete my setup. Once logged in, the app displays a diamond-shaped bar code which is scanned by the gate turnstiles to let you into the store – a process just like using a boarding pass to get on the airplane. 

I had a guest with me – so the helpful Amazon person by the door explained how I could take my guest with me into the store: let him walk in first, scan using my code, followed by me and a second scan of my code.

Once inside, we were surprised by the range of items available in a space that seemed a bit larger than most 7-Eleven convenience stores but smaller than the usual supermarket (Whole Foods?) store. There were lots of prepared food items – but many other things as well. Very nice assortment!

While in the store, I noticed one guy come in who must be a local regular – as he breezed through the turnstile, went to pickup his item (lunch) and then walked out.

One of the sections in the store has Amazon Go “merchandise” where I found a dark chocolate bar that would be my sole item purchased on this initial visit. I picked up the bar, turned around, browsed another aisle, and then headed for and walked through the exit gate. That was it – I was done.

My friend was curious about the technology being used – wondering if RFID on the items was involved. He asked and was told that basically a combination of overhead cameras along with weight sensitive shelves were used to identify the items we picked up to purchase.

All in all a very cool shopping experience! Having had to tolerate checkout lines many times at a 7-Eleven near my former office, I can see how this new future would quickly win me over!

Note that this Go Store at 300 California Street is open Mon–Fri, 7AM–9PM. Closed Sat–Sun. Amazon says it stocks: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Grocery Essentials

A favorite spot: San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Whenever I meet up with my photo buddy Doug Kaye for a few hours of San Francisco street photography, we almost always meet at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. I find it convenient to drive to BART and then take it to the Embarcadero station which is just across from the Ferry Building – a quick 5 minute walk and I’m there. 

This time of year, the sun angle (both low in the sky and the direction it is casting shadows) make for interesting photos outside the Ferry Building. Here are three examples – two were taken out the window on the Bay side of the building adjacent to Peet’s Coffee. The third was taken outside in front of the Ferry Building shooting directly into the sun.

There are a couple of other great photography locations here – especially the indoor marketplace area with its superb indirect overhead light – I’ll share a few examples of images taken there in a future post.

All three of these images were taken with an iPhone Xs Max and it’s superb camera! All of these images were also shared previously on my Instagram account.

Happy Seventeen!

Today is the 17th anniversary of the start of my personal blog here using the sjl.us domain. It all began on November 25, 2001.

In my first post, I wrote about Amazon having free U.S. shipping on orders over $99 (that’s changed since then!). In a second post that day, I wrote about an article in the San Francisco Chronicle talking about why writers enjoy living in the San Francisco Bay Area (I wonder whether that’s changed – given the current cost of living, etc. in this area!).

I had played around earlier creating a personal web page (using an early Microsoft web page editor named Front Page) but when I started this edition on November 25, 2001 I was using Radio Userland. Sometime later I migrated it all over to WordPress.

Learning to Print!

This past weekend I attended Michael Frye‘s excellent three day workshop “The Art and Craft of Digital Printing” in Pasadena, California. Michael is an excellent landscape and nature photographer who is very well known for his work in Yosemite and environs – as well as being as a master teacher of landscape photography. His workshops are extremely popular – and usually fill up quickly the day they are announced!

My first large 17×22 inch print – Crater Lake, Oregon

I first met Michael when my son David and I spent a day with him in Yosemite back in 2010 visiting a few of the non-iconic venues in the park that are among Michael’s favorites. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to take several of his other photography workshops – including a beautiful fall colors Eastern Sierra workshop and a mystical coastal redwoods workshop along the Northern California coast. But I’ve never before taken a workshop devoted entirely to learning how to produce digital prints.

During this weekend’s digital printing workshop, Michael taught us the processes he uses in Lightroom (and Photoshop) to create a master file of a photograph in preparation for printing – and the process of moving through proofing the print on smaller paper before ultimately making a final print on larger paper. During the weekend, we had access to three Epson P800 printers that Michael and his wife Claudia had set up for us in the classroom.

Since I don’t own a photographic printer, this was all a new experience for me – and one which proved very stimulating and gratifying. Holding a final print of one of your favorite images is a real delight – especially when it’s printed large (17×22 inch prints were our final output during this workshop). I also learned just how much time it can take to get to that point of hold your large print in your hands – as the process of printmaking is much more in pursuit of perfection than quickly posting a much smaller digital image on one of the social media platforms!

I came away feeling much more confident in my ability to create large prints – what many have said is the final stage of the process for any serious photographer! Michael (and his assistant Robert Eckhardt) thoroughly shared their years of experience in digital fine art printing – making for a very satisfying and productive weekend workshop! Michael has been teaching this digital printing workshop twice each year – and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re also looking to learn how to print like I was!

Note: Michael’s also the author of an excellent book on post-processing titled “Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide” which I highly recommend. He includes a number of accompanying videos with the ebook that are among the best I’ve seen on the various aspects of using Lightroom effectively.

Book Note: “I Love Capitalism” by Ken Langone

I just finished reading Ken Langone’s memoir “I Love Capitalism“. It’s quite a story – of his life growing up and gradually becoming very successful as a co-founder of Home Depot. He tells many stories along the way about his family, business partners, deals, Ross Perot – and Eliot Spitzer (!). A quick delightful read! Here’s a recent review of the book in the Wall St. Journal.

“Everybody talks about the bottom line, but as I’ve seen time and time again, you ignore the human element of business at your peril. Most of the seven deadly sins can and do come into play, and chemistry between people—good chemistry or bad—always has an effect, sometimes a huge effect: in boardrooms, in executive offices, in sales meetings.”

 

Books: The President is Missing

Just finished reading The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. It’s a crypto-thriller set in the near present day. Lots of twists and turns – and excitement. A very enjoyable summer read!

“Our democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment. Today it’s ‘us versus them’ in America. Politics is little more than blood sport. As a result, our willingness to believe the worst about everyone outside our own bubble is growing, and our ability to solve problems and seize opportunities is shrinking. We have to do better.”

 

Words Matter – Avoid the “de-words”!

I’m enjoying reading the new book Our Towns – A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows (@JamesFallows) and Deborah Fallows (@FallowsDeb). On my morning walk this morning I was listening to the audiobook version of Our Towns during their discussion of their time in Eastport, Maine.

During one of Deb’s sections, she commented about local language – and how the locals in Eastport are using language as “a power tool of their development.” She described how a local group of women in Eastport had noticed the use of “de– words” in many articles describing Eastport – “words like: ‘depressed,’ ‘dependent,’ ‘decline,’ ‘despair’” and how those words were often used to describe aspects of Eastport’s economics, services, schools, or population.

Deb describes how this group then set forth to crowd out the de- words with re- words: like ‘rebound,’ ‘rediscover,’ ‘redesign,’ ‘reverse,’ ‘renew,’ ‘reenergize,’ ‘reemerge.’ and that they encouraged reporters and politicians to substitute the more positive words in their descriptions of Eastport. What a great idea!…

For more background on the book – and some of their findings and conclusions from their journey – see this video of them at the Aspen Ideas Festival.