Thursday, July 31, 2008


This is not quite what I was looking for. I was assigned to shoot a soccer conditioning practice so I tried to get as creative as I could with the light. Late afternoon sunlight spilled through the leaves and I just couldn’t get the right combination of sun, shadow and silhouette I was looking for in a nice strong image. Close but no cigar.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Start to almost finished

Almost two years after being torn down the West Building at Tracy High is near completion. The building which has not officially been named is scheduled to open some of its classrooms for students on August 13.

A slideshow of the demolition from October 2006 can be seen here.

Mug shot

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Go with the flow

I was assigned to cover a workshop at city hall today. Not the most exciting assignment but when I stepped out of the council chambers to head to my car I was struck by the light playing off the water splashing from the fountain in front of the building. Something was just right about the light and I shot some high shutter speed pictures with the backlight water spraying about.

Smoke out

Today's grass fire on Canal Boulevard could have been much worse. High winds drove the flames along the road with heavy smoke obscuring the roadway.

The best shot I found at the fire was a road sign in the fire’s path. Heat and flames melted the 30 MPH lettering off leaving some of it dripping from the sign.

Bad ad

To our friends at the Regional Transit District who had this lovely ad on the side of their bus at city hall today. Merry Christmas and go f**k yourself.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bad call

This shot was supposed to have run as the cover photo for Saturday's Tracy Press. it is a fun shot of a husband and wife who are travelling to China to watch their son in the Olympics. The wife is holding a pair of swim trunks her husband will wear to the games. I am told the sports editor nixed the shot, which is odd to me since they ran a photo a of four butts behind home plate in the paper.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tunnel vision

Hiking partner Alice and I wanted to take a hike this weekend and thumbing through my California Hiking book I came a cross the Prospect Tunnel Loop hike. Located in Black Diamond Mines in Antioch it sounded like a nice 5 mile hike with a chance to explore 200 feet of an abandoned and closed off coal mine along the way. Sounded fun and we headed out Sunday morning for our hike.

Black Diamond Mines is the site of coal mines that operated from 1850s to the early 1900s. Several small towns sprang up around mines for the miners and the families. Little remains except a cemetery and visitors center while the vast majority of the sprawling mine complex has been returned to open land for hiking and bicycle riders. Alice and I hiked a portion of the park last November when the weather was cooler but were determined to make the full loop on our Sunday hike. The loop spans most of the park lengthwise with a short detour to the Prospect Mine tunnel.

Our route would take us along the Stewartville Trail to the Ridge Trail and then on to the Corcoran Mine Trail with a return route looping back to the Ridge Trail. It looked easy on paper but as we would find out it would be a grueling hike coming close to Mount Diablo’s Eagle Peak hike in strenuous effort and heat.

As a late July hike Black Diamond Mines can be brutal. The landscape is a mix of open grassland and chaparral. The trails are mostly wide dirt paths cleared from the grassland. The trails wind up and down the ridgelines although at times they seem like they mostly head straight up. The cautious hiker brings plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat to combat the summer sun.

We headed out on the trail and as most of our hikes have been this summer I am struck by the dry conditions. Yellow grass rolls up and down the hillsides all around us as a testament to the dry conditions we have this year. Thistles along the side of the trail are were wilting in the heat some still bearing a trace of the purple flowering others black from the sun. Live oak and California buckeyes scattered along the floor of the canyons as we headed higher and further into the park.

Heading higher we paused often to catch our breath at the few shady spots along the trail. The canyon walls funneled the heat toward the trail and it seemed we walking through an oven as we pushed on to the mine tunnel. Just about 3 miles along the trail we reached the Prospect Tunnel junction, a narrow winding path leading the shaft entrance up along hillside. Flashlights ready we stooped down to make our way along the 200 feet of the mine tunnel still open to the public.

Light glowed of the ridges along the walls as we explored deeper into the tunnel. Words have been carved into the walls and ceiling, some looked like names others were hard to read in the dim light. Ore veins lined the tunnel as a reminder of the tunnels early use. The deeper we explored the hotter it got and we quickly got our shots and headed back to the trail for the long walk back to the car.

The afternoon breeze helped as we climbed back to the ridgeline. With about a mile of trail left to hike Alice and I were both out of water as made the final stretch of climbing. The steep grades on the trail and heat reminded us both of our hike on mount Diablo’s eagle peak. I was starting to think that the Prospect Tunnel loop was reaching Eagle Peak territory as my claves and ankles ached and burned with each step.

Finally we reached the downhill path to the trailhead and our walking was easier with a stiff breeze that pushed us along. Sipping Gatorade at the car I checked my GPS unit to find our hike had carried us 7.25 miles through the park in stifling heat. It was a good hike, a little on the hot side but the great exercise and great views of the park. We are thinking about making a return trip to the trail in March for greener scenery and cooler temperatures.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Welcome to funky town

I go on all kinds of assignments on any given day. Some are happy, some are sad. Some assignments are a test of all my photojournalism skills and experiences and others make me stare at my shoes as I wonder how a guy screwing in sprinklers gets paid $50 an hour. And then there was the assignment I went on today. My last assignment was a short drive from the office to Lincoln Park for the Music in the park series final performance. But little did I know that short drive would take me to funky town.

First off I don’t like disco. Disco, rap, Gregorian chants, they all have their niche and it is not with me. Give me some Fleetwood Mac or a nice Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band on the radio and I am a happy camper. It’s not that I am a music snob, I have a very diverse iPod library but I do have my limits.

So there I am at the park trying to find out who is going to play. There is a question as one paper reported the band the Cheeseballs while others say it is to be the band the Wonderbread 5. I have no clue who either band is. Bad sign number one on assignment, you don’t know who you are going to be shooting. I finally get the scoop it is to the Wonderbread 5 for the last performance of the summer. I get the band member’s names and find out they play a collection of 70’s and 80’s music. I check my gear and stake my shooting spot. I have budgeted about a half an hour to get my four or so shots for a standalone package. Should be an easy assignment. The National Anthem was sung and as the band took the stage I knew instantly my assignment had gone downhill fast. Hell, it went off the road and plummeted down the cliff.

So that epiphany that my assignment was not going to go well was the band’s entrance. When I was talking to them before the show they were dressed like anyone else. Not to shabby, not to flashy. As the lead singer took to the stage the first thing I noticed were his pants. His bright red Coca-Cola pants. Bright red sneakers too. If the pants weren’t odd enough his blond wig was making me wonder. Then I saw the bass player and his outfit, a leopard jumpsuit it sunk in. Not just 70’s music, but bad 70’s music we all refuse to admit we ever listened to. That 70’s funk-disco music.

So there I am shooting a guy with a giant wig, one guy in leopard pajamas and one guy with a teal painted guitar. I am trying to remember a sight that seemed more out of place than this group in Tracy but honestly I am at a loss. I just tried not gag as they played those disco tainted tunes you see advertised on late night television.

I went through my usual progression, shoot with a long lens, blow at the background when I could and change angles to get a variety of the performers on stage. It was kind of hard to not starting feeling bad for the band. The crowd was less than enthusiastic; I think they were in shock over their entrance just as I was. The lead singer implored someone to dance in front of the stage but all I saw was one littler kid run away in terror. I think it was those red pants, they were freaking me out too.

Mercifully I had enough shots and I headed out. I had enough of that 70’s funk sound. The Music in the Park is a great series I just wish it could have ended on a higher note. I all I can hope for next year are no more leopard pajamas on stage. Even I have my limits.

Close, but no cigar

A good sign of my stupidity on assignment is this photo. I asked a six-year-old dirt bike racer to drive as fast as he could by me as close as he could as I crouched on the ground with my camera. This is the full frame, uncropped view of one of the frames I shot with a 16mm wide angle lens. I was too close to capture the whole bike as it flew past me. I actually like the image but it was not the safest shooting position. It’s like I told the editor, if I die on assignment all I want is oak. No satin or any fancy linings, just oak.

A world apart

While blood on the sidewalk may seem shocking to Tracy residents it pales in comparison to events around the world. Imagine my surprise when I found that my commentary on the blood splatters wound up in the latest issue of Random Shutterings, a blog carnival covering the world of photojournalism. The second issue with my blog has postings from Anbar Province in Iraq, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Kampala in Uganda and Manila in the Philippines to name a few. It seems small in the global context with reports suicide bombing, homeless living in graveyards and children working perilous conditions just to survive. Some of the postings are graphic but well worth a moment of time to explore.