Monday, March 27, 2006

CA-1 and Santa Cruz

Day Two of Spring Break. At 2am, we sauntered out from the cinema hall after watching "Inside Man" (the 2006 one with Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Clive Owen... not to be confused with previous flicks with similar names), animatedly arguing over whether this was a good or a bad movie (I enjoyed it, btw). To all my desi friends, please please please watch this flick :P. I swear you'll have your money's worth in the first five minutes, and I refuse to tell you why. Just trust me, and don't read the reviews in case of spoilers. Again, GO WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!

Since I am nocturnal these days, I stayed up the night doing nothing, planning to crash in the afternoon. Afternoon arrives, and I find myself packed into a car heading off to the beach. "We'll only be there a few minutes," I'm told. Oh well. Since it's best to be prepared, I have armed myself with a polariser and a car charger for the camera batteries.

CA-1 is the classic drive in California. It runs parallel to the coast, with mountains on one side and the Pacific on the other. To get there from Palo Alto, you follow CA-84 as it winds through the mountains until you run into the sea. Unfortunately, the night-out takes its toll and I am fast asleep inside the car as the rest of the party check out our first stop at a lighthouse. The view from Stop Two is so stunning, however, that I somehow jerk off the sleepiness and waddle out with the camera. Here's what we saw (CA-1 is the sliver of road to the left of the picture, running all the way down the coast).

So we drive on and on and on down the coast, checking out bikers and parasurfers and kite-flyers...

... until we discover we're 11 miles from Santa Cruz. Seems a shame not to go all the way, we opine. So southwards and onwards!

This, by the way, is Santa Cruz...

... which has insect life, bird life, inscribed benches and a casino.

The crazily dressed women were having their photo taken, btw. We had snacks from a stall on the beach, where there was a rollercoaster and this crazy thing that was like a seat that bounced up and down 50 feet or so vertically. The sort of thing that makes your tummy hit the top of your head in free fall. There were people sitting around...

... and people winding up for the day, such as Shaheen, a caricaturist, and Kara, who sold juice or icecream or something.

Samantak is to be credited with spotting Kara, who is by far the cutest (though not necessarily the hottest) girl I've seen in some time (if certain people are reading this, "some time" does not include pre-yankland days), and bringing our attention to the matter with the words: "I've just seen a girl who looks exactly like Natalie Portman". So I went up and asked her if I could take her pic, and she grinned and said yes, and I was probably so kicked that I blurred the first shot, and overexposed the second by a stop (without noticing it until later). The second was salveagable, though.

Long drive back, followed by homemade chilli chicken and much-needed sleep.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Haight-Ashbury, SF

Spring Break started today, so we drove up to San Francisco via I-280. We had planned to go to Union Square, but stopped over at Haight-Ashbury on the way (were very lucky to find some parking, on a steep slope!) and never quite made it to the square. Wikipedia says:
The Haight-Ashbury's elaborately detailed 19th-century multi-story wooden houses became a haven for hippies during the 1960s, due to the availability of cheap Victorian properties for rent in the district and the bohemian subculture that subsequently flourished there.

It gained a reputation as a center of illegal drug culture, especially with the use of marijuana. The area was thus sometimes known as The Hashbury, but, ca. 1967, its fame chiefly rested on the fact that it became the neighborhood of choice for a number of important psychedelic rock performers and groups of the mid-1960s. Acts like the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, who all lived a short distance from the famous intersection, not only immortalized the scene in song, but knew many within the community as friends and family. Its mystique was further enhanced by the 1967 Scott MacKenzie hit "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)," written by The Mamas & the Papas member John Phillips.

Today the district has lost little of its status as a center of alternative lifestyles, though much has changed. The area still maintains a lot of its bohemian atmosphere, it has become a major tourist attraction and has experienced the effects of gentrification to some degree. Perhaps the best illustration of the district's slide into the mainstream is the presence of a Gap store, a major international retailer that (ironically) started in San Francisco in the late 60's, now fallen to mixed reviews by the city's trendy inhabitants. Though the Gap and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream are now located at the famous Haight-Ashbury intersection, the neighborhood remains a thriving center of independent local business. It is home to a number of independent restaurants and bars, as well as clothing, smoke, and record shops, including Amoeba Music: San Francisco's largest new and used record store, as well as shops catering to anything retro, nuevo, or strange. The cohabitation between throw-backs to the fifties lounge scene, organic and spiritual new age, the hardcore punk of the 70's and beyond is one of the neighborhood's most interesting and endearing aspects.
We wandered around, had a cup of coffee, went into some crazy little shops. Took a lot of pictures, and had a a couple of interesting encounters while doing so (one of the subjects thought (mistakenly!) that I was asking her out, and informed me very sweetly, pointing to the first floor of a shop, that her boyfriend was "up there"). Here are a few pics, then -- all taken with a 50/1.4, in available light, mostly at ISO 1600.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006





Saturday, March 18, 2006

Say hello to my little friend

"Self-portrait", Pentax *ist DL, 2006

(And now for the subtext. This is the cheapest (non-eBay), the smallest, and nearly the lightest DSLR on the market. That's the good. The better is, it feels right -- as compared to the Canon Rebel XT (both the name and the construction somehow feel substandard) and the Nikon D50 (the handgrip didn't fit my hand as well and the viewfinder is smaller). My old screwmount lens works fine on it with an adapter. It takes AA batteries as well as NiMH and CR-V3's. Image quality is acceptable. The new lens, a 50/1.4 SMCP-FA scaled by the crop factor to a portraitish 75mm, is very nice. All in all, it's clean, unobtrusive, down-to-earth and definitely not scary, unlike this or this.)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Certain Sense


(Image courtesy Payel, words courtesy Jibanananda Das)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sights and Sounds #1

Since we think clicking little buttons on little boxes is a good thing, whether to take a picture or to jump to a webpage, here are some new photography links.

Mike Johnston's blog is updated daily and keeps up a running commentary on photographs, photographers and (sigh!) gear. He's currently listing his choices for the Top Ten Photos of all time -- count down one every Tuesday, with #9 expected tomorrow (#10 was Edward Weston's classic "Pepper No. 30"). Mike doesn't pixel-peep -- thank God for that. Plus, he likes small, simple, reliable, unobtrusive (and cheap? we wish, but he likes Leicas too) cameras, and the candid snapshots that are usually associated with such boxes. More power to him.

The Candid Frame has podcasts of interviews with photographers. There are only two so far, but it's an interesting project and we hope the list will grow. Meanwhile, a well-established institution is The Digital Journalist, a wonderful online newsletter of photojournalism across the world. Humanist, quirky, disturbing, bold, these are the pictures which tell the everyday story of the world we live in. The current issue features, among other things, a tribute to Olivier Rebbot, killed on assignment in El Salvador in 1981, and a review of a documentary on Henri Cartier-Bresson.

David Burnett, a veteran photojournalist who worked with Time and Life magazines before co-founding Contact Press Images, has an enviable been-there-done-that portfolio, with the true master's nack of being at the right place at the right time. However, what really stands out is his distinctly individual and striking sports photography from numerous Olympics, both summer and winter. Oh and he's apparently doing quite well shooting with Holgas nowadays :).

And while on the subject of Holgas and other such extreme machines, here's what might, if you will, be called the Digital Holga. Or how about Holga 1Dz Mark III?