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San Francisco Union Square

July 31st, 2001

Monday morning, just after eight, in Portland. Yesterday, four hundred twenty four miles round trip, first to Seattle, then, over the water to Bainbridge Island, west of Seattle. We took the Island ferry from the downtown terminal, passing through the crowd converging on the baseball stadium (OK, bad timing), a thirty minute or so trip from there to the island itself, realizing, if we'd thought about it, better to have cut west further south on 5 and crossed the Tacoma Verazzano Narrows bridge, coming up from Kitsap County and skipping the traffic and ferry altogether. (The bridge is remembered here with mixed emotions, "Galloping Gerty", known to every kid, every adult in the Northwest. There is a famous black and white newsreel of the November 8th, 1940 wind twisting the then third longest suspension bridge in the world into a pretzel as it shed cars, parts, cables and eventually itself into the water below.

My cousin mentioned ("hey, take the bridge going back") the state official who was then responsible for paying the insurance premiums on the five month old bridge had been pocketing the money. What can happen to a bridge, he reasoned with larceny? There is a sign as you enter the bridge going east: "Strong side winds". Yes. Still, happy to have taken the ferry. Took pictures. Wasted film, although there are one or two that I secretly hope might turn out, a series of wide angle shots off the fantail, the churning wake and the city in the background.

Two young women were up on the aft deck overlooking the cars that were still loading below, both with 35mm cameras and both with tripods, good solid duct tape wrapped professional looking tripods that made me think they were students. Nothing on earth more serious than photography students in the pursuit of, well, art, you understand. I nodded hello and congratulated them on their energy and determination with the tripods, as I myself hadn't the gumption or strength of back or character to manage one myself.

The one said, well, you can't shoot good photographs without them, a little snooty, I A blues drummer playing in an Oakland Wednesday concert thought, and I said, well, I was a street shooter and a tripod just doesn't work. I liked their attitude, though. Photographers take themselves seriously, or something, I haven't quite put my finger on it yet, and we seem to invariably avoid one another when we meet in the field. Film students can be the worst, what with having to make their mark and all in the roiling ferment of fellow student competition, but that's OK. Takes fortitude and energy and sometimes even talent to make photographs and these young women were shooting the Seattle skyline to the approved grim as death standard: No flippant unasked for remarks from an old guy packing a camera bag, thank you. I shot two rolls of black and white wandering along the decks, some of the receding city, most of the people on the boat while pretending to shoot the city, even a couple of the two young women shooters as they debated framing and exposure and such as Seattle receded into the distance.

Tuesday, early evening, home now for about nine hours. Ran some errands earlier: Food for Wuss, a new battery for the watch, a phone call to the technical support people about a PhotoShop plugin I bought last month, all things that needed to be done during a work day rather than over a weekend. Went to three photography stores looking for a particular book on the Nikon F3 (I bought a used one just before I left for Seattle. Small, light weight, not too expensive, manual focus, maybe right for shooting under certain circumstances inside and on the street. Then again, maybe not. Hard to tell with these things.) I have a lens (the manual Nikkor f 1.2 50mm) for it coming from B & H tomorrow at the office and I have, without a manual, no idea how it works. Which, I guess, is about my speed.

The banner photograph was taken in San Francisco and the photograph of the drummer was taken last Wednesday at an Oakland sponsored blues concert held on a fenced off downtown street. The quote is from The Zen Koan, by Miura and Sasaki.