Utah 2019. Leica SL2.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll

Today is the first day of November. We have officially started marching toward the winter. The time when there is snow in the mountains. And my favorite time to put the camera to use. I wanted to share this photo I made in 2019 when visiting Utah during mid-winter.

November 1, 2022. San Francisco

The winds of the Future wait
At the iron walls of her Gate,
And the western ocean breaks in thunder,
And the western stars go slowly under,
And her gaze is ever West
In the dream of her young unrest.
Her sea is a voice that calls,
And her star a voice above,
And her wind a voice on her walls—
My cool, grey city of love.

George Sterling.

“San Francisco,” Gary Kamiya writes in his book,  Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, “is all about the collision between man and the universe.” What a wonderful description of the city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. As someone who wants to avoid people, urban blights, and grand vistas in his photos, San Francisco is a challenge and chalice from a visual standpoint. As a photographer, I struggle to decide: Should I ignore the manmade and instead look to gifts of the gods? Or should I embrace the outcomes of human ingenuity? There is an abundance of both in the city of seven hills. 

A poem by George Sterling inspired Kamiya’s book title, so I am taking a cue from both of them — I have come up with a new project: cool gray views of the city, and it is my way of telling its visual story. 

It will combine what I love most in my photography — silence, fog, abstraction, and an opportunity to wander. One of my new photo friends on Glass, after seeing my shared photos, called them “dreamy grays.” It never really occurred to me, but that comment and Kamiya’s book helped coalesce everything for me. 

Ironically, I have been on the journey for a while; I didn’t realize it. I am sharing some photos that tell you what I have in mind. It is an unending creative effort, and I hope they will one day become part of a larger body of work.

I will tag this series #coolgraycity! 

August 21, 2022. San Francisco

It was a perfect storm – high winds, blowing snow, and bone-chilling cold. Or, as I like to call it — a perfect time for magic. It helps that I have a camera that helps me do it with minimum fuss. Both images were captured at an aperture of f8, ISO 100, and a shutter speed of 1/640th of a second. I used my f2/50 mm M-APO Summicron lens on a Leica SL2 body. The top image is a jpeg right out of the camera. I use a slightly tweaked version of the B&W High contrast film style built into the camera. The second photo is an edited version of the DNG file.

Glacier View, Sutton: Leica SL 601. Leica 90-280 mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 95mm. Aperture: f3.5. Exposure Time: 1/500th of a second.

Chris Michel, a good friend, and a photography mentor, recently told me that he is editing photos if he is not doing anything. He is always looking to make sure his library is not clogged with unfinished files. Given the daily frequency with which he captures photos, it makes perfect sense.

I should listen to him. I go on landscape journeys, come back and forget about the photos. Sure, I like to sit on the images, but maybe it is not such a good idea. I was thinking about Chris this morning when I was cleaning my office space and came across many old memory cards that were chock-full of photos from a 2018 visit to Alaska.

Three and a half years later, I can tell these images don’t fit into what I seek in my images today. Still, I feel I was taking steps in the right direction. And that is why I should have edited these images. Instead, I never downloaded any of those photos onto my computer. I did find three negatives that were worth an edit. I used Adobe Photoshop to “enhance the originals,” and then cropped them to give them a bit more balance. They are a good reminder of why I love Alaska so much.

Chris is so right — if you don’t get to editing sooner, you leave many moments behind — forgotten, gathering dust. I hope you enjoy these three images. Have a good week ahead, everyone!

July 5, 2021. San Francisco

Glacier View, Sutton: Leica SL 601. Leica 90-280mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 198mm. Aperture: f8. Exposure Time: 1/10th of a second.
Knik River, Palmer: Leica SL 601. Leica 24-90 mm SL Vario lens. Focal Length 75mm. Aperture: f22. Exposure Time: 30 seconds.