27 December, 2009

A Christmas Poem

This past week was a good one for me. It was my first Christmastime in the Bay Area, so I had a chance to see what things here are like around this time of year. I also was able to spend an entire 2 days with a pair of good friends I hadn't seen in 7 and 12 years, respectively. All in all, it was a great chance to spend time with people I care about, and to see others do the same.

What follows is a whirlwind tour through Christmas as it happened to me; a photographic flipbook of my own design. Enjoy!

PS. If you like this, I would appreciate if you could let me know. Comments are easy to write, and it took me three days of effort to get everything just so. It's always nice to know when hard work is appreciated.

Many years it had been since the last time we spoke
face-to-face, in the company of PEEK and POKE.
Tuesday evening was spent sitting down, catching up,
And at daybreak the three of us slowly awoke.

I pulled out my camera and looked all around:
Some things hide in plain sight, still yet to be found.
A sunflower draped from the knob of a door

And a med school vignette a few feet off the ground.

We later departed to find food to eat,
And in doing so, found quite a shadowy treat:
Here the sun was just right to throw words on the table;
I stopped, looked, and shot and the deed was complete.

With a couple steps farther we started our brunch
with some crêpes served for breakfast, and dessert for… uhh… lunch.
We shared memories of tricky black-and-red circles,
The most frustrating type. Or at least, that's my hunch.

Then we carpooled back down to the south of the Bay
and then said our goodbyes and then each went our way.
'Til the next time we meet, I will think of y'all often.
And just for the giggles, I write here, "toupée."

So fast-forward now to the day of the Yule,
When I hit Ocean Beach, schlepping gear like a mule.
Gave a camera to L and kept one for myself,
And the weather was nice, not too hot, not too cool.

Some folks sat in the water and played with the sand,

Some alighted on stones, planted firmly on land,
Here a father and son (or, at least, I assume)
Sit and think, back-to-back, of some dreams meek and grand.

Here a kicker of sea foam sweeps some to the side,

And a man and a dog run and play in the tide.

As a man with a kite throws his arms in the air,

And a wearer of "sunblock" continues to stride.

Here two folks took a seat for a heart-to-heart chat,
Drinks in hand, shades in sand, with a black "SF" hat.

A bird traipses around, just along the water's edge

As another takes flight, dark before a golden matte.

And a man sits alone, likely having a ponder,
A hand to his cheek and his gaze far over yonder.
With the rustle of waves, breaking soft on the evening sand,
It's no wonder folks sit here to let their minds wander.

At the end of the day, set to go but standing by
Here to watch the warm, white sun descend slowly through an orange sky
Many folks turned to leave, but from the corner of an eye
Took one long, last look before each in turn said, "goodbye."

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

18 December, 2009

Early Morning Visitor

Just a quick update today, as an experiment. On Tuesday, the fire alarm in my apartment went off right as I was going to sleep around 4:00 a.m. I grabbed my camera and headed outside in my fashionable Snoopy-PJs-and-hiking-boots outfit.

It was pretty dark except for a spotlight the fire engine had pointed toward the main entrance, where a number of tenants were standing outside. After trying for a couple minutes to figure out how to compose a decent image, I noticed that the side of the engine was really shiny. I took a few reflected frames, but they weren't too interesting.

Soon thereafter, the firefighter (who had been inside) came outside and asked tenants how to get in touch with the building manager. After chatting with them for a bit, he went to fetch something from the cab of the fire engine. I fired off a couple frames as he stepped back onto the curb and got this one, which I really like. It's clear that folks are waiting uncomfortably outside (especially in the large version), as well as why they're outside.

"I have trained myself to notice what I see." —Sherlock Holmes

15 December, 2009


A mouthful of acronyms accompanied the final Golden Gate Chapter BMW Car Club of America autocross event of the year, the Top Driver Shootout. As it was essentially the crowning event of the GGC autocross season, the difference in the drivers' demeanors was readily apparent. Some drivers had minutes-long sessions spent studying the course map, trying to find where they had left a few elusive tenths of seconds on the course.

In addition, the mental preparation for driving became more visible. Above, Jason Sams focuses before getting in his car to start one of his timed afternoon runs.

When there was downtime, though, the typical, more jovial autocross attitude came to light. At one point, while the start was on hold because of a timer malfunction, the starter had some fun with alternate flag-waving techniques.

A 180° hairpin right-hander led into the course's long, wide straight. The course layout created a deceiving feeling of open space back here; I'm sure some of the drivers would have liked even more space between the cones of the curving right-hand slalom at the end of the straight.

And through the finish. The yellow car in the background is on the back straight as the blue Mini Cooper rushes to trip the finish line timer.

Unlike other autocross events, the Top Driver Shootout ends with the crowning of a top driver. Here, autocross master of ceremonies Kris Linquist looks over the tabulated results with a smirk before announcing the podium finishers.

At the end of the day, Eric Lam placed first and won custody of the Franz Fechner Cup for the coming year — much like the Stanley Cup in hockey, the Fechner Cup is passed from winner to winner after each year's Top Driver Shootout.

Jason Sams (left) placed second, with an adjusted time 0.343 seconds behind Lam. Michael Do Couto (right) placed third, 0.023 seconds behind Sams. Rounding out the top five were Alexei Sakhartchouk, driving the blue Mini Cooper from above, and Brian Cheung.

Well, so long for now. You can find more photos here. And in closing, a quote from a friend-of-a-friend:
"My bike is like a high maintenance girlfriend. Everything I buy for her needs to be 'special' and there's always something wrong that I need to fix."

06 December, 2009

A Call For Feedback: Yes, this means you.

I want your suggestions. Whether you've been following The Doppler Effect for a while, or you've never seen it before, I want to hear from you. Even if this is the last thing you do before forgetting about it, please do this before you forget about it. I'm interested in your thoughts and feedback, regardless of whether you and I are friends or strangers.

This post has been rolling around in my head for a while now, but with the changing of the seasons, I figured it was high time to think about other changes as well. So in short, I'm interested in knowing what I should change about The Doppler Effect; what's working well, what isn't, and what things just need a couple tweaks?

There are a couple of ways to leave feedback: Finally, here are some questions to consider. Feel free to comment on any of them, or on anything else:
  • This is the big one: What should I talk about? Are there things I've been neglecting? Should I be discussing the photos themselves? The things in the photos? Other things entirely?
  • Post frequency: My goal is an average of 1 post per week. More?
  • Post length and photo/text balance
  • Types of photos: More people photos/posts? More nature? More random stuff?
  • Technical content: Want more? Want less?
  • What was your most and least favorite post?
  • Overall: good? decent? bad? horrible? Let me know

While riding to work on Wednesday, I was stunned by the brilliant, changing colors of the foliage along the Steven's Creek Trail. That afternoon, I was walking between buildings, spotted some multi-colored foliage and decided to take some photos. My goal was to illustrate the changing of seasons, from Autumn to Winter.

As always, the first image (up above) is my favorite — I love that you can practically see the change taking place. Also, I'm a fan of small details, and the leaf is pretty much the perfect subject as far as that goes.

Directly above, the main subject is a leaf that's a bit farther along in the green-to-red transition. This isn't something I had noticed before, but it's neat how a single tree often has leaves that are fully green, fully red, fully brown, and everything in between.

More colors! In the upper-left, there's a group of leaves where some turned completely yellow before turning red, and others are still partially or mostly green.

I liked the contrast of the bright yellow leaves with the little bit of brown on the leaves which are dying. The brown of the leaves also seems to match the rich, reddish brown of the evergreen trunks as well.

That's that for now. Please, please leave feedback. And finally, a fitting quote from L
"....you'll notice that i love color.
i would wear a rainbow if i could."

01 December, 2009

Second Helpings with Dizzy Balloon

This past Saturday brought the return of Dizzy Balloon's Thanksgiving Extravaganza to The Rickshaw Stop. It wasn't nearly as outlandish as last year, but it was still a great time.

One aspect of the concert that stood out for me was the spontaneous crowd interaction. Last year, what with the (amazing) sing-along and other antics, it was pretty obvious that the crowd was having a good time. On Saturday, the interactions were generally more subtle but were definitely still there. It was clear that the folks in the audience enjoyed themselves.

A concert-goer puts her hands in the air as (right to left) lead singer Petros A. P., lead guitarist Jonny Flannes, and keyboardist Joey Orton sing.

Dizzy Balloon played an acoustic version of their song "I'm Just Me" for their first encore. Here, a crowd-member waves his lighter as lead singer Petros A. P. gets the crowd to wave their hands.

For their second encore, the group played a cover of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," during which Petros A. P. invited audience members onstage en masse.

Guitarist Jonny Flannes autographs a fan's t-shirt after the concert.

Thanks for looking. You can find more photos in this gallery.

24 November, 2009

Searching for Moonlight

How many photos of the moon can you take without getting bored? A bunch; I've been shooting the moon (*cough*) for a couple years, now, and it's still a fun challenge each time I try again.

Next question: How many can you show at once without getting repetitive? It depends. I've got four here, but I think they're sufficiently unique to tell different stories about the world. And to try something different, I'm going to explain how I found each angle, and what I liked about the resulting images.

I was walking to my car Monday evening when I noticed the colorful juxtaposition of light from a yellow parking lot arc-lamp with the white of the moon shining in the dark sky. I was dumbstruck, really. I pulled out my camera and tripod and started shooting.

The above was pretty much a throw-away shot. I had finished shooting, and was just working on getting the framing I wanted for some self-portraits. Even ignoring the circumstances, though, I am floored by how well it came out; it's definitely my favorite of the bunch.

I think what I like most is how the foreground sort of fades to a deep black, where you suddenly find the Moon and Jupiter. I'm not totally sure, really, but it definitely tickles my fancy.

Going back to the beginning of the night, this was one of my first successful images. I started off trying to find a view of the moon through the red-leaved tree (the one to the top-right of this frame), and when that wasn't working, I moved to this tree with the yellow leaves.

One thing I liked about this tree is the foliage — it's dense on the fringes, but the central leaves appear to already have fallen for the winter. I tried to find a composition that emphasized this, and I think what I ended up with works well. The detail in the branches is great, and the location of the moon sort of draws your eyes in that direction, but the arc lamp off to camera-right keeps you from forgetting about the foliage that's still around.

After trying out a couple other things on the yellow tree, I went back to try the first again. Instead of focusing on the red leaves and trying to keep the arc lamp in the frame, this time I shot through the red tree with a long focal length (narrow field of view), and used the red leaves more as supporting elements than as the focus of the image. This worked a lot better.

I like how the combination of shadows and rapid light falloff creates a palette of reds of different hues and darknesses. The near tree pretty much forms a reddish frame, and the moon invites you to look through the frame at the other leaves lurking in the back. The yellow highlights on the branches also create a subtle connection between the yellow tree and the red one.

And back to the... uhh... green? So yes. In situations like the night-time when there's no real white reference, it's hard to figure out what colors should look like. This is doubly applicable when the main light source is clearly not white.

I went back to the "yellow" tree, and my camera happened to shoot something that looks olive-green this time. I sort of like it. And given that arc lamps aren't really known for their color-accuracy and that half-an-hour had passed since the photo above, it's entirely plausible that the light color simply drifted.

The reason I returned was because I wanted a photo of this tree that included Jupiter. To make sure Jupiter didn't disappear, I shot more toward the outside of the tree, and with a longer focal length. With this image, I really enjoy how the colors accompany the geometrical juxtapositions — the thick and thin arcs of the branches are a drab olive-brown; the speckled blobs of leaves are more of a greenish mustard-yellow; and the small, intense areas of light coming from the Moon and from Jupiter are essentially white.

CAUTION: Artiste at work

Well, only sort of. When I was "done" photographing trees, I started playing around with some self-portraits (the beginning of which lead to the first image, above). I like to think that this is what I feel like when I'm shooting at night. I plan things as best I can, close my eyes, cross my fingers, and hit the shutter release. If things work out, fantastic. A lot of times, though, they don't. So I think a bit, change things up, hope that I made an improvement, cross my fingers, and…

You get the point, it's an iterative process, and there are usually a bunch of things that don't work before I find something that does. That challenge is one of the motivations that drive me to keep doing photography — I want to take something that doesn't work and make it work. I want to struggle to capture the world around me in ways that are real, but that you still might not see every day. I want to revel in the discovery of something extraordinary lurking in something ordinary.

As billionaire Warren Buffett offered during a town hall at Columbia University, "Find what turns you on. Find what you have a passion for … I will guarantee, you will do well at whatever turns you on. There's no question about that. Don't let anybody else tell you what to do. You figure out what you are doing."


Last Wednesday, Master Shu Dong Li and five of his students presented a martial arts demonstration at Google. Having only seen a Wushu competition once, many years ago on television, it was a great experience to be able to watch in a more intimate environment, and to not only see but to also hear the practitioners and their weapons.

Here, Sifu Bide "Peter" Fu performs with a chain whip as some Googlers watch in the background. I enjoyed hearing the whirring from the dart at the end of the whip. That said, apart from the acrobatics, I had trouble seeing the skill involved. That's a good thing.

Sifu Fu seemed to handle the chain whip as if he were born with one in his hand. Though the differences would likely become apparent when watching someone more or less experienced, he did a sufficiently good job that what mistakes he made were invisible to me. To borrow a saying from Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced [technique] is indistinguishable from magic."

Before the demonstrations, each of the students made a number of passes of the performance area, repeatedly demonstrating some form or technique during each pass. Their flexibility and strength were incredible.

In addition to the warmup (pictured), Sifu Ao Li used this position during her Kung fu twin sword routine. According to this site, this is a fundamental Wushu position called Chaotiandeng, "the standing splits balance position."

Sifu Yang Zhang performed a Kung fu sword demonstration. One thing that stood out to me, and which I continued to notice throughout the rest of the demonstrations, were that the different practitioners maintained different facial expressions during their performances, and especially so during performances with rapid movements. Here, Sifu Zhang comes out of a roll.

The Tai Chi demonstrations were easily recognizable by their generally slow pace (though there were often moments with bursts of speed). Sifu Nhu Tran performed a Tai Chi sword routine that I greatly enjoyed. She appeared supremely tranquil, and I was at the same time impressed by her balance and coordination.

Master Li performed twice during the presentation, opening with a beginner-level Tai Chi hand form, and demonstrating an advanced Tai Chi form to conclude the event. What surprised me most about Master Li's advanced form were the body control and power required.

During one technique he demonstrated, shown above, he gracefully but deftly moved to a position where he balanced on one leg, looking downward with his fist in front of his face. He paused in that position for a long moment, and then in a single quick, fluid motion raised his left hand and pounded his fist into it.

The fascinating thing (for me, at least), was that there seemed to be no back-stroke, no stretch reflex. It seemed tantamount to kicking a soccer ball from a standing single-leg starting position, or throwing a football while keeping one's entire torso still.

Thanks for looking. You can find more photos here.

23 November, 2009

A veritable deluge of photos, maybe

It's been awhile, but I'm back, and with good news. I've been coding away over the past week, and the changes I've made to my image viewer (geeqie) have allowed me to get through around 40% of my 6,200 image backlog in a day, that day being Saturday. Hooray!

There's still more coding and more sifting to be done, but it's time to announce a particularly hare-brained scheme of mine: One post a day, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. At the very least, I have photos of Tai Chi, autocross, the Droid launch concert, and Halloween. From a bit farther back, there's w00tstock 1.0, SF Moma, and maybe a helicopter and some graffiti. It's a lot of stuff, and there's a lot of cool random things stuffed in all the nooks and crannies, but come procrastination or high water I'd like to get it all online. Anyway, bedtime for now, and we'll see how this crazy plan goes.

Quite appropriately,
"It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account. —Hofstadter's Law"

15 November, 2009


Good morning :o)

At work, we have a weekly, themed photo contest. The prompt for this past week was "What makes you love living where you do?" I had a number of ideas, but the thing about my apartment that resonates the most with me are the sunrises, light streaming through the curtains; warmth wherever the bright spots land on my skin. Fantastic.

I think the favorite morning I've ever had was back when I lived in Texas, when I was around 12. I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping outside of my window, and to a hint of the sun peeking through the cracks in my window blinds. I rolled out of bed, opened the blinds all the way, and reveled in the warmth that engulfed me at the window.

The sunrises at my apartment aren't quite there, but they're definitely the closest I've gotten since. Cheers.

"...You see you wouldn't ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals...we would all celebrate its tenacity; we would all love its will to reach the sun..." —Tupac

11 November, 2009

A Lunchtime Update

Well, technically, lunchtime Monday. Anyway, I'm buried under a mountain of a couple thousand photos, and trying to figure out how to improve my workflow to deal with them. For now, though, here are two I shot right after lunch on Monday.

A couple weeks back, a car passed me while I was starting my nighttime trek home. It sounded great, and I guessed from the tail-lights that it was a Nissan Skyline GT-R.

On Monday, I spotted the above car parked at the Googleplex. What initially caught my attention was the size of the brake rotors — one common attribute of cars that go fast is that they don't skimp on the brakes. This is a Nissan GT-R, which is actually the successor of the Skyline GT-R, and I'm pretty confident that it's the same car that passed me. Yay for solved mysteries.

With the fall foliage, I've also been thinking about the theme "RGB." I think this photo does a good job of capturing it, with a fortuitously-located cloud that actually convinced me to stop to take this photo.

Lastly, on Friday night, I went to the Verizon Droid launch party, at Bimbo's 365 night club in San Francisco. Pictured is the lead singer for Metric, who played and were followed by Silversun Pickups. It was a lot of fun, the music was awesome, and the crowd was really into it as well. A couple photos from the concert are here, and hopefully, I'll get more up soon. Cheers.

31 October, 2009

Halloween off to a nice start

Just a quick update. I shot the Googleween party yesterday afternoon (Friday) and got this cool shot of someone in a Domo-kun costume. I really like how this guy is an integral part of the appearance of the costume (for instance, compare to this domo-kun from last year's Googleween).

♫ ♪ We drinkin' Santana champ, cause it's so crisp

This was one of my favorite costumes; they fit the song perfectly.

Finally, when I was about to head home, I noticed that the sun was low enough to make a pretty even exposure between ambient and the moon. The question in my mind was "if this were going to be a wallpaper, what would it look like?" I think the answer came out pretty well.

Anyway, 'tis all for now; more to come soon. Happy Halloween!