31 July, 2014

Open Carry: Photos in Unexpected Places

I've long had the desire to keep a good camera with me wherever I went. But I never found an option that combined small size with nice controls and great image quality until I picked up the Fuji X100 back in 2011. Since then, I cycled through the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-6, and I've currently got a Fuji X-T1.

But the best camera is always the one you've got with you, right? So I've endeavored to keep the X-T1 (like the NEX-7 and X100 before it) on my person at all times, and I've been rewarded with opportunities to take unique photos in unexpected situations. Enjoy
Late night. Hungry. What to do? Find something that's still open in San Jose. So I went, ate, and was on my way back to my car when I noticed a bunch of cops with their lights flashing, heading away from me. Hmm...

So I did what any curious photojournalist would and I started following them, but then, it seemed like they were coming toward me. Yep, definitely coming toward me. Then when they hit the intersection, they broke; some went left (my right), some went straight.

Then they turned around and did it again. Near as I could tell, they weren't really going anywhere, so much as just making their presence known. I imagine it was related that the time was 1:45 am, so likely pretty close to last call.
Dinnertime in Flushing. I was walking around Flushing, Queens, NY when I spotted a bus driver having dinner in a parked bus at night. I wonder if it was the beginning or end of his shift...
I was catching up with some friends at Smuggler's Cove, up in San Francisco. It was impossibly dark. Think "pitch black at 1/30s, f/2.8, 3200ISO, and underexposed at 1/15s, f/2.8, 25600ISO."

So I had given up on getting any decent photos until I was reminded that flaming drinks are something of a specialty there. After watching a performance at an adjacent table, I had the settings dialed in to get this shot as the server carried the flame upward with some sort of fast-burning fuel.
Red Crawfish, San Mateo. We were lucky to be seated near where the servers were stationed, and I watched as they grabbed plates and silverware, and cut sections off a giant roll of the paper that they used for disposable tablecloths.
Some friends invited me to lunch at Dropbox, up in San Francisco. As I stood in line, with a plate already balanced in one hand, I was able to use the tilting LCD screen to compose this shot with the camera hanging down at my waist. I immediately spotted the awesome, slightly ragged symmetry of the seating arrangement when I got in line, but I had to wait until the line moved forward a few meters for the composition to actually capture that symmetry.

After getting home and reviewing those photos, I realized that the man in red had noticed me awkwardly fumbling with the camera (which I didn't realize at the time). I had taken three photos, and this was the only one where he wasn't watching me. Worked out, though.
I was having lunch at work when I heard the sound of a very large helicopter outside. I looked, didn't see anything, and went back to my meal. Then I looked again and was surprised to find a V-22 Osprey essentially patrolling the sky around our campus. I was surprised at how much noise it made while approaching, and conversely, at how quiet it sounded as it flew away. Rumor was that President Obama was in the area.
And, back to NYC (but Manhattan, this time). We went to a hand-made noodle place, and I was able to take some photos as one of the chefs pulled the noodles. I've often watched, but this was the first time I've had a good opportunity to photograph as well. And if you're wondering, yes, the noodles were really tasty :o)
Do you remember this fellow's name? I know he's from Charlie Brown, but that's all. Anyway, 'twas painted on a wall in Downtown Richmond, VA.

17 July, 2014

Continuity (25 Hours of Camaraderie, Part 6)

25 Hours of Camaraderie, the conclusion: After 25 hours of racing, the Rotek Racing #24 Audi TT-RS claimed the overall victory, with a 28-lap margin of victory. But as is often the case, what's particularly interesting isn't what they accomplished, so much as how they did it, and in my own case, how I came to witness that victory.
Let's rewind. Driver Robb Holland (in sun glasses in the photo) wrote a piece for Jalopnik about an awesome, one-off Audi TT-RS racecar. I had been meaning to check out the 25 Hours of Thunderhill race for awhile, and given that this would likely be my only opportunity to see the car, I decided to spend a night at the racetrack in December, 2012, a scant 3 days before my wedding.

So I went, cameras in tow, and the experience was amazing. I got to watch that awesome racecar, and a little later on, I was watching as the fire-suppression system deployed following a mechanical problem with the transmission. Uh-oh.

The transmission was a one-off, and after getting the car back to the paddock, the team judged that the problem was irreparable. And so as I watched and photographed back at the pits, the team decided to call it quits for that year.

A year later, they were back. Different livery, different title sponsor, but the same car, and a lot of the same people. Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
So as they warmed up and got ready to race, I kept an eye out and kept my fingers crossed.
As the first day of racing wore on, the #24 seemed to be doing pretty well. The early sunset would find the team running fourth overall, among a pack of around 12 cars that remained within 10 laps of the lead, after the first 5 hours of racing.
To be clear, the early phases of an endurance race aren't about exact positions, so much as about staying within striking distance of the cars ahead, and maintaining a sufficient buffer from the cars behind. Mistakes and mechanical issues will happen, and you want to be able to capitalize on those opportunities when they happen to other cars, without pushing so hard that you give another team the opportunity to capitalize on your own mistakes and breakages.

In the photo, the #24 pursues the #9 Lexus USA IS-F, attempting to add another lap of buffer to the Audi's still-meager 4-lap advantage.
By Sunday morning, the team had built that into a 30-lap advantage over any other car in the race. In a stark contrast to his stressed and somewhat dejected demeanor the prior year, driver Robb Holland (left) appeared relaxed as he talked with Dale Sievwright, a driver for the #31 Hankook / El Diablo Motorsports BMW M3. The Rotek team would go on to maintain their lead as the checkered flag fell.
In the 25 Hours of Camaraderie introduction, I described camaraderie as a blend of teamwork and friendship, where your coworkers are also your family, in a sense. Friends always have some shared history — shared experiences — and that common foundation is an aspect of what makes those relationships special. For Rotek, victory was sweet, but I'm confident that in light of the prior year's result, it was even sweeter. I can say for certain that after being present for 2012's untimely end, I appreciated this moment a little bit more as well.
And what better way for friends to celebrate than by singing happy birthday to a teammate, from the top step of the podium? Yes, I sang too.
The full 25 Hours of Camaraderie sequence: