Category Archives: Photography

Image of the day: Well, back to the drawing board


Back in Berkeley, our avian neighbors included Coopers hawks [subjects of lots of our previous photos], parrots, and assorted other colorful critters, but here at the new Casa esnl in Gardena, our most prominent feathered friends are seagulls and swallows.

The most prominent sight from our balcony is a hulking four-story apartment building, whose owners decided they had to do something to keep birds from doing what they do-do, installing a flock of those fake owls on the parapets.

Here’s how effective they are:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 20 October 2016, ISO 125, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 20 October 2016, ISO 125, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.

Image of the day: Daughter and granddaughter


Just a simple case of grandfatherly indulgence, featuring daughter Jackie and granddaughter Sadie Rose:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

UPDATE: We couldn’t resist adding another image,featuring Sadie Rose and her rocking pig:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4

A call for immigrant sanctuary on Cal campuses


With the Trumpster promising immediate mass deportations on taking the presidential oath, one California elected official is calling for a declaration of sanctuary for the state’s college and university campuses.

From the East Bay Times:

California’s public colleges and universities should be declared “sanctuary campuses” and protect law-abiding students from the threat of deportation, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a letter to leaders of Cal State, UC and the community college system.

“We must take urgent stock of current policies and vulnerabilities pertaining to the personal data held and processed by the University of California, to shield students from federal agencies under a Trump administration,” he wrote.

Newsom, who is running for governor, met with students Thursday at a UC regents meeting in San Francisco to discuss their concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions of people who entered the country illegally.

Calls for sanctuary campuses are mounting across the state. Cal State Chancellor Timothy White announced at a CSU board meeting this week that unless forced to by law, Cal State “will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Image of the day: An early evening sky in Paris


Captured walking after the rain near the Canal Saint Martin in Paris:

Nikon D200, 31 January 2007, Nikon D200, ISO 1600, 18 mm, 1/320 sec, f11

Nikon D200, 31 January 2007, Nikon D200, ISO 1600, 18 mm, 1/320 sec, f11

The reasons Trump is winning the White House


From Reuters, the results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll of people who had already cast their ballots this morning:

The poll of more than 10,000 people who have already cast their ballots in the presidential election showed a majority of voters are worried about their ability to get ahead and have little confidence in political parties or the media to improve their situation. A majority also feel that the economy is rigged to mostly help the wealthy.

The poll, which will be updated as additional responses are tallied and votes are counted throughout Tuesday, found:

  • 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
  • 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”
  • 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”
  • 76 percent believe “the mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth.”
  • 57 percent feel that “more and more, I don’t identify with what America has become.”
  • 54 percent feel “it is increasingly hard for someone like me to get ahead in America.”

Hillary is the consummate insider.Trump, the brashly self-declared outsider.

With Clinton, they’d be getting continuity, they very last thing they want. With Trump, disruption seems certain.

The mainstream media fail to inform the public of the real reasons they’re feeling used, and that left the field open to open to propaganda outlets bankrolled by a companies eager to whip up resentment of governments that are hindering their agendas.

Trump, rocketed to national stardom by a network reality show, found a new network to sponsor, a network whose newspaper chain specializes in celebrity flesh and sleaze [even to the point of getting editors and reporters criminally charged with illegal phone surveillance].

The Magic Christian is headed to the White house.

Los Angeles, awesome images of a city of lights


Joe Capra, a Los Angeles-based photographer has captured his city in a truly breathtaking time-lapse video.

We won’t say any more, except to urge you to watch.

From SCIENTIFANTASTIC:

PANO | LA

Program notes:

PLEASE WATCH FULLSCREEN IN FULL HD

Shooting Pano LA has been the most ambitious, challenging, demanding, and rewarding project I have worked on to date. It was shot over a period of two years entirely in true panoramic form using two synced DSLR cameras side by side. The resulting panoramic timelapse footage comes in at a whopping 10K x 4K resolution when stitched. I did not shoot this film to achieve the extreme resolution. I shot it for the panoramic look, especially the compressed look you get when using long lenses.

Shooting panoramic timelapse was something I had always wanted to do. I love panoramic images and wanted to bring that look to timelapse, and I wanted to do it proper, not by faking it by just cropping the top and bottom of regular timelapse shots. I gave it a try many years ago but was never able to get the images from the two cameras to sync properly and get the images to stitched together correctly.

A couple years ago I was contacted by a client wanting some panoramic timelapse shots of LA. I told them I had tried it in the past and it did not work out to well, but that I am willing to give it another try. So I purchased some new gear and set out to my local testing locations in Malibu. The initial shots were successful so I continued shooting / testing for the next couple weeks. At that point I had acquired a few good test shots to show the client and sent them over to them. Long story short I never heard back from them about the project, but I kept shooting anyways. If it was not for that failed job/project I probably would have never got around to giving panoramic timelapse another try.

H/T to LA Observed.