Troop 14: Camp Royaneh 2015

“Respect,” was Senior Patrol Leader Spencer’s theme for the week. It is very impressive for a 17 year old boy to choose “respect,” let alone have any theme at all.


But having a positive motto ended up being the evidence to Spencer’s stellar leadership and not the cause of the great behavior of the troop. The boys-in-charge lead by example and made fantastic decisions on their own, which lead to a successful camp experience.

The boy leaders banned pranking (mostly successful), spoke honestly and emotionally at meetings, and supported each other (including other troops) during competitions and events. I have said it before, but I am amazed at how much more positive and nurturing the boys in Troop 14 are now, compared to when I was in the troop a decade ago.

2015 marked the 90th anniversary of Camp Royaneh, the crown jewel of Boy Scout camps in the San Francisco Bay Area. The camp staff made this year special in many ways, but the most noticeable was the a new spirit stick.

The stick is awarded to the troop who shows the best camp spirit through yells, contests and courtesy towards others. It comes with the honor or performing the color guard for the next day until another troop is awarded it.

Troop 14 earned the spirit stick on the second day, and I was quite proud.




Once again, the Gladiator Games were the highlight of the week. In one evening, all troops in camp compete at various tasks including tug-of-war and strategy games. Troop 14 regularly does very well, often winning first place. This year, the boys were determined to repeat. Not only did they win at tug-of-war, but the defeated the camp staff in a bonus round.






Troop 14 also has an important anniversary. Our troop is 100 years old and as such is taking measure to mark the occasion. One of the most important efforts by the parents committee and alumni was to retrofit the original cabins (built in the 30′s?) with new roofs and foundations so that another 100 years worth of boys can enjoy them. To help raise the money for the project, the cabins were renamed after the families of generous donors.


The horseshoe competition is back in full swing with nearly every boy in the troop participating. In the finals, a staff team which had been dominating the tournament went against a younger team of two star scouts, not yet even patrol leaders.


On the final throw, one of the boys from the younger team took a time out to calm himself beacuse anything but a “ringer” would have lost the game.


In a sports story for the ages, the younger scout threw a ringer to win the championship and was immediately dog-piled by other younger scouts.


The older staff members were shocked and distraught. It was a finals game which will be told for years to come.


Equally impressive are the campfires of our troop. This year, we not only had several original skits and yells by the boys, but several scouts played the guitar or even sang solo for the troop. Their courage and creativity continues to surprise and excite me.



More images can be found here.

The Jungle is Torn Down

300 or so men, women and some children were recently pushed out of a San Jose homeless encampment aptly named “The Jungle.”

I was sent on assignment by Reuters, but by then time I got down to the site’s location near the heart of Silicon Valley, everyone had been kicked out and the clean up crew had already begun their task. I was able to find a way back into the jungle and came across a handful of homeless people who had snuck back in to reclaim some of their belongings, but also search for treasures left behind by others.

Below, Anna Haynes bathes herself in some of her drinking water before taking her cart out of the Jungle.

Homeless encampment occupant Anna Haynes pours water on herself as authorities break down massive homeless encampment known as "The Jungle"  in San Jose, California

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My Grandfather’s Cameras

Part 2: Argus C3


Sarah making something delicious in our kitchen, photographed on my grandfather’s Argus C3 from the 1950′s. Although designed in the 1930′s, this particular model is about 15 years younger.

This is part 2 of an on-going series titled "My Grandfather's Cameras." I never met my paternal grandfather, Bob Diefenbach. He passed away in 1969. His small collection of cameras sat  in a basement for 45 years until they were handed down to me  in the spring of 2014, still loaded with film. Read more in   Part 1: Argus C4

The state in which my grandfather’s cameras were handed down to me is impressive. Granted, none of the cameras had been touched since 1969, but even then, it is clear that Bob Diefenbach took great care of his photography equipment. My grandfather treated these cameras like new, even though the Argus C3 was particularly obsolete even at the time he was using it.

The Argus C3 was made for nearly 20 years, which is incredible. It is hard to imagine any of today’s technology being relevant or sold for two decades.


Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Argus’ C3 was the most produced camera ever in its day with 2 million units sold.

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Troop 14: Camp Royaneh 2014

When I list the victories by Troop 14 at Camp Royaneh, you would think it was our best year ever. “The Boys in Red” won the the Gladiators competition both weeks. They even beat the camp staff in tug-of-war. Myself and the other assistant scoutmaster, Cameron, took awards in every single scoutmaster competition. And every single scout in the troop earned some type of special camp award (in addition to his merit badges).

But what’s missing from that description is that in the land of redwoods and campfires, the scouts of Troop 14 had possibly the biggest test of its resolve.



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The Primary Benefits of a Second Shooter

Working as a team is rare for a photojournalist. The occasional major sporting event might require it, and of course you always want to work closely with your writer. But “team” in the classic sense is rare for still shooters. Normally we work alone, representing a publication (or just ourselves). Or sometimes in my case, I am solely responsible for photographing an entire wedding.

This is why I find second shooting a wedding so exciting. Recently, I had the pleasure to work as a “second shooter” for Brad Zweerink at Bryce and Sarah’s wedding in Hollister, California. We had moments where teamwork was imperative (ceremony and reception), but the real payoff of a second shooter is not having to reduce your work to “safe shots.”

People may think taking risks is in the job description of a photojournalist. But for me, it is more important to eliminate the risk. I always attempt to implement proper preparation and foresight to reduce the chance of failure. Sometimes this means playing it safe. If I am the sole photographer, maybe I’ll just shoot on-camera flash on a long lens to guarantee that I capture the newlywed couple’s entrance. Better that, than miss the image entirely trying to do something different.

With (or as) a second photographer, I can take the risks I normally wouldn’t be able. Almost all of the photos you see below I wouldn’t have been able to make unless I was working with another photographer as a team. By being able to divide the duties, I could spend more time focusing on the groomsmen as Brad followed the women. When I saw the driver standing idle by the Lincoln Continental, I could run over without giving the bridal party a second though. And while Brad shoots portraits, I can set up a remote camera to photograph the ceremony site from a remote hillside. All impossible if I or Brad had been working alone.

Sometimes photographers think “second shooting” is beneath them. Almost akin to “assisting.” A step back.

I see second shooting as an opportunity to step my work forward.


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My Grandfather’s Cameras

Part 1: Argus C4


Ocean Beach, San Francisco, shot on my grandfather’s Argus C4 rangefinder from the 1950′s.

You know that question people ask: “If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”

My answer would be my grandfather (on my father’s side). I never met my dad’s dad. He passed away when my father was only 19 years old, 16 years before I came along.

I don’t know a lot about Robert Diefenbach.  I do know he was a navigator for a B24 Liberator during World War 2, after which he worked for the telephone industry in the Midwest. I know he married my grandmother Jean, had my aunt Pat and then my dad, Bill. That, and a few other details, pretty much summed up my knowledge of my mysterious patriarch.

This past Fall, grandma Jean moved out of her home and into assisted living. In the process, her house in Michigan was cleaned out and many family treasures were handed down to various family members. Being the resident family photographer, I was asked if I’d like to have grandpa Bob’s cameras.

This is when I learned, Grandpa was a camera nerd.


From left to right: Argus C3, Argus C4 (on top of bag), Kodak Retina (from 1935), Polaroid Land Camera 150, and my great-grandfather’s Cine-Kodak 16mm movie camera.

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Diving into the Deep Sunset Reservoir

Whenever I travel outside of the United States, I am reminded how young San Francisco really is. Despite reaching its sesquicentennial (150 years), the city by the bay has a infrastructure that has been updated multiple times. The biggest instigator of this was likely the 1906 earthquake, but nearly half the city is only 70-80 years old.

The majority of the west side of San Francisco wasn’t built until the 1930′s, with some homes being finished even later into 1950′s. Thus we have massive water reservoirs dispersed through out our sprawling, younger neighborhoods. The same is missing from the older (east side) of the city.

The Sunset Reservoir serves the neighborhood by the same name, and although it is relatively new in comparison to a lot of American infrastructure, this reservoir has needed a lot of updating to keep it safe (from earthquakes mostly).

Built in the 1930′s as an open air reservoir, the Sunset basin has seen multiple upgrades. The massive pair of basins was covered with a concrete slab some time in the 50′s or 60′s and added fencing after 9/11 gained a bit of security. In 2008, the reservoir was massively upgraded to withstand a near 8.0 quake and later received solar panels on its roof.

But despite the modern amenities, the Sunset reservoir needs to be inspected and cleaned by hand. This is where to municipal divers come into action. I had the pleasure of following one diving crew on their sweep of the basin for the San Francisco Chronicle. Read their story here.


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My two lives with Candlestick

I am grateful the Superbowl is over. As a 49ers fan, watching such a one-sided match is like Bill Clinton watching President Barack Obama’s performance in the first debate against Mitt Romney and thinking, “damn… I could have done so much better.”

But let’s be positive. Let’s remember the last big hurrah we got to enjoy at the home of the San Francisco 49ers. I had the amazing pleasure to photograph the final game at the ‘stick for the San Francisco Chronicle. But the honor didn’t stop there.

My partners on the final home game of Candlestick were the Chronicle’s veteran Michael Macor and John Storey (the photographer who made “the catch“). I carpooled with the two of these photographic mentors to the stadium, sitting in the back seat trying to keep my mouth shut. I just listened to them rag on Candlestick the whole way and it was great.

By now you have heard about the sorry venue that is Candlestick Park. It is cold (for California), too far away, and just plain ugly. A victim of 60′s multi-use concrete construction philosophy, the park held a strong spot in my heart not because of the building, but because of what it housed. The Giants and the 49ers in the early and mid-90′s were powerhouses. And both played at the ‘stick.

I was just a child in elementary school at the time, so the years of Matt Williams, Will Clark, Robbie Thompson, Steve Young and Jerry Rice hold an extra special place in my heart. That is the age in which a child choses his heros.

I have two very different relationships with Candlestick Park. In one, I am a kid catching a ball tossed to me by second baseman Robbie Thompson. In the second, I am a freelance photojournalist covering the San Francisco 49ers. Both memories are very vibrant but are in no way related to each other. Separated by the Giant’s move to AT&T Park and my 7 year stint in the Midwest, my relationship with the ‘stick is fractured.

So let’s move on from the anti-climatic end to the Niners’ 2013 season and re-live the last great sport experience at the ‘stick: the San Francisco 49er’s 34 to 24 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons on December 23, 2013 (yes it has taken me this long to write a blog post about it).

Russell Yip 415-215-0652 CQ

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