My Grandfather’s Cameras

Part 1: Argus C4

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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.

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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.

Notes

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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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Troop 14: 3 Days around Muir Woods

This year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. backpacking trip took Troop 14 to Muir Woods National Monument. The MLK backpacking trip is a strong Troop 14 tradition, involving the entire three-day weekend. This time we camped in the same spot twice but hiked a greater mileage than normal, 26 miles over three days.

I’ve got some blisters on my feet and my muscles are still sore, but it’s worth it to see these boys work as a team and make bonds like I did at their age.

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My least worst camera

My godfather, Uncle Lee, used to call my Canon 5D my “third arm,” claiming he never saw me without it. 2 years ago this was true.

But lately I can’t be bothered lugging around a big, heavy camera body and lens every where I go. Despite the previous sentence, its not the weight or size of the camera that really bothers me. I just like complaining sometimes.

It is the lack pay off. 95% of a professional camera is over kill. For work, I use gigantic cameras worth more than my car because that last 5% comes in real handy when there are clients at stake. Continue reading

The Old Guard vs the Disruptors

In San Francisco, technology is crashing the old school party.

One side of the housing crisis in San Francisco is filled with people calling on the city’s leaders to legislate away the evictions taking place in the city. Never mind the fact that the city’s stranglehold on neighborhood development means we aren’t building nearly enough housing to compliment demand.

But forget the gentrification of neighborhoods. The gentrification of jobs is what started all this. Just like how your local crappy burrito place can no longer afford the rent in the Mission, the status-quo service industry wages can no longer afford San Francisco.

People who held down a job for 30 years are getting pushed out of a city they call their own. Now a new guard comes into place and asks “Who the hell would want to stay at the same job for 30 years?”

It is trivial to reduce this as a battle of us vs them. This is a struggle by each person in the pursuit of happiness (A.K.A America – supposedly). For many young, college educated people in San Francisco, happiness means changing the world (with technology). Change often means disruption – the bigger the better.

This is possibly the biggest ideological difference between the residents being pushed out and newcomers taking over the East side of San Francisco. One side is fighting to change the world. The other is fighting to stay relevant.

A visual representation of this clash occurred before me while on assignment for Reuters outside of San Francisco City Hall back in July. Taxicab drivers were staging a protest and mini-strike to demand a level playing field with ride share companies Lyft, Uber and Sidecar – all of which don’t require pricey medallions, special insurance and a host of other things.

Normally these demonstrations are pretty one-sided. Angry people show up, shake their fists and knock down some strawmen.

However, this time a Sidecar driver actually showed up to defend his position – clad with “Sidecar bunny ears”. Taxicab drivers are already known to hurl slurs through the windshield of the ride sharing drivers. But this time they got to express their frustration directly at the face of the threat to their establishment – sans windshield.

The confrontation was still very one sided as a dozen middle aged men went after a single man in his 20′s, but nonetheless I haven’t seen any such direct confrontation between the old guard and the disruptors.

Sidecar driver Teddy Ordon (center)attempts to answer questions while San Francisco taxi drivers voice their opposition against ride sharing programs taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach   (UNITED STATES)

Sidecar driver Teddy Ordon (center)attempts to answer questions while San Francisco taxi drivers voice their opposition against ride sharing programs taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi driver Corey Lamb shows his opposition to Lyft, one of the ride sharing program taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach   (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi driver Corey Lamb shows his opposition to Lyft, one of the ride sharing program taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi drivers protest against Lyft and Uber which taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach   (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi drivers protest against Lyft and Uber which taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi drivers block the streets around City Hall during a protest against ride sharing programs which taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach   (UNITED STATES)

San Francisco taxi drivers block the streets around City Hall during a protest against ride sharing programs which taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES)

A San Francisco taxi rider shows their opposition to Lyft, one of the ride sharing program taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach   (UNITED STATES)

A San Francisco taxi rider shows their opposition to Lyft, one of the ride sharing program taxi drivers say are operating illegally in San Francisco, California, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES)