Serendipity School

Serendipity School is an amazing place where students tinker with wires and batteries, get their hands messy with paint, and don’t spend all day sitting in a desk. I recently had the fantastic opportunity to immerse myself at Serendipity for several days of a marketing shoot for the school. The administrators and I felt it was important not to stage anything so not to disrupt their students’ education. But also, unscripted is how I prefer roll.


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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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