Saturday, January 24, 2009

Digging Up the Present

When I graduated from the University of California Riverside I had completed 76 units in Anthropology and 32 units in Sociology. I needed only 36 units for my BS, but I was a bit of a social science zealot. It's probably obvious the extent to which that education has influenced me.

I'm beginning to look at my work as a sort of visual archaeology. Rather than digging up the past, I'm visually recording the arti-factual evidence of a contemporary society. In some cases I manage to photograph things as they are about to disappear forever or become rarer that they already seem to be.

Photo: ©2009 David W. Sumner (Dry point on copper plate and printing press, Dale Erickson's studio, San Francisco, California. 2009)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Urban Hawk

As I was on my way to the office this morning, about 7:15, before the sun had actually topped the East Bay hills, I spotted this young red tail hawk eating a pigeon on the sidewalk in front of Davies Symphony Hall.

I had already been shooting a bit as I walked along and quickly grabbed a couple of shots of the hawk, expecting it to take off as soon as it noticed me looking at it. But actually it could have cared less what I was doing. I had a single lens with me, a 24mm f/2.8, not exactly the right lens for shooting wild life, urban or otherwise. The light was dim, the lens too wide and the shutter speed too slow, but I decided to work it anyway.

Trying not to look directly at the bird, I inched closer and closer with little shuffling side steps, shooting a frame each time the bird looked away or went back to tearing at the dead pigeon. I shot two thirds of a long roll of Portra 400NC in this fashion while several people walked past never giving me or the hawk a glance. At least six people walked by never noticing that any of this was going on.

Finally as I got to within about 7 feet of the hawk I started attracting attention. I snapped another frame or two and moved on, encouraging others to do the same, which the did. And the hawk? Well he was just too young to know any better and went right on with his breakfast.

Photo: ©2009 David W. Sumner

Monday, January 5, 2009


There's a group of San Francisco photographers roaming the streets, gathering in Golden Gate Park, meeting in local bars, it's called Blow-Up!. The groups is famous for its Beer & Gear Sessions which involve the sharing of good food and drink and checking out all the interesting camera gear everyone brings along. In the photo above Blow-Up! members receive a clinic on using a 4x5 Crown Graphic in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. So when you're out and about keep your eyes open; you may just end up the subject of a Blow-Up! photo.

Photo: ©2008 David W. Sumner