For years I’ve walked around with a camera around my neck, alert to whatever I might discover. I’m constantly surprised by the world around me. These are a few of my favorite photos from the past 10 years.
We drove to Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, walked around, took photos. Simple as that.
I was walking in César Chávez Park and came across this couple on a bench. The sunlight through the clouds reflected on the water and I knew it was perfect for a photo. I didn’t intend to take photos on this walk—the light was flat and dull, but I brought my camera along just in case. Sometimes everything just falls into place for a good photo.
César Chávez Park was formerly a municipal waste dump for the City of Berkeley. In 1991, the city sealed the landfill and transformed it into one of the most beautiful scenic areas along the San Francisco Bay waterfront. My wife and I come here often to walk the circumference of the park and take in the views of the bay.
I have an art assignment for you. Your medium is buried sandstone. Your tools are sunlight, wind, rain, and snow. You have 65 million years to create something astonishing. Get going.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Arches and Canyonlands National Parks two of the most beautiful outdoor art galleries in the world. Carol and I visited these parks in southeastern Utah for the first time in early November. We hiked through landscapes of massive red rock fins, giant pinnacles, and balanced boulders that seemed precariously poised to tumble. At Canyonlands, the breadth of geologic forces at work left us feeling quite small. Photos are inadequate to capture these extraordinary landscapes, yet I had to try.
Some call it “street photography.” I meander, I take pictures, sometimes with my cell phone and sometimes with my Fujifilm X-Pro3, sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white. My goal is to look and discover the world around me, the humorous and the sad, the blessed and the tragic. I look for color, light, composition, and surprises. Here are my latest photo discoveries taken in my East Bay urban neighborhoods.
We recently spent four days camping at Salt Point State Park, where six-thousand acres of diverse forests mingle with astonishing geology and rugged coastline about 100 miles north of Oakland. No showers and foggy nights left us worn out, but it was a good weariness, and good friends joined us the final day. Photographing nature is far more challenging for me than urban streets because at the end of the day, nature always wins. You can’t compete with it, “capture” it, tame it in two dimensions. You can’t frame a sunset without diminishing it—but you can have fun trying.
Here are more photos I took while roaming around Zhengzhou and the Henan Province in the 1980s.
Shortly after we married, my wife Carol and I taught English at an agricultural university in central China. It was 1986 and China was emerging from decades of trauma under Chairman Mao. Our students studied ardently under impoverished conditions; most of them are now published scholars with important roles in universities in China and around the world. The one thing I could teach them was English, and I did my best. In my spare hours I explored my city, on foot and on bicycle, and carried my camera everywhere. I was thoroughly engrossed and took many photographic risks. Eventually the police detained me for photographing a student demonstration. At the station, I exposed the film to light so that they couldn’t use my photos to identify any students. Ah, those were the days. Here are a few of the photos I took; I’ll post others down the road.
Pacific Grove is the only city in the U.S. to ever pass an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to hurt a butterfly. I first visited the city in the early 2000s to attend an art show at the Pacific Grove Art Center. It was December and its downtown was lit up with Christmas lights like Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I walked about the silent streets, entranced by the 19th century Victorian homes and coastal cottages. It all started in 1855 with the building of the Point Pinos Lighthouse, which still operates. Twenty years later, a group of Methodists founded a seasonal retreat center and campground nearby, a place that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write: “I have never been in any place so dreamlike.” A burgeoning Chinese fishing village developed on the town’s rocky shoreline, but “mysteriously” burned in 1908 and was never rebuilt. In May 2022, the Pacific Grove City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that apologizes for the burning of the village and for racism and discrimination faced by Chinese Americans over 170 years.
I took these photos on a recent visit to Pacific Grove, neighboring Monterey, and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
On the first Friday of each month, the nonprofit group KONO sponsors a big block party in Oakland. In the heart of the Koreatown Northgate (KONO) district, street artists, jesters, performers, musicians, dancers, DJ’s, and vendors gather to celebrate diversity and community. Five blocks, closed to traffic, vibrate with artistic, cultural energy. As a photographer, I relish events where I can cross cultural boundaries and participate in urban revelry. As I immerse myself in the crowd, I feel enlivened by the joy of my community. My camera provides an entranceway to observe and participate. It’s okay to take photos at events such as this; people expect it, no one objects. As I took these photos, I felt elated to be an Oaklander.
I gave myself this self-assignment a few weeks ago. My brother said, “Careful—more pictures like this and someone will get out of joint and have a bone to pick with you.”
Just a few photos from my small backyard garden. It’s getting dry due to the drought; we’ve been able to keep it green so far but by the end of summer it won’t be so lush.
Before the Covid pandemic, I rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains to and from work every day. I never thought I’d feel nostalgic about crowded trains, but I actually miss them these days.
Besides painting and drawing, my friend, artist Larry M. Hatfield, sculpts with paper. He is a retired high school teacher, graphic designer, and illustrator who now dedicates himself to the arts. This morning I helped him install two large birds at First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley. His website is at larryhatfieldart.com.