Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Dose of Humanity

I'd never heard of the challenger program until my sister told me about it 30 minutes before game time.  I called to see if Jason had a game that day and she informed he had a challenger game.  "What's that?", I said.

In short, the challenger program is a way for special needs kids to play a game against each other, with the help of their "buddies", a local little league team.  The challenger teams rotate from week to week amongst the various little league teams (buddies) throughout the season.   The job of the "buddy" is protect the challenger (as needed) from hard hit balls and to guide them along the base paths and as well as give general guidance depending on the ability of the challenger. 

As soon as she explained what it was, I knew I was going.  As a kid in Junior High I had experienced a  similar program and it was a uniquely rewarding experience.  The special needs kids attended our school since it was equipped with all of the necessary ramps, elevators, and faculty.  The physical education program for these kids was called "Positive P.E." and utilized the help of able bodied students as part of the curriculum.  I was one of them.  As I think back on those times, I hope I was a help to those kids and I know for sure they taught me a lot of life's lessons.  I knew it would be the same experience for the "buddies" in this baseball program. 

As soon as I walked up to the field I got emotional.  All of the kids were interacting and goofing around, which was the point of the whole thing.  The game was secondary to kids acting like kids.  None of the tension of winning and losing existed for this game.  It was beautiful to watch and I had to keep wiping my eyes clear so I could take photos.  

Watching the parents with their special needs kids is very inspirational as well.  I witnessed a lot of patience, guidance and support during the game.  But most of all I witnessed love.  Lots of it.  I don't have kids, but I imagine the demands of raising a child with special needs are intense in ways that raising able bodied kids isn't.  

I didn't get any of the names, which is why I use the word "kid" for everybody.  In the end, I'm not sure it matters, though.  What was important was watching kids be good to each other despite their differences.  It was good for my soul and I hope it was good for theirs as well.

Two buddies race alongside a challenger.  The kid in the Giants jersey seemed to be the most outgoing of the bunch.

A fist bump for a nice hit.  The Giants and the A's played each other with help from the Tigers, in blue.

Baseball wasn't the priority for this infielder, he had more important things to take care of.

A handshake for a job well done.

Nearly every kid that crossed home plate did so with a slide.

I'm not sure what he was doing, it looks like he's giving the "strike" signal.  Again, more important things to do.

This kid looked thrilled rounding the pads in his wheelchair.

After sliding into home, #1 ran over to the fence to talk with his friend.

Drawing a line in the sand, literally.

A lot of kids played around in the dirt, but this mound was the winner for biggest EVER!

Chris Davini is one of the founders for the program locally.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Snapshots Abound!

Nikki and I often marvel at the fact that we can go to San Francisco simply because we're bored.  Nothing to do?  Let's drive to San Francisco and hang out, see if we can find anything that looks cool.  We start off with one thing like, "Let's go to Delfina's and eat and move out from there".  So far, that well hasn't run dry.  We've been here 15 years and we're still constantly finding new things to see and do.   This time I brought my new toy, the fuji x100s along to see what it could do in the "street" environment. 

 I bought it primarily for this type of scenario because it fits in my front pocket and isn't a gigantic burden to walk around with, or use.  In fact, I'm finding that I pull it out way more than I would carrying around the other larger, more burdensome cameras.   At some point you realize what a jackass you are for carrying around a bag that weighs 5 pounds for endless hours, with little to no benefit in the end.  Plus, this thing is so small that I can set it at the edge of the table and take snapshots of the scene in front of me and nobody notices.  These aren't necessarily "artistic" shots, but they definitely paint a picture of what was going on around us while we were there. Many of my shots with the larger cameras tended to be portraits with no context in regards to the surrounding area.  This camera is definitely something I would take with me on a long vacation.  It functions well in a lot of scenarios.  Below are some of them.

This is St. Dominic's cathedral just off of Fillmore Street, built in 1873.  We had never been inside.

A few years back I took a similar shot of Nikki's mom in a church so I thought it would be appropriate to take this one.  Fun fact:  There are two people in this shot.  A lady is genuflecting behind Nikki after the last row of pews.  I had to time it right to make sure she wasn't in the shot.  She seemed like she would be there for quite a while, she had a lot to speak to the big man about.

This is one of those "scene" shots.  I sat down in a pew with the camera on my lap and got this.

Delfina's pizzeria on California street, our #1 pizza place in N. California.  The kid seemed pretty happy about being there as well.  As we were nearing the end of our meal, the dude in the doorway sat right next to Nikki at the counter and had an argument with his mother because she was late.  He was definitely a queen and pretty amusing, once we got past the violation of our space problem.  There were 3 stools between Nikki and the next guy and he sat elbow to elbow with her.  Anybody who uses the urinals knows that is a major violation.

Our bartender, Connor (left), at Betelnut on Union Street.  I went out of character and had Mai-Tai's as it was actually warm in SF.  Straight bourbon might have killed me.  I refused the orange garnish, though, so I think my manhood is still intact.

Random interesting guy as we walked out of Betelnut.  He looks like a Mafia Don from the 40's. I can hold the camera at my side, unnoticed and get these type of shots.

"Jane" coffee shop on Fillmore.  We found a coffee shop that is more expensive than Starbuck's.

Overhead lines for the "Muni" bus.  These things are everywhere.

Booze.  Always get a taxi.

SF is incredibly dog friendly.  We ran into this 5 month old on Union Street.


Alta Plaza Park.

This is the view from a bench at Alta Plaza Park.  The fuji has a built in "panorama" mode which I'm quickly becoming a fan of.  Doing good Panorama's in photoshop is an art and requires a lot of patience.  These look pretty good and it only take about 7 seconds to do.

This dog walked up right in front of me on the bench and started rolling.  This is one of those "right place, right time" shots.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Airport Life

Click to view all in larger size

I recently bought a new camera to try and stimulate my creative impulses.  It's easy to get bored with what you have in any endeavor, and it's definitely true with cameras and photography.  I wanted the new thing to be the antithesis to what I currently owned so I consulted with a friend who already owns the fuji x100s and decided to take the leap.  

When you look at this thing, you would swear it's a film camera straight out of the 1970's.  Essentially, it's a compact 35mm fixed lens digital camera that can be carried in my jeans pocket.  Although it's a point and shoot, I don't sacrifice any quality and I'm definitely more inclined to pull it out and use it for everyday situations, something I've been loathe to do with my bulky SLR cameras.  I can't zoom in or out, but I guess that's the cost of being compact and easy to lug around.  Plus, it's stealthy and I can get shots without interrupting and corrupting a given scene.  It's a whole different mindset when you're waiting for a scene to develop versus taking control of the scene with lighting and direction as is often the case with portraits.  Like I said, it's something completely different than what I've been doing for the past couple of years and it's forcing me to consider a frame in a lot of different ways.  With that in mind I took it on a recent business trip and got these shots in the airport.

The bar is an essential part of the airport.  People are drinking because they're on vacation, or they're drinking after a rough meeting, or a successful meeting, or to kill 3 hours before their flight departs, or a thousand other reasons.  Whatever the case may be, they're drinking.  The most popular sales "incentive" seems to be the $4 shot with a beer.  People are willing to pay $10.50 for a beer because they're on vacation, or the company is paying for it.

The upscale wine bar seems to be a popular addition to the airport drinking scene.

Waiting, walking, anticipating.

I think this chick may have busted me.  I had the camera at waist level, but I think she saw what I was doing.  She didn't ask me about it, though.

Conducting business never, ever, ever stops at the airport.  Neither does marketing.  Airports were a magical place full of wonder as a kid.  Now I just see them as another mobile office.

More work.  I liked how the setting sun created a spotlight on this guy.  "Street" type of photography definitely requires a lot more looking around and anticipating.

This lady sought out a quiet place to get some work done.  I sat down and acted like I was looking through my bag and got this shot.  She didn't seem to notice.

The juxtaposition of this shot really caught my eye after I took a closer look when I got home.  The guy in front of me looked like an interesting subject so I sat down across from him and settled in.  It was only then that I noticed he was sobbing.  Whatever he was reading on his phone was making him really emotional.  I pulled out the camera and got this shot, terrified he would see what I was doing. He didn't.  When I got home I noticed the guy with the ice cream cone and the other guy smiling while talking.  The big wheel keeps on turning, it doesn't stop for any of us. 

There's something very lonely about an empty gate.  Missed flight? Missed opportunity?