San Francisco Noir: Photos from the ’40s and ’50s by Fred Lyons

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Fred Lyon is 92 years old and has photographed his hometown, San Francisco, for more than 70 years. His rich black-and-white scenes conjure a bygone era, when flash powder still existed, being alone with your thoughts was common, and the famed cable cars were public transportation for locals, rather than rolling tourist traps headed to Fisherman’s Wharf.

A large selection of these amazing photographs, so incongruous with today’s lifestyle, is being exhibited at the Leica Gallery in San Francisco through Oct. 21, and collectively they do the city’s history proud…

San Francisco, too, has undergone a reinvention lately, with the much-publicized arrival of residents and money from nearby Silicon Valley. But with a longer-term perspective than most of us have, Fred Lyon is not concerned for the future of his beloved city, saying “every city that’s really alive has to keep changing.”…

“What I really miss is the kids playing in the street,” he said. “That was a constant source of joy for me. I don’t know where they’ve gone. Their parents don’t allow them out. It just doesn’t happen. The kids were always great. They’d laugh at this silly guy with the camera, and know I really wanted to get in their games with them. And indeed I did.”

Lovely, talented work. If you’re in the northern Cali chunk of the Left Coast, get your butt to town to see Fred Lyon’s work.

Photo gems from the Moon

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From October 2007 to June 2009, Japan’s SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) mission orbited the moon. The mission consisted of three spacecraft. The largest was better known by the nickname the public had chosen for it: Kaguya, honoring a lunar princess of Japanese legend.

During its expedition, the SELENE mission returned a wealth of scientific information from its polar orbit, such as the most detailed map of the moon’s gravity field ever obtained up until that time.

The Kaguya spacecraft also carried cameras, including one with a pair of 2.2 megapixel HDTV sensors that captured the first high-definition video from the moon. Thanks to this clear-eyed video camera, many of Kaguya’s images — especially the shots showing the Earth rising and setting at the lunar horizon — are moving in both senses of the word.

Now the Japanese space agency, JAXA, has publicly released the entire data set from Kaguya’s HDTV cameras. The iconic views are all there…plus some gems that haven’t been widely seen before.

Click through to the blog post and follow any other links along the way. Entertaining, beautiful.

A powerful image of Michelle Obama and George W. Bush

Click to enlargeAP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A striking image from this weekend offers some symbolic hope for Americans troubled by the country’s stark division along ethnic, political, economic, and gender lines.

At the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, photographers including Pulitzer-winner David Hume Kennerly captured a warm embrace between first lady Michelle Obama and former president George W. Bush, who first signed the bill to build the museum in 2003.

The photo clearly resonates with a country grappling with its own history of racism and slavery, one that quite literally built the White House we know today. And as the US anticipates a combative first presidential debate…it’s all the more striking to see leaders reaching across the proverbial aisle in a moment of genuine warmth.

Say, Amen.

After that there are two divergent currents I wish to address. First, the predictable backlash from the overtly racist chunk of America. Pretty good size as we all know. Tweet comments everywhere these photos have appeared automagically fire up the alt/right/racist nutballs. No rational reason to repeat their commentary.

I was surprised – and shouldn’t have been – at the response from sectarian portions of the Left. Including lots of folks who I know would be standing side-by-side with the exploited and oppressed of this nation at any point of confrontation.

I am guilty as any of my comrades, peers in the class struggle, of treating our enemies as cardboard cutouts. Easy to forget that individuals who live and die in service to exploitation and profiteering are individuals, capable of the range of humane feelings about the lives of others that we on the Left sometimes think we own. Not so, my sisters and brothers.

Those feelings are enough to change an individual’s course in life. Witness Ted Olson, a conservative lawyer, represented George W in beating back appeals of the 2000 election — and later led the fight to overturn California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. And even if they don’t change their ways – they are part of the lives of those we battle every waking day.

Perhaps, someday, we’d see George W publicly recant the official Republican line on the lies used to invade Iraq, condemn the scumbags [yes] like Dick Cheney who deserves most of the credit for misleading a whole nation as much as he misled his boss in the Oval Office. Perhaps not.

The photo comes from an important day in American history. Recognize it with as much emotion and feeling as George W Bush and Michelle Obama.

Photography and our Civil War

Click to enlargeGettysburg

❝ While photographs of earlier conflicts do exist, the American Civil War is considered the first major conflict to be extensively photographed. Not only did intrepid photographers venture onto the fields of battle, but those very images were then widely displayed and sold in ever larger quantities nationwide.

Photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan found enthusiastic audiences for their images as America’s interests were piqued by the shockingly realistic medium. For the first time in history, citizens on the home front could view the actual carnage of far away battlefields. Civil War photographs stripped away much of the Victorian-era romance around warfare.

❝ Photography during the Civil War, especially for those who ventured out to the battlefields with their cameras, was a difficult and time consuming process. Photographers had to carry all of their heavy equipment, including their darkroom, by wagon. They also had to be prepared to process cumbersome light-sensitive images in cramped wagons.

Today pictures are taken and stored digitally, but in 1861, the newest technology was wet-plate photography, a process in which an image is captured on chemically coated pieces of plate glass. This was a complicated process done exclusively by photographic professionals…

❝ While photography of the 1860’s would seem primitive by the technological standards of today, many of the famous Civil War photographers of the day were producing sophisticated three-dimensional images or “stereo views.” These stereo view images proved to be extremely popular among Americans and a highly effective medium for displaying life-like images…

With these advancements in photographic technology, the Civil War became a true watershed moment in the history of photography. The iconic photos of the American Civil War would not only directly affect how the war was viewed from the home front, but it would also inspire future combat photographers who would take their cameras to the trenches of Flanders, the black sands of Iwo Jima, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Afghanistan.

RTFA for techniques and technology. Photography brought a new dimension to recording history. hopefully, it continues to bring new dimensions into understanding politics and war.

A rose by any other name…

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NGC 7129 is a fascinating and terribly lovely object. It’s a stellar nursery, a site of active star formation, buried deep within an invisible cloud of very cold molecular gas and dust…

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope sees in the infrared, and detects dust. Some of this dust defines the blister in the larger cloud (red), while some is coming from the stars ejecting material (green). The overall effect makes NGC 7129 look like a closed rose bud.


Star Trails Over the Tower Oinoe

Astrophotography by Anthony Ayiomamitis

If you climbed to the top of this 13th century stone tower, it looks like you could reach out and touch the North Celestial Pole, the point at the center of all the star trail arcs.

The well-composed image with scattered meteor streaks was recorded over a period of five and half hours as a series of 45 second long exposures spanning the dark of the night on July 7/8. The exposures were made with a digital camera fixed to a tripod near Marathon, Greece, planet Earth.

Of course, the graceful star trails reflect the Earth’s daily rotation around its axis. By extension, the axis of rotation leads to the center of the concentric arcs in the night sky. Convenient for northern hemisphere night sky photographers and celestial navigators alike, the bright star Polaris is very close to the North Celestial Pole and so makes the short bright trail in the tower’s central gap.

Thanks, Ursarodinia