Monday, November 23, 2015

Under the Alder Tree

“Under the Alder Tree” is a long-term photojournalism project covering homelessness in Livermore, California. I hope through this project, I can help you get a better understanding of this situation, so that we can raise awareness and help our neighbors-in-need get back on their feet. I plan to document people’s stories in words and photos, while treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Please view the introductory post on my “Under the Alder Tree” blog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival - 2015

Moku'aina Wahine Kahiko Group Performance

The girls of Moku'aina competed at the Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival at the Alameda County Fairgrounds this past weekend. In addition to the group performances, Kami represented her halau in the Wahine solo competition and did a wonderful job (in my humble, unbiased opinion).

Here are a few pictures from the hula competition.

Moku'aina Wahine Auana Solo Performance
Moku'aina Wahine Kahiko Solo Performance
Moku'aina Wahine Auana Solo Performance
Moku'aina Wahine Kahiko Solo Performance
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
2015 Ia 'Oe E Ka La Hula Festival
Moku'aina Kaikamahine Auana Group Performance

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let Us Find a Cure

I Run For Life

It's been six years now
But emotions still run strong
Let us find a cure

May it not arrive
In your wife, mother, daughter
Let us find a cure

Eradicate it
So no one else must endure
Let us find a cure

Photos from the 2015 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure -- San Francisco:

Start Line - Komen Race for the Cure
Running for the Cure
Mile 2
Jumping for the Cure
Kami and Alex
Two Good Reasons to Find a Cure
Kami and Alex

Nikon FM2
Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-S
Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 Film

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Auntie Pearl's Film

Running to the Park

We were a close-knit, Japanese-American family growing up in Hawaii. The five kids played reasonably well together, aside from the mandatory tackle football games dictated by the eldest, and we felt loved by our traditional, Japanese-American parents. Love in our family was never outwardly displayed with hugs or kisses, and rarely verbalized. We just “understood” its existence and appreciated having family that supported us when needed. We just never expected support when it wasn't needed. For example, when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, family members quickly called to offer support. However, for routine events like birthdays, the phone rings silently; quieter than crickets on a warm summer night. The one exception was Auntie Pearl. Auntie Pearl always called on birthdays, at Christmas, and most often on days with no special significance.

Auntie Pearl passed away in December 2009. After the funeral, the family spent some time cleaning out her residence. I didn't want anything, but I saved her cameras, a Topcon and a Canon, her photos and photography gear, and a few other miscellaneous items.

While cleaning out our garage a few weeks ago, I sorted through the box of Auntie Pearl's stuff and came across a bag of undeveloped film, mostly Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400. The film expired in 2006 and had been sitting in the garage for the last five years. It likely sat in her hot, humid residence for years before that. Unexposed film doesn't like heat and these rolls were likely stored unrefrigerated in Hawaii and California for upwards of a decade.

I decided to shoot a test roll of expired Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 yesterday. Kailani and I walked around Pleasanton, and stopped off at Nielson Park, where she cheerfully participated as my willing model. Here are a few photos from our day. The negatives are under-exposed and the colors a bit muted. I learned that expired film often loses sensitivity, so I probably should have shot the film at ISO 100-200, instead of at the box speed of ISO 400.

Two Feet on the Swing
Hanging on the Bars
Monkey Bars
At the Playground

Friday, June 5, 2015

Can One Person Change the World?

Over the years, I've been fairly active in the community, serving as a chaperone for elementary school field trips, Assistant Pack Leader for the Cub Scouts, Assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts, “unofficial” team photographer for the high school basketball team, and coach for the Pleasanton Girl's Softball League (PGSL). All of my service, however, has been related to my kids and after reading the book, “Walk in Their Shoes: Can One Person Change the World?,” I felt compelled to serve those in need. Getting laid off from my high-tech job offered the perfect opportunity to do just that.

The Open Heart Kitchen feeds the hungry every weekday at five locations in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin.

“Founded in 1995 as an interfaith effort, Open Heart Kitchen serves more than 236,000 meals annually. In 2013 we surpassed that record and served over 281,000 meals. There is no qualifying process. Meals may be eaten at our multiple serving sites or taken to go.

Our guests come from all walks of life: the homeless; senior on fixed incomes; the unemployed and underemployed; and low-income families struggling to make ends meet. Open Heart Kitchen serves as their safety net.”

A number of clients walked through the food line today; homeless, seniors, families, and others. It was my first day at Open Heart Kitchen, so I didn't know their names or their stories. I just offered my service with a friendly smile and a sense of humor. The other adult volunteers have been supporting Open Heart Kitchen for much longer and greeted the guests by name, and quite often a hug.

During a slow period, one of the volunteers, Sandra, opened up about her own life. Her daughter Kristina was studying at Cal State University Chico to be a nurse and was killed by a drunk driver while riding her bicycle home from a study group. While cleaning out Kristina's apartment after her death, Sandra and her husband came across a bucket list that Kristina created, probably while in high school. One item on the list was to “save someone's life,” something she did as an organ donor. Ironically, the lady who received Kristina's heart had accomplished a significant number of items on Kristina's bucket list. I'm not sure that was a coincidence! Read more about it here. Sandra and her husband created the Kristina Chesterman Memorial Foundation, supporting young people for Doctors Without Borders missions, drunk driving awareness, and promoting safer bike paths in college areas in order to prevent these senseless tragedies. They are also striving to build a clinic in Ozu Abam, Nigeria in order to honor the hopes and aspirations of Kristina.

Although my shift was scheduled to end at 2 PM, I ended up working until 6:30 PM, completing the food service and clean-up. The work was so much more fulfilling than the high-tech, telecommunications job I left a few months ago. Helping the people in need and receiving their heart-felt thanks was priceless.

I went to the Open Heart Kitchen expecting to give three hours of my time today, but I left there with so much more...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Recoding the DX Barcode for Automatic Film Cameras

The Nikon D80 is my primary digital camera, but I carry a Panasonic LX-5 when I need a more compact option. For example, when trail running, the little LX-5 is an awesome solution, one that enables me to document the scenes and experiences on my runs. I've carried a DSLR in a fanny pack before, but it's a bit cumbersome on longer runs.

My “go-to” film camera is a Nikon FM2 SLR. This has been my primary camera for the last few years, as I've been shooting film almost exclusively. I yearned for a "film LX-5" option -- for times when I wanted to shoot film, but didn't want to carry the FM2. I used to carry an Olympus Stylus point and shoot on backpacking trips back in the 1990's, but I hadn't shot it much since then. I dug through my boxes and brought the old Olympus out of retirement.

The Olympus Stylus is a fully automated point and shoot (i.e., an idiot camera), which doesn't allow the photographer any control over the settings. In addition to automatically setting the aperture and shutter speed, it reads the DX barcode from film canisters and automatically sets the film speed. This last feature caused me some heart-ache because I like to shoot Ilford XP2 Super 400 B&W film – and the film likes to be over-exposed by a stop. Shooting at box speed (ASA 400) usually yields muddy shadows.

Google to the rescue!

I searched the Internet and found a solution. Basically, I could modify the DX barcode on the film canister, so the camera thinks it's loaded with ASA 200 film instead of ASA 400 film – and it'll then over-expose the film by one stop. To do this, I followed the procedure at this website. Using a pocket knife, I scraped away the “black” areas in the barcode that needed to be removed and used black electrical tape where it needed to be added.

Here are a few photos from the Olympus Stylus, shooting Ilford XP2 Super 400 at ASA 200. Recoding the DX barcode seemed to work well. This would also be a great option when pushing film. I typically shoot Kodak BW400CN with the camera set to ASA 1600 and have the photo lab push process the film by two stops. If I ever wanted to shoot BW400CN in the Olympus Stylus, I would need to modify the DX barcode, so the camera thinks it's ASA 1600 film.

Trail near Maguire Peak in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Trail sign near Maguire Peak in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Future PGSL softball star

Thursday, May 21, 2015

PGSL Storm - 2015 Senior Division Runner-up

The sun traversed the evening sky, seeking shelter behind the Pleasanton Ridge; signaling the end of another day and the conclusion of another softball season. It's been less than twenty four hours since Storm played Adrenaline for the Pleasanton Girls Softball League (PGSL) Senior Division championship and I lay in bed, with feelings of pride, happiness, and sadness. We lost to a better team last night, but I'm proud of the way the girls played this year. The Storm always played hard, displayed great sportsmanship, and never quit.

The softball season, like life nowadays, seemed to pass by so quickly. I'll miss the excitement of the games, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and most of all, working with the outstanding young women on the team. I'll especially miss the high school seniors who graduate this year and will be moving on to tackle new challenges. I hope they take the positive life-lessons learned during their years in PGSL softball and use it as a foundation for future success in life. Sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication, hard-work, striving for success, and gracefully accepting defeat are a few of the important lessons softball (and all team sports) instill in our young women.

I'm already looking forward to the Spring of 2016. Another season will bring a fresh set of faces and a new set of personalities. After a few post-game beers last night, the head coach and I agreed to lead a team again next year. I can't wait...

2015 Storm - Second Place, PGSL Senior Division

The girls after the game. Win or lose, we wanted them to enjoy the championship game. I think we succeeded.

The Seniors: Mallory, Bianca, Lauren, Megan, and Jenny

Lauren played solid softball all season.

I loved the way the team bonded during the season.

Megan pitching in her final PGSL game.

Morgan was one of two Freshmen on the team this year. She has a bright future ahead of her.

Megan, Kennedy, and Kami.

Jenny and Megan.

The ASA umpires do a great job....when we agree with the call. ;-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Self Enlightenment

"You never know where enlightenment may come from. Be always open, on the lookout and ready for it. Usually it is a click, something which falls into place after a long time of gestation. The most unexpected event or person can trigger it off."

-- Robert Muller

After fifteen years of slaving away at a large telecommunications company, they rewarded me with a pink slip and a generous severance package. As a “glass half full” type of person, I saw this as an extremely positive event and an opportunity to pursue a new direction. The first few weeks of “freedom” were spent outdoors, hiking, running, and cycling. Removing the stress and strain of the daily grind provided the opportunity to clear my mind, and focus my thoughts on the right path ahead.

After weeks of thoughtful reflection, I finally understood how I wanted to fill the blank pages in a chapter waiting to be written. With great clarity, I determined I wanted to get back into the government sector, serving our country, and contributing to her security and defense. During my fifteen years in the corporate world, I often longed for the camaraderie, mission focus, and feeling of accomplishment I experienced during my time in the Air Force. While I cherish my experience in the private sector, my days of chasing the buck are hopefully over. I hope to work for an organization that makes decisions based on the needs of our country, rather than the need to meet quarterly revenue targets. I want to work for leaders looking out for our nation's security, rather than executives looking out for their own personal wealth.

It may take some time and perhaps some patience, but I hope to secure a new job that provides greater meaning to my existence. In the meantime, I will focus on the important tasks at hand – coaching my daughter's softball team, running the local trails, hiking, and catching up with old friends.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sweet Sixteen

Kami celebrated her "sweet sixteen" birthday with friends at the American Paintball Park in Livermore, CA. The girls had a blast and it was fun to see them in action on the paintball field...and not at some lame, girlie a manicure.

The nice folks at American Paintball were very cool and offered me a mask and orange vest, so I could take pictures inside the field. I hesitantly accepted their offer and was glad I did! I had a great time shooting the action, with paintballs whizzing by my head whenever I not-so-wisely positioned myself in the crossfire. I only wished I had my Nikon DSLR instead of my little Panasonic LX5 compact camera. I had visions of war photographers Robert Capa and Lynsey Addario.

I highly recommend American Paintball for anyone wanting to escape the mundane. The folks there maintain a great, family environment and I'm confident you and your friends/family will have a blast!

Here are a few photos from Kami's paintball trip:

Friday, March 27, 2015

PGSL Softball 2015

The sun is shining, the weather is warming, the trees are blossoming, my eyes are itching, and the nose is running. This must mean one thing – Spring is here and once again, it's softball season! The Pleasanton Girls Softball League (PGSL) season is in full swing, with opening day kicking off the season on 7 March 2015. The Senior Division consists of five teams from Pleasanton and one team from Livermore. The teams are pretty evenly matched, making for a very competitive division.

For the past six or seven years, I've either coached or actively helped out at practices and games. I've really enjoyed the quality time with my daughter and working with the other girls. It's been a pleasure watching them develop as softball players and mature into young women. Sports are an important part of a girl's life, as it teaches teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication, and a lot of other life lessons.

I'm an assistant coach this year, so I will have limited opportunities to take photos during the games. I may need to delegate my first base coach duties to someone for an occasional inning or two, so I can take some photos during a few games.

Here are a few photos from a recent game.