H is for Hazy

Haze for days

Hi, welcome back!

We’re almost at the end of the year, and part of me wonders where this year went. A lot of days blend together for me, the year is kind of a blur. I don’t forget what day it is, and I know that time is progressing normally, but when I look back at pictures from only a year ago, and they feel like a lifetime ago. It’s the strangest feeling, and it’s all kind of hazy.

This week’s pictures are all about the kind of hazy aesthetic, that mix of forgetfulness and lucidity. A lot of the photos are during golden hour, but that’s not exactly the point, I think that’s just the most common time of day to find this aesthetic. With that, let’s jump right in

September 2019. Viansa Winery (Sonoma, CA)

All pictures have some kind of story, but to me this picture really screams its story. This was at Lily and Kevin’s wedding last year. Maybe an hour before the wedding was supposed to start, a barn across the street from their wedding venue caught on fire, so their venue closed per protocol. Luckily the fire was put out quickly, but their venue stayed closed.

Somehow they were able to get permission to hold their ceremony at another venue down the road and up the hill (so less of a fire risk), but the process of getting to the right venue was a huge source of confusion. Some guests got texts, but I did not. I ended up pulling over to the side of the road near the original venue and chatting with other confused people in suits and dresses off the side of the road. Eventually we got the name of the new venue and caravanned over, catching the last half of the ceremony.

I could barely hear what they were saying (there was no sound system set up), everybody was just standing on the side a breezy hill. I looked to my left, and caught this picture, right at golden hour, with a beautiful sunset through the haze hills. It’s easy for me to forget about the wedding, sometimes things are all a hazy blur in my memories, but then seeing a picture like this, the whole experience is instantly clear in my mind. The aesthetics of this photo match that feeling for me too.

January 2020. Carmel Beach (Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA)

I switched jobs in January of this year and took a week between to unwind. During that week, I took a small one-night trip on my own down to Monterey and on the way back, I stopped at Carmel Beach. It was the middle of a bright day, and I loved looking over and seeing the hazy mist or fog on this beach. Sometimes I forget I took this trip, but I’m really glad I did, traveling solo can be so relaxing.

March 2020. Culver Plunge (Culver City, CA)

I went back to Culver City early in March to help with my dad with some stuff. This photo was taken March 2, that trip is the last time I got on a plane. In the mornings, I’d walk over to the Culver City Municipal Plunge, the city’s public pool, and swim. The mist rising above the pool in the sun looked amazing, so I took this photo. The light poking through looks like how it feels for me to remember that I even took this trip.

November 2020. California St. (San Francisco, CA)

I took this photo on an errand a few weeks ago, I remember crossing the street and just being wowed at the light. Since this photo was more recent, I don’t have that same mental distance from it as the others this week. I really like the haze in the background and the illuminated tree leaves in the foreground, it just has such a warm feeling, a reminder that there are breaks in what feels like months of monotony.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next week!


G is for GIF

Now I want some peanut butter

Hi, welcome back!

This week, we’re looking at GIFs! GIF stands for Graphical Interchange Format, and the GIF format is one of the older image formats still in popular use. For reference, it was first released in 1987 (compared to JPEG in 1992 and PNG in 1996). GIFs are weird and quirky, they’re limited to a maximum of 256 colors in a given frame, they’re stuck with older compression algorithms so they have fairly large file sizes, but somehow through all of that, they’ve become a staple part of online culture.

GIFs are one of very few media types in web browsers that are given a free pass to play automatically and loop. One of other the limitations of GIFs, compared to more modern equivalents like MP4s, is that they can’t contain sound, so autoplaying them is much less likely to irritate hearing users.

The GIF format has been used since the very earliest web browsers, but the culture of “reaction GIFs” is much more recent. I’ve seen articles point to the 2003-2004 expiration of the LZW compression patents as the beginning of the rise of the GIF, but I also think that the surge in popularity can be attributed to more folks having faster Internet connections, to be able to download these large files smoothly. Finding a GIF larger than 1 MB is fairly common these days, in the days of 56k modems, that would take an entire minute to download, which is unbearable.

If you had asked me what GIPHY, the GIF indexing side, was worth a few years ago, I would have never in my life guessed $400 million (because Google Image Search is much more reliable for getting me the GIF I actually want). However, Facebook thought otherwise and bought it for as much. There is no shortage of GIFs in 2020.

I think the gold standard of GIFs is the seminal If We Don’t, Remember Me (IWDRM) Tumblr blog, home to “cinemagraphs” which are short segments of popular movies, turned into very smooth GIFs that almost feel like pictures that have a little bit of life to them. Some favorites include ones from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Truman Show and Blade Runner. But the whole blog is amazing, it’s a shame it hasn’t been updated in 5 years.

My GIFs are nowhere near that quality, but let’s look at them anyways!

April 2017. Faust Nightclub (Paris, France)

When I went to Paris with Grant back in 2017 (the H is for Hipster Aesthetic trip), we stopped for a drink while we walked back along the Seine. Grant borrowed my camera and took a burst of photos of me. When looking through them later, I realized these two frames made for a great eyebrow raise, so I combined them into a GIF. I had uploaded this one to GIPHY just to try it out, but don’t use it to react to anything.

October 2017. Cazalla Observatorio de Aves Planeadoras (Tarifa, Spain)

Tarifa, the extremely photogenic city in the south of Spain has been in a few issues before. One evening, we up the hill to this observatory to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. The limited colors of the GIF don’t do this justice, but it was spectacular. Vanessa (pictured) did a cartwheel and I took a burst of photos that I later combined into a GIF. Part of me wishes I had a tripod to be a little more steady. But either way, it was such a fun trip and I have so many good memories associated with it.

September 2018. Pacific Heights (San Francisco, CA)

This was one night walking around near home, and I loved how thick the fog was, that you could see it through the streetlights. This was a Live Photo that I took my phone. Photos app on my computer turned it into a 12MB GIF, and then I scaled it down a bit to fit better in email, this is another image where the color limit in GIF kind of harshes the vibe, but I think some of it still comes across.

September 2019. Guiness Brewery (Dublin, Ireland)

How can you go to Dublin and not have a Guiness at their brewery? This is another Live Photo, I just loved the creamy texture billowing, and it made for a surprisingly good loop too!

October 2020. Alamo Square (San Francisco, CA)

I was running an errand the other day, and stopped and saw this mask hanging off of a staircase like this, waving slightly in the wind. I wanted to capture it, it felt like a very current moment, and then I remembered that a Live Photo was a better way to capture the moment than just a still photo. This used the iPhone’s “bounce” setting for making it reverse and loop, and then I scaled down the image to make it a better GIF for email. I think it turned out pretty well! But this is another one where I wish I had a tripod.

These are all the GIFs I have! Thanks for reading, and see you next time!


F is for Face Masks

This year's hottest new accessory

Hi! Welcome back!

I started 2020 with one mask, it has an N99 filter (and a vent, boo) that I had purchased last year for wildfire season. Today, I have 8 masks and thanks to some impulsive online shopping earlier this week, there are 4 more on the way. COVID isn’t on track to be gone from our lives any time soon, so as far as I’m concerned, we might as well wear some fun masks to limit the spread in the meantime.

So I’ll give you one guess as to what this week’s pictures are of.

Aerosol and Droplet Spread

Before we get in to this week’s pictures of well-behaved people in masks, I want to take the time to share some information on the spread of COVID to help people make informed choices about how they socialize.

This article from El País has some excellent visualizations of aerosol spread of COVID indoors in various scenarios. Spoiler: even with masks on and healthy 6ft distancing, aerosol spread still occurs indoors. Please cancel your Thanksgiving plans that involve multiple households being indoors together.

Mask Up!

Masks are the simplest way to decrease chances of COVID transmission. They’re not the only way, they’re not foolproof, but they help. I’m sure everybody reading this wears them regularly outside the home, so great job! Let’s look at some picture of folks I’ve taken wearing their masks. One thing I love is how good people have gotten at smizing and how it even comes through in photos.

July 2020. Moscone Park (San Francisco, CA)

Here we have Meghan and Mac, both wearing face masks as well as practicing good hand hygiene by using hand sanitizer. We had just picked up some froyo (I think from Souvla) and were about to eat it in the park. I think they were smizing extra here because we knew how silly it was that I was trying to photograph something as mundane as using hand sanitizer.

July 2020. Battery Boutelle (San Francisco, CA)

Here’s Ben wearing a mask. A small group (four) of us biked over to the Presidio to watch the sun set after I hosted trivia on Zoom one evening. Back in July, the sun set so late compared to now! This was taken at 8:30pm! I love the golden hour colors here, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

July 2020. Battery Boutelle (San Francisco, CA)

This is me, the same evening as the previous photo. Again, some excellent golden hour vibes near the iconic bridge.

I’m wearing the first mask I bought this year, and I think it’s my favorite and also most-worn mask. I like this mask because it’s soft and comfortable and large, and easily covers both my nose and chin, so I don’t have to constantly adjust it like some of the smaller masks I have. I bought it from Asmbly Hall, one of my favorite local clothing stores here in SF right as they opened for pickup orders.

August 2020. The Mono Inn (Lee Vining, CA)

Here’s my mom, from the same trip to Mono Lake as in last week’s issue. We ate outdoors at a really cute restaurant there with great views of the lake basin. Mom is extremely crafty and made the mask she is wearing in the photo. Over the last few months, she’s made and donated probably hundreds of masks and various forms of PPE like long-sleeved scrubs to groups in LA.

Thanks again for reading! Hope you all continue to stay safe and make safe choices!


E is for Environment

Hi, welcome back!

One thing that helps me take better photos is a change of scenery. It’s just not that exciting to take or share photos of the same parks, the same streets. Changing scenery, going to a new part of town, going to a new city, going inside a new place are always great reasons to bring my standalone camera.

For some reason I can’t quite place, I haven’t been able to travel as much this year as I usually am, which means fewer occasions to bring my camera and capture something in a new environment. I have been able to take a few short trips this year, and one thing they’ve all had is a lot of open space in nature, which is good because they’re safe and minimize spreading of that thing that I can’t quite place.

So this week, we’re looking at photos of the outdoor environment! Let’s get into it.

August 2019. Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (Sonoma County, CA)

This is from last year’s trip up to Guerneville. We took a day to walk around the Armstrong Redwoods, and I looked up and caught this shot. I love how tall the trees are an how the photo captures how bright of a day it was.

April 2020. Pacific Heights (San Francisco, CA)

I took a long walk around my neighborhood on the weekend and looked up and saw these two trees next to each other and they made for such a sharp contrast. This was still in the city, so it’s not “nature” per se, but this was from a longer walk, on a block that’s outside of my usual route, so it felt like getting a change of scenery and finding something new. Back in April, a few weeks in to shelter-in-place, it felt like as big of a change in environment as I’d had in a while.

August 2020. Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve (Lee Vining, CA)

I got out of SF for a weekend in August and visited Lake Mono. Lake Mono has these tufas, which are piles of calcium carbonate built up from mineral deposits over time (when the water level was much higher). They’re pretty spectacular and it was great to wander around the lakefront early in the morning and catch some great light like this.

September 2020. Iron Canyon (Park City, UT)

One of the other trips I was able to take this year was to Park City, UT. We spent about a week, and got in a few bike ride. It was right at like, peak fall vibes. I loved how wandering down this bike path, the leaves popped, and it was so bright. This is why it’s important to bring a camera walking around new places, because everything feels so new and fresh.

Thanks again for reading, and see you next time!


D is for Doorway

Yes, I know I should have done "D is for Delay"

Hi, welcome back! Did you miss me?

I finally was able to write the next issue of this newsletter! I decided that publishing it this Wednesday (the morning after election day) seemed like a lot to compete with for attention, so I’m mixing it up and jumping into your inboxes on a Sunday.

What Happened?

Ok so yes, the newsletter has been silent for a bit. I ran out of steam. Season 2 was off to a good start, but this gap of 16-ish weeks (not that anybody was counting) without an issue of The Weekly Margs was not what I intended.

I did have a small epiphany recently. As some of may know, I had been putting a lot of my weekly project energy towards the Pub Trivia that I host online. Recently, I put that on pause after 30 weeks (and over $13K raised and donated to various charities) because I needed a small break. The number 30 is very interesting because I realized that I let go of this newsletter right around 30 weeks as well (31 issues written, about one a week). So without worrying about it too much, maybe somewhere around 30 weeks is some kind of creative wall for me. Or maybe it’s an issue of bandwidth, so freeing up energy from pausing trivia lets me focus on this newsletter. The way I compose a newsletter issue is kind of similar to how I come up with trivia questions, the final result is the aggregate lots of little spare thoughts and check-ins in throughout the week. Either way, I’m back at this right now and we’ll see how it goes!

Pictures, Now!

Yes, let’s get back to pictures.

This week we’re looking at doorways and frames. As we know from past issues like B is for Brick House and R is for Right Angles, I really love squared up photos. I realized walking around recently that I’d been taking a bunch of photos framed by doorways, and that I finally had a theme to write about for this newsletter.

April 2020. Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco, CA)

This was on an evening walk a few months ago. The Palace of Fine Arts is a great spot to walk around, and I love how it was lit up for this photo, with the lights inside and outside the structure highlighting this entrance.

October 2020. Pacific Heights (San Francisco, CA)

It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers. Walking by this charming house, I love how the pumpkins were arranged on specifically one unit’s half of the entryway. In general, I think its kind of silly and wasteful to put pumpkins out like this, but this one was just so charming I had to take a picture.

October 2020. USF (San Francisco, CA)

I met a friend for boba the other week and we walked over to the USF campus to sit down and drink. As we were leaving, we passed by this really neat frame. The sky was amazing that day, I love the hazy view of Sutro Tower in the background. It just felt warm and nice and I like how the picture turned out.

October 2020. Ghirardelli Square (San Francisco, CA)

Ghirardelli Square is sort of having a moment. I’m nearby almost every morning to swim, and have been noticing some changes. The giant light up “Ghirardelli” sign has been replaced with new lights, and one morning I noticed this brick staircase had been painted. I’m not exactly sure why now, but this was charming so it seemed worth sharing.

Again, welcome back to the newsletter and thanks for reading! My goal is to get back on a weekly cadence and keep sharing photos. Hope you’re all staying safe and healthy.


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