Author Archives: Russel Ray Photos

About Russel Ray Photos

Forty-five years as a photographer, beginning with yearbook staff in sixth grade.

Training for women teaches them to keep their boobs out of the way

Out & About

As much as I love taking pictures of industrial stuff, I rarely hang around industrial areas. It might have something to do with the dirt, noise, and traffic.

Last year when I was delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now and people for Uber, I was forced to go through and into some industrial areas that I never ever would have gone through or into before. That’s when I discovered that one can go to the University of Iron and get a “degree” in iron work. Who knew?

University of Iron San Diego

University of Iron San Diego

University of Iron San Diego

The University of Iron offers training for Apprentices and re-training for Journeymen. They even have training for women! Imagine that. I guess training for women teaches them how to keep their boobs out of the way…..

My grandfather and one of my uncles taught me iron work when I was a teenager back in the ’60s and ’70s. I helped build iron and steel barns both for members of my family in South Texas and neighbors who saw what we were doing and wanted us to build them a bigger and better barn that would withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. We did build them bigger and better but they came with no wind-survival guarantees. In looking at Google Street and Google Earth, I do see that many of the barns I helped build 45+ years ago are still standing.

Being forced to build all those barns, though, was when I definitively decided that I was going to college because I had no intent of doing such hard manual labor for the rest of my life. Now one can go to college to learn how to do all that hard manual labor. I just wonder, though, “What was the last bowl game that the University of Iron football team went to, and did they win or lose?”

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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How I Did It—Works for me

How I Did It

I pretty much try to abide by the rule of thirds when I take pictures. I think it creates more aesthetically pleasing photographs.

The rule of thirds might be the most well-known rule of photographic composition since it is one of the first things one learns in photography class.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken, but if you’re going to break a rule, make sure you know it very well so that breaking it is even more effective.

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts:

Rule of thirds

The exact center rarely is a good place to put your focal point unless your intent is to show symmetry. Too high, too low, too far left, or too far right is kind of like dissonance in music; it just doesn’t feel right/sound right/look right. The grid, then, identifies four areas of the image—where the lines intersect—where you should consider placing points of interest in your picture.

Along with the four intersections, the rule of thirds also gives you four lines along which to place elements in your picture.

Rule of thirds lines

The theory behind the rule of thirds is that placing points of interest at the intersections or along the lines provides a more balanced picture with which the viewer can interact more naturally. Apparently, research shows that when looking at a picture, your eyes go naturally to one of the intersections much more naturally than to the center of the image.

I don’t know if the rule of thirds comes naturally to me or whether fifty years of photography has simply made it a habit. Maybe I’ll intentionally break the rule to see what happens.

If your picture looks or feels awkward, don’t hesitate to take it into a digital photo editing program like Photoshop and crop it to give it a better feel or look.

Following is a panorama of the Music Building at San Diego State University that illustrates the rule of thirds. This panorama was created by taking 8 separate pictures into Photoshop and then using the Photomerge function to stitch them together. Afterwards I cropped the panorama to get this:

Music Building at San Diego State University

My landscape-oriented pictures often use the top, middle, and bottom thirds, as I have done that picture. I really like this picture, first and foremost because it’s the Music Building and connects with my 60 years of music (violin, piano, and voice). Additionally, though, I really like the dominant but different colors in the thirds—blue in the upper third, white in the middle, and green in the lower. Notice, however, that the transitions are not too sharp or abrupt. The white clouds in the blue sky lead one’s eyes to the white building. The green trees against the white building then lead one’s eyes to the green grass in the lower third. In every sense, this picture works for me.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Friday Flower Fiesta (3-24-17)—Flowers, and more!

Friday Flower Fiesta

When I was in 7th grade (1966), my wise old grandmother bought me a microscope set. I had so much fun picking things out of the yard and then looking at the under the microscope. I think that was what enticed me into wanting to go into forestry research. I did get a degree in forestry but the research part never happened. I know microscopes are still for sale but I haven’t seen one for sale in a store in a couple of decades.

I find microscopic pictures to be quite interesting, such as this picture of my left eye:

Russel's left eye

If I had a microscope, microscopic pictures of flowers could easily be my favorite pictures. Since I don’t have a microscope, you’ll have to do with these “Flowers, and more!” pictures for today’s Friday Flower Fiesta. See if you can identify the “and more!” in the pictures.

Yellow wildflowers in San Diego

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Out & About—Cruise historic Highway 80

Out & About

More sights from my driving tour of Old Highway 80 through East San Diego County.

Cruise Highway 80

The Alpine Town Hall (two pictures below) was built in 1899 and served through 1999. Alpine began in the 1870s as a local center for ranching. The building currently is owned by the Alpine Woman’s Club which pretty much has to missions: to preserve the town hall and to provide scholarships to Alpine graduating seniors heading to college.

Alpine town hall in Alpine CA

Alpine town hall in Alpine CA

The Descanso Junction Restaurant is quite popular. I was there around 8:00 a.m., and it was packed. Descanso Junction’s original name was Bohemia Grove, and the original name of the restaurant was El Nido. That’s my car at the left parked next to the truck.

Descanso Junction Restaurant

The Descanso Town Hall was built in 1898. It still is a popular venue for local events and is one of the few community halls still operating in the mountains.

Descanso Town Hall

The Perkins Store has been in operation since 1875. The store in the picture below was built in 1939 after the original store burned.

Perkins Store

The old Guatay Service Station dates from the 1920s but is now just a shell of its former self. The round metal shed was the service bay.

Ruins of the Guatay Service Station

Behind the service station ruins sits a cool stone house, also built in the 1920s and still being used as a private residence.

Stone house

The immensely popular Frosty Burger in Pine Valley occupies another 1920s-era service station. I can highly recommend Frosty Burger. It can get cold in the high desert mountains, and Frosty Burger has only outdoor seating, so take a jacket or plan on eating in your warm car.

Frosty Burger in Pine Valley

The Pine Valley Inn was the main business in Pine Valley for many years. The main dining hall (right in the picture below) is still used as a restaurant, and the rental cabins, although remodeled and updated, still are in use. One of the rental cabins can be seen at the left.

Pine Valley Inn

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Out & About—Thank you, Amy. You’re great!

Out & About San Diego

El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego currently is signed as a business loop for Interstate 8. Prior to that, it was the principal thoroughfare from San Diego to El Cajon and points farther east as U.S. Highway 80. In the ’50s and ’60s it was known locally simply as
“The Boulevard” and was the cruising strip where high school and college  students went to see and be seen.

I drive El Cajon Boulevard quite often, but since it’s a heavily used, I’m usually watching traffic instead of looking at sights. In early January when I decided to take a driving tour of what remains of U.S. Highway 80, now called “Old Highway 80” or “Historic Route 80,” my tour started at the corner of Park Boulevard and El Cajon Boulevard. My goal was to see sights, traffic be darned.

One of the earliest stops on the tour was 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, a 5-story building with a huge mural on the corner:

Mural at 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, California

Mural at 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, California

Other than the mural showing old cars on El Cajon Boulevard and a California US 80 sign, I have not been able to find out anything else about it. The building, however, is the historic Bekin Building. It originally was constructed as a storage facility for Bekins Van Lines, founded in 1891 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and used by Bekins for several decades.

Currently it hosts a variety of light manufacturers, office dwellers, artists, and creative craftsman. Tenants include The Boulevard Business Improvement Association, a cabinet shop, several upholsterers, a mid century modern furniture reseller, an industrial lighting designer, and several Etsy & Ebay professionals.

According to public records, the building has 31,500 square feet and was built in 1941. The property is zoned warehouse industrial. Interestingly, the current owner is R&C Bekins LLC. R&C Bekins does not appear to be related to Bekins Van Lines, and the company was founded just a couple of weeks before buying the building. I’m thinking that the owner of R&C Bekins, Amy Campagna, had a soft spot for Bekins and this building and decided to buy it. Maybe she worked there for many years.

According to sources, her intent is to provide an affordable and unique environment with a flexible range of spaces to house small businesses and creative persons. With property taxes on this building being in the $30,000 range annually, I can’t believe that she makes enough money from rents to pay both the taxes and the mortgage on the building, so all I have to say is, “Thank you, Amy. You’re great!”

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Music on Mondays (3-20-17)—No particular place to go

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I was born in 1955. In my youth, most historians agreed that the rock ‘n’ roll era began in 1955, so as late as 2003, I had a complete collection of all the Billboard #1 singles and #1 albums of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Then the vulgarity of rap and hip hop caused me finally to quit collecting music that I wasn’t going to listen to.

The Beatles have always been my favorites, but I have a great appreciation for the rock ‘n’ roll artists who preceded The Beatles, as did The Beatles themselves. One of my favorites is Charles Edwards Anderson Berry, who died Saturday at the age of 90. You might know him better as Chuck Berry. Here are my five favorite Chuck Berry songs:

“Maybellene,” 1955

“Roll Over Beethoven,” 1956

“Rock & Roll Music,” 1957

“Johnny B. Goode,” 1957

“No Particular Place To Go,” 1961

Interestingly, Chuck Berry only had one #1 single, a throwaway novelty song in my opinion.

“My Ding-a-ling” from 1972

When you’re a forerunner of something, people like to copy you, emulate you, try to be you. Here is my favorite cover version of a Chuck Berry song:

“Maybelline” [sic] by Foghat, 1972

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Halls of History—Then the tax bills started arriving

Halls of History

I always have done a lot of reading. People have always asked me how I had so much time for reading. I call it multitasking.

When I was in college at Texas A&M University, the lines were long for football tickets, Aggie rings (called “senior rings” at other schools), and the Aggieland (called “yearbooks” at other schools). I learned to take a book or magazine with me to read while waiting in line. Most of the time it was a textbook back then—priorities, you know.

In today’s world, magazines pretty much don’t exist anymore, so Books R Us. I’m usually reading two concurrently, a history book and a fiction book (Stephen King, Lee Child, Lincoln Child, etc.).

The history book I’m reading right now is a history of the area where I currently live: Our Hills and Valleys: A History of the Helix-Spring Valley Region by Thomas Joseph Adema. Here are some tidbits, excerpts, and thoughts:

Picture it. Early 1930s.

Great Depression. You are barely surviving.

You own four acres of land. Your property tax bill arrives.

$1,200. Four times what the land and home are worth.

What are you going to do? Why, stop paying taxes, of course. The Mattoon Act will take care of you.

Must have been the greatest law ever, right? Can’t pay your property taxes? Fall back on The Mattoon Act.

San Vicente DamThe Acquisition and Improvement Act, its proper name, was passed by the California legislature in May 1925. The bill was intended to streamline the process for, and provide funding for, the construction of needed public works—paved streets, lighting, bridges, reservoirs, better and more reliable water delivery.

Property condemnation was quicker and easier. Community authorities had the power to create “improvement districts” that crossed city and county lines. Thus, if a new sewer line was needed, the areas benefiting were designated “improvement areas.” Bonds were sold to fund the construction, and landowners in the improvement district would pay off the bonds with a yearly ad valorem tax.

Real estate developers loved the law. They used public funds to install street lamps, build parks, and widen and pave roads in their newly subdivided neighborhoods. City councils and utility companies also loved it.

Homeowners initially liked the law because their neighborhoods were improved, but they had no choice about which improvement districts they were thrown into. It was entirely possible that if you lived at the boundary of three cities, you could be in three improvement districts.

Meeting of La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley CAAs an example, I live at the corner of the boundaries for La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley. Imagine all of them putting me in their improvement districts and taxing me for anything and everything from which I might benefit as a member of the public. Then throw in that suddenly I am unemployed and the nation is in the midst of a Great Depression. Sunk, I would be.

Then the tax bills started arriving.

The killer provision in The Mattoon Act said what would happen if one could not pay one’s taxes: The rest of the members of the improvement district would have to pay them.

So if Johnny could not pay his taxes, no big deal.

Back in the days of The Mattoon Act, Spring Valley had ten households. When Johnny could not pay his $1,200 tax bill in 1927, his tax bill was split between the other nine households.

Joe, after paying his $1,200 tax bill, suddenly got another tax bill for $133.33, his share of Johnny’s bill. Joe couldn’t pay the additional $133.33, so his tax bill was split between the other eight households.

Mary, after paying her $1,200 and her $133.33 share of Joe’s bill, now got yet another tax bill for $16.66. On and on it went.

Spring Valley CAHomes were lost to foreclosure for failure to pay taxes, or tax liens were placed on their homes, making it impossible to sell the property. Homes fell into disrepair, making them even more difficult to sell.

It didn’t take long before the population rebelled, and The Mattoon Act was repealed in 1931. The damage had been done to many people and many cities and for many years to come. People lost their land and homes but there was no one to buy them so the cities were left with land but no money to pay the bonds on the projects they already had completed. Oh what a tangled web….

In 1935, the United States Supreme Court ruled that The Mattoon Act had been legal, so cities and taxpayers still had to pay the debts which had incurred. It took several years before cities and taxpayers were tax free.

Targeted relief plans were passed, including a gas tax to pay off road bonds. Landowners were given final sums that they could settle with cash. In the case of Johnny, whose home had been foreclosed back in 1927, he got his home back by paying $250 to settle the tax bill.

Money

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