Irish Aye-Yi-Yi! The 2014 San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade

_ASC9032This past weekend saw the runnin’ of the annual San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and it truly was a day for the wearin’ of the green, even if you weren’t Irish, or if you didn’t live in San Francisco. Irish eyes were certainly smiling when it came to the weather, and the parade strutted down Market Street under clear, sunny skies and unseasonably warm temps. I’m sure the wearin’ of the kilts became a tad more uncomfortable (and a lot less hygiene) come mid-afternoon, when temps topped out at 75 degrees, very strange for this time of year … thanks, global warming. And thanks for the drought, while we’re at it!

_ASC9298Anyway, a real photographer can’t let a major photo opportunity like a downtown parade pass by unphotographed, but I approached the event with some reluctance. I had extensively photographed last year’s parade, and my experiences with shooting large annual events told me to expect some redundancy. And sure enough, that hunch didn’t disappoint, as I felt like I was taking some of the same shots of the same people in the same order as last year’s parade.

Still, you can’t have a major outdoor event that celebrates the larrikin spirit of the Irish and not expect some wackiness to ensue. And in that respect, again, it didn’t disappoint. And how could it not … it’s San Francisco, for God’s sake! I’m glad I was there to capture it because it turned out to be a really fun day, even if it felt like deja-vu all over again.

So here for your viewing pleasure is the good, the bad, the ugly and the world’s greatest U2 cover band) of this year’s San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

Erin Go Braugh, y’all … and check out the gallery after the wee jump!!!

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Posted in Photo Essay, Photo Gallery, Photography, San Francisco, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Dystopian Worlds of Steven Tabbutt

New Conquistador

I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrations of this week’s featured artist, Steven Tabbutt, will be polarizing. Some will be attracted and intrigued by his chaotic, dystopian art, while others will be turned off for that exact same reason.

Whatever the reaction, there’s a lot going on here, in both subject matter and technique. Whereas some artists invite you to into their worlds, in this case it may be best to take it all in from the sidelines. At first glance his work is almost an assault on the eyes; there’s so much going on, so many colors playing off each other, so many colliding shapes and lines. His work is a contradictory push-pull of innocence and impending doom, populated by characters who looked the were pulled from the pages of art history books. Much like our real world, the scenarios he creates can be restless and chaotic, yet it’s nearly impossible to pull your sight from them.

Tabbutt’s interesting, multi-layered technique adds to this muddled effect, as he utilizes everything from pastel to acrylic and photomontage to print, the colors often in conflict with one another, the use of bold lines and empty spaces all helping to nail down the foreboding inherent in each picture. But even amongst all these busy goings-on, works like “Lola” and “Another Day In Paradise” represent a brief calming in the midst of the chaos.

To that effect, his work blurs the line between classical painting and more contemporary design and illustration techniques while his subject matter delves into art history, folk tales and the modern digital age. Indeed, many of his subjects appear as if they’ve been transported from another world, not really sure of where they are.

The result is some of the more disquieting, disorienting, yet fascinating work that I’ve displayed in a while. Pro or con … where do you stand on the surreal work of Steven Tabbutt? See more of his work at his website.

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Gardens

_ASC3269I’m a city-livin’ apartment dweller, so I don’t really have a  garden to speak of. I have a nice deck that affords me awesome city views, but the weather up here in the Twin Peaks section of San Francisco where I live is sometimes too cool, windy and foggy to grow anything but the heartiest of plants, especially in the summer.

IMG_0028So to get my green garden kicks I live vicariously through city parks. And my hands-down favorite is Sydney’s beautiful Royal Botanic Garden, a massive greenspace that encompasses 30-hectare (approximately 70 acres) of prime Sydney real estate, so close to the downtown CBD district it’s almost part of it. Fun fact: it was originally opened way back in 1816 and it once had a zoo!

It’s easy to get lost as you wander the lush walkways of this magnificent park, but should that happen, just look around. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge are almost always in view! And don’t forget to take your shoes off. It’s the only park I know of that actually invites you to walk on the grass.

Now, I’m usually a  guy on the go, especially when I’m visiting Sydney, but the beauty and peacefulness of the garden is enough to have me cooling my jets, kicking off my shoes and shirt, laying my butt down in that perfect grass, pulling up my camera bag to use as a pillow, and taking a nice snooze … right in the middle of the afternoon!

Here’s why:

Visit Ailsa’s Travel Theme for more greenery.

Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Australia, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Sydney, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

_ASC3766You never know what you find inside some of Japan’s ancient temples, like the 800-hundred-year-old “Soryuzu,” a magnificent dragon ceiling mural found in Kyoto’s
Kennin-Ji Temple.


Posted in Japan, Kyoto, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective


The above perspective might have you asking what the heck is going on here?!? Is it a building? A glass sculpture? Is it clear? Is it even real … maybe it’s a painting?
What the …???

cocoon2But from this perspective you can see that’s all just part of the glass and steel mosaic and gentle curves of Tokyo’s Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, a 204-metre, 50-story educational facility that towers over the city’s Shinjuku district. It also ranks in the top five of my favorite pieces of architecture in the world.

Posted in Japan, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Tokyo, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Tempting



When it comes to temptations, most of mine are food-related, and I find it difficult to resist the siren call of salty snacks, pizza and good red wine. But when it comes to specific food temptations, those that I’m powerless to resist, I’m all about the spicy! It just can’t be hot or spicy enough for me, and I’d sprinkle red pepper flakes on my cereal if it were socially acceptable! My never-ending search for perfection in spicy foods has covered many different cuisines, and has even taken me to other countries, from Szechuan Chinese to Mexican to Indian to Thai, often with painful yet satisfying results.

I guess the bottom line is if it’s hot and spicy enough to clear my sinuses, cause beads of perspiration to form on my forehead and to bring about a light-headed, slightly dizzy feeling, then I’m a happy fellow, no matter the cuisine! But it’s only when I start sneezing that I know that I have reached spicy nirvana.


… halfway through, the heat starts to rise …

Yes, I’ve enjoyed many fine three-alarm meals in my time (I’m looking right at you Mai Lai Wah in Philadephia’s Chinatown), but few spicy foods float my boat as much as a steaming bowl of spicy Japanese ramen. It combines many of the things I love in food: a hearty, tasty soup, tender and delicious veggies, pork and beef, chewy noodles and, of course, a hard-boiled egg that just gets softer and tastier the more it soaks in the broth. Just the thought of it is making me drool!

So naturally I was jazzed on hearing of a new ramen restaurant that recently opened in San Francisco’s Japantown, and a visit was quickly in order, especially after a friend told me that their spicy ramen is indeed spicy. Of course, what’s spicy to some might elicit a ‘meh’ response from me, and I feel about such claims the same I feel about cheese steak restaurants that aren’t in Philadelphia that boast of being “authentic” Philly, or like the place in San Francisco’s North Beach that’s “better than Philly” … and, of course, it’s not … not by a long, sad shot. So regarding the heat level claims of this new place, this native Philadelphian might say, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan St. San Francisco

And I’m happy to report that the spicy ramen at the new Ramen Yamadaya didn’t disappoint. I was able to check off all my prerequisites mentioned earlier, especially a really yummy broth and a hard-boiled egg that just burst with flavor. Curiously, the spicy ramen actually had quotients or rankings, with one being mild to three being three-alarm. That’s not something I’ve seen very often in ramen joints.

Now, you might think given my background I would naturally go for the spiciest, but in the case of a new place, I really need to taste the broth as well, because that’s just as important as the heat. Some ramen places make it so spicy you can’t taste anything else but heat, until your taste buds go numb and your tongue wants to literally rip itself free from your mouth, relieving itself of its ramen-induced agony … like Ramen Kan, a fun noodle bar in Sydney’s Haymarket that absolutely kicked my ass … twice!

So I went with the second choice, and at first I was a little disappointed. Awesome ramen, but where’s the heat, despite the devilish deep red color of the broth that you can see in the pics. But then, sneakily, subversively, the heat started to rise and with it came all the old familiar yet strangely pleasurable physical reactions: the beads of sweat on the forehead, the slight throat constriction, fluids literally flowing from both nostrils, shaky hands, that woozy feeling of disorientation … ahhhh! Now I need a cigarette and a cold shower.

Interestingly enough, I started sneezing just as the waitress came over to see if the ramen was spicy enough for me.

Now, psychologists out there might have something to say about the interesting (some might say bizarre) pain/pleasure interplay at work here, but I’m not going to get all deep about it. Just let’s say that when it comes to temptations, I say, bring da heat …  and the hotter the better!!!

... After

… After

If you’re tempted to see more tempting things, check out Ailsa’s awesome Travel Theme!

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Life In 2-D: The Clay Illustrations of Irma Gruenholz


Much like artist Korean artist Jee Young Lee, who I featured back in December, Spanish artist Irma Gruenholz creates self-contained worlds by hand, painstakingly building the sets and pieces for each of her amazingly detailed illustrations with hand-crafted clay before lighting and photographing it. Unlike Lee, who places herself in each of her scenes, Gruenholz’s worlds are populated with round-faced, whimsical characters who show no sign of the angst and tension that is prevalent in Lee’s sometimes melancholic scenes. Instead, she presents us with colorful worlds and humorous characters straight out of a children’s book.

Which isn’t unusual, as Gruenholz’s work has increasingly been appearing in kid’s books, magazines and ads around the world. Her past career as an art director with a Madrid ad agency obviously contributes to the pleasing composition and pastel colors of her work. But it’s the fun and whimsy of her work that really caught my eye and put a smile on my face. I hope it does the same for you.

See more of her amazing clay-crafted illustrations in the gallery after the jump, and be sure to check out her website for even more. Continue reading

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