Spots Unknown

Fire at Little Baobab

Fire at Little Baobab

Friday, May 10th, 2013, 10:56 a.m. 19th Street between Capp and Mission.

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This Mind Blowing Video Does NOT Use Green Screen

Some great San Francisco locations as well.

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Aerial Outtakes of Ken Block Tearing Up San Francisco

Ken Block fucking up in San Francisco

By now, everyone has seen the original where Ken Block drives like Satan through San Francisco for some DC Shoes commercial.

For an interesting and fresh viewpoint, check out this unused aerial footage taken from an RC copter rigged with a camera. It's unpolished, but still rad, especially because it shows Block fucking up and hitting barricades.

Here's the original...

Gonzo Road Trip Rally

Inspired by my 51-day trip last summer across Central Asia by car, I've committed to an automobile adventure this year to the center of the US.

It's marked by a plaque on a pedestal, built by the National Geodetic Survey. It is near a town called Lebanon. In Kansas. The plaque reads:

The GEOGRAPHIC CENTER of the UNITED STATES
LAT. 39°50' LONG. 98°35'
NE 1/4 - SE 1/4 - S32 - T2S - R11W
Located by L.T. Hagadorn of Paulette & Wilson - Engineers and L.A. Beardslee - County Engineer. From data furnished by U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Sponsored by Lebanon Hub Club. Lebanon, Kansas. April 25, 1940.

Several other teams, each starting in different parts of the country, will meet up with me and my wife on July 6th in Kansas to drink whiskies and swap stories, after visiting a list of required waypoints plus making a few discoveries of our own.

Follow us in real time, and join the trip by seeing it through our eyes in video and photos, which we'll upload as we make.

As with any great adventure, the destination is just one more point, the last one. But the points that come before, and how you get to them, make up the fertile lands of serendipity and breakdowns, thirst and charity, unreachable horizons and a thousand tiny triumphs.

So we'll not stick to the highways, but zig and zag as much as possible, searching for the treasures that usually whiz past in a blur on the way to the next gas station. And on July 4th, we'll be in some random town near the middle of America. And why not?

Wish us luck!

Zoom Around a Leveled San Francisco

Leveled San Francisco, 1906

I just spent way too much time immersed in this post-earthquake-and-fire aerial photo of SF. You will too.

Photographed by George R. Lawrence with a kite a few weeks after the disaster:

It is a 160-degree panorama from a kite taken 2000 feet (600 m) in the air above the San Francisco Bay that showed the entire city on a single 17-by-48-inch contact print made from a single piece of film. Each print sold for $125 and Lawrence made at least $15,000 in sales from this one photograph. The camera used in this photograph weighed 49 pounds (22 kg) and used a celluloid-film plate.

Drive Across Mongolia in 4 Minutes (video)

Brokedown Mongolia

It took two of us 11 days in a 1.2L Fiat Panda to get from the Russian border to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, but you can do it in 4 minutes thanks to the dashboard cam that recorded it all. Experience the roadlessness, the bandits, the breakdowns, the yaks, and the camels, without ever having to figure out how to steer and shift a right-driving mini-car through some of the remotest land on the planet. And see it out the windshield just like we did.

The trip started last July with us flying from San Francisco to London and buying a car to run in the Mongol Rally. The next video will take you from England to the border of Mongolia - 40 days of driving in 5 minutes - under the British Channel, over the Caspian Sea, through Eastern Europe, Turkey, most of the 'Stans (Kazakhstan!), and Russia.

During that long haul, my teammate and I talked about doing something in America. And so, this summer I'm organizing a car rally here in the States, a road trip where each team goes on its own route of discovery armed with cameras and mobile technology, and they all meet up for a party at the geographic center of the country (it's in Kansas). Follow it online, or join in!

This is #cappstreet on Instagram

Capp Street, San Francisco, on Instagram

Coming to Instagram as late as I have, I was shocked to find that there was zero Capp Street coverage. No longer!

There are reasons for healthy fear of Capp, but there is also beauty if you bother to look. So come on, have a look. And post pics. I'll repost nice ones @SpotsUnknown.

Horatio’s Legacy

Horatio Jackson invented the Great American Road Trip in San Francisco in 1903.

1903 was a big year. The Wright Brothers invented the first powered airplane. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid. The first wireless radio signals were transmitted across the Atlantic.

These were all advances that allowed humans to defeat distance. But as if these weren't sufficient, 1903 was also the year that a man in San Francisco took a bet, and invented the Great American Road Trip.

The "horseless carriage" had yet to convince anyone that it was anything more than a passing fad. And the $50 wager that Horatio Jackson couldn't drive one from SF to New York was sound, since there were no gas stations, no 7-Elevens, and no paved roads.

But he made it. Ken Burns did a documentary about it in 2003.

I discovered HJ's awesome ride while researching a new project that I plan to begin this summer. Stay tuned for more details.

Urban Tree to Bicycle

Bill Holloway and Mauro Hernandez, of Masterworks Woodworking, salvage condemned city trees, then build beautiful bicycles out of them. The story of these bikes goes from the felling of a family's guardian tree, through the woodworking process, and finally, the completion of art you can ride.

They're self-taught, and the custom bikes are an offshoot of their larger woodworking and detailing business. Bill is a native San Franciscan, and his family has deep roots here. The dynamic between him and Mauro is a compelling, friendly rivalry.

I fist encountered Bill while shooting him at Bay Area Maker Faire. This time around, it was great getting to know him and his work better, and setting him and Mauro loose to ride their creations in some stunning San Francisco locations. (Watch for the daredevil downhill stuff - these bikes are decidedly NOT made for that kind of terrain!)

Thanks to David Molina for the gripping original soundtrack, and to Chris Marino for his dope cinematography skills.

Someone You Know is a Sex Worker

Adweek is amused that this campaign got over its rejection by CBS (their explanation: "sex worker" is "not a family-friendly term"), and will now be running on MUNI buses instead.

I expect the real amusement will come in the form of cleverly-framed pics with non-industry bystanders.

Quick Time Lapse from Turkey

The town is called Giresun. This time lapse video is from the second night of Ramazan. The call to prayer is being sent out from the minaret glowing green on the left.

Here are my photos, and here is the site for my team's Mongolia trip, where you can track us in real time.

The Road to Mongolia

Here are a few shots I've kept from the trip so far.

We have a Spot GPS strictly for tracking our progress and gathering data about our trip, but we navigating the old fashioned way - with bad maps and lots of u-turns.

You can follow us at the blog, or on Facebook.

For access to all of my photos and videos, friend me. (I'm posting primarily to FB for now to save on redundant uploading.)

Things will only get weirder from here.

San Francisco to Mongolia – a Road Trip

So, this is happening, folks. I leave on Monday.

As if the site wasn't quiet enough recently, I'm leaving Monday for a road trip from London across Central Asia without GPS navigation.

You can follow our progress (or lack thereof) as we bring irony to such countries as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and yes, Mongolia, here:

Rally Team America

Also, the Facebook page.

This is a 10,000-mile trip for charity, so if you'd like to donate to the cause, you'll find prominent links in both places, especially the blog.

Believe it or not, there are about 5 other teams from the Bay Area participating in the Mongol Rally this year, so we hope to meet up with them along the way.

If anyone out there has ever been to this part of the world and would like to drop some knowledge on someone who's never been to Asia, please do so. And watch for media of the adventure shortly after my return in early to mid-September.

Here's a silly little video we put together to psych ourselves up:

This Woman Dares You to Give Her an Orgasm

The woman who runs a live-in sexual meditation commune, One Taste Urban Retreat Center, here in San Francisco, gave a talk at TEDxSF. The best part of the video are the reaction shots of the women in the audience is where she tells the origin story of her program. She meets a dude at a party, he invites her to take her pants off, she does, then he shines a light between her legs and describes her vagina's various textures and colors. This causes her to cry and changes her forever. In itself, not shocking by SF standards. You get the impression that the weird parts of the story are left tucked between the lines.

The New York Times did a long profile a while back, part of which tells of her father, who shortly before her "awakening," had died of cancer while serving a prison sentence for molesting a couple of young girls.

Yelp reviews for One Taste are mostly glowing, but the bad ones really stick out:

Having spoken in depth about their business plan with their CEO (which gives me an insight few others have), I can tell you for certain the aim is to encourage lonely horny men to part with considerable sums of money, whilst cloaking it all in a New Age aura of raising self-awareness through intimate (read: sexual) contact.

The final sentence in her TEDx talk is meant to paraphrase the Dalai Lama: "It will be turned-on women and those who dare to stroke us who will change the world."

Time Lapse of Undulating Flowers

The recent TEDx event at the Palace of Fine Arts featured Louie Schwartzberg, who claims he's "the only cinematographer in the world who has literally been shooting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week continuously for more than 30 years."

Whether that's true or not, there is some amazing footage sprinkled throughout this video. I especially like the flowers at the beginning.

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Time Lapse of Colossus Assembly at Maker Faire Bay Area


Photo by Matt Richardson

I'm proud to have been on one of three teams shooting over 100 of the best projects at this year's Maker Faire. The centerpiece was Colossus. This assembly time lapse gives a good feel for its size and presence, but it's not the same as seeing it on-site. Although, standing next to it means you don't get time lapse!


Shot by Nat Wilson-Heckathorn

‘The Best Thing Ever Written About San Francisco’


Image from City by the Blog

Is it the best ever, as claimed by Oscar Lewis in the Forward? Debatable. This essay repeatedly commits the sin of calling it "Frisco." At least it does so self-consciously:

Before the crash and flame, Frisco was beginning to protest at being called anything but San Francisco. Yet Frisco clung, it held some winking, sly hint of frisky. Even the great black headlines over the evil news used the diminutive abbreviation like a touch of light in the cloud, a sort of fresh, smiling rose on the pall, speaking of resurrection.

Additionally, it was apparently penned by someone who'd never been to SF. It's still an amazing piece of writing. So there. Read it all after the jump...

Happy Quake Day – Shaken and Stirred

Exactly 105 years ago, the earth shook. Yeah, kind of like that. (Well, not really like that.)

But thanks, San Andreas Fault, for pitching in to help us all celebrate the Big One! We feel you really care.

Happy Quake Day: The Mint

Is that guy in the bowler hat checking his iPhone?

Image courtesy US Library of Congress.

Happy ’06 Earthquake Day: Stanford

This statue on the Stanford University campus just couldn't take it any more.

Image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.