Mike Phillips

A key technical advisor for Nikon Professional Services, died at his San Francisco home on January 9, 2006 . He was 60 years old. His body was found by a NPS worker at his home after failing to appear at the booth for Nikon at the annual Apple MacWorld Conference. It was reported that he had some health issues for the past several years.

He spent his entire professional career with Nikon, starting with the company in 1970. In addition to acting as liaison between Nikon and professional photographers, he was often asked by Nikon to shoot major events such as the Olympics, World Series, Super Bowls, Kentucky Derbies, Cape Canaveral launches and many more. He helped hundreds of photographers in both camera and lens equipment loaners and technical assistance. He also had a vast knowledge of every generation of Nikon cameras as well as digital photography information.

Mike was a long-time major supporter of the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association. He was instrumental in getting Nikon to donate a Nikon camera as the award for the Greg Robinson Memorial Student Photographer of the Year Award since its inception. He also was responsible for the donation of thousands of dollars of Nikon ware for door prizes at various SFBAPPA events as well as sponsoring numerous luncheons. Mike was also a speaker at every annual SFBAPPA Digital Workshop.

A native of San Francisco, he attended college at U.C. Davis and San Jose State University. He is survived by his mother, Marie Phillips Japs of Davis; his sister Suzanne Finigan of San Francisco; his brother Kirk Phillips and nephew Collin, both of Northern California.

There will be no formal service planned at this time. A wake is pending. At his request, any memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice.

San Francisco Chronicle contributed to this story.


Bob McLeod

Bob McLeod, a San Francisco newspaperman for four decades and a guy with the ability to make everyone smile, died early Tuesday of lung cancer at his Antioch home. He was 59.

McLeod, who never smoked, worked as a photographer and photo editor at the San Francisco Examiner and The Chronicle until his retirement a few months ago.

He joined the Examiner in September 1967 as a copy boy, back in the days before computers or digital cameras when newspapers were printed on rumbling presses using lead type produced by clattering linotype machines.

Coming to the paper shortly after spending about a year at San Francisco State, McLeod's job was to jump when a reporter or editor shouted "Boy - COPY!" and run the freshly typed or edited story to the next person on the newsroom production line.

"The newsroom was like those Jack Webb movies, like Humphrey Bogart movies,'' McLeod recalled during an interview at his home last week. "The guys wore hats, like in the movies, Indiana Jones hats. They all wore white shirts and ties, but the ties were never tied, and the sleeves were rolled up. There was only one gal reporter. Everyone smoked at their desk and kept a bottle in the desk. It was grand."

McLeod's tenure as a copy boy lasted five years. All the while, he pined for a shot as a staff photographer, he said. Finally, he got his chance when the Examiner publisher at the time decided he'd rather give a new staff opening to his hardworking copy boy. McLeod recalled that getting the job was one of the best days of his life, and even decades later, considered being a "shooter" one of the best jobs in the world.

"Once I got into photo, I was home,'' he said.

McLeod's interest in photography began when he was growing up in Daly City. His father died when he was 12, and his older brother, George, bought him a Brownie Hawkeye camera. The boy took photos of everything, but with his dad gone and his mom a maid at the local Mission Bell Motel, they could ill afford to process all the pictures at a commercial photo lab. The youngster then built a small darkroom in a basement closet.

"I just watched that image come up on the negative paper, and it was magic,'' McLeod said, smiling at the memory.

As a general assignment photographer for most of his four decades, McLeod memorialized the Bay Area in events big and small.

He was the first to photograph Patty Hearst after her release from jail, and he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his images in a 1995 series called "The Caregivers." It was a project he completed with his wife, Beth Witrogen McLeod, who worked at the Examiner as a copyeditor and reporter. But McLeod's favorite photos were of ballet dancers, from budding ballerinas to stars like Baryshnikov and Nureyev. He donated more than a thousand photographs that he took over the decades to the San Francisco Ballet archive, his wife said.

"Bob was a joy to work with and we will miss him sorely. His razor-sharp wit and his love of photography made him one of the most endeared characters in the newsroom. The Chronicle has suffered a great loss," said Chronicle Director of Photography Randy Greenwell.

"Bob's passion for life and his big heart were reflected in the amazing quality and texture of his work,'' said Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein, who had also worked with McLeod at the Examiner. "His passing creates an inconsolable absence for his family, friends and colleagues. And the world of photojournalism will be less rich and interesting without him."

McLeod's biggest talent may have been his ability to get along with just about anyone. A big man with a ruddy complexion, beard and impressive silhouette, McLeod reminded some of Santa, a comparison made more apt by his perennial good cheer and good humor.

"He was so profoundly cheerful that it was impossible to be unhappy in his presence,'' said Bob Stephens, a longtime buddy who was the best man at his wedding. "He kept a very spontaneous, youthful spirit all his life."

His affable, easygoing manner and his instinct for news made him a natural choice when it came time for the Examiner to name a new director of photography in 1989.

"I remember the AME (Assistant Managing Editor) of Graphics was walking him around the room, introducing him as the new Director of Photography,'' said Paul Chinn, a photographer who used to lobby McLeod for a job when he was a 17-year-old kid, and finally got hired during McLeod's tenure as editor. "He was so proud. He was so proud."

His promotion was guaranteed after his performance during the Loma Prieta earthquake, several colleagues recalled. He was serving as the interim photo editor at the time, and all his photographers were at Candlestick Park for Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. After the quake hit, and with no working phones in the newsroom, McLeod ran down to the company parking lot, heaved himself into one of the cars and got on a walkie-talkie to send his staff all over the Bay Area.

Between assignments, McLeod kept colleagues amused with his wickedly funny quips and practical jokes. Back when he was a copy boy, retired Chronicle photographer Chris Hardy recalls, the chief copyboy hated the smell of French fries so much that they were banned from the building. Naturally, McLeod couldn't help but attach French fries to the bottom of the guy's chair.

Photoshop, a software program for editing photos, was often his accomplice. McLeod was forever superimposing photographs of editors' heads onto various celebrities, politicians, and animals.

McLeod was also Mr. Gadget, recalled Stephens, who shared his buddy's love for the latest electronics. McLeod was the first in the newsroom to buy a Sony Walkman, the first to buy the sleek Palm V, the first to buy an iPod, colleagues recalled. His home sported the biggest projection televisions made, and his bookcases were filled with a vast collection of VHS tapes, laserdiscs and DVDs -- especially of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars." Already the owner of two Apple laptops, he felt life was incomplete without being the owner of the new Titanium model. "If it ran on batteries, that's all that mattered,'' said Chinn.

Even in his final weeks, McLeod surrounded himself with his toys. Earplugs to his cell phone were tucked in his ear. His laptop was at his side. And all around the bed were at least a half-dozen remote controls, for everything from his TV to his stereo to the DVD to who knows what else.

A few days ago, only eight months after his diagnosis, McLeod had to have a hospital bed moved into the bedroom as hospice care took over. Even then, McLeod saw the bright side, playing with the bed's remote as it zigged him up and down. "I believe he died with his finger on the remote control on the bed," his wife said.

In addition to his wife of 25 years and his brother, McLeod is survived by his sister, Patricia Perez of South San Francisco.

A funeral will not be held. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

The family requests donations in McLeod's memory be sent to:
Hospice and Palliative Care of Contra Costa
2051 Harrison St.
Concord, CA 94520

Condolences can se sent to:
Beth Witrogen Mcleod
4418 Deermeadow Way
Antioch, CA 94531

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