Past the Mc Mansions, the few remaining horse and cattle pastures, way up in the Eastern Foothills above the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley is an Open Space Preserve. The Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve affords fantastic views in two directions.
Looking down to Silicon Valley there’s a panoramic view only obstructed by what for a brief moment in this drought are emerald green hills. Look the other direction and you’ll see some what much of California looks like, or at least looked like before urban sprawl- rolling hills dotted with oaks.
I’ve been up here a few times, and have really fallen in love with the place. And as it happens it’s the perfect location for making extra-large stitched panoramas. For example, one of the images in the group is stitched from 48x21 megapixel photos. Opened up in Photoshop as 8bit that’s about 5 gigabytes of data. Of course much of that is honed down – overlap is required to successfully stitch all those images together.
Making these photos requires a few things. Patience, time, a subject that doesn’t move and lots of memory on my cards. Fortunately I had all four of those. The end result are images that could be enlarged to extremes. One file would print interpolated (not upresed) to 36’ x 8’ (ca. 10 x 2.5 meters) @100 ppi.
Now all I have to do is find a client that needs to make a really really big print.
We here at SiliconValleyStock.com are constantly looking for ways to help you….the photo researcher, picture buyer, magazine, text book publisher or anybody else looking for photography of what the kids now refer to as Silicon Valley.
It so happens that not only am I a photographer, but so is my dad, Hans. Even my grandfather (Milton “Hal” Halberstadt) was a photographer. Must be in the genes I guess…… Hopefully my daughter Ella will escape the the creative occupation that has cursed our family for three generations and become a doctor or accountant!
In any case my dad has been digging through dusty old shoe-boxes full of slides. Somewhere between the photos of tanks and scantily clad maidens (eeew, TMI!) he’s found a vein of old photos of Silicon Valley and tech stuff. My guess is that the photos he’s digitized and given me are from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s. In short these photos were most likely made while listening to Def Leopard on a cassette deck.
When I was a wee lad, my dad actually rented a small office at the (then domestic) San Jose Airport. The office was in the same building with Aris Helicopters, and he used to go up and shoot aerials on occasion. So there are quite a few aerials in the mix.
My dad also managed to gain access to some excellent vantage points. In fact the view above is from the form San Jose Medical Building on Santa Clara street (actually 25 North 14th Street). The building is now dubbed “San Jose Business Center” but seems to only have a pot dealer “medical” marijuana dispensary on the ground floor. I’ve been nagging the property management company (Chavez Management) trying to get access. Wouldn’t it be cool to have before and after photos?
From what I understand there are thousands and thousands of dusty slides just waiting to see the light of (the internet). Guess I better start digging around in and scanning!
I honestly thought after that my right to photograph on public sidewalks in my lovely little town was resolved. But recently as I tried to go out and shoot some more I’ve run into the same problem. I don’t know where the PM Real Estate Group hail from. They seem to think they have powers that companies in China, Zimbabwe or other third world dictatorship command. These folks claim I need a permit to photograph anywhere on the point, even in front of the City Hall Building or on a sidewalk next to a bus stop.
As a matter of principal I’ve resolved to make documenting Alameda’s former Naval Air Station a personal project. And I went out recently and got started. The gallery I’ve started is here. When the security guard gives me grief, I just tell him to call the police. In the unlikely event the police actually show up, I’ve got a copy of Bert Krages II The Photographer’s Right printed along with a copy of that Alameda Sun article with me on the cover.
I plan to keep adding to the gallery. Years ago when I lived in Vallejo I ran into similar problems. Eventually we got the security guard situation sorted out. Later some local photographers, my friend Tom Paiva and I even managed to have a show from the results.
As mentioned in an earlier post, one of my clients suggested I check out Sierra Vista open space. It’s a park perched above San Jose with panoramic views of the South Bay. I did a quick recon of the site a little while back.
This isn’t my technical blog: Lensbusters.com- but from a technical standpoint, Murphy’s Law snuck up on me. As is usual when I come upon a particularly good photo op I don’t bring all my equipment with me. Invariably I find myself missing whatever I didn’t bring. So I found myself wishing I had my panorama machine- this is pano heaven (aside from the wind of course!) And given the wind and clouds it was a rare opportunity to do long daylight exposures. Only the lens I wanted to use, my 100mm required a filter adapter to use either of my super duper dense filters (the 70-200mm would have been good too but I didn’t bring it!) But I then remembered that I did bring my little kit that included the plastic-fantastic 100mm Vivitar that uses a 49mm filter, and I had my Hoya 8 stop and Tiffen 4 stop filters that let me take 15-30 second exposures in daylight. That’s what gives the clouds the “smear” look.
Another technical problem I noticed later as I was downloading my images at English Ales in Marina was a small scratch in my graduated filter. Most problems were barely visible but that led to a few duds. Time to buy another set of Cokin P filters.
On returning from Monterey I spent the later half of the day up in the hills again. The clouds were gone. But it was pretty clear by Silicon Valley air quality standards. And I had the time to spend this time ’round. So I hiked up to the lone tree I photographed the day before. The panoramic views were amazing. And worthy of me coming back with my pano setup. Hidden behind the large rocks in my earlier photo was also a picnic table- another great idea for a return trip.
Killing time, I hiked along parts of the trails below. Think of the contrast between green open spaces, the grazing cattle that would have looked similar for millennia with cities and towns below- San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto. The places credited with the most modern of technology.
A less pleasant contrast also exists in the Silicon Valley foothills. For one, there are the types you’d expect to find out along a trail, nature enthusiasts, fitness buffs, photographers and the like.. But you can also see the traces of those folks you were trying to avoid by heading up here. There are piles of trash near most pullouts along the road. Occasionally a loud car would pull up and rowdy folks would yell and scream. And the same idiots on Harley Davidsons that terrorize the city below with the roar of their meth-and-mullet culture. I cracked a joke with a couple of hikers: “love the peace and quiet and fresh air” after a kid on a “rice rocket” burned rubber and blew tire smoke towards us.
And another downside as far as photography is that they close up right after sunset. So after we were booted out, I desperately looked for a legal pullout to photograph. The light really gets good just about the time the park closes. But then again, I found a few other great spots.
As legend has it, a number of huge companies started out in suburban garages. So goes the legend of Apple Computer, though I was once corrected by a reporter who said that they actually started in the house…but whatever…..
In any case I found one a SiliconValleyStock photo on the German “Newspaper” Bild’s website. I don’t know much about how Bild is now, but I seem to recall back in the day, they were one of those tabloid style papers. Perhaps things have changed?
Probably not fair to call Villa Montalvo a Faux Chateau, it really is a beautiful place. This formerly second home to three term San Francisco mayor James Duval Phelan was transformed into a public park and center for the arts. I’ve been here a few times in the past- but I was intimidated by the “NO COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY” sign displayed very prominently in front of the building. Of course this isn’t “commercial” photography. But it’s been my experience that the way such rules are enforced are by somebody who knows nothing about photography looking at how big a camera I have. It’s one reason I sometimes still prefer to use my little Sony NEX cameras which have “professional” image quality and are tiny enough to fit in a pocket. I don’t think I’d get far trying to explain the difference between editorial and commercial with most folks.
In any case the grounds are beautiful. It so happened that they were hosting a private breakfast for Netapp, so I took a quick walk around a very short trail and explored behind the mansion for a while. The wisteria was in full bloom and the weather really cooperated undulating between lightly cloudy and sunny.
Some fellow and I came upon the gate surrounding, what later research is being referred to as the “Love Temple” and gardens. It wasn’t clear to either of us why there was a gate, I let him go in first and test the waters. When no alarm sounded or crazed employees chased him, I followed suit. As I guess what now is obvious, I’ve really been harassed by security enough to be very self conscious!
The garden does a good job at what I assume was its intention: mimicking those of wealthy Italian estates. The fountain in the “Love Temple” was off, as we are in a serious drought condition right now. But I’d have to say it displayed some of the creepiest statues I’d seen in some time. Behind the temple was a small cactus garden and some sort of woodcutting exhibit in progress.
From Villa Montalva in Saratoga I meandered to Los Gatos. Strange for a town named after them, I don’t recall having seen any real cats. There were a couple architectural ornaments if you look really closely at the Deco facade of the Los Gatos Theater but that’s all I saw.
Los Gatos has been on my stock photo radar for a while. The theater came up as a request on one of the stock photo sites: Image Brief or Photographers Direct I think not too long ago. It’s also one of those very affluent areas that needs illustration in various publications regularly. It’s even more affluent than I remember, they even have a Bently dealer in town.
My primary goal was to get a few good shots of the theater and the Old Town sign. I waited a long time for the light to get where I wanted it. While I waited in addition to having coffee and cake at a local coffee shop, I did a little walking around town. I went looking for the Forbes Mill Museum. I was thrown off by the fact that the sign led me down a private road and part of a condo association. But walking down the hill and around the corner a handsome stone historic building appeared. But it was closed permanently.
The shuttered museum did lead to another POI: an overpass that promised to connect to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Why not, I had time to kill. So I wandered looking for a some good views. I try to get people in the photos without looking too creepy. That can be a balancing act, I don’t want closeups of people but more like the lone jogger above to give a sense of scale and not make the place look too abandoned.
Eventually the theater got where I wanted it. You know where interior building lights and neon were about as bright as the sky above it- “golden hour” ish.
The Old Town sign wasn’t as cooperative. It’s rusted brown, with tall trees behind it. I was counting on the “christmas lights” separating the sign from the background, but I didn’t notice that they only covered the decorative metal above the letters. Oh well.
With a few more destinations check off the list, I feel like I’m making progress.
It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects. Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside. Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!
The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.
<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….
Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.
Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View. So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.
I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.
It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.
Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.
One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.
For personal reasons I usually need to head down to the Monterey Peninsula about once a week. As beautiful as it is down there, it doesn’t really factor in to the Silicon Valley Stock shtick. But when I can I do stop along the way and take a few snaps. In fact the circa one hour drive from “Silicon Valley” is a good reminder of what the real world actually looks like.
Indeed, as I drive pass “Silicon Valley Boulevard” at the southern reaches of San Jose, the scenery has already drifted from the small “urban” core of San Jose’s downtown, to the vast suburbs, to rolling hills, farmland and faux chateaus of the new rich. Typically this part of California, and in fact most of California’s cities are framed in by dry grass hills or grassland. The velveteen hills of the east San Jose foothills are for this short period green and punctuated by California Poppies and other wildflowers.
It’s common to hear “Luddlites” disparage GPS. But for me it’s the greatest liberator on a trip. Rather than forcing me to use the most efficient route as detractors argue, it allows me to wander aimlessly without fear of getting lost and with a continual reminder of how long it will take me to get to my end destination. As such, I now dart off the freeway regularly in search of the perfect landscape with no fear of being late or getting lost.
So I did veer off course a few times and found some nice little corners of the world I’d never heard of. Past the vineyards of yet another California Wine Country, I stumbled upon a cute little park in Gilroy: Chitactac-Adams County Park. Not the best time of day for lighting, and nearly completely empty. But I made a quick walk around. Ignoring my GPS, I turned where I hoped to find good scenery with occasional success.
Getting lost is fun so long as you can find your way back!
For those not familiar with Berkeley, it’s a college town with a reputation for one of the best public Universities in the world, left leaning politics, counter-culture (though many of the hippies are approaching Social Security age.) Depending on your perspective, the place is often lauded or disparaged as “the People’s Republic of Berkeley”, Berzerkeley. And researching this entry there’s another nickname I’ve never heard: The Athens of the West. I’ve been to Athens recently and will concede the city does bare some similarities albeit not just the positives. The campus is beautifully situated at the base of the eastern foothills. Off campus is hit or miss with some pretty gritty areas and homeless activities along with the usual bars, foreign food outlets, book and music stores etc. Pretty much as you might expect from a big college town.
My teenage daughter Ella (whom I often refer to as “baby genius”) is so interested in college, that she wanted to go out shopping for Cal Berkeley apparel. So the other day we made a trip out to Berkeley. We found a parking spot and moved on to the “colorful” Telegraph Avenue buying a hoodie and moving on.
My wife and I thought it would be good to take a look at the campus with our baby. So we strolled past the Sather Gate and made our way to the Life Sciences Building. Not sure what was open to the public, and being uncharacteristicly bold as I had my peeps with me, we opened the door only to find a fun exhibit full of Dinosaurs. Cool.
We mosied through the library. There were bands of what should have been dusty books given their age from Europe and Australia as well as modern. It was nice to just be able to pick up and look at a hundred year old foreign science volume and thumb through the pages.
What does one eat while in Berkeley? Indian of course! We made our way to House of Curries for a surprisingly bland Chicken Tikka Masala. Our last stop was some hippie-dippy shop with all sorts of knick-knacks like Buddhas, insects preserved in plastic, and pot smoking paraphernalia.