It was Snowing in the Central Valley in Spring…. Or at least that’s how it looked. I was “Somewhere near Paterson”* on a photoshoot and driving along Interstate 5 to a ranch not far from Mercy Hot Springs. The photoshoot is not relevant to Silicon Valley Stock, but I did have a bit of time to take a few photos along the way back.
The weather here in California has been a bit unusual. There’s been tons of rain, and our drought is finally over. I don’t know if that has influenced the time of year the almond trees are blooming, but it’s made the scenery gorgeous! The sky is blue with puffy white clouds, the grass is green. And the blossoms of the almond trees are so prevalent as to coat the dirt below with enough white to look almost like snow.
Knowing almost nothing about agriculture, I figure it must make sense – but beneath the unending rows of trees and their falling white blossoms where colorful boxes. Those boxes, as I found out as I came closer were full of honey bees. Guess it’s pollination time in The Valley.
For the stock photo shtick, I got a few photos of “our” Northern California water being sent south via the California Aqueduct. I usually find the farmer’s signs bemoaning the “Congress Created Dust Bowl” ironic, given that I think generally speaking these folks claim to be against big government, yet somehow don’t notice the contradiction that their fortunes are rooted in several giant “big government” programs including the delivery of subsidized water. The big irony (and I wish I got a few photos of it) was that they signs decrying the “dust bowl” were soaked and soon to be covered in high green grass!
Not that I planned it that way… I did start looking (for cherry blossoms) in two of San Jose’s Japanese landmarks, Japantown and the Japanese Friendship Garden. But the Japanese Friendship garden turned out to be closed, perhaps due to the recent flooding. And turns out the beautiful pink blossoms that are blooming in my neighborhood were plum trees, not cherry. I’ll have to return in a month or two.
So I walked around San Jose’s Japantown looking for stuff to photograph. I’d been meaning to add a few photos of the newish Japanese Museum. And I couldn’t help but get a few shots of the already well covered Buddhist Church. And as I do whenever I can, I stopped at an old familiar restaurant I’ve visited since my childhood: Kazoo.
And while thinking of gardens and trees in bloom, I thought of another place from my childhood. Right next to my high school, Independence HS on the East Side, there’s a park. I took a few photos there a few months ago, and it was really, really brown and dry due to the drought. Now it’s flooding in SJ, so I figured it would look a bit different, perhaps with some plum trees in blossom if I was lucky.
Well I was lucky- to some degree at least. There were a few pink blossoming trees next to an arch commemorating the Chinese Garden. The gardens themselves seemed kinda shabby. The main pavilion was still barricaded like the last time I visited months ago. And one big surprise for me was that the pond around the Confucius statue was completely empty. I assumed the last time I visited it was because of the drought, but alas there must be another reason.
Onward on my Asian journey, I made a stop to a favorite suburban gem that was built when I was growing up in the neighborhood: the Pao-Hua Buddhist Temple. I think this is mainly used by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese folks. I really like the walls of Buddhas especially. And the people there are so nice, a monk came up to me and encouraged me to continue photographing pointing out some details I should pay closer attention to.
All in all, it was a nice visit. I do know the way to San Jose, and enjoy taking that route.
I thought it’d be fun and go out and photograph a few versions of the same thing, like on a theme. I’ve also been exploring Oakland a bit more for the stock photo biz. So I opted to check out something new to me in Oakland. The theme I intended to follow was Rose Gardens from Oakland to Walnut Creek. But plans don’t always work out. My intended reconnaissance mission was then to see what I could of the secretive GoMentum automated car testing grounds in nearby Concord.
There are so many cool and hidden pockets of Oakland to surprise even those of us who’ve lived nearby for ages. The Morcom Rose Garden was yet another surprise for me. It was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project, which I find particularly cool. If it weren’t for Republican resistance, I think we could have had a modern wave of building innovation after the economic collapse that started under the Bush administration a decade or so ago.
In any case, Morcom has that WPA look. The buildings have that sort of Mission Revival ? style and the gardens are terraced in nicely symmetrical. Though I’m reasonably happy with some of the photos I took, this wasn’t the ideal time of year- I should come back in summer next year.
So, on to the next rose garden on the list. This was in Berkeley. Unfortunately for photographic purposes this was something of a bust. The lighting was less than ideal when I arrived. But more importantly some renovation was underway, so there were vehicles and orange plastic fencing etc ruining the aesthetic.
Ces’t la vie.
So next stop I had planned was Walnut Creek or Concord- I didn’t care what order. But as is often the case, I got sidetracked. From highway 4 I saw the signs for the John Muir National Historic Site. I was relieved to see a “free entry” sign at the front and went on in. Again, the lighting for the exterior was far from ideal.
Inside however there were a few fun finds. The ranger inside said to go on up to the top bell tower and ring away if I wanted. And I did. I got a bunch of bell photos thinking that they would be a good geo quiz type image. And though I had no tripod, I couldn’t help but shooting a few interiors.
It was late afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch or much of a breakfast, so I tried finding something in Martinez. But instead I found the handsome buildings downtown including a historic courthouse and post office and photographed them.
And then moved on to Concord, still hungry.
I drove around the Gomentum/old military base but didn’t see many gaps or any self driving cars. I’ll have to do more research. And I never made it to the rose garden in Walnut Creek. Guess that’s for another day.
In researching a client’s stock photo needs, I remembered a few photos from years ago. They are looking for weird western photos and a trip to southern California came to mind.
In both cases, I used props, something I seldom do with stock photography.
Back in 2010, (btw, it’s weird to say that, like shouldn’t we be on a moon colony for the last 10 years already?!) I had a gig down in Orange County. I drove down for that gig and had some time to travel around, including meet some friends on the way back in Beaumont.
My fun Orange County stock photos were taken at the (newish then?) Great County Park. I seem to recall having read something about a balloon ride on a giant orange balloon. What a cool idea! Especially in a city called “Orange” after all!
When I got there I found a nice tidy new park. But the balloon ride was shut down due to high winds. Bummer, I thought, it was soooo clear. Turns out they had a farmers’ market day at the park and I put 2 and 2 together. Wouldn’t it be fun to put a real orange in the foreground with the giant orange balloon in the background? I’m sure there’s a word for this sort of thing.
Later on my trip on my visit to friends at Beaumont I made a side trip to Cabazon. They have these life sized dinosaurs off the highway. I think this was originally a touristic distraction meant to get people to pull off the highway on their way to Palm Springs.
But if I remember correctly at some point it got bought out by some religious nuts who try and brainwash kids and dissuade them from science and learning evolution. In any case they make for some fun photos on their own. But I also bought a few little dinosaurs in the gift shop as props and once again placed them in the foreground with the full sized dinos in the back.
Food trucks have been one of my go to subjects for stock photography. I’m quite fond of food for one.
So, I headed out to Eat Real again for the 2016 festivities. You can see the photos here.
I spend waste a lot of time trying to come up with witty remarks to post on this unread blog. So the line I came up that applies to this style of photography is: “Everything is Better on a Stick.” Get it? I’m trying to get photos that are different than everybody else’s. So I don’t have the closeups here, just overviews from above.
Another thought has been brewing in my tiny little noggin about food trucks I thought I’d try and develop my thoughts here.
The summary goes something like this: “Hipsters ruin everything”
Are you old enough to remember when live-work lofts were not trendy? The whole idea behind this concept was taking property that nobody wanted and developing cheap housing largely for artists and creatives. All of a sudden, wealthy hipsters with tech jobs saw lofts on TV and moved in from the suburbs to drive up the cost of artists’ residences so creatives could no longer afford them.
This “hipsters ruin everything” concept has moved on to food trucks. Or that’s how I’m seeing it. This idea came to me as I was over by San Pedro Square in San Jose on farmers’ market day. There was a line of food trucks in amongst the fruit and veg. I was hungry and passed a falafel truck. There I noticed that a falafel- in my view a good, but very working class sort of food- and as I recall the (sandwich, pocket, or whatever) cost about $10.
Yet within just a few feet were at least two brick-and-mortar restaurants that also served falafel- for less money too! There’s Robee’s Falafel in the San Pedro Square Marketplace that’s pretty good as I recall. And right around the corner there’s Nick the Greek. Then there’s the mothership of all Bay Area falafel joints Falafel’s Drive in about 10 minutes away with areguably the best falafel for many miles and it’s just $5/6.75 (small/large.)
Now admittedly, I didn’t try all of these options. Maybe the food truck is by far the best.
But my point here is that the idea behind “roach coaches” or the fancier offspring was to provide food on a budget for industrial parks and other underserved areas. Their raison d’être has been destroyed by the food truck trend. As a rule, food trucks shouldn’t be parked next to perfectly good established restaurants and charging even more for their produce.
Please pardon this slightly off topic rant and if you’re looking for photos – let me know.
Cornerstone is one of those cutesy Whine Country places. There’s a bunch of shops and restaurants and some beautifully manicured landscape architecture. There are also a number of interesting sculptures and the like.
More recently, Sunset Magazine moved their test kitchen and Garden to Cornerstone. They used to be headquartered in Menlo Park, but I’m assuming the dot-con craziness got to them. Or at least it’s hard to justify sticking around in a building that’s worth $50 million when you could more easily work out of a $2 million office two hours away.
In writing this I remembered that my grandfather had a recipe for salad dressing in one of the Sunset cookbooks or magazines or something back in the 1950’s. So I thought it would be fun if I could find it via Google Books. No luck regarding the recipe, but a couple of hits came up for photo credits. Unfortunately they are in snippet view, so I have no idea what the photos were.
The next stop was Point Reyes and I’ll add another entry for that part of the trip as soon as I can!
I’ve been plotting and scheming – trying to showcase stock photographs I have that are unique in one way or another.
So I’ve put together a few new galleries. There are a couple of topics to disseminate:
Unique Technique: Unique slightly aerial perspective This is looking slightly down using a special secret technique) I’m calling that Looking down at ______. I’ve got a gallery setup in that category for Silicon Valley and Seattle (and environs.)
Unique Technique: Very, Very large files I’ve been working on expanding my really large files library. I can also do custom shots as needed. I’ve got a few photos that are in the gigapixel range.
I’m tempted to overdramatize this process as I found here with this Bentley ad. Basically it’s a bunch of bullshit, here’s a snippet of how they make their technique sound interesting:
Impressive, eh? Bentley created the massive photo by stitching together 700 separate photos using NASA’s panorama stitching technology — the same kind used to create panoramas of Mars shot by the Curiosity rover. In all, the project took 6 months to plan, 6 days to shoot, and 2.5 months to retouch.
“An incredible 4,425 times larger than a typical smartphone image, this extraordinary photograph is made up of approximately 53 billion pixels (or 53,000 megapixels),” Bentley writes. “The result, if reproduced in standard print format, would be the size of a football field.”
But this is using the same gear I’ve got. Plus it’s not sharp, except the car. And the car shot has so much detail it has to be fake. If the photo was made as they claimed almost a kilometer away in an area where there’s also always wind, this just isn’t possible. The photographer here was Simon Stock (the photographer equivalent of a “porn name”- a surname “stock.”) I guess the lesson to learn here is that gross exaggeration (or worse) is how to sell yourself and product.
Unique Technique: Long Exposure My setup allows me to take really long exposures, even during the day. This can make for a really unusual look- especially when the main subject is stationary: architecture, landscape etc and also includes motion: water, clouds, etc.
Unique Access: This is where I’ve been able to photograph with special access. For example I managed to gain access to some high rises in San Jose and Oakland and get some really unique shots, or the San Francisco Bay Bridge during construction and BART with a tripod.
And of course there’s all the usual stock photo stuff. Let me know if you don’t find what you’re looking for. I added a new item to the SiliconValleyStock webpage to make photo requests. Due to some changes at my old stock photo library to which I contributed, I’m gonna have to be much more proactive about selling my own work.
Google just announced the new Android OS: it’s Nougat. Sweet.
As per usual, the new sculpture was released at the Googleplex. Yours truly put on my editorial stock photographer hat and made a stop in Mountain View yesterday.
I also got a few stock photographs of the Android sculpture garden that has changed a bit since my last visit. It was also mobbed with kids and other visitors. Finally there’s a place to go to for some Silicon Valley tourism besides the small infrastructure that barely exists here.
From the outside, Fremont is a sleepy suburban city in Silicon Valley. Well, honestly from the inside that’s more or less true too. Though with a few quirks that make Fremont a fun place to explore if you live in the area.
Dotted between the stucco homes and strip malls is a quirky views of America’s past and future.
My journies to the past this time included my first stop: the Pioneer Cemetery of Centerville. Centerville is a neighborhood in Fremont now, but I assume it was a town at one point judging by some of the headstone inscriptions listing place of death as Centerville. Frankly the place was a bit rundown- and there was a major construction site nextdoor preventing too much rest in that final resting spot. One headstone listed a guy who’s year of birth was in the 1700’s- something rarely seen on headstones here in the west.
From the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be an old train station behind me. Finishing up with the cemetery, I dragged my kit along to explore and low-and-behold it was a handsome little station that was converted to a cafe. The platform is still in use for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. On the other side of the tracks there’s a lovely little park with a covered historic railway waiting area.
All was good, well except for one thing. I was thinking about this- there has to be a series of Murphy’s Laws for photography. The rule in play here was the attraction of dirty, ugly or aesthetically unpleasant stuff to the most interesting landmark. It could be the workers in fluorescent orange jackets cleaning up, traffic cones, the strategically placed utility pole blocking the best view of a facade. However in this case, it was a pile of garbage in a shopping cart underneath the Centerville train shelter. Presumably left by a homeless person, who either abandoned it or was coming back at some point, the cart had a undersized adult bike (popular with the druggies) and most unfortunately a filthy large *RED* sleeping bag partially unfurled.
This really was a beautifully done park however aside from the crap and few druggies hanging out there. Wisteria draped off to the left and right of the shelter, and the old station was just across the way with a handful of waiting passengers. The sign atop the station and shelter reads: “Centerville – to San Francisco 40 1/10 m. – to Ogden 799 4/10 m. – Elevation 57 feet.“*
Otherwise the space was beautiful. I stopped in the cafe and got coffee and a snack. The lady inside said she recently bought the business. It was really cute inside as well, though empty- perhaps because the time of day- it was about noon on a workday. The coffee was really good, I’d definitely go back.
Next stop was the Shinn Park & Arboretum. My timing was off, this would have been much better had I arrived earlier when the sun was less harsh. This looks like a grand old farmhouse that lost its farm to suburban sprawl, but gained some gorgeous gardens. I was presented with the Murphy’s Law of Photography again when a city of Fremont truck drove up and the dude in the fluorescent orange jacket ran around cleaning up. I’m keeping the Shinn park in the back of my mind for a place to photograph again and maybe get a picnic in on one of the pleasantly shaded tables.
I headed back to familiar territory- Mission San Jose. Though I already have plenty in my photo library, I wanted to apply a few new techniques.
I headed back to Niles- more familiar territory and after a few snaps managed to find a happy hour sign. The restaurant- The Vine had a $2 off drinks on tap, and they had not just beer but wine on tap. I couldn’t resist. I walked in only to find a surprisingly empty restaurant. However continuing to the back I found a bustling patio and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals with a glass.
My next journey was only a couple miles in distance but a huge cultural shift. If Fremont is known for anything it’s its South Asian population. There’s a substantial number of Afghanis and lots of Indians, Pakistanis and other nationalities and those with roots in the Subcontinent. I’d visited San Jose’s Gurdwara a number of times. In addition to being really interesting to look at and a pleasant variation from the middle American ‘burbs- the Sikh places of worship are great to visit. One major reason is that people are super-duper nice! And they are not camera phobic. Guys with turbans typically come up and say hi and tell me to feel free to photograph.
But in this case in the Fremont Gurdwara in addition to all this- a gentleman introduced me as Sing came up and asked me if I wanted to see inside and have a meal? Well why not? He put a head covering on and handed me a dollar bill to drop into the offering inside. We chatted while sitting on the floor while I asked all the dumb questions about Sikhism and he did his best to answer. He then took me to the cafeteria and we drank chai and he gave me a few Indian sweets balls of sweetened ground chickpeas. I was a bit shy about taking any photos inside and don’t have a lot to show for this photographically, but it was an experience I really enjoyed.
Next stop I stumbled upon the California Nursery Historical Park- I believe this is a city park still in progress. On the site was a rose garden, not in the best of shape with an old faux windmill themed storage closet at the center. A bunch of fenced off delipidated greenhouses were off in another corner. There was also the a Vallejo Adobe off in the corner. The adobe building was fenced off and locked (as was the restroom next door unfortunately as I would have liked to have visited both.)
I’d hoped to get some of the neon Niles signs but they weren’t on- so last stop was the big Niles gate sign and I packed up and went home. But I’ll be back – no question!
*This just reminded me, the presumably old train station sign gives the elevation- relevant to my previous post. The centerville sign reads 57 feet- and I checked with the tool from my previous post: 57.126 feet. Not a whole lot of sinking below sea level.
Living in Alameda as I do- I have a tricky relationship with Oakland. For those not familiar with Oakland and Alameda let me give you the Cliff Notes version.
Oakland is a city about half the size of, and located across the bay facing east from San Francisco. It’s a beautiful city, full of architectural treasures and bustling urban textures and cultures. Oakland also suffers from a very high crime rate. By contrast Alameda is sleepy suburban island city that was separated from Oakland artificially to make way for a shipping channel for the Port of Oakland. Alameda is known for being very different from Oakland, despite being minutes away from Oakland’s urban core.
I really love Oakland, but am apprehensive of letting down my guard and drag my expensive camera gear along. Not in some areas- including some of the most beautiful: the hills, Mountain View Cemetery, Jack London Square. After signing up for a bunch of extra insurance and splitting up my camera kit, I’ve opted to venture into Oakland’s urban core and start documenting whatever we call the state of the city of Oakland now- between poverty and gentrification, dilapidation and renaissance, beauty and destruction.
Another area I’d covered in the last few days is around Lake Merritt. I’d done some research to find there are a few points of interest I was unaware of. For example, there’s a bonsai garden there. It happened to be closed (despite the stated hours) the first day I went but open the next. Also around Lake Merritt is Children’s Fairyland and the WPA gem of a Alameda County Courthouse.
I’ve got plans to go back, there’s so much to cover!