I Wanted to Mansion Something

Continuing my Oakland focus (and seeking appropriate subjects that also work for VeryHighDPI.com) I headed out to the historic Dunsmuir Mansion. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about it other than having seen photos of the building and thought it looked nice.

Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So I drove out there – turns out there is further away than I thought out in the outer reaches of Oakland near the zoo and near the San Leandro border. When I arrived, the gate was closed and I went online only to find that the place didn’t open until 11am- another half hour or so.

Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

I sat in the car and perused maps, a travel app TravelWithMe which came with my Maps.Me app and Foursquare. I figured I’d use the time to see what else is out there. And low-and-behold I found another location deeper in the burbs. There’s a beautiful mansion in Hayweird I’d never even heard of: Meeks Mansion.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Well, my time had come, it was 11am and I drove to the gate which was still closed. And I waited 10 minutes or so assuming the gate would open. But it didn’t. So I called the number on the webpage and a lady informed me that there are two gates. Alright, problem solved I guess- though I’m not sure why there’d be a gate with a big sign reading Dunsmuir Mansion on it that stays closed and an entrance that says Dinkelspiel House that’s the actual entrance, but hey, whatever.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

This is yet another unexpected Oakland experience. The Dunsmuir Mansion is a handsome bit of architecture. And it’s about as un-urban as you could imagine- on a quiet and lush ground with only the hum of the freeway in the background.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So I got a few shots and panos in of the Dunsmuir mansion and booked it over to the Meeks Mansion about 20 minutes away in Hayward. I’d add that hashtag that I’ve been playing around with: #thesuburbsaremoreinterestingyouthink.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com) p.s. Graphic Designers, look – room for type

Sure, San Francisco has the bulk of the attractions in the Bay Area. But it has far more than its share of tourists. For those seeking a slight detour from the beaten path, some of these suburban gems might make more sense than being trampled by camera wielding outsiders.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

New Unique Stock Photo Galleries added to the Library

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:

San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo of Slightly Elevated view of Cable Car turnabout – San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.)

Seattle (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Slightly Elevated view of the Original Starbucks, Seattle (Michael Halberstadt)
Extremely High Resolution Stock Photograph Landscape with Lone Oak Tree (printable at ca. 20' x 10' @ 100 ppi un-upresed) (Michael Halberstadt)
Extremely High Resolution Stock Photograph Landscape with Lone Oak Tree (printable at ca. 20′ x 10′ @ 100 ppi un-upresed) (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Silicon Valley Skyline (prints about 5’x11′ @100ppi uninterpolated) (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo of the 9th Ave. Terminal (Brooklyn Basin) Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Bay Bridge Stock Photo (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
You Can’t Take this Photo anymore (taken from the demolished old section)Bay Bridge Stock Photo (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Bank of America (former Bank of Italy) Landmark Historic Building in downtown San Jose (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Embarcadero BART Station (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Embarcadero BART Station (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Wish me luck!

A Few New Stitches

In addition to pole dancing in Cupertino, I managed to get in a few stitched panos. I’d been trying to think of where. Down in San Jose one of my favorite motifs is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. It’s the kind of architecture that if they were building it now, I’d consider tacky: Mock buildings made to look ancient Egyptian in style but with stucco and modernish materials. But somehow with almost a century passing there’s a quaintness to the style. Plus it has really nice gardens.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
High Resolution Panorama of San Jose’s Egyptian Museum (prints @ ca. 40×10 feet @100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt)

Being a Monday the museum was closed. Which for stitched photos is a plus. The fewer changes in the scene over the two minutes it takes to make all the dozens of individual photos the more likely it is to work. The overcast weather kept the contrast down which is another important consideration on images with such a wide field of view. Though it worked in my favor, I was really surprised how little foot traffic there was. On this beautiful block in the wonderful and safe Rosegarden neighborhood there might have been a total of six pedestrians that passed me.

And speaking of the Rosegarden neighborhood, the namesake garden is just a couple of blocks away. I setup for a pano there but as is often the case ended up trying to explain what I was doing to several curious photo enthusiasts. It’s really strange explaining why something as beautiful as a huge rosegarden in full bloom is difficult to capture. But it really is. In addition to the technical challenges the subject is one that the viewer kind of immerses them self in, not a single mental image but the entirety of the experience. At least at ground level. Esthetically I prefer the pole shots I made there the day before. But enough excuses.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Niles Depot in Fremont (prints at ca. 30 x 10 @ 100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt) SEE DETAIL EXAMPLE FURTHER DOWN IN STORY

I had another idea for a nice wide shot….. Fremont is one of those places. It’s the suburbs. Yet much more interesting than most. One interesting area is Niles. Charlie Chaplin filmed movies back before Hollywood had a near monopoly on film. Perhaps one reason he chose Niles was the abundance of rail lines. Any good silent film needs plenty of rails to tie a maiden to prior to being saved. At the center of this lovely little neighborhood now is an elegant train station and park. The station I believe has been converted to a museum, and I don’t think serves passengers anymore. But it is still on an active rail corridor.

Stitching all these photos together can lead to some odd results. Instead of capturing 1/60th of a second in one go, it’s capturing 1/60th of a second representing the upper left, then a second or so to move the camera, then 1/60th of a second over slightly. Trying to predict what will happen in the two or so minutes is part of the game. And surprises happen, sometimes pleasant surprises. In my first go, an Amtrak train passed by. It wasn’t there in the first frames that started on the left and moved rightward. In the end the only part that showed was the very front of the locomotive between two pillars! In reality if that frame showed the entire scene in that moment in time you’d see more of the locomotive and perhaps a train car on the left. I think I reshot a frame to be able to fix error, but I like the non-realistic result.

Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of Amtrak Locomotive (FYI: this section would print at 20×24″ @ 100ppi)

Heading back home, I opted to stop and photograph in Hayward. Another stop not on your typical Bay Area photo trail. But there’s a beautiful Moderne city hall abandoned on a main street

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Historic Hayward City Hall, Hayward, CA (prints at ca. 17×8 feet @ 100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt)

The suburbs are more interesting than you think……

Wardrobe Malfunction Caught on Camera in Sacramento

See inset for area of resolution sample
See inset for area of resolution sample (this file is not at final size but downresed to display on your computer)
Resolution sample comparison
Resolution sample comparison: 

Quick, somebody call the FCC! Much like Janet Jackson, there is in fact a bare breast exposed on this photograph of the California State Capitol. The woman is over 140 years old.

You’d be forgiven for not having noticed it. With the naked eye or an ordinary camera it’s barely visible. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my theatrical blog post as well. But it gives me a chance to show the differences between the detail in an ordinary photograph and what’s possible with a super high resolution stock photo like the examples here.

Exhibit A: the whole field of view highlighting the inset shown in Exhibit B. This photo would print natively (without upresing in Photoshop) at ca. 250” x 165” @ 100ppi (or ca. 20 x 14 feet!)

Exhibit B: The image on the left is what a print would look like at 100 ppi at size. The middle image is a simulation of the resolution of a 80 megapixel image (like that from the medium format Hasselblad back that costs over $30,000). The image on the right simulates the resolution of a 36 megapixel image like that of the Sony A7r, or the Nikon D800 family of cameras.


Go Ahead…. Call It Frisko

With my apologies to Herb Caen

Ultra High Resolution Panoramic Stock Photograph of San Francisco from Above (prints at ca. 15' x 5' @100ppi un-upresed) (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Ultra High Resolution Panoramic Stock Photograph of San Francisco from Above (prints at ca. 15′ x 5′ or 5 x 2.5 meters  @100ppi un-upresed) (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

After a previous engagement in The City I pulled out my pano machine and got to work. Requests for extra high resolutions stock photos of the City by the Bay are common and it was a clearer than average day in the Bay Area.

Originally I planned to head over to the Golden Gate Bridge and shoot from both the Marin and San Francisco sides. But as I saw traffic building up in front of me, and coincidentally looked up to the iconic Sutro Tower I changed my mind. And off to Twin Peaks I drove.

The top of Twin Peaks wasn’t the only thing that was high up top. As I did a quick site and wind survey the pot smell was as strong as I’d guess one would smell on the set of a Cheech and Chong movie. But my real problem was the wind. Gusts rip over the peak from the Pacific Ocean behind me. My pano machine is pretty sturdy, but not enough to stay still for the one second exposures I anticipated making when the winds approached hurricane speeds.

A short time after the sun set, the light got really nice. I hunkered down right below the parking area below seeking a spot that was partially sheltered from the wind. In addition to the benefits of reduction in wind, I found myself about three feet below the tourists posing with the city in the background right behind me. At one point I turned around to find myself only inches from the bum of a very attractive gal 😉 My method of protecting my rig from wind gusts did work, but must have looked quite awkweird. I opened my jacket, and stood as close as I could to the setup without obscuring the lens. I look weird enough without all my camera kit. But this must have appeared especially odd if viewed from the wrong angle, reminiscent of this poster that was pinned up in Mr Bernucci’s photo class at my old high school.

But then again, Frisko is full of all sorts of strange characters. I might just fit in!