Going back in the archives, sometimes I find a photo I especially like. This photo of the Google Android Robot statue was taken back in 2012. Back then the statues were in a spot that was especially bad. They were almost constantly backlit, and constantly muddy ground despite the long drought in California.
I’m not sure why the Droid is surrounded by cones and caution tape. Maybe they just did a paint touch up?
In any case a couple years later they moved all the old statues to a new location (I was fortunate enough to have caught while still in preparation) that I refer to as the “Android Graveyard.”
Now the new mascot (presently Nougat) is at the entrance to the main building at the Googleplex. The old one is “buried” at the “Android Graveyard” a block or so away.
Discussion abounds about the future of driverless cars. Uber is testing self-driving Volvos in Pittsburg, Google has had a program going on for quite some time in Silicon Valley. Rumors of Apple testing a vehicle at Gomentum have abounded for some time (there’s got to be an Apple joke in there, like they couldn’t get it to work because the power plugs kept changing!)
Thing is, these cars can’t really work at present, at least in the US.
Let me elaborate. The technology is amazing, and full of promise. And self driving cars could work with a human to step in. But the United States is a special case as a first world country. We have some pretty strict laws on the books as you’d expect of an advanced democracy. But we don’t enforce lots of those laws, as you would expect from a developing country.
Self driving car manufacturers can not take our chaotic streets in to account. The law as written in the vehicle code says that to proceed a vehicle must wait for the intersection to be clear of pedestrians. Yet anybody who’s been on a busy big city street in the US knows the whole town would shut down if all the laws were actually obeyed. When I drive in San Francisco, say on Market Street wanting to make a right turn on one of the busier intersections, there are literally hours a day where it would not be legally possible.
Some percentage of pedestrians wait for their light to turn green, but many do not, and the intersection at some times of day simply is never completely clear. Cars and trucks routinely double park, making drivers cross over double yellow lines against the law. Posted speed limits are also meant as a legal maximum, yet are treated as a minimum by most drivers.
Crime in the US is also another issue making the use of a truly autonomous car dangerous in many parts of the US. Just imagine that cute little google car, with the plastic windows driving in a bad part of any big city in America. Remember, this car has to obey the law, and the rest of the world does not. And they’re talking about not even having a steering wheel for a manual override. So two people could easily completely stop a true autonomous vehicle, simply by stepping in front and behind it. This could be done just to be a jerk because they think it’s funny- it could be used to intimidate the driver occupant, or presumably a third thug could remove the driver occupant(s) from the vehicle with little difficulty rob, plunder or do whatever criminals do.
While I can see a fully autonomous vehicle actually working in Japan, Korea, certain parts of northern Europe and a few other spots, I can’t imagine a vehicle sans-steering wheel succeeding here. Like so many other brilliant inventions that started here (think of the Bullet Trains, or fast internet for example) our culture of chaos is great at creating ideas- then letting other cultures apply those ideas to daily life.
I was headed out the door of my place in West Alameda planning to head off and photograph a nearby building. But I heard a mysterious humming sound, a sound I’d struggled to figure out what it was for some time in the past.
Heading over to Rockwall one day not long ago the mystery was revealed. Right across from the USS Hornet Museum I stumbled upon a small plane or large prop driven drone looking device.
Some research later and I found that that “drone” was actually a Google X project (or Alphabet, or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or whatever they are calling themselves now-a-days.)
Google bought this oddball alternative energy company in Alameda called Makani. Their project is what they dub an “energy kite” and it looks alot like a prop plane and blows around in windy areas and generates energy. Or that’s how I understand it.
But once again I wanted to get a little stock photography and video of the thing actually running. Unfortunately it seemed they were winding down as I got there, but it was a different looking “kite” this time.
A while ago I wrote a little piece about the new “Android Graveyard.” Google had a sculpture garden in front of a more prominent building on the Googleplex. They moved all their sculptures (I caught them in pieces getting touch up job in the last post.) Now they are in an out-of-the way corner in a peripheral building near the Google-central.
What Google started doing was unveiling a new sculpture with each OS release. Android operating system releases are named after sweets. Now with the birth of a new OS, there’s a death and a sculpture is added to the Android Graveyard.
This time came was the the birth of Nougat, and the death of Marshmallow.
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.
It’s no wonder Google is changed their name to Alphabet. Their business endeavors are a veritable alphabet-soup so as to have a hand in just about every subject under the sun. I’m a regular chaser of self-driving cars and do my share of stalking the Googleplex and document other Google’s fingers in various pies.
But Google also has a project within earshot of my house on my fair Island-city of Alameda. They bought out Makani- an alternative energy company that has an unusual way of generating wind energy. The concept basically is flying up a “wind kite” that once reaching a high-ish altitude where the wind is stronger and spins around sucking up more wind energy while tethered to the ground.
Today Makani was testing out one of their kites when I was driving back from a meeting at Rockwall. They even started up the engines- and I realized then the sound of which was one of the mysterious sounds we occasionally hear at our house!
I took the opportunity to get a few shots (and even some crappy stock video) of the tests in action. I spied a colorful Google bike way off in corner of the lot complete with a pirate flag and parked nearby to get a shot of the bike and kite together.
There I noticed a gal in a blue hardhat with a video camera and a dSLR pointed at the kite. She came over and we had a nice chat. I’m so used to the Google people shouting (figuratively) “get off my lawn!” So it was a pleasant change of events. In any case she introduced herself as Andrea and a quick search came up with her blog… check it out here.
It’s been awhile since my last posting. One of the snags I ran into involves some Microsoft products, I subscribed to Office 365 for the promised unlimited storage only to find the limit was 1tb. I had switched to using MS Word to write these and other posts. I was also in the process of digitizing my slide library which is stuck where I left off when I couldn’t upload anymore.
In any case, it’s more of the same. I’ve been stalking Google, especially their self driving cars. There seems to be a lot of interest in the editorial market for such photos. Following a few news stories I figured out where the Google X labs are and how to find the self driving cars. I’ve contacted the press agents for both Stanford and Audi trying to get official access to their self driving car projects, but didn’t get the answer I was hoping for. Think I’ll have to stalk them too. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my crappy videos I made as well.
Turns out Google has a presence I didn’t know about here in my fair town of Alameda too. One of their X projects is an “energy kite” that blows around in the wind and gathers electricity. Google bought out Makani out on the old Naval Air Station. At one point heading back from Rockwall, we saw one of the kites out on a mast being worked on.
I’ve been trying to combine shticks and raised the pole up a few more places including Ebay in San Jose (right on the Campbell border). I spent an afternoon walking around downtown San Jose and the SJSU campus with the pole as well.
Via a stock request site there was a flurry of requests for Monterey. I was working down there anyhow not too long ago, and made a second trip to try my hand at a stock video request. As it has been slow recently I’ve also been going through old video clips and cleaning them up and uploading to YouTube. My video experience is pretty limited, but I’m amazed at the technical quality that one can get with a tiny off the shelf mirrorless camera.
I went up to the Mormon Temple in Oakland on a particularly clear day. And after some rare cloud and rain action, I returned the next evening. Got some good San Francisco, Oakland cityscapes. I’d known about the location for some time but forgot how wonderful the view can be. And for Oakland it’s a safe place and apparently they are photo friendly there.
There was a request I read about looking for stock photos of the Pacific Heritage Museum. I opted to take BART and combine a few projects. I also have a client that advocates for regional planning and public transport. I had already spent an afternoon shooting stock video and stills of the Oakland Airport Bart extension. But this time I opted to drive down to San Leandro, park (for free) and use my virgin Clipper Card to BART into the City.
I was really surprised how much I liked downtown San Leandro. It’s an old blue collar Catholic suburb south of Oakland. After finding a good all day parking spot about five minutes walk from the BART station I came across the Casa Peralta. It’s the once grand house of a family that had the Spanish land grant. The building has a funky aesthetic, lots of custom Spanish tiles portraying Spanish history. Many of them are broken. But the thing I was especially impressed by, is that it’s neither all spruced up, nor completely dilapidated.
That’s to say, so many cities that aren’t that rich in history are making these little footnotes of architectural heritage into a centerpiece that’s been all glammed up. Or on the opposite end of that spectrum, cities with big crime problems have these great architectural gems that have been not only neglected but purposefully abused. As an example I drove past the old train station in Oakland the other day, passing the historic 16th Street Station vandalized and covered in graffiti. Casa Peralta stood proudly middle class between those two extremes.
Funny thing was when I got to the Pacific Heritage Museum, it was in the middle of changing out exhibits. The walls were empty. It’s kind of an interesting space, rich in history. But I think I can mark this down as a fail. I also walked over to the Wells Fargo History Museum and took some photos.
The most likely success of that day was the photos of the interior of the Ferry Terminal. That’s still a popular subject. The little mirrorless camera thing has greatly improved what I can do in such circumstances. Years ago I photographed from the same vantage points with my Canon 5d. One of those photos managed to get in a National Geographic publication, which sounds alot more interesting than it was. Thing is without a tripod I couldn’t get some of the shots I was looking for. With this little camera, I have a little bean bag that I can rest on things like the railing and make long exposures and video.
In the tear sheets department, I’ve noticed something curious. The tiny amount of medium format film photos from a vacation I took to New Orleans in 1999 have been surprisingly successful. The same photo that was licensed for a Dutch translation of RJ Ellory’s “A Quiet Vendetta”, I just found being used as the cover for the York notes guide to Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Once again, none of this is in chronological order. The contents are as I remember things and may not be accurate. Read at your own risk.
This year our family vacation involved a trip to the Pacific Northwest. To give me a little flexibility to do some work too, I drove up and met my family at the airport a couple days after my departure. Though Seattle is a pretty public transit friendly place, having a car really afforded me the flexibility to venture out where ever I wanted and to take the pole along with me.
I’ve often heard that it is cold and rainy in Seattle. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but once again that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I think it’s just a ploy from Seattleites to keep us out of their beautiful city. My two weeks there were not only nearly entirely sunny, but hot, hot, hot! I even managed to get a nice sunburn swimming out on Lake Desire.
My brother who we were staying with lives in Renton, a suburb of Seattle. Turns out there is one stock photo worthy spot in town. The final resting place of Jimi Hendrix is located in town at the Greenwood Memorial Cemetery. I was a big fan as a young man, but guess I’ve heard the his popular songs too many times. As it happened there was a funeral in progress as we arrived right across from the memorial. That made it a bit akweird to photograph. But we waited a half hour or so and I managed to even get some pole shots in there too.
I’ll spare you the boring family vacation details as best as I can. But part of our trip was spent on Vashon Island. It was a pleasant enough, and a good reason not to do a lot of photography. I did manage to get a few shots in. Mainly of the Bicycle tree (an old bike that a tree grew around,) and the Point Robinson Light House. I also managed to score at a local thrift store on Vashon and among other lenses came home with a 500mm mirror lens for $22. I’ll be doing a little piece on that on my Lensbusters.com site.
Later while my two gals went to visit the Pacific Science Center I trolled around the Seattle Center neighborhood for photo ops. The Frank Gehry designed EMP museum, the Armory, Chihuly garden, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Space Needle were all in my radar. I stumbled upon an awesome playground: the Artists at Play Playground with the Gehry curved metal building in the background. The pole made for some unusual views not only of the playground, but I could peer over the hedges blocking clear views of the Chihuly garden and view over like a periscope. Also on our trip we did a walk around the Olympic Sculpture Garden. There was a giant white head (besides mine of course) looking out on the waterfront that made for a few good shots.
When I dropped my girls off at the airport I got a couple productive days of shooting stock as well. I spent a day covering some landmarks in the Fremont neighborhood. I originally wanted to employ the pole to look down at the Lenin statue. But when I arrived it was half in sun, half in shade and was the target of vandalism.
In Seattle, I managed to cover some other landmarks when I wasn’t on family duty. A couple years ago my sister-in-law who’d already lived in Seattle for a decade or so showed me some of the awesome sites. I returned to a few of them like Volunteer park to photograph the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Arboratorium. And still on a plant kick, I found the Medicinal Herb Garden listed on Google Maps- now that sounded like a stock-op if I’d ever heard of one. Turns out that was on the gorgeous University of Washington Campus that also served well as a stock photo location of interest.
I managed to get a little of the Silicon Valley Stock shtick in too. Turns out that in the Fremont area there’s what’s dubbed “Silicon Canal”. Google has their “waterside” campus and there’s a heavy presence of Adobe Systems as well. It so happened that was a Sunday and I got some aerial views of the famous Fremont Sunday Market- celebrating its 20th anniversary this year I read somewhere. I also tried to get some photos of the Amazon Headquarters- actually I did. But there’s no signs to make the photos look interesting. Maybe being anonymous was the point, Amazon was in the international news for their controversial treatment of workers at the time.
Another stock photo highlight of the trip post family was the Center for Wooden Boats and the other attractions nearby. There’s a handsome MOHAI museum building, a few historic ships on display and a Seaplane port all in the same vicinity of Lake Union. At one point I was working on doing a book on tugboats that I left dangling, but there was an important tug Arthur Foss on display as well.
What else did I forget? There was the Frye Museum, that was fun and free (with free parking to boot.) I should have also mentioned the Bolton Locks- fish ladders and all. Somehow I forgot to mention the fun and quirky Georgetown neighborhood as well. I also omitted the original Starbucks and the Bubblegum Wall near the Pike’s Market.
Unrelated to my Pacific Northwest journey I photographed a model, Taylor right before leaving. Some of those photos turned out quite well and we’ll see if they’re saleable. I also stumbled upon a Google Street View car while running errands.
If you read this far I’m amazed you’re still awake. Thanks for visiting!
On a recent trip to Google’s sprawling campus in Mountain View I had an odd encounter. Unfortunately I wasn’t well situated to document what I saw. As I was trying to get my own aerial view a crew of three showed up right next to me and plopped a drone on the ground.
For safety reasons I retracted my rig and moved over. One fellow donning a hard hat had a tether that was attached to said drone. The got it started and walked into the Quad area. I’m assuming they are Google X people, I can’t imagine that security would have let a setup like that in the belly of the beast if they weren’t at least Googlers. And in my handful of photos, I could zoom in and see a badge tucked into one of the fellows pockets.
Are they competing with Amazon? Just doing this for pure research? Fun? I don’t know.
All I do know is they got at least twice as high up as I did!