Full Airspace over the Googleplex

Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)
Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)

Full Airspace over the Googleplex

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!

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

(With my apologies to The Smiths)

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

<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….

Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Buses and bikes in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Busses in Public Parking Lot, Silicon Valley, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

</end rant>

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

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.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Lorry I. Lockey Laboratory on the Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Stauffer Laboratories for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Hewlett-Packard Teaching Center, Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Hoover Tower/Stanford University Campus at night (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
The Chapel at Night Stanford University Campus (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

More Silicon Valley Shtick

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)
Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot (Michael Halberstadt)

After a gig in the South Bay I made a few stops to the regular hotspots today. First stop was Intel in Santa Clara. They’re basically the visitor friendliest tech company in Silicon Valley. Just happened I was driving past and thought for lighting reasons and to test out one of my lenses it might make a good stop.

My day started out a bit earlier than usual, and due to the angle of the sun and slight overcast, I thought it would be a good day to revisit the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley”, the HP Garage in Palo Alto. And once again I looped by the Googleplex, and found the cute little autonomous car nearby. And as usual they didn’t like me photographing/filming. I find that whole bit kinda funny- one of the world’s richest companies, testing their new product in a public parking lot. And not just any product, but a self driving car, news about which would interest a substantial portion of the world’s readership. Ironically given all the controversy of the Google Buses, there was a sign (I wish I photographed) prohibiting them. And Imagine if you or I were to drive a car with no plates in a public lot to test out ____?! Guess if you have billions of dollars you can close off a disused public parking lot and do pretty much anything 😉

In any case (and pardon my rant), it seemed today they were testing the new Google X car for bike and pedestrian safety. A couple of young women were apparently pretending to text and ride a Gbike in the path of the car. Another young lady appeared to pretend to be texting as she crossed an imaginary intersection. I’d be very curious to hear how all that works, not that they’ll discuss any of it with me. Like how can the car can figure out how fast a bike’s trajectory could enter the path of the self driving car.

Next stop was Facebook. I wanted to get a few shots of the sign from a few different angles. Not too exiting, but that’s my life.

Cheers from Silicon Valley….

SiliconValleyStock Sightings: The Telegraph-95pc of Britons Concerned About Safety of Driverless Cars

Found another photo of mine used in The Telegraph. This is one of my stock photos of Google’s driverless SUVs- in this case two passing each other in the opposite direction.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
The Telegraph-95pc of Britons Concerned About Safety of Driverless Cars

 

Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)

SiliconValleyStock Sightings

Finding where my photos end up being used can be tricky. I license photos directly, but also through third parties. I found this photo used in the Swiss newspaper Der Bund. It’s a photo of a street sign that leads into Google in Mountain View.

The title of the article in English reads “Half of the Jobs Disappeared”. It is an article interviewing the German journalist Christoph Keese about a book he wrote about Silicon Valley. Interestingly he was an exchange student in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s- I grew up in Silicon Valley and was an exchange student in Germany in the same time frame. Small world 😉

 

 (Michael Halberstadt)
(Michael Halberstadt)
Google Headquarters, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Headquarters, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

Video of the New Google Self Driving Car

I’m still working on my video skills, sorry they’re crap right now. But here’s a short snippet I caught of the new Google two seater self driving car in a Silicon Valley parking lot. Fortunately I did get some decent stills (see here.)

Stock Video Testing

Testing…..one, two, three, testing…….

I’ve been trying to grab a little stock video while I’m out doing the regular SiliconValleyStock schtick. Here are a few recent samples captured at the Googleplex in Mountain View AKA Silicon Valley. I just figured out how to display here on my site without going to Youtube or any of that sort of thing, so I might drop a bunch more on this site soon.

 

Another Glance at Google’s New Self Driving Car

Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

Once again I stumbled upon Google’s new self driving car. This time it was in yet another public parking lot, dodging between the controversial Google Busses that park there. And once again I could see the Googler’s working on the project were not happy about my presence. The “driver” made an effort to stay in areas that I had a hard time pointing towards. None the less this parking lot had some great vantage points, including some that showed the interior quite well too.

Where Android Statues Go to DIE

The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)
The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)

One of the most amusing things I’ve seen at Google was this “Android Graveyard”. Actually the sculptures are under renovation, I’m assuming they’ve been reassembled. But when I stumbled upon them, they were in pieces- jelly beans strewn on the lawn, Android robots sans arms and heads.

Google’s Self Driving Two-Seater

Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California, USA - 15 October 2014: Google Self Driving Car Prototype being Driven in Silicon Valley Parking Lot. (Michael Halberstadt)
Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California, USA – 15 October 2014: Google Self Driving Car Prototype being Driven in Silicon Valley Parking Lot. (Michael Halberstadt)

Google has been busy on their self driving cars. I was lucky enough to get a few stock photos in a Silicon Valley parking lot where this steeringwheel-less two seater was being tested. This is without-a-doubt the cutest of Google’s self driving cars. It allegedly has a maximum speed of 25mph, and I thought it wasn’t street legal in California- but that wouldn’t be this car appeared to violate. Of course if you’re a multi-billion dollar company, you don’t expect to abide by the same rules the rest of us do. 😉