Kensington and a couple of Botanical Gardens

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, CA

I knew that on of my clients was looking for photos of Contra Costa Parks so I opted to make a visit to Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Since there’s lots of color elsewhere in the Bay Area at the moment, I assumed there would be there too. Alas, as so often is the case, I was wrong. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a native plants garden, and I’m guessing those are on another schedule.

Not far away was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I remembered that my reciprocal NARM membership should get me in for free, and so it did. Visually, this garden offered much more. The stock photographer in me kept photographing the signs.

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I remembered a visit I made to the Medicinal Herb Garden in Seattle a couple years ago- this seems even more medicinal. There was a Chinese section that claimed to have herbs for cancer to pretty much everything else. But ironically, there were signs all over the place stating “Many Plants Here are Toxic, DO NOT EAT THEM!” Well so much for Chinese medicine!

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I’ve also been seeking out fountains recently that seem to work particularly well with my slightly aerial view setup. And I managed to check one fountain off my list: Berkeley’s “The Fountain at The Circle”.

The Fountain at The Circle

My next stop was Kensington. I stopped and got a coffee and almond halva at Country Cheese Co. Coffee Market. I have a knack for inserting my foot in my mouth, and while paying the pretty young woman at the cash register noted that she had a shirt just like mine (a dark green plaid) – I said I can’t picture that. What I meant was that she seemed far to chic to wear anything that resembled what I wear, but I’m sure she was left with the impression of what’s wrong with that guy! Not that this has anything to do with my stock photo blog, just getting this off my chest. Sorry miss!

Kensington

I’ve been a fan of Semifreddy’s croutons for some time. And I think they got their start in Kensington, though they now have a big bakery in my town of Alameda. Semifreddy’s has a retail location in Kensington and I stopped in and puzzled what to order. The young lady at the counter asked if I liked olives, (of course I do!) because they accidentally just made a vegetarian Muffaletta – so they made the decision for me (and it was good!)

Kensington

Faux Chateau & The Cats

Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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!

Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Creepy Statues at the “Love Temple”, Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)
La Cañada Building at night, Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Apparent scene of an early wheel theft ring, outside the former Forbes Mill Museum, Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Lone Jogger on a bridge along the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Los Gatos Theater, Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Los Gatos, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Los Gatos Old Town Sign (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Driving South (in praise of GPS)

Pacific Grove Seascape (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Pacific Grove Seascape (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Silicon Valley Sign, San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Chitactac-Adams County Park, Gilroy, CA (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Chitactac-Adams County Park, Gilroy, CA (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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!

Unusually Green Landscape of California near Gilroy, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Lone Cow and Unusually Green Landscape of California near Gilroy, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Unusually Green Landscape of California near Gilroy, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Wildflowers, Rocks and Unusually Green Landscape of California near Gilroy, California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)