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!

Catching up with San Jose

Toyota Prius hits the 100,000 mile mark (Michael Halberstadt)
Toyota Prius hits the 100,000 mile mark (Michael Halberstadt)

To be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping up. When I drive around shooting stock photos, there’s the not so glamorous side you don’t see. Keeping track of mileage, bookkeeping, image editing, keywording, uploading, downloading etc.

Sometimes things fall through the cracks. This blog is fun and cathartic for me at times. But its primary goal is to get images out on the Internet to be searched and found by picture editors. Looking at my Photoshelter account I realized that a few photos I wanted to get out there recently weren’t….

Close-up of map of Silicon Valley
Close-up of map of Silicon Valley

In any case I went down to San Jose to shoot stock recently. Actually a few times in the past couple weeks. Hopefully this shtick isn’t getting to stale, but my two new techniques were put to use. Both “pole aerial photos” from what I have been referring to my “selfie stick for ugly people” and my pano machine were put to task.

McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

One client I want to keep happy is Team San Jose. My contact there occasionally will give me a heads up when something interesting is going on in town. She mentioned that Fanimecon was coming to town again. Last year, I stumbled upon the event unwittingly. For those not familiar with Fanimecon, it’s some sort of gathering of people dressed up as Japanese Anime like characters. They run the full gamut from sexy Asian schoolgirl costumes to superheros I don’t recognize.

Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

My peeps met me down at my dad’s and we had some time to do some fun things and reminisce about our growing up in San Jose. When I was growing up we used to go to the back door at the Treat Icecream factory and get “pop tops” which is what they called the factory seconds where the lid didn’t seal properly. You can still get Icecream at the same spot, though they no longer offer the factory seconds. We didn’t visit treat’s factory, but did manage to get some Treat icecream from Treat Bot, a hipper icecream truck that offers Karaoke in lieu of Greensleves.

Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose
Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose

Somehow this whole story is out of chronological order, but we made it to one of my other favorite young adult spots, Gordon Biersch. When I was a lad way back in the 80’s I left for Germany as an exchange student. Before I left at age 17, you would have most likely seen me drinking a Big Gulp from 7-11. But when I came back a young man of 18, I had a taste for Hefeweizen (like we used to drink on our school lunch breaks) not for sugary sodas.  For those not old enough to remember, American beer in the late 1980’s tasted like slightly bitter mineral water. But this was just as  the wave of Craft Breweries was fermenting in the US. Gordon Biersch back then had fantastic German-style beers and great food. The food is no longer very good unfortunately, but their beer is still top notch. We had a rather strange experience with the service this time too. We wanted to sit and enjoy a beer in their courtyard. But the lady at the entrance was adamant that if we wanted only drinks, we’d have to go to the bar and sit out in a peripheral corner. There would be no table service for us! Jawohl! When we went to the bar we told the bartender we just wanted to order beers and we’d be bringing them to our table outside: he looked puzzled and said, why didn’t you order out there, I’ll just bring them out to you. Then a lovely waitress came by and ever so nicely asked us if she could do anything for us. But I thought there’d be no service, the lady out front was so strict… in any case. The beer is still excellent, the seating outside is great on a sunny day, and there are some strange folks running the place I guess.

Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose
Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose

….and getting back on the topic of photography and being way off in chronology again, I shot some panos. Thanks to my contact at Team San Jose I was reminded of a few good places for views of San Jose and Silicon Valley from above. I stopped at a pullout and waited for good light on a rare day with clear air and puffy clouds. Again the post processing is the painful part of photography that people don’t think of. And for panos the time and effort involved increases exponentially. To get these huge final images, I take anywhere from a dozen to 50 or so photos. The stitching software is amazing. But there are problems you’d never think of. Like where does one panorama end and the next one begin. Seems like it’d be obvious- in most cases it’s always gonna start with blue sky in the upper left. But the cell to the right of that and the one after that and after that all have blue sky.

(Please note I’m struggling with the best way to display large panoramas. The links below will take you to my Onedrive – which still won’t let me display full size.)

 

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……