After doing some homework, I found GM’s Cruise Automation garage in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. Two decades ago I worked not too far from the garage at Faulkner Color Lab. I think Faulkner collapsed in the first wave of the Dot Com hysteria of the late 1990’s and was leased to a pet food website.
In fact it was in this very neighborhood that I first experienced the graphical internet in the mid 1990’s at Icon Byte Bar and Grill. Prior to seeing the new W3 (World Wide Web) on Icon’s projection screen I got email on a command line browser over the phone line with a modem and a program called Pine, downloaded files with Gopher and Telnet. That was a long time ago!
Now SOMA is again at the forefront of technology. Here you can see GM’s Cruise Automation Bolts driving by. As is typical with these garages, they make a point of laying low. At least as best they can when trying to test out a billion dollar car research project in the middle of San Francisco! The garage still has the name of the previous company over the entrance.
As a photographer, I know I’m doing something good when the corporate lawyer walks across the street to talk to you 😉 A gentleman (after later researching I believe to be Matt Gipple,) asked if I minded letting him know what I was photographing. This happens a lot to me, and I really find it strange…. like you are in public, driving a car that is in dozens of news stories every day for a multi-billion dollar company working on a billion dollar project….. why wouldn’t you expect people photographing you???
In any case, here are the photos. I’ll be back to try and get some variety of locations and include the actual garage and any other relevant photos next time.
I’m hoping to make this a regular thing. I’ll put a month of stock photos up in a gallery, ideally at or near the end of that month. But alas, here’s last month’s edition.
In this edition:
Vacuum tubes, Cacti, a robotic barista, Alameda NAS at night, tugboats, Salesforce Tower, Union Square, MOAD, Pflueger’s Pacific Telephone Building, Pepper the Robot, Westfield Mall in SF, Yerba Buena, UBER self driving car, OTTO self driving truck, the Alameda Ferry, Alameda micro-brews, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, Santa Clara University and their self driving shuttle AURO, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, San Jose’s Main MLK library (including the Mozart room), and maybe some other stuff……
Truth be told, I was really out testing a new lens. I had just received a Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens and wanted to get a few test photos with my Sony A7RII and MC-11 kit. Uncharacteristically the weather here in Silicon Valley has been very wet and I had little chance to play.
So I made a quick trip to the Alameda side of Oakland Estuary, a spot with great views of the Port of Oakland with all the containership and tugboat traffic.
But being a weekend- there wasn’t too much going on.
So I headed over to Alameda’s “Booze Alley” a row of alcohol themed businesses facing past the old NAS runway with spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. I was just in time for the sun to drop past the almost finished Salesforce Tower (tallest building on the West Coast- or so I have read.) Standing on a bit of concrete debris I was able to get my new large lens over the fence in the Faction Brewing Company parking lot.
I made a point of framing for type- leaving room on the sides or top hoping for a future magazine or book cover.
After the sun went down, I drove further along the waterfront on the old decommissioned base and managed to get a few long exposures in.
After purchasing a lens, I found myself in San Francisco wondering what to do before going home. I pulled up my Google My Maps – and I have a map of stock photo related stuff to photograph in SF.
Not too far away was The Legion of Honor. I have fond memories of the place. My soon-to-be girlfriend and later wife Bridget and I flirted there on a field trip. My step dad and mom took us kids there for a visit to the museum and we picnicked out front.
This time I intended to make this a short trip. Traffic in the Bay Area is insane now, and I try to avoid driving over the Bay Bridge after 3pm or before 7pm. Fortunately I have reciprocal membership from the San Jose Museum of Art, allowing me to rush in-and-out of museums without trying to squeeze the last $15 out of the entry fee.
In any case I got a few good shots inside and out I think. But hope to return soon and spend a bit more time.
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d been meaning to get out and do something productive. This time I opted to head over to San Francisco. It was an overcast Sunday morning and I figured at least there’d be plenty of free parking. And in fact I found a decent spot right around from Google’s SF HQ (and Firefox that I actually photographed.)
From the Embarcadero I headed toward the San Francisco Ferry Building. I think that’s still a popular spot and thought a few aerial shots were in order. I got a few verticals in – even managing to get a bunch of patrons at the Market Bar to comment on my rig.
From there I headed for a straight on view. I got a few good shots in – I think at least. But I noticed something odd. Off to my left I saw a few people in military garb and Soviet flags flying. At first I thought it was some hipster kids who think Communism is cool, yet know nothing about the subject at all. Boy was I wrong. On arriving I heard one of my favorite old pinko tunes: Katjuscha (I know the DDR version.) In addition to the Soviet red flag with hammer and sickle, there were modern red, white and blue Russian flags and a our very own stars and stripes in the mix as well. I asked one of the ladies what the occasion was. Turns out they were celebrating Victory in Europe day (a day early- not sure if it was because they could have the day off or that’s how Russia celebrates their victory.) It was cool none-the-less.
The next aerial views I decided to try were the City Hall area. There was a movie being filmed there- adding lots of clutter and parking issues. But I did my best to hid that. There was also the Asian Art Museum and Library behind me that seemed stock photo worthy. And it turned out to be Farmer’s Market day at the United Nations Plaza. I got what I could.
For some reason I thought it was closer than it was, but I also thought the turn around for the cable cars area would be a good “from above” spot. And it was. I think these will sell- it’s a very common stock photo subject, but the aerial view is different enough I think to make my shots unique.
(this last photo is a link to my San Francisco gallery)
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.
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!
I still have to pinch myself. Did this really happen? Right before the official opening of the new Eastern Span of the Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge a friend let me in with his special access.
We drove around on an almost empty bridge free of all but construction and CHP traffic. We stopped pretty much wherever we wanted. Nights we could even set up our tripods right in the middle lane of the bridge and make long exposures.
My friends at Oakland Magazine previously got me press access onto the Bay Bridge on a wet and windy night to document the LED art installation. We could setup our tripods for this access, which was nice. But since there was still auto traffic, the bridge shook and long exposures were fruitless.
I could have kept shooting there for weeks if they let us. These are the views photographers like me find so beautifully frustrating: so beautiful, yet unattainable. It’s what we see stuck in traffic and think if only I could just park my car and pull out my camera.
My parting shot was a long exposure disturbed by a CHP call to “leave now” minutes before the official opening.
I decided to ferry/bike to an appointment in San Francisco recently and take my camera with me. Last time I drove through SF I noticed Mozilla had an office in what back in my day in San Francisco was Gorden Biersch brewery and restaurant. And Adobe has a presence in my old neighborhood near the train station. Not the most interesting of subjects, but glad to add more to my library.
Turns out the ferry/bike combo works well for stock and hope to do more soon.