Oops, I ran a little late setting up November’s “Guess Where Silicon Valley”. But alas, here it is. Where can you find a bamboo forest in Silicon Valley? And not just any bamboo forest, this is a testing ground for a variety of bamboo types.
Remember, as always the stakes are high. Winners may win my long lasting gratitude in addition to the pride of just being a geo-quiz winner.
I’ve had a good time documenting Google’s adorable little self driving pod car. Just having read that Waymo’s prototype was being retired I was reminded of chasing those cars all over parking lots and streets of Silicon Valley from nearly the beginning of the project.
It’s fun to see the progression over the years. The stubby LIDAR in the beginning, then the clear plastic dome, and later a black dome.
In the beginning when I first found the car being (illegally?) tested in a public City of Mountain View parking lot I got some grief from the testers for photographing their vehicle.
Later, as Google moved on to a new building and the prototypes became ubiquitous I could just sit on a park bench near their “garage” and wait for my subjects to come to me.
While the Chrysler self driving minivans may be more practical, frankly their aesthetically boring! The “pod car” design by YooJung Ahn really stood out as futuristic.
I wasn’t too keen on the “artwork” that was placed on the doors a few years back aesthetically speaking.
But the most recent “Firefly” with the Waymo logo on it and the lit teal bar on the door struck me as pretty cool.
Not that I planned it that way… I did start looking (for cherry blossoms) in two of San Jose’s Japanese landmarks, Japantown and the Japanese Friendship Garden. But the Japanese Friendship garden turned out to be closed, perhaps due to the recent flooding. And turns out the beautiful pink blossoms that are blooming in my neighborhood were plum trees, not cherry. I’ll have to return in a month or two.
So I walked around San Jose’s Japantown looking for stuff to photograph. I’d been meaning to add a few photos of the newish Japanese Museum. And I couldn’t help but get a few shots of the already well covered Buddhist Church. And as I do whenever I can, I stopped at an old familiar restaurant I’ve visited since my childhood: Kazoo.
And while thinking of gardens and trees in bloom, I thought of another place from my childhood. Right next to my high school, Independence HS on the East Side, there’s a park. I took a few photos there a few months ago, and it was really, really brown and dry due to the drought. Now it’s flooding in SJ, so I figured it would look a bit different, perhaps with some plum trees in blossom if I was lucky.
Well I was lucky- to some degree at least. There were a few pink blossoming trees next to an arch commemorating the Chinese Garden. The gardens themselves seemed kinda shabby. The main pavilion was still barricaded like the last time I visited months ago. And one big surprise for me was that the pond around the Confucius statue was completely empty. I assumed the last time I visited it was because of the drought, but alas there must be another reason.
Onward on my Asian journey, I made a stop to a favorite suburban gem that was built when I was growing up in the neighborhood: the Pao-Hua Buddhist Temple. I think this is mainly used by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese folks. I really like the walls of Buddhas especially. And the people there are so nice, a monk came up to me and encouraged me to continue photographing pointing out some details I should pay closer attention to.
All in all, it was a nice visit. I do know the way to San Jose, and enjoy taking that route.
I thought it’d be fun and go out and photograph a few versions of the same thing, like on a theme. I’ve also been exploring Oakland a bit more for the stock photo biz. So I opted to check out something new to me in Oakland. The theme I intended to follow was Rose Gardens from Oakland to Walnut Creek. But plans don’t always work out. My intended reconnaissance mission was then to see what I could of the secretive GoMentum automated car testing grounds in nearby Concord.
There are so many cool and hidden pockets of Oakland to surprise even those of us who’ve lived nearby for ages. The Morcom Rose Garden was yet another surprise for me. It was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project, which I find particularly cool. If it weren’t for Republican resistance, I think we could have had a modern wave of building innovation after the economic collapse that started under the Bush administration a decade or so ago.
In any case, Morcom has that WPA look. The buildings have that sort of Mission Revival ? style and the gardens are terraced in nicely symmetrical. Though I’m reasonably happy with some of the photos I took, this wasn’t the ideal time of year- I should come back in summer next year.
So, on to the next rose garden on the list. This was in Berkeley. Unfortunately for photographic purposes this was something of a bust. The lighting was less than ideal when I arrived. But more importantly some renovation was underway, so there were vehicles and orange plastic fencing etc ruining the aesthetic.
Ces’t la vie.
So next stop I had planned was Walnut Creek or Concord- I didn’t care what order. But as is often the case, I got sidetracked. From highway 4 I saw the signs for the John Muir National Historic Site. I was relieved to see a “free entry” sign at the front and went on in. Again, the lighting for the exterior was far from ideal.
Inside however there were a few fun finds. The ranger inside said to go on up to the top bell tower and ring away if I wanted. And I did. I got a bunch of bell photos thinking that they would be a good geo quiz type image. And though I had no tripod, I couldn’t help but shooting a few interiors.
It was late afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch or much of a breakfast, so I tried finding something in Martinez. But instead I found the handsome buildings downtown including a historic courthouse and post office and photographed them.
And then moved on to Concord, still hungry.
I drove around the Gomentum/old military base but didn’t see many gaps or any self driving cars. I’ll have to do more research. And I never made it to the rose garden in Walnut Creek. Guess that’s for another day.
In researching a client’s stock photo needs, I remembered a few photos from years ago. They are looking for weird western photos and a trip to southern California came to mind.
In both cases, I used props, something I seldom do with stock photography.
Back in 2010, (btw, it’s weird to say that, like shouldn’t we be on a moon colony for the last 10 years already?!) I had a gig down in Orange County. I drove down for that gig and had some time to travel around, including meet some friends on the way back in Beaumont.
My fun Orange County stock photos were taken at the (newish then?) Great County Park. I seem to recall having read something about a balloon ride on a giant orange balloon. What a cool idea! Especially in a city called “Orange” after all!
When I got there I found a nice tidy new park. But the balloon ride was shut down due to high winds. Bummer, I thought, it was soooo clear. Turns out they had a farmers’ market day at the park and I put 2 and 2 together. Wouldn’t it be fun to put a real orange in the foreground with the giant orange balloon in the background? I’m sure there’s a word for this sort of thing.
Later on my trip on my visit to friends at Beaumont I made a side trip to Cabazon. They have these life sized dinosaurs off the highway. I think this was originally a touristic distraction meant to get people to pull off the highway on their way to Palm Springs.
But if I remember correctly at some point it got bought out by some religious nuts who try and brainwash kids and dissuade them from science and learning evolution. In any case they make for some fun photos on their own. But I also bought a few little dinosaurs in the gift shop as props and once again placed them in the foreground with the full sized dinos in the back.
Reading my email this morning, I got an update from San Pedro Square Market mentioning festivities for their 5th Anniversary. Maybe it’s time for me to put up a few photos in their honor.
I was really glad to see the San Pedro Square Market completed. Having grown up in San Jose, I find myself defending its virtues to other Bay Area residents. San Francisco had made a marvelous transformation of the Ferry Terminal some years earlier. It seemed as usual that in the cultural department San Jose was in catch-up mode.
These and most of the photos you see on my site are available for license: email or call me, or outside the USA/UKyou can search and license here.
From the outside, Fremont is a sleepy suburban city in Silicon Valley. Well, honestly from the inside that’s more or less true too. Though with a few quirks that make Fremont a fun place to explore if you live in the area.
Dotted between the stucco homes and strip malls is a quirky views of America’s past and future.
My journies to the past this time included my first stop: the Pioneer Cemetery of Centerville. Centerville is a neighborhood in Fremont now, but I assume it was a town at one point judging by some of the headstone inscriptions listing place of death as Centerville. Frankly the place was a bit rundown- and there was a major construction site nextdoor preventing too much rest in that final resting spot. One headstone listed a guy who’s year of birth was in the 1700’s- something rarely seen on headstones here in the west.
From the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be an old train station behind me. Finishing up with the cemetery, I dragged my kit along to explore and low-and-behold it was a handsome little station that was converted to a cafe. The platform is still in use for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. On the other side of the tracks there’s a lovely little park with a covered historic railway waiting area.
All was good, well except for one thing. I was thinking about this- there has to be a series of Murphy’s Laws for photography. The rule in play here was the attraction of dirty, ugly or aesthetically unpleasant stuff to the most interesting landmark. It could be the workers in fluorescent orange jackets cleaning up, traffic cones, the strategically placed utility pole blocking the best view of a facade. However in this case, it was a pile of garbage in a shopping cart underneath the Centerville train shelter. Presumably left by a homeless person, who either abandoned it or was coming back at some point, the cart had a undersized adult bike (popular with the druggies) and most unfortunately a filthy large *RED* sleeping bag partially unfurled.
This really was a beautifully done park however aside from the crap and few druggies hanging out there. Wisteria draped off to the left and right of the shelter, and the old station was just across the way with a handful of waiting passengers. The sign atop the station and shelter reads: “Centerville – to San Francisco 40 1/10 m. – to Ogden 799 4/10 m. – Elevation 57 feet.“*
Otherwise the space was beautiful. I stopped in the cafe and got coffee and a snack. The lady inside said she recently bought the business. It was really cute inside as well, though empty- perhaps because the time of day- it was about noon on a workday. The coffee was really good, I’d definitely go back.
Next stop was the Shinn Park & Arboretum. My timing was off, this would have been much better had I arrived earlier when the sun was less harsh. This looks like a grand old farmhouse that lost its farm to suburban sprawl, but gained some gorgeous gardens. I was presented with the Murphy’s Law of Photography again when a city of Fremont truck drove up and the dude in the fluorescent orange jacket ran around cleaning up. I’m keeping the Shinn park in the back of my mind for a place to photograph again and maybe get a picnic in on one of the pleasantly shaded tables.
I headed back to familiar territory- Mission San Jose. Though I already have plenty in my photo library, I wanted to apply a few new techniques.
I headed back to Niles- more familiar territory and after a few snaps managed to find a happy hour sign. The restaurant- The Vine had a $2 off drinks on tap, and they had not just beer but wine on tap. I couldn’t resist. I walked in only to find a surprisingly empty restaurant. However continuing to the back I found a bustling patio and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals with a glass.
My next journey was only a couple miles in distance but a huge cultural shift. If Fremont is known for anything it’s its South Asian population. There’s a substantial number of Afghanis and lots of Indians, Pakistanis and other nationalities and those with roots in the Subcontinent. I’d visited San Jose’s Gurdwara a number of times. In addition to being really interesting to look at and a pleasant variation from the middle American ‘burbs- the Sikh places of worship are great to visit. One major reason is that people are super-duper nice! And they are not camera phobic. Guys with turbans typically come up and say hi and tell me to feel free to photograph.
But in this case in the Fremont Gurdwara in addition to all this- a gentleman introduced me as Sing came up and asked me if I wanted to see inside and have a meal? Well why not? He put a head covering on and handed me a dollar bill to drop into the offering inside. We chatted while sitting on the floor while I asked all the dumb questions about Sikhism and he did his best to answer. He then took me to the cafeteria and we drank chai and he gave me a few Indian sweets balls of sweetened ground chickpeas. I was a bit shy about taking any photos inside and don’t have a lot to show for this photographically, but it was an experience I really enjoyed.
Next stop I stumbled upon the California Nursery Historical Park- I believe this is a city park still in progress. On the site was a rose garden, not in the best of shape with an old faux windmill themed storage closet at the center. A bunch of fenced off delipidated greenhouses were off in another corner. There was also the a Vallejo Adobe off in the corner. The adobe building was fenced off and locked (as was the restroom next door unfortunately as I would have liked to have visited both.)
I’d hoped to get some of the neon Niles signs but they weren’t on- so last stop was the big Niles gate sign and I packed up and went home. But I’ll be back – no question!
*This just reminded me, the presumably old train station sign gives the elevation- relevant to my previous post. The centerville sign reads 57 feet- and I checked with the tool from my previous post: 57.126 feet. Not a whole lot of sinking below sea level.
Spring has sprung….or at least that’s what I thought. The cherry blossoms are blooming in my neighborhood. So I figured it was a good time to go and get some photos in Japantowns and Japanese gardens in the Bay Area.
I’ve been meaning to visit Hayward’s Japanese Garden for a while. So it was first on my list for today. What a surprise! Hayward’s Japanese garden was delightful. You’ll have to forgive me that I am so surprised…. It’s just Hayward isn’t high on any list of must visit sites. The garden was pretty large and quite pleasant indeed.
In addition to the koi fish I expected to see there were also plenty of turtles too. Unfortunately the cherry trees weren’t in bloom there. The bonsai trees were numerous and well groomed, I don’t regret having gone.
Next I drove on to Japantown in San Jose, the third remaining Japantown in the US. And once again, no blooming cherry blossoms. Ok, well I’ll visit San Jose’s Japanese Friendship Garden in Kelley Park. I drove into the parking lot and strike three….I’m out.
Guess I’ll try again in a couple weeks.
(on another note)
Some other business brought me to Sunnyvale. Returning to my car I noticed a street sign that read: Altair. For those not familiar with computer history, Altair is generally considered to be the first personal computer (PC.) The Altair was assembled by the purchaser and was extraordinarily primitive by today’s standards, inputs were made by switches and outputs were displayed on LED lights (if memory serves).
Since I actively seek out computer related signs for my photo library, I assumed that the street sign was honoring the historic computer- until I noticed the cross street sign is Aries. Bummer.
I also stumbled upon a tiny orchard in Sunnyvale, complete with old farm hardware. I remember when much of Silicon Valley was orchards and greenhouses, until about the 1990’s.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
….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.)
Past the Mc Mansions, the few remaining horse and cattle pastures, way up in the Eastern Foothills above the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley is an Open Space Preserve. The Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve affords fantastic views in two directions.
Looking down to Silicon Valley there’s a panoramic view only obstructed by what for a brief moment in this drought are emerald green hills. Look the other direction and you’ll see some what much of California looks like, or at least looked like before urban sprawl- rolling hills dotted with oaks.
I’ve been up here a few times, and have really fallen in love with the place. And as it happens it’s the perfect location for making extra-large stitched panoramas. For example, one of the images in the group is stitched from 48x21 megapixel photos. Opened up in Photoshop as 8bit that’s about 5 gigabytes of data. Of course much of that is honed down – overlap is required to successfully stitch all those images together.
Making these photos requires a few things. Patience, time, a subject that doesn’t move and lots of memory on my cards. Fortunately I had all four of those. The end result are images that could be enlarged to extremes. One file would print interpolated (not upresed) to 36’ x 8’ (ca. 10 x 2.5 meters) @100 ppi.
Now all I have to do is find a client that needs to make a really really big print.