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.)

 

One Tree Hill

(play this in the background if you like)

Extremely High Resolution Stock Photograph Landscape with Lone Oak Tree (ca. 20' x 12' @ 100 un-upresed) (Michael Halberstadt)
Extremely High Resolution Stock Photograph Landscape with Lone Oak Tree (ca. 20′ x 12′ @ 100 un-upresed) (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 

 

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)

Fremont- Beer and Church

Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)

In between two gigs in Fremont, I had some time to kill. So while eating lunch at California Craft Beer pouring room (with a sandwich from the Cheese Deli next door,) I opted to get a few stock photos in.

After a nice beer sampler, I got some exterior photos of the Mission San Jose across the street. After dropping $5 I got in and made some interior photos of the alter, chandeliers, and the cemetery in back.

The suburbs can be more interesting than we give them credit for.

Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)

Pao Hua buddhist temple in San Jose

Buddhist Temple in East Side San Jose, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Buddhist Temple in East Side San Jose, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

The suburbs can be more interesting than we give them credit. One of my favorite photo locations in San Jose is near where I spent much of my youth in the eastern suburbs of San Jose.

Surrounded by beige stucco houses and strip malls full of familiar chain stores is the Pao Hua buddhist temple.  Typically there are a monks around in orange robes sweeping. And unlike much of Silicon Valley, this is a photo friendly spot, they encourage photography!