Ok, I’m feeling lazy today … I’m just going to copy and paste a post from my other blog “The Streets of Silicon Valley.”
My adopted city of Alameda is a lovely little island in the bay between Oakland and San Francisco. Until recently doing my shtick as paparazzi to the self driving cars I had to drive down to San Jose/Mountain View/Palo Alto or San Francisco.
But now it looks like there’s plenty going on here on my island.
I already knew about Saildrone. They have a nice big sign on their hangar on the old former Naval Air Station.
But while drinking a glass of wine at Rockwall the other day, my wife Bridget pointed out a strange vehicle that drove out of another nearby hangar. Turns out it was a project I hadn’t heard of called “Robomart.” It’s some sort of adorable little van that is supposed to be hailed by a consumer, pop open and let them shop for groceries. An interesting idea, but it looks like so many of the Silicon Valley projects throwing stuff at a wall and hoping something will stick.
Then, yet another sighting – Zoox. Zoox was in the news recently and I saw their promo video. Zoox bills itself as a “Robo Taxi” seeming to set their target market at teenage boys. Their promo video (ad? advertorial?) was shot on the former runway facing San Francisco. I went over the morning after seeing the video, and as luck would have it, they were testing.
What should I call this- not a “staycation” maybe “workstay”?
All photos are copyright Michael Halberstadt (and the crappy text too 😉 And I have lots more photos
There’s an outfit called BoxBot testing a delivery robot. They don’t look too far along as far as autonomous-ness, there seems to be a human with a joy stick walking behind the orange small refrigerator on its back looking contraption.
None-the-less it’s fun to see a little of this autonomousness so close to home. Maybe I’ll place an order and see how it works?
A couple of friends joined my wife and me to go to Faction Brewery in my fair Island City of Alameda. Unfortunately there was a festival with a $60 per person entry fee. We ditched Faction and our friends were curious about Hangar 1 nearby.
We’ve lived in Alameda for a decade, but have never been to Hangar 1. A problem that was soon solved!
I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but was quickly impressed with the variety of flavors.
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.
I was headed out the door of my place in West Alameda planning to head off and photograph a nearby building. But I heard a mysterious humming sound, a sound I’d struggled to figure out what it was for some time in the past.
Heading over to Rockwall one day not long ago the mystery was revealed. Right across from the USS Hornet Museum I stumbled upon a small plane or large prop driven drone looking device.
Some research later and I found that that “drone” was actually a Google X project (or Alphabet, or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or whatever they are calling themselves now-a-days.)
Google bought this oddball alternative energy company in Alameda called Makani. Their project is what they dub an “energy kite” and it looks alot like a prop plane and blows around in windy areas and generates energy. Or that’s how I understand it.
But once again I wanted to get a little stock photography and video of the thing actually running. Unfortunately it seemed they were winding down as I got there, but it was a different looking “kite” this time.
It’s no wonder Google is changed their name to Alphabet. Their business endeavors are a veritable alphabet-soup so as to have a hand in just about every subject under the sun. I’m a regular chaser of self-driving cars and do my share of stalking the Googleplex and document other Google’s fingers in various pies.
But Google also has a project within earshot of my house on my fair Island-city of Alameda. They bought out Makani- an alternative energy company that has an unusual way of generating wind energy. The concept basically is flying up a “wind kite” that once reaching a high-ish altitude where the wind is stronger and spins around sucking up more wind energy while tethered to the ground.
Today Makani was testing out one of their kites when I was driving back from a meeting at Rockwall. They even started up the engines- and I realized then the sound of which was one of the mysterious sounds we occasionally hear at our house!
I took the opportunity to get a few shots (and even some crappy stock video) of the tests in action. I spied a colorful Google bike way off in corner of the lot complete with a pirate flag and parked nearby to get a shot of the bike and kite together.
There I noticed a gal in a blue hardhat with a video camera and a dSLR pointed at the kite. She came over and we had a nice chat. I’m so used to the Google people shouting (figuratively) “get off my lawn!” So it was a pleasant change of events. In any case she introduced herself as Andrea and a quick search came up with her blog… check it out here.
Yet another day of stock portrait shoots to report. I had a busy day of three different models: Yami, Martin and Josh. It occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned another model I worked with too…Tre.
The stock photography model shooting has been pretty intense. I’m not used to working with people like this. And I’ve never met anybody prior to our shoots so it’s kind of like getting to know somebody and only having an hour or two to get a sense of their “look”.
In the end I feel like I’m learning something. This hasn’t been a particularly lucrative endeavor, at least yet. But while learning to work with models I hope to improve my skills and find what stock photography does sell.
The second model I’d scheduled in this casting was Bianca. I felt especially good about photographing her. Not only because she had a nice look, but because all her sample photos were just random photos with other people cropped out. I felt in addition to getting some nice new photos in my library, I’d hoped I’d also be helping her build her portfolio.
From first shoot with Gina, I’d also learned a bit. I still didn’t have all the lighting gear I wanted to test, so once again I was using “nature’s softbox” (in other-words a big gray sky.) Some photos from the Gina shoot stood out when using certain gear- so I tried to use the longer telephoto lens to compress the scene and blur the background. One of my smaller cameras also seemed to work really well in keeping the eyes in focus while blurring the background too. So I tried to concentrate on what worked before.
In the middle of our shoot I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. Dooh! I’d actually scheduled a second model and put the wrong time on my calendar!
Bianca and I met Rachel, the other model…. Now what to do? We opted to do a few shots together with the two models. It may have been a bit weird for them at first but they did a great job playing friends. And they made a nice contrast too. Bianca is caucasian with blonde hair and green eyes and Rachel is Asian with black hair and brown eyes.
I had another idea- to use some props. I’ve taken up shooting medium and large format film – I had my Mamiya TLR in the car and pulled it out and asked the two of them to take turns pretending to photograph one-another. The prop really seemed to disarm the two of them and get really nice natural smiles and expressions. I also took a photo of each of them on film which I have yet to develop. If those photos turn out I’ll add here and get copies to my wonderful models.
Recently I’ve been hiring models. There are a few reasons- I want to add something different to my stock photo library. I also need to hone my people photography skills for when they really count. So often I have a shoot and find myself fumbling with concepts I could have worked out when I wasn’t under alot of pressure. Having a large diverse library of people also seems to help getting my foot in the door for some gigs too.
In my most recent casting, my first model was Gina. She’s got a great look and was a real pleasure to work with.
On the unfortunate side,I found right before my shoot that all the lighting gear I meant to test was at my dad’s so we worked under natural light. Not to say that’s bad, but part of what’s in this for me is sorting out the lighting options. On the plus side with El Nino we had a giant softbox overhead (heavy overcast!)
Gina had a number of looks and outfits that played well for the shoot. We shot in a local park here in Alameda. All of the scenery was nature- which was nice. But I also wanted a mix of urban as well. Gina offered to do another shoot that I wanted in her neighborhood in San Francisco and I hope to make that happen after I’m done going down the list of all the great folks who’ve replied to my modeling request.