The Sidewalks of Silicon Valley?

BoxBot

Ok, we got the Streets of Silicon Valley covered (I even bought a domain with that name and have a separate blog there.) Then there’s the robot security guards in the parking lots. Well right around the corner from my house out on the sidewalks I’ve also met my robotic overlords.

BoxBot

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.

BoxBot

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?

Hangar 1 Distillery Tasting and Tour

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.

Distillery in Alameda, California
Posing under the Hangar 1 neon sign

We’ve lived in Alameda for a decade, but have never been to Hangar 1. A problem that was soon solved!

Distillery in Alameda, California
Hangar 1 Vodka tasting

I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but was quickly impressed with the variety of flavors.

Here’s what I saw:

Distillery in Alameda, California
Buddha’s Hand in a Jar
Distillery in Alameda, California
Peppercorns used to flavor Hangar 1 Vodka
Distillery in Alameda, California
Sample of the honey used for Hangar 1 vodka
Distillery in Alameda, California
The Hangar 1 Store
Distillery in Alameda, California
Hangar 1 Still and Decoy
Distillery in Alameda, California
Vodka tasting at Hangar 1

Salesforce Tower and Alameda NAS

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.

Port of Oakland
Port of Oakland

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.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

But being a weekend- there wasn’t too much going on.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

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.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

I made a point of framing for type- leaving room on the sides or top hoping for a future magazine or book cover.

Alameda, California
Pier with San Francisco in the Distance, Alameda, CA

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.

Alameda, California
Former NAS, Alameda, CA

The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind: Makani

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.

Makani Energy Kite

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.

Makani Energy Kite

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.)

Makani Energy Kite

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.

Makani Energy Kite

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.

Go Fly a Kite!

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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!

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)

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 More Models

Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Stock photo of a young man (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock photo of a young man (Michael Halberstadt)

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”.

Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait (Michael Halberstadt)

New Models: Bianca and Rachel

Portrait of Bianca under the Redwood Tree (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait of Bianca under the Redwood Tree (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Portrait of Bianca under the Redwood Tree (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait of Bianca under the Redwood Tree (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Potrait of Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait of Bianca (Michael Halberstadt)

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!

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Rachel &Bianca (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Portrait of Rachel (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Rachel with Mamiya C330 (Michael Halberstadt)

Thanks Bianca and Rachel!

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Rachel & Bianca

New Model: Gina

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

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!)

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

Thanks Gina!