I Wanted to Mansion Something

Continuing my Oakland focus (and seeking appropriate subjects that also work for VeryHighDPI.com) I headed out to the historic Dunsmuir Mansion. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about it other than having seen photos of the building and thought it looked nice.

Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So I drove out there – turns out there is further away than I thought out in the outer reaches of Oakland near the zoo and near the San Leandro border. When I arrived, the gate was closed and I went online only to find that the place didn’t open until 11am- another half hour or so.

Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Dunsmuir House, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

I sat in the car and perused maps, a travel app TravelWithMe which came with my Maps.Me app and Foursquare. I figured I’d use the time to see what else is out there. And low-and-behold I found another location deeper in the burbs. There’s a beautiful mansion in Hayweird I’d never even heard of: Meeks Mansion.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Well, my time had come, it was 11am and I drove to the gate which was still closed. And I waited 10 minutes or so assuming the gate would open. But it didn’t. So I called the number on the webpage and a lady informed me that there are two gates. Alright, problem solved I guess- though I’m not sure why there’d be a gate with a big sign reading Dunsmuir Mansion on it that stays closed and an entrance that says Dinkelspiel House that’s the actual entrance, but hey, whatever.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

This is yet another unexpected Oakland experience. The Dunsmuir Mansion is a handsome bit of architecture. And it’s about as un-urban as you could imagine- on a quiet and lush ground with only the hum of the freeway in the background.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So I got a few shots and panos in of the Dunsmuir mansion and booked it over to the Meeks Mansion about 20 minutes away in Hayward. I’d add that hashtag that I’ve been playing around with: #thesuburbsaremoreinterestingyouthink.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com) p.s. Graphic Designers, look – room for type

Sure, San Francisco has the bulk of the attractions in the Bay Area. But it has far more than its share of tourists. For those seeking a slight detour from the beaten path, some of these suburban gems might make more sense than being trampled by camera wielding outsiders.

Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Meek Mansion (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Ironic Aethist

Old Saint Mary's Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Old Saint Mary’s Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Not sure if it’s irony or hypocrisy- but it didn’t go unnoticed that I’ve taken a lot of photos of churches in the last few days. I am in fact a member of what I’m told is the most disliked faith group in the US- the atheists, freethinkers, non-believers or whatever label you prefer.

Tomales Presbyterian Church, Tomales, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Tomales Presbyterian Church, Tomales, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Every once in a while I hear a peep from those other groups – implying irony that I would choose their institutions to photograph. I do in fact find churches and other such institutions to be one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They are often the most beautiful or interesting parts of a built environment.

Saint Joseph's, San Jose, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Saint Joseph’s, San Jose, California (Michael Halberstadt)

That having been said, if I were to take a Christian to Pyongyang* and show them their metro station they’d be hard pressed to say that its not more beautiful than their local church. Or to some of the more modern buildings built after religion took a back seat to people- city halls, factories, train stations and the like I’m sure they’d also appreciate the beauty of secular architecture.

Just a thought!

Old Saint Mary's Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Old Saint Mary’s Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

*I consider societies like the DPRK to effectively worship their leaders in a similar way that conventional religious people worship their deities.

Oakland: A Few Stock Photos of Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

Oakland has been on my radar for a while. The Dot-Com craziness has finally found its way east. Recently news outlets have been going gaga over the previously overlooked Bay Area city, the New York Times even dubbed it Brooklyn by the Bay.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

As I recall, Gertrude Stein famously said about Oakland: There is no there there. In researching my present subject, the Tribune Tower in the center of Oakland, I read that they actually put a “There” sign on the tower to make light of Stein’s comments.

In any case, I’d wanted to photograph the tower with some dramatic angles and clouds for a while. In photographing in much of Oakland I find myself somewhat torn between the beauty that is Oakland’s urban core and the chaos and lawlessness it’s known for. Tribune Tower has also been in the news alot lately, I think there’s some sort of bankruptcy issues with the (former) owner.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

I had a reasonably good experience in that regard during this shoot. My perch was the spot on Broadway right next to the 12th Street Bart entrance. With my Sony A7r on a tripod I got a few looks: some friendly, some suspicious. I got a few really dumb comments like the usual, “What, are you some kind of terrorist or something?” “Yes”, I replied, “I’m going to blow up that building with this magical camera” hoping in vein the idiot who made the comment might notice how dumb his question was.

I did see my fair share of bad behavior while doing my thing. There was a group of about a dozen people across the street congregating in front of the Burger King for nearly the entire time talking very loudly- occasionally shouting to other people (in a friendly manner) across various street corners. The kid in the bunch was bouncing his basket ball off the transom windows of the historic building.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

In that entire couple hours I think I saw one police cruiser despite the fact that the main police HQ is a very short distance down Broadway, the street I was on. At one point there was a guy on a dirt bike, with no license plate. He started doing wheelies in the center of the intersection, then went off the wrong way on a one way street, only to reappear on the sidewalk. Even after dark, he was riding around in violation of most of the vehicle code and with no lights in front or back (not just not on, but there was no light on the bike, period.)

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

But despite all the complete lack of first world order, I managed to photograph without being hurt or seriously threatened. And I got a few good shots too.

Many of the photos I did employed one of my fun tricks: long daylight exposures. The trick is that I put a really dark grey filter in front of the lens, allowing exposures up to about 30 seconds during the daytime. The end result is that stationary objects, like in this case the Tribune Building tower remain stationary (of course) but the clouds move and leave streaky patterns. This is hit or miss- you knever know for sure what’s going to happen in the next half minute or so.

Another thing I’ve been trying to do is frame for book covers. I thought of this as a potential book cover project. For a complete book jacket, the subject has to be on the far right and have room on the left for a spine and the back. Seems at some point somebody’s going to be writing another book on Oakland and need a cover.

But you be the judge. I think some of these came out quite well. What do you think?

 

Samsung’s new San Jose Campus

Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)

Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)

Despite the reputation for cutting edge technology, Silicon Valley is pretty backwards in a number of ways. One of the most evident is the built environment. Fortunately some tech giants are finally trying to make a splash with their new digs. San Jose’s new Samsung USA headquarters is on that list.

Here are a few photos I took recently.

Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)
Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)
Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)
Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)
Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)
Samsung, San Jose (Michael Halberstadt)

For more photos, visit the gallery here:

Weeks and Day in San Jose and the South Bay

John Colpitts Ainsley House No. 3, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
John Colpitts Ainsley House No. 3, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted to the SiliconValleyStock.com blog. Not that I haven’t been busy, if only with the rest of life…..family stuff regular paid work et al.

In any case I figured it’s time for an update.

I’ve been plugging away adding to the gallery as best I can. Yesterday I had a failed attempt to visit the soon to be Open Space Preserve at Mount Umunhum. Somehow Google routed me to dead ends twice and I gave up. But I did manage to get a few good stock photos of some Silicon Valley landmarks that date back to the Valley of the Heart’s Delight times and before.

I made a few loops around central Campbell. For those who don’t know the place, Campbell is a small very affluent south bay community off of highway 17. If you do know the place, it’s likely for shopping and dining at the mid century Pruneyard shopping mall. Funny how many places out in the ‘Burbs are named after what they destroyed. Like in this case I’m assuming the Pruneyard was in fact a plum orchard. In any case most of the landmarks I photographed on this trip were made possible by the valley’s previous source of riches: agriculture.

D HISTORICAL LANDMARK OFFICE BUILDING (Michael Halberstadt)
D HISTORICAL LANDMARK OFFICE BUILDING (Michael Halberstadt)

Right off the main drag in Campbell’s quaint yet tiny downtown there’s a handsome old façade for what has reworked into an office building. Signage on the building reads Heritage Village Offices.  As best as I saw there was no reference to it, but turns out according to post photography research the building was a primary school.

Just across the street is yet another repurposing. The Mission Revival building was originally a high school. But it now houses a theater (or theatre as they are trying to sound fancy) as well as a private school and a bunch of community center stuff.

Heritage Theater, Campbell, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Heritage Theater, Campbell, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

One of the surprisingly interesting aspects of the behind the camera work is keywording and captioning. Turns out both of those schools were designed by the same Architect, William H Weeks. There are other buildings he put his pen to that if you are familiar with Silicon Valley architecture at all you’ve undoubtedly admired. Weeks is best known for his works together with William Peyton Day. They are responsible for such landmarks as the Fox Theater and I. Magnin Building in Oakland, the California Theater and Hotel St Claire in San Jose, and others. D’oh! My step-mom and local historian pointed out that there were in fact two architects with the name Weeks and I’ve conflated the two! I stand (or technically more correctly “sit” corrected.)

All seriousness aside, the name of their atelier also made for my punny title. I spend a lot of time trying to come up with cheesy yet attention grabbing blog tittles. So I hope you are happy!

John Colpitts Ainsley House No. 3, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
John Colpitts Ainsley House No. 3, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

Following along the path of wealth made possible by Silicon Valley’s previous ag boom, I headed next to Santa Clara. Another fortune was made by an English bloke named Ainsley who had a fruit canning business. He must have been quite homesick judging by the architectural style of his house. It’s a bit out of sorts here in the Valley where 320 or so days a year of sunshine that make his rich fruit harvests possible. This place looks like it would be at home in the Cotswolds or a Thomas Kinkade painting.

James Lick Mansion, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
James Lick Mansion, Santa Clara, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

In another quirky suburban corner lies another very odd juxtaposition. The James Lick Mansion and Granary are nestled in a very typically American condo subdivision in Santa Clara. But unlike the general aforementioned rule of naming a suburban tract after what was destroyed, the Mansion of Mansion Park Drive still remains. When I thought of James Lick, the only thing that came to mind was the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. But again after keywording and captioning, I’ve learned a bit more. Turns out Lick was the richest guy in California at the time of his death. And his wealth fits squarely in with the theme here, again built by agriculture. I wonder what will be left of the tech industry in a century?!

Saint Patrick's Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

(oops! forgot to incorporate the actual last leg of my trip, the Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park- above)

Lastly right around the corner I had another sort of photo adventure. At the Agnew Historical Cemetery and Museum, I didn’t take many photos. But I came across an interesting discovery I detailed in my last (rambling) post on my personal blog here if you have any interest.

Alameda Naval Air Station

Former Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Former Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

A few years ago I was out on Alameda Point, testing a few lenses to share on a large format photography discussion group. And as luck would have it, a security guard told me I couldn’t photograph there.  Our local paper, the Alameda Sun did a little story titled “Free to Pursue His Craft“.

I honestly thought after that my right to photograph on public sidewalks in my lovely little town was resolved. But recently as I tried to go out and shoot some more I’ve run into the same problem. I don’t know where  the PM Real Estate Group hail from. They seem to think they have powers that companies in China, Zimbabwe or other third world dictatorship command. These folks claim I need a permit to photograph anywhere on the point, even in front of the City Hall Building or on a sidewalk next to a bus stop.

Former Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Former Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

As a matter of principal I’ve resolved to make documenting Alameda’s former Naval Air Station a personal project. And I went out recently and got started. The gallery I’ve started is here.  When the security guard gives me grief, I just tell him to call the police.  In the unlikely event the police actually show up, I’ve got a copy of Bert Krages II The Photographer’s Right printed along with a copy of that Alameda Sun article with me on the cover.

Alameda Naval Air Station Gallery

I plan to keep adding to the gallery. Years ago when I lived in Vallejo I ran into similar problems. Eventually we got the security guard situation sorted  out. Later some local photographers, my friend Tom Paiva and I even managed to have a show from the results.

From the Archive: San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge From the Middle Lane

Almost Impossible: Long Exposure from the Center Lane of the Bay Bridge
Almost Impossible: Long Exposure from the Center Lane of the Bay Bridge

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.

Bay Bridge Stock Photo

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.

Bay Bridge Stock Photo

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.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt/Michael Halberstadt)
San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge Press Event for LED Light Installtion (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt/Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Bay Bridge Stock Photo

My parting shot was a long exposure disturbed by a CHP call to “leave now” minutes before the official opening.

The CHP came by and said get off now- we're about to open to the public. I picked up my tripod and headed to the car while still exposing. (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Parting Shot: The CHP came by and said get off now- we’re about to open to the public. I picked up my tripod and headed to the car while still exposing. (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)