Kensington and a couple of Botanical Gardens

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, CA

I knew that on of my clients was looking for photos of Contra Costa Parks so I opted to make a visit to Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Since there’s lots of color elsewhere in the Bay Area at the moment, I assumed there would be there too. Alas, as so often is the case, I was wrong. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a native plants garden, and I’m guessing those are on another schedule.

Not far away was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I remembered that my reciprocal NARM membership should get me in for free, and so it did. Visually, this garden offered much more. The stock photographer in me kept photographing the signs.

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I remembered a visit I made to the Medicinal Herb Garden in Seattle a couple years ago- this seems even more medicinal. There was a Chinese section that claimed to have herbs for cancer to pretty much everything else. But ironically, there were signs all over the place stating “Many Plants Here are Toxic, DO NOT EAT THEM!” Well so much for Chinese medicine!

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I’ve also been seeking out fountains recently that seem to work particularly well with my slightly aerial view setup. And I managed to check one fountain off my list: Berkeley’s “The Fountain at The Circle”.

The Fountain at The Circle

My next stop was Kensington. I stopped and got a coffee and almond halva at Country Cheese Co. Coffee Market. I have a knack for inserting my foot in my mouth, and while paying the pretty young woman at the cash register noted that she had a shirt just like mine (a dark green plaid) – I said I can’t picture that. What I meant was that she seemed far to chic to wear anything that resembled what I wear, but I’m sure she was left with the impression of what’s wrong with that guy! Not that this has anything to do with my stock photo blog, just getting this off my chest. Sorry miss!

Kensington

I’ve been a fan of Semifreddy’s croutons for some time. And I think they got their start in Kensington, though they now have a big bakery in my town of Alameda. Semifreddy’s has a retail location in Kensington and I stopped in and puzzled what to order. The young lady at the counter asked if I liked olives, (of course I do!) because they accidentally just made a vegetarian Muffaletta – so they made the decision for me (and it was good!)

Kensington

I Did Promise You a Rose Garden & Ringin’ Muir’s Bell

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.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Ces’t la vie.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

And then moved on to Concord, still hungry.

Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

 

Eat Real 2016, Everything is Better on a Stick (or Hipsters Ruin Everything)

Oakland - Eat Real Festival 2010 (Michael Halberstadt/www.siliconvalleystock.com)
Oakland – Eat Real Festival 2010 (Michael Halberstadt/www.siliconvalleystock.com)

Food trucks have been one of my go to subjects for stock photography. I’m quite fond of food for one.

Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So, I headed out to Eat Real again for the 2016 festivities. You can see the photos here.

Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

I spend waste a lot of time trying to come up with witty remarks to post on this unread blog. So the line I came up that applies to this style of photography is: “Everything is Better on a Stick.” Get it? I’m trying to get photos that are different than everybody else’s. So I don’t have the closeups here, just overviews from above.

Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Another thought has been brewing in my tiny little noggin about food trucks I thought I’d try and develop my thoughts here.

The summary goes something like this: “Hipsters ruin everything”

Are you old enough to remember when live-work lofts were not trendy? The whole idea behind this concept was taking property that nobody wanted and developing cheap housing largely for artists and creatives. All of a sudden, wealthy hipsters with tech jobs saw lofts on TV and moved in from the suburbs to drive up the cost of artists’ residences so creatives could no longer afford them.

Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

This “hipsters ruin everything” concept has moved on to food trucks. Or that’s how I’m seeing it. This idea came to me as I was over by San Pedro Square in San Jose on farmers’ market day. There was a line of food trucks in amongst the fruit and veg. I was hungry and passed a falafel truck. There I noticed that a falafel- in my view a good, but very working class sort of food- and as I recall the (sandwich, pocket, or whatever) cost about $10.

Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Eat Real 2016, Jack London Square, Oakland (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Yet within just a few feet were at least two brick-and-mortar restaurants that also served falafel- for less money too! There’s Robee’s Falafel in the San Pedro Square Marketplace that’s pretty good as I recall. And right around the corner there’s Nick the Greek. Then there’s the mothership of all Bay Area falafel joints Falafel’s Drive in about 10 minutes away with areguably the best falafel for many miles and it’s just $5/6.75 (small/large.)

 

San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Falafel’s Drive In, San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

Now admittedly, I didn’t try all of these options. Maybe the food truck is by far the best.

But my point here is that the idea behind “roach coaches” or the fancier offspring was to provide food on a budget for industrial parks and other underserved areas. Their raison d’être has been destroyed by the food truck trend. As a rule, food trucks shouldn’t be parked next to perfectly good established restaurants and charging even more for their produce.

Please pardon this slightly off topic rant and if you’re looking for photos – let me know.

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)

The Merits of Lake Merritt

While working on another stock photo site’s content: VeryHighDPI.com, I managed to get a few “normal” stock photographs of Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

Lake Merritt, Oakland

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

These are some recent photos, but I was perusing my Lake Merritt gallery and found a few more I’m pretty happy with. I plug a few of those below too.

Oakland, California

Lake Chalet, Oakland, CA

Oakland, California

<rant> On a related note, I’m gonna get on my stock photo soapbox and trash a competitor. I was researching locations, keywords and such and stumbled upon Getty Images. They are the 800 pound gorilla of the stock photo market.

I did a search for Oakland California and was shocked at what I found. For one, there was some professional looking content. But many of the photos looked way over processed, HDR’d and generally of the “b” grade material found on Flickr.

Surprise number two was how shallow their selection was. The search was for Oakland California – a very picturesque and newsworthy city half the size of and right across the bay from San Francisco. The New York Times was calling it Brooklyn West or something as I recall- I’m assuming because of the increase in hipsters. Their “creative” content only had about 3,500 hits, and including news just shy of 7,000.

In that search were completely useless photos given such a search. There was a little kid flipping of the camera. Another caucasian kid in the snow (I doubt in Oakland as snow here is very rare and light.) Here are some more examples that popped up on Getty’s site for the search Oakland California: kid with gingerbread, Man with Mask, the USS Hornet (not in Oakland!), Iranian woman standing in Garden (?!), a rubber ducky, a slightly blurry closeup of a seagull etc. There’s also a lovely photo of a faux castle – but it’s in Napa an hour or so away. What the hell is going on with the stock photo industry and Getty in particular?! Does nobody curate this stuff at all? Are there absolutely no standards for keywording? </rant>

 

Back to Oakland (Again!)

Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Festival in Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)

Before working a gig I had a little while to get some stock photo shooting in. I don’t even remember the name of the event, it was a pre-party for a half marathon taking place the next day. In any case I had a few minutes to get some of those slightly aerial views I like doing so much. Not quite drone or quadcopter height, just a little higher than the human eye.

Just a medium turnout in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, right in front of City Hall. In some of the shots you can see the Tribune Tower or the City Hall from the other.

Since Oakland appears to be finally sick with Dot-com fever, I’ve got the sense there’s going to be more need for stock photos.

Stay tuned!

Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Festival in Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)
Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)
Stock Photo: Festival in Downtown Oakland California (Michael Halberstadt)

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?

 

3rd Blog’s a Charm!

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

This is a new record here at SiliconValleyStock! I’ve photographed three separate times, then processed the images and now am blogging my third blog today.

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

Boy am I tired!

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

It started out with a visit to Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market, then there was an unexpected detour after meeting some friends at Rockwall winery in Alameda and seeing Google’s Makani in action.

Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)
Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)

The third time that’s the charm was a stop at OMCA’s Friday Foodtruck Festivities- and a few night shots of Lake Merritt.

Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)
Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)

I won’t write much here, just enough to get a post up for the third time today!

Lofty Views of Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market

Old Oakland Farmers' Market (Michael Halberstadt)
Old Oakland Farmers’ Market (Michael Halberstadt)

Continuing with my stock photography coverage, I headed to Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market. Historic Old Oakland is picturesque already, but the Farmers’ Market added to the photographic appeal. There’s something nice about a city where there’s no car traffic. And that’s one nice aspect to urban farmers’ markets. There are all the colorful produce and flowers to brighten the place up. Pedestrians filling the streets add to the aesthetic charm. And best of all, I can photograph from right in the middle of the road!

Old Oakland Farmers' Market (Michael Halberstadt)
Old Oakland Farmers’ Market (Michael Halberstadt)

BAMPFA

Berkeley, CA
BAMPFA – Berkeley, CA

The acronym sounds like a comic book “pow” like sound, but it actually stands for the painfully long title of a new museum in Berkeley. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has new digs right outside UC’s campus downtown.

Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
BAMPFA – Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

 

For Bay Area standards it’s a pretty modern looking building. It’s got that metal sheathing thing going on that’s so popular now, and a giant TV screen in the back that presumably displays upcoming events etc (it was not on when I came by.)

Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
BAMPFA – Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

My first round covering this for stock was primarily with the pole. I do hope to return and get some architecturally correct photos at twilight.

Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
BAMPFA – Berkeley, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

BTW, one of the reasons that I’ve haven’t been uploading lots of stock shots and posting to this blog is also the reason I’m in Berkeley alot. I’ve gone back to shooting “analog”. I broke out my 4×5 and started shooting black & white film and processing in the laundry room. And I signed up for the darkroom on UC Berkeley’s campus. It’s been fun.