Ever since some changes at Alamy, my sales have really plummeted. But I did find one of my images recently on Conde Nast India about Microbrews recently.
From the outside, Fremont is a sleepy suburban city in Silicon Valley. Well, honestly from the inside that’s more or less true too. Though with a few quirks that make Fremont a fun place to explore if you live in the area.
Dotted between the stucco homes and strip malls is a quirky views of America’s past and future.
My journies to the past this time included my first stop: the Pioneer Cemetery of Centerville. Centerville is a neighborhood in Fremont now, but I assume it was a town at one point judging by some of the headstone inscriptions listing place of death as Centerville. Frankly the place was a bit rundown- and there was a major construction site nextdoor preventing too much rest in that final resting spot. One headstone listed a guy who’s year of birth was in the 1700’s- something rarely seen on headstones here in the west.
From the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be an old train station behind me. Finishing up with the cemetery, I dragged my kit along to explore and low-and-behold it was a handsome little station that was converted to a cafe. The platform is still in use for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. On the other side of the tracks there’s a lovely little park with a covered historic railway waiting area.
All was good, well except for one thing. I was thinking about this- there has to be a series of Murphy’s Laws for photography. The rule in play here was the attraction of dirty, ugly or aesthetically unpleasant stuff to the most interesting landmark. It could be the workers in fluorescent orange jackets cleaning up, traffic cones, the strategically placed utility pole blocking the best view of a facade. However in this case, it was a pile of garbage in a shopping cart underneath the Centerville train shelter. Presumably left by a homeless person, who either abandoned it or was coming back at some point, the cart had a undersized adult bike (popular with the druggies) and most unfortunately a filthy large *RED* sleeping bag partially unfurled.
This really was a beautifully done park however aside from the crap and few druggies hanging out there. Wisteria draped off to the left and right of the shelter, and the old station was just across the way with a handful of waiting passengers. The sign atop the station and shelter reads: “Centerville – to San Francisco 40 1/10 m. – to Ogden 799 4/10 m. – Elevation 57 feet.“*
Otherwise the space was beautiful. I stopped in the cafe and got coffee and a snack. The lady inside said she recently bought the business. It was really cute inside as well, though empty- perhaps because the time of day- it was about noon on a workday. The coffee was really good, I’d definitely go back.
Next stop was the Shinn Park & Arboretum. My timing was off, this would have been much better had I arrived earlier when the sun was less harsh. This looks like a grand old farmhouse that lost its farm to suburban sprawl, but gained some gorgeous gardens. I was presented with the Murphy’s Law of Photography again when a city of Fremont truck drove up and the dude in the fluorescent orange jacket ran around cleaning up. I’m keeping the Shinn park in the back of my mind for a place to photograph again and maybe get a picnic in on one of the pleasantly shaded tables.
I headed back to familiar territory- Mission San Jose. Though I already have plenty in my photo library, I wanted to apply a few new techniques.
I headed back to Niles- more familiar territory and after a few snaps managed to find a happy hour sign. The restaurant- The Vine had a $2 off drinks on tap, and they had not just beer but wine on tap. I couldn’t resist. I walked in only to find a surprisingly empty restaurant. However continuing to the back I found a bustling patio and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals with a glass.
My next journey was only a couple miles in distance but a huge cultural shift. If Fremont is known for anything it’s its South Asian population. There’s a substantial number of Afghanis and lots of Indians, Pakistanis and other nationalities and those with roots in the Subcontinent. I’d visited San Jose’s Gurdwara a number of times. In addition to being really interesting to look at and a pleasant variation from the middle American ‘burbs- the Sikh places of worship are great to visit. One major reason is that people are super-duper nice! And they are not camera phobic. Guys with turbans typically come up and say hi and tell me to feel free to photograph.
But in this case in the Fremont Gurdwara in addition to all this- a gentleman introduced me as Sing came up and asked me if I wanted to see inside and have a meal? Well why not? He put a head covering on and handed me a dollar bill to drop into the offering inside. We chatted while sitting on the floor while I asked all the dumb questions about Sikhism and he did his best to answer. He then took me to the cafeteria and we drank chai and he gave me a few Indian sweets balls of sweetened ground chickpeas. I was a bit shy about taking any photos inside and don’t have a lot to show for this photographically, but it was an experience I really enjoyed.
Next stop I stumbled upon the California Nursery Historical Park- I believe this is a city park still in progress. On the site was a rose garden, not in the best of shape with an old faux windmill themed storage closet at the center. A bunch of fenced off delipidated greenhouses were off in another corner. There was also the a Vallejo Adobe off in the corner. The adobe building was fenced off and locked (as was the restroom next door unfortunately as I would have liked to have visited both.)
I’d hoped to get some of the neon Niles signs but they weren’t on- so last stop was the big Niles gate sign and I packed up and went home. But I’ll be back – no question!
*This just reminded me, the presumably old train station sign gives the elevation- relevant to my previous post. The centerville sign reads 57 feet- and I checked with the tool from my previous post: 57.126 feet. Not a whole lot of sinking below sea level.
—– further reading: ——
—- silly lines I hoped to use but didn’t —-
I can see for Niles and Niles
Looking Down on Religion & Multiculturalism
It’s true I am an atheist. Most folks who know me realize that I hold a rather negative view of religion in general. But don’t get your panties in a bunch yet. This is yet another intentionally provocative title desperately trying to get attention. And if you read this and you’re not my dad (hey pop!) it worked!
The looking down is referring to the use of the 15’ (4.5m) pole I used for the photos. In the interest of a unifying theme I chose to combine a few photos of temples in Silicon Valley.
The suburbs can be more interesting than folks think. Particularly in Silicon Valley. Large waves of immigrants have left a colourful mark on the otherwise beige stucco and cement that makes up most of the area between urban and rural in North America. Exhibit A is Wat Buddashorn in Fremont. It’s a Buddhist temple wedged between otherwise indistinguishable tract houses near Niles, a surprisingly interesting district in its own right. Another plus of hanging out around Buddhist temples in my experience is that people tend to be quite nice and photo friendly. A 6’2” white guy dangling a little camera 15’ over their temple didn’t prompt any reaction.
Exhibit B the Buddhist Church Betsuin in San Jose. San Jose is unique in having one of the few remaining Japantowns in North America. They also sport a nice garden next door. Unfortunately they store their orange cones and no parking sign in the front, so head on shots are kinda not so pretty. But it’s a handsome structure none-the-less.
Having dealt with a stock request for Japantown last month I figured I’d see what I could do with the two block commercial street too. I really love the place. I eat semi-regularly at Kazoo and grab coffee and pastries at Roy’s Station. But it’s visually not the most interesting of places. The elevated perspective did add something, but only so much. Another akweird side to the pole aerial photo shtick is catching lots of people looking at me or the camera with a WTF look on their faces.
In addition to pole dancing in Cupertino, I managed to get in a few stitched panos. I’d been trying to think of where. Down in San Jose one of my favorite motifs is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. It’s the kind of architecture that if they were building it now, I’d consider tacky: Mock buildings made to look ancient Egyptian in style but with stucco and modernish materials. But somehow with almost a century passing there’s a quaintness to the style. Plus it has really nice gardens.
Being a Monday the museum was closed. Which for stitched photos is a plus. The fewer changes in the scene over the two minutes it takes to make all the dozens of individual photos the more likely it is to work. The overcast weather kept the contrast down which is another important consideration on images with such a wide field of view. Though it worked in my favor, I was really surprised how little foot traffic there was. On this beautiful block in the wonderful and safe Rosegarden neighborhood there might have been a total of six pedestrians that passed me.
And speaking of the Rosegarden neighborhood, the namesake garden is just a couple of blocks away. I setup for a pano there but as is often the case ended up trying to explain what I was doing to several curious photo enthusiasts. It’s really strange explaining why something as beautiful as a huge rosegarden in full bloom is difficult to capture. But it really is. In addition to the technical challenges the subject is one that the viewer kind of immerses them self in, not a single mental image but the entirety of the experience. At least at ground level. Esthetically I prefer the pole shots I made there the day before. But enough excuses.
I had another idea for a nice wide shot….. Fremont is one of those places. It’s the suburbs. Yet much more interesting than most. One interesting area is Niles. Charlie Chaplin filmed movies back before Hollywood had a near monopoly on film. Perhaps one reason he chose Niles was the abundance of rail lines. Any good silent film needs plenty of rails to tie a maiden to prior to being saved. At the center of this lovely little neighborhood now is an elegant train station and park. The station I believe has been converted to a museum, and I don’t think serves passengers anymore. But it is still on an active rail corridor.
Stitching all these photos together can lead to some odd results. Instead of capturing 1/60th of a second in one go, it’s capturing 1/60th of a second representing the upper left, then a second or so to move the camera, then 1/60th of a second over slightly. Trying to predict what will happen in the two or so minutes is part of the game. And surprises happen, sometimes pleasant surprises. In my first go, an Amtrak train passed by. It wasn’t there in the first frames that started on the left and moved rightward. In the end the only part that showed was the very front of the locomotive between two pillars! In reality if that frame showed the entire scene in that moment in time you’d see more of the locomotive and perhaps a train car on the left. I think I reshot a frame to be able to fix error, but I like the non-realistic result.
Heading back home, I opted to stop and photograph in Hayward. Another stop not on your typical Bay Area photo trail. But there’s a beautiful Moderne city hall abandoned on a main street.
The suburbs are more interesting than you think……
Years ago I worked with this guy….. Anything you said that he could possibly find any sort of innuendo in he’d find it and shout it out loud making it sound dirty. Well telling this story is hard without all sorts of similar thoughts coming to mind.
I’m talking about pole photography. There again somehow it just sounds dirty! But all I’m referring to is a 15’ tall painting pole that I’ve adapted to raise my camera up above what people usually see. There’s already a novelty effect from looking down in photos – it’s just an angle that you don’t see too often of things you’ve seen you’re whole life.
Recent changes in technology has made for new possibilities. The quality of cameras is constantly improving. Cameras are getting smaller, lighter, and cheaper. And most importantly many now can be controlled over WIFI. This culmination of advances means I can raise up a tiny high quality camera. In this case I’m raising my mirrorless Sony NEX 6 with a small Korean made Rokinon superwide 12mm lens 15’ up. I can then view what the camera sees on my phone, and I can also trigger the shutter . Unfortunately there’s a second or two lag. Another issue is that the image on the phone is very hard to see in direct sunlight.
In any case, I’ve been going down a list of subjects that might benefit from a view 15’ above. And I could think of one appreciably different view one would get being elevated that high: over the wall at Apple Campus II worksite! They say good fences make good neighbors. But frankly I think Apple is just being a dick. If you’ve had your head in the sand for the last couple years you might have no idea what I’m talking about… but Apple Computer (the richest company on earth) is building a second campus also in Cupertino. Tech companies are particularly bad at playing nice with their community- and Apple is a poster child. They are building a huge building with a park in the center that no member of the community will ever see. At present the work site is surrounded on all sides by very high walls of slightly varying heights. On two sections I was able to relatively easily look over the fence with the pole. On a third section I could barely see over and tried raising the pole up slightly which wasn’t easy to hold steady as the pole danced in the wind and vibrated as I tried to hold it steady an extra foot above the ground.
I tried a few other subjects on my brief tour of Silicon Valley. For example, I’d previously lamented the way the once grand entrance and primary view of the Winchester Mystery House was shuttered with a chain link fence. But go up over 10 feet or so and there’s an unobstructed view. I had a lot of trouble composing in part because I’m using the wrong connector on the pole that is quite flush. But whatever, who else has photos from that angle? I tried a few photos of San Jose’s Municipal Rose Garden as it was in full bloom. The conditions there were pretty ideal, but I get self-conscious enough photographing in an area with a lot of people. You can imagine how I felt in a beautiful park full of people with a pole elevating a camera way up there.
On my return I made a few other stops “putting my pole to work.” The most successful was in Fremont. The Niles neighborhood has a handsome old train station that has been converted to a park and museum. The old station is pretty modest in height and looking down on it worked well. The park also proved a good place for stitched pianos.
So where else should I raise my pole?
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.