Food trucks have been one of my go to subjects for stock photography. I’m quite fond of food for one.
So, I headed out to Eat Real again for the 2016 festivities. You can see the photos here.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
A few years ago, I managed to get access to a few tall buildings in Downtown San Jose. In migrating my images from my old Zenfolio account to my present Photoshelter site, I managed to miss most of the “from above” photos taken in 2010.
I don’t know how I managed to miss them, but I was searching for a few of them for another project and their absence came to my attention. On the plus side, reprocessing the same images has some benefits. My Lightroom skills have improved over the last half decade as has Lightroom.
Looking at these images also reminded me I have to update my library. The winter solstice is coming up – perhaps the best time of year to arrange for more such shoots. Usually photographing from somebody else’s building requires a representative to be with me while I work. That’s a bit of a hassle in the summer when twilight is almost bedtime. Plus the smog that typically envelopes the south bay gets washed away semi-regularly in winter.
So no I need to figure out how I can update my picture library. San Jose has been growing and the skyline has changed a lot in the interim. If you know of any residents or property managers at any of the high rises in or around downtown, please hook me up!
To see some of the photos in the Above San Jose series, follow this link: HERE.
To be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping up. When I drive around shooting stock photos, there’s the not so glamorous side you don’t see. Keeping track of mileage, bookkeeping, image editing, keywording, uploading, downloading etc.
Sometimes things fall through the cracks. This blog is fun and cathartic for me at times. But its primary goal is to get images out on the Internet to be searched and found by picture editors. Looking at my Photoshelter account I realized that a few photos I wanted to get out there recently weren’t….
In any case I went down to San Jose to shoot stock recently. Actually a few times in the past couple weeks. Hopefully this shtick isn’t getting to stale, but my two new techniques were put to use. Both “pole aerial photos” from what I have been referring to my “selfie stick for ugly people” and my pano machine were put to task.
One client I want to keep happy is Team San Jose. My contact there occasionally will give me a heads up when something interesting is going on in town. She mentioned that Fanimecon was coming to town again. Last year, I stumbled upon the event unwittingly. For those not familiar with Fanimecon, it’s some sort of gathering of people dressed up as Japanese Anime like characters. They run the full gamut from sexy Asian schoolgirl costumes to superheros I don’t recognize.
My peeps met me down at my dad’s and we had some time to do some fun things and reminisce about our growing up in San Jose. When I was growing up we used to go to the back door at the Treat Icecream factory and get “pop tops” which is what they called the factory seconds where the lid didn’t seal properly. You can still get Icecream at the same spot, though they no longer offer the factory seconds. We didn’t visit treat’s factory, but did manage to get some Treat icecream from Treat Bot, a hipper icecream truck that offers Karaoke in lieu of Greensleves.
Somehow this whole story is out of chronological order, but we made it to one of my other favorite young adult spots, Gordon Biersch. When I was a lad way back in the 80’s I left for Germany as an exchange student. Before I left at age 17, you would have most likely seen me drinking a Big Gulp from 7-11. But when I came back a young man of 18, I had a taste for Hefeweizen (like we used to drink on our school lunch breaks) not for sugary sodas. For those not old enough to remember, American beer in the late 1980’s tasted like slightly bitter mineral water. But this was just as the wave of Craft Breweries was fermenting in the US. Gordon Biersch back then had fantastic German-style beers and great food. The food is no longer very good unfortunately, but their beer is still top notch. We had a rather strange experience with the service this time too. We wanted to sit and enjoy a beer in their courtyard. But the lady at the entrance was adamant that if we wanted only drinks, we’d have to go to the bar and sit out in a peripheral corner. There would be no table service for us! Jawohl! When we went to the bar we told the bartender we just wanted to order beers and we’d be bringing them to our table outside: he looked puzzled and said, why didn’t you order out there, I’ll just bring them out to you. Then a lovely waitress came by and ever so nicely asked us if she could do anything for us. But I thought there’d be no service, the lady out front was so strict… in any case. The beer is still excellent, the seating outside is great on a sunny day, and there are some strange folks running the place I guess.
….and getting back on the topic of photography and being way off in chronology again, I shot some panos. Thanks to my contact at Team San Jose I was reminded of a few good places for views of San Jose and Silicon Valley from above. I stopped at a pullout and waited for good light on a rare day with clear air and puffy clouds. Again the post processing is the painful part of photography that people don’t think of. And for panos the time and effort involved increases exponentially. To get these huge final images, I take anywhere from a dozen to 50 or so photos. The stitching software is amazing. But there are problems you’d never think of. Like where does one panorama end and the next one begin. Seems like it’d be obvious- in most cases it’s always gonna start with blue sky in the upper left. But the cell to the right of that and the one after that and after that all have blue sky.
(Please note I’m struggling with the best way to display large panoramas. The links below will take you to my Onedrive – which still won’t let me display full size.)
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.
As mentioned in an earlier post, one of my clients suggested I check out Sierra Vista open space. It’s a park perched above San Jose with panoramic views of the South Bay. I did a quick recon of the site a little while back.
This isn’t my technical blog: Lensbusters.com- but from a technical standpoint, Murphy’s Law snuck up on me. As is usual when I come upon a particularly good photo op I don’t bring all my equipment with me. Invariably I find myself missing whatever I didn’t bring. So I found myself wishing I had my panorama machine- this is pano heaven (aside from the wind of course!) And given the wind and clouds it was a rare opportunity to do long daylight exposures. Only the lens I wanted to use, my 100mm required a filter adapter to use either of my super duper dense filters (the 70-200mm would have been good too but I didn’t bring it!) But I then remembered that I did bring my little kit that included the plastic-fantastic 100mm Vivitar that uses a 49mm filter, and I had my Hoya 8 stop and Tiffen 4 stop filters that let me take 15-30 second exposures in daylight. That’s what gives the clouds the “smear” look.
Another technical problem I noticed later as I was downloading my images at English Ales in Marina was a small scratch in my graduated filter. Most problems were barely visible but that led to a few duds. Time to buy another set of Cokin P filters.
On returning from Monterey I spent the later half of the day up in the hills again. The clouds were gone. But it was pretty clear by Silicon Valley air quality standards. And I had the time to spend this time ’round. So I hiked up to the lone tree I photographed the day before. The panoramic views were amazing. And worthy of me coming back with my pano setup. Hidden behind the large rocks in my earlier photo was also a picnic table- another great idea for a return trip.
Killing time, I hiked along parts of the trails below. Think of the contrast between green open spaces, the grazing cattle that would have looked similar for millennia with cities and towns below- San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto. The places credited with the most modern of technology.
A less pleasant contrast also exists in the Silicon Valley foothills. For one, there are the types you’d expect to find out along a trail, nature enthusiasts, fitness buffs, photographers and the like.. But you can also see the traces of those folks you were trying to avoid by heading up here. There are piles of trash near most pullouts along the road. Occasionally a loud car would pull up and rowdy folks would yell and scream. And the same idiots on Harley Davidsons that terrorize the city below with the roar of their meth-and-mullet culture. I cracked a joke with a couple of hikers: “love the peace and quiet and fresh air” after a kid on a “rice rocket” burned rubber and blew tire smoke towards us.
And another downside as far as photography is that they close up right after sunset. So after we were booted out, I desperately looked for a legal pullout to photograph. The light really gets good just about the time the park closes. But then again, I found a few other great spots.
HP had just acquired Aruba Networks and I figured that would be newsworthy. Also one of my clients pointed out a new park with a view within the city limits of San Jose. With the rain there would finally be a brief window of clean air in the otherwise smoggy Silicon Valley Basin- so I rushed down to take full advantage. I came down with a plethora of tools for a few days of stock shooting: my bicycle, four camera bodies, my panorama machine, a video camera, I never know where these shoots will end up.
Driving down it started to pour by the time I reached Fremont. To kill time I stopped at Weird Stuff Warehouse, a computer surplus store full of antique computer sludge and last year’s crop of gadgets. After that I grabbed a bite at Una Mas right around the corner from Aruba Networks. Then the clouds broke and I went on with the Silicon Valley shtick grabbing my little Sony kit and hopping on my bike (the office parks intentionally bock out public parking).
The rain did in fact temporarily clear the schmutz from the air and I headed up the East Foothills towards the park in question. However, I didn’t make it all the way there, as I found a couple of pull-outs along the way with great views of The Valley below. Recently my Canon 6d started acting up and in a panic I bought Sony A7R. The Sony really proved itself for the dusk stock photos shoots of this sort. Not only is there a whole lot more resolution (36mp vs 21mp), but the dynamic range really shines as the sky goes dark and the city lights twinkle.
So I didn’t manage to make it to the park that evening, but decided to check it out the next morning, if only to get an idea what the value would be for stock photography the next time. Turns out, it has a spectacular view – to quote our former governor “I’ll be back.” But when I was there in the late morning the visibility wasn’t what it could have been. In fact when I looked off the left to the unusually green hills, clouds and light haze, I was reminded back to my travels in my school days in Europe. I could imagine myself being on any old trail in Switzerland, Austria or Germany. Usually our hills our brown and our sky is blue with a dingy brown ring. It was a pleasant change- not that I don’t like the tan and blue hue.
After a morning of conspiring with my dad over coffee- about adding his old slides of San Jose and tech companies from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s to the archive I eventually found my way to Cupertino. Apple is in the process of building their Sir Norman designed Foster Apple Campus II. This is where the bicycle really came in handy. At present, it’s just a huge building site. For those of you not familiar with Silicon Valley, we’re basically just a huge suburban area similar to most North American cities. Many affluent towns never bothered with sidewalks, their residents don’t walk anywhere, they drive. But after decades of stop and go traffic and pressure from environmentalists and their own hipster fixie bike rider employees, there are now bike lanes all over the place. Now using a bike is a critical tool to loop around the 175 acre site. I was able to find one hole in their amazingly high construction fence (wall might be more apt as it’s solid.) And on the other end of the construction site I found another way of seeing past the fence: the bike lane is the only way to stop on that side of the freeway overpass. So I stopped as close as I could to the apex of the unobscured section of road and could get a few clear shots.
Where my bicycle did not come in handy was at my next destination. I rolled up to the Stanford Dish Loop, setup my bike complete with tripod and extra lenses in the paneers and peddled to the entrance. Inside the gate was a long list of rules, including NO BIKES. Pain in the A$$! So I peddled back, rerigged my camera bag with as much as I thought I could practically carry and resumed where I left off. The scenery was amazing: dramatic clouds, nice warm late afternoon winter light. As I slowly schlepped my way along the trail snapping away, I watched fit young college students zip past me. I got a bunch of nice stock shots. What I didn’t get is the way out of the maze that is inappropriately named “loop.” I went to the exit and headed back in what I hoped was the way back to my car. After about an hour of walking in a bike lane as it was getting dark and busy with commute traffic, I finally saw familiar signs that I was on the right path. When I got there I had to “take care of some business” and I think I may have freaked out a young woman as I returned from the bushes next to my car. Ooops.
My feet were killing me. It was time to return to my home base in Downtown San Jose and grab a bite and a beer. Having done some work for the new Whole Foods near downtown, I’ve been itching to try their house brewed beer and grabbed a slice and headed up to the brew room. Oddly enough, I ran into a young man trying to find the end of the line, or at least the etiquette to ordering at the bar. He said he was from Europe, which I almost took as a ploy to jump the line. We ended up chatting and he told me he was from Italy. Opening up, I told him that when I was a bit younger than he was I too was a Student in Europe. “Where” he asked…. And I answered Bodensee/Lake of Constance assuming he’d have no idea what I was talking about. But instead he said he replied he’d studied in Sankt Gallen, right on the other side (Switzerland) from where I was living. He was Italian, but from the small German speaking South Tirol region. Small world I said as we went back and forth in a mix of English, Schweitzerdeutsch and High German. Despite my aching feet, that was a fun and productive evening!
Perhaps the best views of Silicon Valley are from the Historic Lick Observatory. The observatory is high above the valley in the East foothills. Technically it’s still part of San Jose, but the observatory is actually run by the University of California Santa Cruz.
Luckily, I had some clear weather. Silicon Valley’s air quality is usually pretty poor, which makes for a thick layer of smog. The other technical challenge getting a few good stock photos up there is that the wind gusts are amazingly powerful. Fortunately I had a very sturdy tripod.