Just to clear things up first, no you will not see any photos on this post of the new rumored Chrysler-Fiat Pacifica Self Driving minivan. It is in the works as I understand it, and have seen some photos online in a Google parking garage. But eventually, they will have to take this thing out for testing, and I’ll be there ASAP snapping away.
However, I did get to sit on a bench on a pleasant fall day and snap some nice photos of other Google autonomous cars passing by. I felt kinda like a fisherman might feel fishing out of a stocked pond.
At one point (while I was on the phone to my friend and fellow photographer Christian 1*) I heard the electric car whirring sound on my left. I excused myself from the phone call, stood up and saw two of those cute 2 seat prototype autonomous cars on my left, then looked to the right and saw another one! It was like I was being surrounded.
Unfortunately for my stock photo luck, there was another interesting scene – that could have been an even better contrast had there been a self driving car there as well. A homeless guy (?) came riding down the slight hill next to the Google X building carrying a bunch of huge bags full of recycling.
I’ll head down soon and see if I can find this rumored vehicle in the wild.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
A while ago I wrote a little piece about the new “Android Graveyard.” Google had a sculpture garden in front of a more prominent building on the Googleplex. They moved all their sculptures (I caught them in pieces getting touch up job in the last post.) Now they are in an out-of-the way corner in a peripheral building near the Google-central.
What Google started doing was unveiling a new sculpture with each OS release. Android operating system releases are named after sweets. Now with the birth of a new OS, there’s a death and a sculpture is added to the Android Graveyard.
This time came was the the birth of Nougat, and the death of Marshmallow.
First off, they start with a map of the San Francisco Bay with selected tech companies dotted along the coast- then a second map with where the coast would be with a 6’ sea level rise. What’s wrong with that picture? First off, they don’t point out that 6’ is the most pessimistic estimate for the year 2100! I’m reminded of the steamroller scene in Austin Powers.
Scientific American published a similar story in 2012 with some easily verifiable errors and some golden quotes like: “’They don’t think long-term’” (duh, the lifespan of SV companies is about as long on average as mice,) and this rather curious quote: “….Silicon Valley is 3 to 10 feet below sea level…..” There may be an exception here and there, but the VAST MAJORITY of Silicon Valley is not below present sea level, or even very close. You can poke around the map of SV with this tool for the actual height above sea level as could Scientific American if they cared to fact check anything.
Let’s put this in perspective…. Why don’t we look back about a century and ask about the status of the biggest companies of the day?
In researching this, I found that the Fortune 500 list is only available starting in the year 1955. As you might have guessed- many of the companies on that list only 61 years ago are gone or forgotten. Number one on the list was GM, that narrowly avoided collapse by government intervention a decade or so ago. I don’t even think it’s worth the time to research, but I’m assuming that many of those companies HQ’s have been bulldozed, burnt down, or more likely sold and reused for another purpose.
Another way of looking at this: If I told you that MySpace HQ was near a fault line and would likely collapse in an 8.0 or greater earthquake you would likely either 1) ask “what’s Myspace?” or b) say why should I care, they can retrofit, or move or go out of business for all I care.
Of the historical tech companies of Silicon Valley we have some remnants. But not much is left- including interest by the young and wealthy hipster class that writes that dribble. You can visit the house in Los Altos where the first Apple computers were built. You can see the garage where HP got their start. But if you do, you will usually only see a couple of die-hard tech fans. And most of the sites where Silicon Valley history was made are lucky to have a brass plaque. Visitors to Silicon Valley are likely to breeze past.
It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now. Yet we can look at things in perspective. Empires rise and fall- so does sea level. Though we should take adequate measures to avoid problems, the fate of a bunch of the playgrounds of the ueber rich in a century shouldn’t be on our list of priorities.
It’s been awhile since my last posting. One of the snags I ran into involves some Microsoft products, I subscribed to Office 365 for the promised unlimited storage only to find the limit was 1tb. I had switched to using MS Word to write these and other posts. I was also in the process of digitizing my slide library which is stuck where I left off when I couldn’t upload anymore.
In any case, it’s more of the same. I’ve been stalking Google, especially their self driving cars. There seems to be a lot of interest in the editorial market for such photos. Following a few news stories I figured out where the Google X labs are and how to find the self driving cars. I’ve contacted the press agents for both Stanford and Audi trying to get official access to their self driving car projects, but didn’t get the answer I was hoping for. Think I’ll have to stalk them too. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my crappy videos I made as well.
Turns out Google has a presence I didn’t know about here in my fair town of Alameda too. One of their X projects is an “energy kite” that blows around in the wind and gathers electricity. Google bought out Makani out on the old Naval Air Station. At one point heading back from Rockwall, we saw one of the kites out on a mast being worked on.
I’ve been trying to combine shticks and raised the pole up a few more places including Ebay in San Jose (right on the Campbell border). I spent an afternoon walking around downtown San Jose and the SJSU campus with the pole as well.
Via a stock request site there was a flurry of requests for Monterey. I was working down there anyhow not too long ago, and made a second trip to try my hand at a stock video request. As it has been slow recently I’ve also been going through old video clips and cleaning them up and uploading to YouTube. My video experience is pretty limited, but I’m amazed at the technical quality that one can get with a tiny off the shelf mirrorless camera.
I went up to the Mormon Temple in Oakland on a particularly clear day. And after some rare cloud and rain action, I returned the next evening. Got some good San Francisco, Oakland cityscapes. I’d known about the location for some time but forgot how wonderful the view can be. And for Oakland it’s a safe place and apparently they are photo friendly there.
There was a request I read about looking for stock photos of the Pacific Heritage Museum. I opted to take BART and combine a few projects. I also have a client that advocates for regional planning and public transport. I had already spent an afternoon shooting stock video and stills of the Oakland Airport Bart extension. But this time I opted to drive down to San Leandro, park (for free) and use my virgin Clipper Card to BART into the City.
I was really surprised how much I liked downtown San Leandro. It’s an old blue collar Catholic suburb south of Oakland. After finding a good all day parking spot about five minutes walk from the BART station I came across the Casa Peralta. It’s the once grand house of a family that had the Spanish land grant. The building has a funky aesthetic, lots of custom Spanish tiles portraying Spanish history. Many of them are broken. But the thing I was especially impressed by, is that it’s neither all spruced up, nor completely dilapidated.
That’s to say, so many cities that aren’t that rich in history are making these little footnotes of architectural heritage into a centerpiece that’s been all glammed up. Or on the opposite end of that spectrum, cities with big crime problems have these great architectural gems that have been not only neglected but purposefully abused. As an example I drove past the old train station in Oakland the other day, passing the historic 16th Street Station vandalized and covered in graffiti. Casa Peralta stood proudly middle class between those two extremes.
Funny thing was when I got to the Pacific Heritage Museum, it was in the middle of changing out exhibits. The walls were empty. It’s kind of an interesting space, rich in history. But I think I can mark this down as a fail. I also walked over to the Wells Fargo History Museum and took some photos.
The most likely success of that day was the photos of the interior of the Ferry Terminal. That’s still a popular subject. The little mirrorless camera thing has greatly improved what I can do in such circumstances. Years ago I photographed from the same vantage points with my Canon 5d. One of those photos managed to get in a National Geographic publication, which sounds alot more interesting than it was. Thing is without a tripod I couldn’t get some of the shots I was looking for. With this little camera, I have a little bean bag that I can rest on things like the railing and make long exposures and video.
In the tear sheets department, I’ve noticed something curious. The tiny amount of medium format film photos from a vacation I took to New Orleans in 1999 have been surprisingly successful. The same photo that was licensed for a Dutch translation of RJ Ellory’s “A Quiet Vendetta”, I just found being used as the cover for the York notes guide to Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Once again, none of this is in chronological order. The contents are as I remember things and may not be accurate. Read at your own risk.
This year our family vacation involved a trip to the Pacific Northwest. To give me a little flexibility to do some work too, I drove up and met my family at the airport a couple days after my departure. Though Seattle is a pretty public transit friendly place, having a car really afforded me the flexibility to venture out where ever I wanted and to take the pole along with me.
I’ve often heard that it is cold and rainy in Seattle. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but once again that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I think it’s just a ploy from Seattleites to keep us out of their beautiful city. My two weeks there were not only nearly entirely sunny, but hot, hot, hot! I even managed to get a nice sunburn swimming out on Lake Desire.
My brother who we were staying with lives in Renton, a suburb of Seattle. Turns out there is one stock photo worthy spot in town. The final resting place of Jimi Hendrix is located in town at the Greenwood Memorial Cemetery. I was a big fan as a young man, but guess I’ve heard the his popular songs too many times. As it happened there was a funeral in progress as we arrived right across from the memorial. That made it a bit akweird to photograph. But we waited a half hour or so and I managed to even get some pole shots in there too.
I’ll spare you the boring family vacation details as best as I can. But part of our trip was spent on Vashon Island. It was a pleasant enough, and a good reason not to do a lot of photography. I did manage to get a few shots in. Mainly of the Bicycle tree (an old bike that a tree grew around,) and the Point Robinson Light House. I also managed to score at a local thrift store on Vashon and among other lenses came home with a 500mm mirror lens for $22. I’ll be doing a little piece on that on my Lensbusters.com site.
Later while my two gals went to visit the Pacific Science Center I trolled around the Seattle Center neighborhood for photo ops. The Frank Gehry designed EMP museum, the Armory, Chihuly garden, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Space Needle were all in my radar. I stumbled upon an awesome playground: the Artists at Play Playground with the Gehry curved metal building in the background. The pole made for some unusual views not only of the playground, but I could peer over the hedges blocking clear views of the Chihuly garden and view over like a periscope. Also on our trip we did a walk around the Olympic Sculpture Garden. There was a giant white head (besides mine of course) looking out on the waterfront that made for a few good shots.
When I dropped my girls off at the airport I got a couple productive days of shooting stock as well. I spent a day covering some landmarks in the Fremont neighborhood. I originally wanted to employ the pole to look down at the Lenin statue. But when I arrived it was half in sun, half in shade and was the target of vandalism.
In Seattle, I managed to cover some other landmarks when I wasn’t on family duty. A couple years ago my sister-in-law who’d already lived in Seattle for a decade or so showed me some of the awesome sites. I returned to a few of them like Volunteer park to photograph the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Arboratorium. And still on a plant kick, I found the Medicinal Herb Garden listed on Google Maps- now that sounded like a stock-op if I’d ever heard of one. Turns out that was on the gorgeous University of Washington Campus that also served well as a stock photo location of interest.
I managed to get a little of the Silicon Valley Stock shtick in too. Turns out that in the Fremont area there’s what’s dubbed “Silicon Canal”. Google has their “waterside” campus and there’s a heavy presence of Adobe Systems as well. It so happened that was a Sunday and I got some aerial views of the famous Fremont Sunday Market- celebrating its 20th anniversary this year I read somewhere. I also tried to get some photos of the Amazon Headquarters- actually I did. But there’s no signs to make the photos look interesting. Maybe being anonymous was the point, Amazon was in the international news for their controversial treatment of workers at the time.
Another stock photo highlight of the trip post family was the Center for Wooden Boats and the other attractions nearby. There’s a handsome MOHAI museum building, a few historic ships on display and a Seaplane port all in the same vicinity of Lake Union. At one point I was working on doing a book on tugboats that I left dangling, but there was an important tug Arthur Foss on display as well.
What else did I forget? There was the Frye Museum, that was fun and free (with free parking to boot.) I should have also mentioned the Bolton Locks- fish ladders and all. Somehow I forgot to mention the fun and quirky Georgetown neighborhood as well. I also omitted the original Starbucks and the Bubblegum Wall near the Pike’s Market.
Unrelated to my Pacific Northwest journey I photographed a model, Taylor right before leaving. Some of those photos turned out quite well and we’ll see if they’re saleable. I also stumbled upon a Google Street View car while running errands.
If you read this far I’m amazed you’re still awake. Thanks for visiting!
On a recent trip to Google’s sprawling campus in Mountain View I had an odd encounter. Unfortunately I wasn’t well situated to document what I saw. As I was trying to get my own aerial view a crew of three showed up right next to me and plopped a drone on the ground.
For safety reasons I retracted my rig and moved over. One fellow donning a hard hat had a tether that was attached to said drone. The got it started and walked into the Quad area. I’m assuming they are Google X people, I can’t imagine that security would have let a setup like that in the belly of the beast if they weren’t at least Googlers. And in my handful of photos, I could zoom in and see a badge tucked into one of the fellows pockets.
Are they competing with Amazon? Just doing this for pure research? Fun? I don’t know.
All I do know is they got at least twice as high up as I did!
It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects. Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside. Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!
The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.
<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….
Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.
Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View. So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.
I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.
It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.
Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.
One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.