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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 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 Modernecityhall abandoned on a mainstreet.
An email came out of the blue, a photo request from a previous client. They were looking for a specific train at the State Railway Museum in Sacramento. I wasn’t by my computer at the time and knew I had a few photos of trains in Oldtown Sacramento where the museum offers excursions on historic trains along the Sacramento River. I sent her a note that I’d have a look.
Further research that the train in question, the Granite Rock Number 10 just arrived at the Museum. What to do? How about a weekend in Sacramento?! Hotels.com screwed up our hotel royally in Athens last summer and gave us a voucher for $100 that was soon to expire. So I booked room at the Rodeway Inn in West Sacramento within easy walking distance of the Museum and the train’s likely path.
That Friday I got started. After checking at the hotel I went over to the museum to ask about where to find the train. The young man told me I was in luck if I was here over the weekend, since the Granite Rock Number 10 Steam Engine would be escorting rail fans on a short trip along the Sacramento Riverfront.
Great- so I went on to shoot some more stock. I’ve been honing my stitched panorama skills. The State Capitol building would make a great subject. After all, shooting panos requires a few things besides my $1000 pano machine, arguably skill but also patience, lots of time and memory cards. Whenever anybody sees my setup they assume (incorrectly) that I know what I’m doing. So it was particularly fun to see a pair of nuns ask me to take their picture with an iPhone. The younger nun was so pleased with her photo she prompted me for a “high five.” Despite my strongly held view of atheism, neither she nor I were struck by lightning nor caught fire 😉
I walked around Sacramento’s downtown. Aside from the heat, seems like it would be a nice place to live. Over the course of my stay I got quite a few useable panos, stock photos of Sacramento and hopefully my client will be impressed with my image library’s newly added train photos.
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.
My first published travel writing piece was in the most recent Oakland/Alameda Magazine. It’s a short piece (with many thanks to Oakland Magazine peeps for their editing help) about tech tourism and Silicon Valley. Hope this is the beginning of more such work! The photo they choose for the article is of Hoover Tower on the Stanford Campus.
My plan for New Year’s Day was to drive down California’s Central Coast and meet a couple friends at Pfeiffer Beach. But after some strong weather hit, the beach was closed. The subject we were interested in was the “Keyhole Rock” – at this time of year the sun streams right through the center of the hole at sunset, a sort of au natural Stonehenge I suppose.
So, we drove the half hour of windy road to another part of California’s Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I remember it from zillions of photos modern back to the classics by f64 photographers. It’s a secluded cove and a desolate beach, so shallow that the water of the Pacific looks cyan.
Normally I’m in favor of all those European social welfare laws and such. But one aspect of those can be the frustration of being surrounded by zillions of krauts and frogs as happened this not-so-fateful New Year’s Day.
Fighting for a spot to place my tripod was hard enough. But I was also out gunned by my friends who own better gear than I do. I did my best to find a slightly different spot then theirs, but no doubt their photos will be better than mine none-the-less. And to add insult to injury, some schmuck had drawn a huge “I love XXX” in the sand near the waterfall. Oh well.
If nothing else, I stayed longer and got a few photos under the nearly full moon.
Above is a slightly different view of the iconic Bixby Bridge on California’s Central Coast. I went down shooting stock photos and ended up stopped on a dirt road behind the bridge marveling at how much the weather changed in the short couple hours I waited for the light to change.