Catching up with San Jose

Toyota Prius hits the 100,000 mile mark (Michael Halberstadt)
Toyota Prius hits the 100,000 mile mark (Michael Halberstadt)

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….

Close-up of map of Silicon Valley
Close-up of map of Silicon Valley

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.

McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Fanimecon 2015, McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose
Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose

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.

Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose
Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in Downtown San Jose

….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.)

 

Blowing off Steam in Sacramento

 

Granite Rock no. 10 Steam Engine Travels near the Waterfront in Sacramento (Michael Halberstadt)
Granite Rock no. 10 Steam Engine Travels near the Waterfront in Sacramento (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Granite Rock no. 10 Steam Engine passing through Old Sacramento State Historic Park (Michael Halberstadt)
Granite Rock no. 10 Steam Engine passing through Old Sacramento State Historic Park  with the Iconic Tower Bridge in the Background (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Sacramento, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Gigapixel stitched Panorama of the State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA prints at ca. 36×12 feet at 100ppi  (Michael Halberstadt)

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 😉

Tower Bridge in Sacramento, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Tower Bridge in Sacramento, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Sacramento, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Crest Theater, Sacramento, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

 

Go Ahead…. Call It Frisko

With my apologies to Herb Caen

Ultra High Resolution Panoramic Stock Photograph of San Francisco from Above (prints at ca. 15' x 5' @100ppi un-upresed) (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Ultra High Resolution Panoramic Stock Photograph of San Francisco from Above (prints at ca. 15′ x 5′ or 5 x 2.5 meters  @100ppi un-upresed) (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

After a previous engagement in The City I pulled out my pano machine and got to work. Requests for extra high resolutions stock photos of the City by the Bay are common and it was a clearer than average day in the Bay Area.

Originally I planned to head over to the Golden Gate Bridge and shoot from both the Marin and San Francisco sides. But as I saw traffic building up in front of me, and coincidentally looked up to the iconic Sutro Tower I changed my mind. And off to Twin Peaks I drove.

The top of Twin Peaks wasn’t the only thing that was high up top. As I did a quick site and wind survey the pot smell was as strong as I’d guess one would smell on the set of a Cheech and Chong movie. But my real problem was the wind. Gusts rip over the peak from the Pacific Ocean behind me. My pano machine is pretty sturdy, but not enough to stay still for the one second exposures I anticipated making when the winds approached hurricane speeds.

A short time after the sun set, the light got really nice. I hunkered down right below the parking area below seeking a spot that was partially sheltered from the wind. In addition to the benefits of reduction in wind, I found myself about three feet below the tourists posing with the city in the background right behind me. At one point I turned around to find myself only inches from the bum of a very attractive gal 😉 My method of protecting my rig from wind gusts did work, but must have looked quite awkweird. I opened my jacket, and stood as close as I could to the setup without obscuring the lens. I look weird enough without all my camera kit. But this must have appeared especially odd if viewed from the wrong angle, reminiscent of this poster that was pinned up in Mr Bernucci’s photo class at my old high school.

But then again, Frisko is full of all sorts of strange characters. I might just fit in!

 

 

 

Coming Soon: Really Big Files

 

 (Michael Halberstadt)
(Screen Capture showing resolution-Michael Halberstadt)

Some time ago, I purchased a software/hardware integrated device that is capable of creating huge images. It can be tricky to use, and is always cumbersome and takes a fair amount of time. However it’s possible to make very large files.

People typically talk about billboards when discussing really large files. But I think billboards actually don’t need such high resolution since they are typically viewed from a distance. These images would be suitable for covering walls in stores or offices and the like. Situations where viewers could see the whole image from a great distance, yet walk right up and see a nice clear picture.

Some photographers simply up interpolate a smaller image, meaning they just add pixels- and that won’t help much in an extreme enlargement. For a huge print to look good close up, the minimum native resolution should be 100, maybe even 72 ppi. That’s about the same as your typical computer monitor. That wouldn’t be appropriate for “fine art” type prints, but would be more than acceptable for a ca. 8×20′ (2.5×6 meter) wall.

Creating such large photos and prepping them takes a lot of time, but I’m gradually adding them here.  At present the finals I’ve created are layered tif files, and through a quirk with Photoshelter they display strangely. I’ll have to sort that out, but there’s also a screen capture with the resolution open in Photoshop.