Ironic Aethist

Old Saint Mary's Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Old Saint Mary’s Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Not sure if it’s irony or hypocrisy- but it didn’t go unnoticed that I’ve taken a lot of photos of churches in the last few days. I am in fact a member of what I’m told is the most disliked faith group in the US- the atheists, freethinkers, non-believers or whatever label you prefer.

Tomales Presbyterian Church, Tomales, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Tomales Presbyterian Church, Tomales, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Every once in a while I hear a peep from those other groups – implying irony that I would choose their institutions to photograph. I do in fact find churches and other such institutions to be one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They are often the most beautiful or interesting parts of a built environment.

Saint Joseph's, San Jose, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Saint Joseph’s, San Jose, California (Michael Halberstadt)

That having been said, if I were to take a Christian to Pyongyang* and show them their metro station they’d be hard pressed to say that its not more beautiful than their local church. Or to some of the more modern buildings built after religion took a back seat to people- city halls, factories, train stations and the like I’m sure they’d also appreciate the beauty of secular architecture.

Just a thought!

Old Saint Mary's Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Old Saint Mary’s Church of Nicasio Valley (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

*I consider societies like the DPRK to effectively worship their leaders in a similar way that conventional religious people worship their deities.

Oakland: A Few Stock Photos of Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

Oakland has been on my radar for a while. The Dot-Com craziness has finally found its way east. Recently news outlets have been going gaga over the previously overlooked Bay Area city, the New York Times even dubbed it Brooklyn by the Bay.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

As I recall, Gertrude Stein famously said about Oakland: There is no there there. In researching my present subject, the Tribune Tower in the center of Oakland, I read that they actually put a “There” sign on the tower to make light of Stein’s comments.

In any case, I’d wanted to photograph the tower with some dramatic angles and clouds for a while. In photographing in much of Oakland I find myself somewhat torn between the beauty that is Oakland’s urban core and the chaos and lawlessness it’s known for. Tribune Tower has also been in the news alot lately, I think there’s some sort of bankruptcy issues with the (former) owner.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

I had a reasonably good experience in that regard during this shoot. My perch was the spot on Broadway right next to the 12th Street Bart entrance. With my Sony A7r on a tripod I got a few looks: some friendly, some suspicious. I got a few really dumb comments like the usual, “What, are you some kind of terrorist or something?” “Yes”, I replied, “I’m going to blow up that building with this magical camera” hoping in vein the idiot who made the comment might notice how dumb his question was.

I did see my fair share of bad behavior while doing my thing. There was a group of about a dozen people across the street congregating in front of the Burger King for nearly the entire time talking very loudly- occasionally shouting to other people (in a friendly manner) across various street corners. The kid in the bunch was bouncing his basket ball off the transom windows of the historic building.

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

In that entire couple hours I think I saw one police cruiser despite the fact that the main police HQ is a very short distance down Broadway, the street I was on. At one point there was a guy on a dirt bike, with no license plate. He started doing wheelies in the center of the intersection, then went off the wrong way on a one way street, only to reappear on the sidewalk. Even after dark, he was riding around in violation of most of the vehicle code and with no lights in front or back (not just not on, but there was no light on the bike, period.)

Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Tribune Tower, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

But despite all the complete lack of first world order, I managed to photograph without being hurt or seriously threatened. And I got a few good shots too.

Many of the photos I did employed one of my fun tricks: long daylight exposures. The trick is that I put a really dark grey filter in front of the lens, allowing exposures up to about 30 seconds during the daytime. The end result is that stationary objects, like in this case the Tribune Building tower remain stationary (of course) but the clouds move and leave streaky patterns. This is hit or miss- you knever know for sure what’s going to happen in the next half minute or so.

Another thing I’ve been trying to do is frame for book covers. I thought of this as a potential book cover project. For a complete book jacket, the subject has to be on the far right and have room on the left for a spine and the back. Seems at some point somebody’s going to be writing another book on Oakland and need a cover.

But you be the judge. I think some of these came out quite well. What do you think?

 

New Model: Gina

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

Recently I’ve been hiring models. There are a few reasons- I want to add something different to my stock photo library. I also need to hone my people photography skills for when they really count. So often I have a shoot and find myself fumbling with concepts I could have worked out when I wasn’t under alot of pressure. Having a large diverse library of people also seems to help getting my foot in the door for some gigs too.

In my most recent casting, my first model was Gina. She’s got a great look and was a real pleasure to work with.

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

On the unfortunate side,I found right before my shoot that all the lighting gear I meant to test was at my dad’s so we worked under natural light. Not to say that’s bad, but part of what’s in this for me is sorting out the lighting options. On the plus side with El Nino we had a giant softbox overhead (heavy overcast!)

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

Gina had a number of looks and outfits that played well for the shoot. We shot in a local park here in Alameda. All of the scenery was nature- which was nice. But I also wanted a mix of urban as well. Gina offered to do another shoot that I wanted in her neighborhood in San Francisco and I hope to make that happen after I’m done going down the list of all the great folks who’ve replied to my modeling request.

Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)
Photograph of a Young Woman (Michael Halberstadt)

Thanks Gina!

Wardrobe Malfunction Caught on Camera in Sacramento

See inset for area of resolution sample
See inset for area of resolution sample (this file is not at final size but downresed to display on your computer)
Resolution sample comparison
Resolution sample comparison: 

Quick, somebody call the FCC! Much like Janet Jackson, there is in fact a bare breast exposed on this photograph of the California State Capitol. The woman is over 140 years old.

You’d be forgiven for not having noticed it. With the naked eye or an ordinary camera it’s barely visible. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my theatrical blog post as well. But it gives me a chance to show the differences between the detail in an ordinary photograph and what’s possible with a super high resolution stock photo like the examples here.

Exhibit A: the whole field of view highlighting the inset shown in Exhibit B. This photo would print natively (without upresing in Photoshop) at ca. 250” x 165” @ 100ppi (or ca. 20 x 14 feet!)

Exhibit B: The image on the left is what a print would look like at 100 ppi at size. The middle image is a simulation of the resolution of a 80 megapixel image (like that from the medium format Hasselblad back that costs over $30,000). The image on the right simulates the resolution of a 36 megapixel image like that of the Sony A7r, or the Nikon D800 family of cameras.