This Week in Stalking Google….

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.

Google Self Driving Car (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Self Driving Car (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Makani, Alameda (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Ebay Campus in San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Ebay Campus in San Jose, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Mormon Temple, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Mormon Temple, Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

BART, Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
BART, Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (M Halberstadt/Urbantexture.com, Michael Halberstadt, M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Vandalized interior of Oakland’s Historic 16th Street Train station /Michael Halberstadt, M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Casa Peralta, San Leandro, CA (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Casa Peralta, San Leandro, CA (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Pacific Heritage Museum, San Francisco, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Pacific Heritage Museum, San Francisco, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (M Halberstadt/Urbantexture.com, Michael Halberstadt)
(M Halberstadt/Urbantexture.com, Michael Halberstadt)

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.”

Screenshot (94) Streetcar named desire tear sheet

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.

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.)

 

Full Airspace over the Googleplex

Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)
Google Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only)

Full Airspace over the Googleplex

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!

Pole Dancing in Silicon Valley (or Good Fences Make Bad Neighbors)

A Look over the Fence at Apple Campus 2, Cupertino, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
A Look over the Fence at Apple Campus 2, Cupertino, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

A Look over the Fence at Apple Campus 2, Cupertino, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
A Look over the Fence at Apple Campus 2, Cupertino, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, Silicon Valley (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
A view from above of the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden .(Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Two Trains in Fremont (Michael Halberstadt)
 (Michael Halberstadt)
Old Train Depot, Niles, Fremont, CA Photo By: Michael Halberstadt

So where else should I raise my pole?