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.
These are some recent photos, but I was perusing my Lake Merritt gallery and found a few more I’m pretty happy with. I plug a few of those below too.
<rant> On a related note, I’m gonna get on my stock photo soapbox and trash a competitor. I was researching locations, keywords and such and stumbled upon Getty Images. They are the 800 pound gorilla of the stock photo market.
I did a search for Oakland California and was shocked at what I found. For one, there was some professional looking content. But many of the photos looked way over processed, HDR’d and generally of the “b” grade material found on Flickr.
Surprise number two was how shallow their selection was. The search was for Oakland California – a very picturesque and newsworthy city half the size of and right across the bay from San Francisco. The New York Times was calling it Brooklyn West or something as I recall- I’m assuming because of the increase in hipsters. Their “creative” content only had about 3,500 hits, and including news just shy of 7,000.
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.
Here’s another project I hope to bring back to life. Almost a decade ago I managed to get some people from Craigslist to stand in front of my camera. I had this idea, using the 1000mm lens my dad gave me (a Sigma 1000mm f8 APO vintage 1990’s) to photograph people around sunset to make silhouettes.
I put out a call for people that looked interesting in profile. For example, mohawks, big afros, shapely people etc. I got a really pretty woman and her daughter, and a couple of punks the guy had an awesome mohawk.
Technically I found this more challenging than I expected. The use of the 1000mm lens is very tricky. It’s about a meter long (as implied by its focal length.) That’s not including the lens hood. And I was using this Nikon mount lens on a Canon camera with manual focus. But manual focus wasn’t much of an obstacle. It was trying to point this lens where I wanted it- and to avoid showing anything behind the models. Also, being maybe 30 meters away made communicating with the models tricky. That and the fact that the waterfront path lied between me and my camera and the subject- so I had to pause as cyclists and pedestrians walked through the scene.
That having been said, I’m very happy with the results. The punks looked great from profile. The young woman had a really nice figure and the guy’s mohawk was as the best I could imagine. And you can tell they were genuinely in love.
The other set of models were very different. A lovely young mother brought her daughter along. She told me her daughter had a great day- I wish I asked them to come back for another couple shoots. I particularly liked the shots of her with camera in hand.
I post this now as a reminder to repeat this idea. I’ve got some better gear for the task. I’ve got some other silhouette ideas. It’s time to open up this project again!
(note the Mohawk couple is not model released for whatever that’s worth)
Google just announced the new Android OS: it’s Nougat. Sweet.
As per usual, the new sculpture was released at the Googleplex. Yours truly put on my editorial stock photographer hat and made a stop in Mountain View yesterday.
I also got a few stock photographs of the Android sculpture garden that has changed a bit since my last visit. It was also mobbed with kids and other visitors. Finally there’s a place to go to for some Silicon Valley tourism besides the small infrastructure that barely exists here.
From the outside, Fremont is a sleepy suburban city in Silicon Valley. Well, honestly from the inside that’s more or less true too. Though with a few quirks that make Fremont a fun place to explore if you live in the area.
Dotted between the stucco homes and strip malls is a quirky views of America’s past and future.
My journies to the past this time included my first stop: the Pioneer Cemetery of Centerville. Centerville is a neighborhood in Fremont now, but I assume it was a town at one point judging by some of the headstone inscriptions listing place of death as Centerville. Frankly the place was a bit rundown- and there was a major construction site nextdoor preventing too much rest in that final resting spot. One headstone listed a guy who’s year of birth was in the 1700’s- something rarely seen on headstones here in the west.
From the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be an old train station behind me. Finishing up with the cemetery, I dragged my kit along to explore and low-and-behold it was a handsome little station that was converted to a cafe. The platform is still in use for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. On the other side of the tracks there’s a lovely little park with a covered historic railway waiting area.
All was good, well except for one thing. I was thinking about this- there has to be a series of Murphy’s Laws for photography. The rule in play here was the attraction of dirty, ugly or aesthetically unpleasant stuff to the most interesting landmark. It could be the workers in fluorescent orange jackets cleaning up, traffic cones, the strategically placed utility pole blocking the best view of a facade. However in this case, it was a pile of garbage in a shopping cart underneath the Centerville train shelter. Presumably left by a homeless person, who either abandoned it or was coming back at some point, the cart had a undersized adult bike (popular with the druggies) and most unfortunately a filthy large *RED* sleeping bag partially unfurled.
This really was a beautifully done park however aside from the crap and few druggies hanging out there. Wisteria draped off to the left and right of the shelter, and the old station was just across the way with a handful of waiting passengers. The sign atop the station and shelter reads: “Centerville – to San Francisco 40 1/10 m. – to Ogden 799 4/10 m. – Elevation 57 feet.“*
Otherwise the space was beautiful. I stopped in the cafe and got coffee and a snack. The lady inside said she recently bought the business. It was really cute inside as well, though empty- perhaps because the time of day- it was about noon on a workday. The coffee was really good, I’d definitely go back.
Next stop was the Shinn Park & Arboretum. My timing was off, this would have been much better had I arrived earlier when the sun was less harsh. This looks like a grand old farmhouse that lost its farm to suburban sprawl, but gained some gorgeous gardens. I was presented with the Murphy’s Law of Photography again when a city of Fremont truck drove up and the dude in the fluorescent orange jacket ran around cleaning up. I’m keeping the Shinn park in the back of my mind for a place to photograph again and maybe get a picnic in on one of the pleasantly shaded tables.
I headed back to familiar territory- Mission San Jose. Though I already have plenty in my photo library, I wanted to apply a few new techniques.
I headed back to Niles- more familiar territory and after a few snaps managed to find a happy hour sign. The restaurant- The Vine had a $2 off drinks on tap, and they had not just beer but wine on tap. I couldn’t resist. I walked in only to find a surprisingly empty restaurant. However continuing to the back I found a bustling patio and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals with a glass.
My next journey was only a couple miles in distance but a huge cultural shift. If Fremont is known for anything it’s its South Asian population. There’s a substantial number of Afghanis and lots of Indians, Pakistanis and other nationalities and those with roots in the Subcontinent. I’d visited San Jose’s Gurdwara a number of times. In addition to being really interesting to look at and a pleasant variation from the middle American ‘burbs- the Sikh places of worship are great to visit. One major reason is that people are super-duper nice! And they are not camera phobic. Guys with turbans typically come up and say hi and tell me to feel free to photograph.
But in this case in the Fremont Gurdwara in addition to all this- a gentleman introduced me as Sing came up and asked me if I wanted to see inside and have a meal? Well why not? He put a head covering on and handed me a dollar bill to drop into the offering inside. We chatted while sitting on the floor while I asked all the dumb questions about Sikhism and he did his best to answer. He then took me to the cafeteria and we drank chai and he gave me a few Indian sweets balls of sweetened ground chickpeas. I was a bit shy about taking any photos inside and don’t have a lot to show for this photographically, but it was an experience I really enjoyed.
Next stop I stumbled upon the California Nursery Historical Park- I believe this is a city park still in progress. On the site was a rose garden, not in the best of shape with an old faux windmill themed storage closet at the center. A bunch of fenced off delipidated greenhouses were off in another corner. There was also the a Vallejo Adobe off in the corner. The adobe building was fenced off and locked (as was the restroom next door unfortunately as I would have liked to have visited both.)
I’d hoped to get some of the neon Niles signs but they weren’t on- so last stop was the big Niles gate sign and I packed up and went home. But I’ll be back – no question!
*This just reminded me, the presumably old train station sign gives the elevation- relevant to my previous post. The centerville sign reads 57 feet- and I checked with the tool from my previous post: 57.126 feet. Not a whole lot of sinking below sea level.
I’d been meaning to get out and do something productive. This time I opted to head over to San Francisco. It was an overcast Sunday morning and I figured at least there’d be plenty of free parking. And in fact I found a decent spot right around from Google’s SF HQ (and Firefox that I actually photographed.)
From the Embarcadero I headed toward the San Francisco Ferry Building. I think that’s still a popular spot and thought a few aerial shots were in order. I got a few verticals in – even managing to get a bunch of patrons at the Market Bar to comment on my rig.
From there I headed for a straight on view. I got a few good shots in – I think at least. But I noticed something odd. Off to my left I saw a few people in military garb and Soviet flags flying. At first I thought it was some hipster kids who think Communism is cool, yet know nothing about the subject at all. Boy was I wrong. On arriving I heard one of my favorite old pinko tunes: Katjuscha (I know the DDR version.) In addition to the Soviet red flag with hammer and sickle, there were modern red, white and blue Russian flags and a our very own stars and stripes in the mix as well. I asked one of the ladies what the occasion was. Turns out they were celebrating Victory in Europe day (a day early- not sure if it was because they could have the day off or that’s how Russia celebrates their victory.) It was cool none-the-less.
The next aerial views I decided to try were the City Hall area. There was a movie being filmed there- adding lots of clutter and parking issues. But I did my best to hid that. There was also the Asian Art Museum and Library behind me that seemed stock photo worthy. And it turned out to be Farmer’s Market day at the United Nations Plaza. I got what I could.
For some reason I thought it was closer than it was, but I also thought the turn around for the cable cars area would be a good “from above” spot. And it was. I think these will sell- it’s a very common stock photo subject, but the aerial view is different enough I think to make my shots unique.
(this last photo is a link to my San Francisco gallery)
Continuing with my stock photography coverage, I headed to Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market. Historic Old Oakland is picturesque already, but the Farmers’ Market added to the photographic appeal. There’s something nice about a city where there’s no car traffic. And that’s one nice aspect to urban farmers’ markets. There are all the colorful produce and flowers to brighten the place up. Pedestrians filling the streets add to the aesthetic charm. And best of all, I can photograph from right in the middle of the road!
Yet another day of stock portrait shoots to report. I had a busy day of three different models: Yami, Martin and Josh. It occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned another model I worked with too…Tre.
The stock photography model shooting has been pretty intense. I’m not used to working with people like this. And I’ve never met anybody prior to our shoots so it’s kind of like getting to know somebody and only having an hour or two to get a sense of their “look”.
In the end I feel like I’m learning something. This hasn’t been a particularly lucrative endeavor, at least yet. But while learning to work with models I hope to improve my skills and find what stock photography does sell.