Truth be told, I was really out testing a new lens. I had just received a Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens and wanted to get a few test photos with my Sony A7RII and MC-11 kit. Uncharacteristically the weather here in Silicon Valley has been very wet and I had little chance to play.
So I made a quick trip to the Alameda side of Oakland Estuary, a spot with great views of the Port of Oakland with all the containership and tugboat traffic.
But being a weekend- there wasn’t too much going on.
So I headed over to Alameda’s “Booze Alley” a row of alcohol themed businesses facing past the old NAS runway with spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. I was just in time for the sun to drop past the almost finished Salesforce Tower (tallest building on the West Coast- or so I have read.) Standing on a bit of concrete debris I was able to get my new large lens over the fence in the Faction Brewing Company parking lot.
I made a point of framing for type- leaving room on the sides or top hoping for a future magazine or book cover.
After the sun went down, I drove further along the waterfront on the old decommissioned base and managed to get a few long exposures in.
My step-mom April Halberstadt attends church on the Santa Clara University Campus. Knowing my proclivity for chasing self driving vehicles down the Streets of Silicon Valley, she made a point of letting me know that there’s a self driving shuttle on campus.
While recently in the neighborhood, I went to see what’s going on in Santa Clara and swing by the university campus. Most of what’s interesting to see is in or around the university. The city and university are centered around the mission. While on campus, I typically swing by the De Saissat museum- but I was too early on this visit.
In any case, there was no sign of the self driving shuttle actually, I noticed there literally was a sign, literally (!) that I passed. But in any case, there I was minding my own business checking out the Mission building when up pulled the Auro. A young man seated in the Auro (guess we can’t call him the driver) was asked by a lady passing by, so if you have to choose between hitting a pedestrian or a skateboarder what happens. At that point I chimed in suggesting the Auro should hit the skateboarder because they are more annoying. They then went on to discuss the “Trolley Problem” and I kept photographing.
What was nice, from my perspective at least, is that the Auro is very slow. And that it has a route and stop right in front of the iconic mission. So after a few photos close up, I sat and relaxed at the fountain a ways back to get a more distant view. After getting a few sans vehicle photos eventually the Auro drove slowly towards me. In fact, another little similarly configured electric powered utility vehicle zoomed right past the Auro. The series of photos fit nicely into an animated GIF (see below.)
Returning from the Monterey Peninsula, I opted to go straight inland this time. All I ever hear on the news when I’m down in the Monterey Area is crime dramas from Salinas. Yet there had to be more.
And I was pleasantly surprised!
The small tiny core of downtown Salinas was nice and tidy. The built environment was rich in architectural details. Regrettably I didn’t have too much time, but it looked like there were a number of nice eating (and drinking) establishments.
The main road runs right in to the National Steinbeck Center. Salinas was Steinbeck’s home town and a major influence on his writings (or so I have read.)
A historic Bank of America building is being given a new life as a giant antiques shop. Like many small towns, the people seemed particularly nice and had time for small talk, like the lady at the antiques shop. Photographically, I really like the glass in the window thing. I took a few other snaps inside the shop. One thing that freaked me out as I sorted my photos and looked a bit closer was that the military garb I had taken photos of had swastikas. I’m surprised and freaked out as to how many Americans have a fascination with the NAZI’s!
I knew that on of my clients was looking for photos of Contra Costa Parks so I opted to make a visit to Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Since there’s lots of color elsewhere in the Bay Area at the moment, I assumed there would be there too. Alas, as so often is the case, I was wrong. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a native plants garden, and I’m guessing those are on another schedule.
Not far away was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I remembered that my reciprocal NARM membership should get me in for free, and so it did. Visually, this garden offered much more. The stock photographer in me kept photographing the signs.
I remembered a visit I made to the Medicinal Herb Garden in Seattle a couple years ago- this seems even more medicinal. There was a Chinese section that claimed to have herbs for cancer to pretty much everything else. But ironically, there were signs all over the place stating “Many Plants Here are Toxic, DO NOT EAT THEM!” Well so much for Chinese medicine!
I’ve also been seeking out fountains recently that seem to work particularly well with my slightly aerial view setup. And I managed to check one fountain off my list: Berkeley’s “The Fountain at The Circle”.
My next stop was Kensington. I stopped and got a coffee and almond halva at Country Cheese Co. Coffee Market. I have a knack for inserting my foot in my mouth, and while paying the pretty young woman at the cash register noted that she had a shirt just like mine (a dark green plaid) – I said I can’t picture that. What I meant was that she seemed far to chic to wear anything that resembled what I wear, but I’m sure she was left with the impression of what’s wrong with that guy! Not that this has anything to do with my stock photo blog, just getting this off my chest. Sorry miss!
I’ve been a fan of Semifreddy’s croutons for some time. And I think they got their start in Kensington, though they now have a big bakery in my town of Alameda. Semifreddy’s has a retail location in Kensington and I stopped in and puzzled what to order. The young lady at the counter asked if I liked olives, (of course I do!) because they accidentally just made a vegetarian Muffaletta – so they made the decision for me (and it was good!)
One of the most beautiful and unique places in the Bay Area is the Mountain View cemetery in the Oakland Hills. The sprawling historical cemetery is home to a handful of well known figures. Looking at “Millionaire’s Row” there are lots of names Bay Area residents will recognize- if not for the person entombed, then for the institutions, products, street signs that bear their names.
For example Chabot, for whom the Chabot Science Center in Oakland, J. A. Folger, founder of Folgers Coffee, Domingo Ghirardelli, namesake of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, Henry J. Kaiser, father of modern American shipbuilding (and I think somehow related to the Kaiser Building and insurance?), Charles Crocker of Crocker Bank fame, etc.
One lesser known fact casual visitors won’t likely know, is that the landscape architect of the cemetery has a few other projects you may have heard of. Mountain View cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, if you haven’t heard of this cemetery, you likely are familiar with New York City’s Central Park, another one of his projects. He’s also responsible for two more Bay Area gems: Stanford and UC Berkeley campuses.
Not that I planned it that way… I did start looking (for cherry blossoms) in two of San Jose’s Japanese landmarks, Japantown and the Japanese Friendship Garden. But the Japanese Friendship garden turned out to be closed, perhaps due to the recent flooding. And turns out the beautiful pink blossoms that are blooming in my neighborhood were plum trees, not cherry. I’ll have to return in a month or two.
So I walked around San Jose’s Japantown looking for stuff to photograph. I’d been meaning to add a few photos of the newish Japanese Museum. And I couldn’t help but get a few shots of the already well covered Buddhist Church. And as I do whenever I can, I stopped at an old familiar restaurant I’ve visited since my childhood: Kazoo.
And while thinking of gardens and trees in bloom, I thought of another place from my childhood. Right next to my high school, Independence HS on the East Side, there’s a park. I took a few photos there a few months ago, and it was really, really brown and dry due to the drought. Now it’s flooding in SJ, so I figured it would look a bit different, perhaps with some plum trees in blossom if I was lucky.
Well I was lucky- to some degree at least. There were a few pink blossoming trees next to an arch commemorating the Chinese Garden. The gardens themselves seemed kinda shabby. The main pavilion was still barricaded like the last time I visited months ago. And one big surprise for me was that the pond around the Confucius statue was completely empty. I assumed the last time I visited it was because of the drought, but alas there must be another reason.
Onward on my Asian journey, I made a stop to a favorite suburban gem that was built when I was growing up in the neighborhood: the Pao-Hua Buddhist Temple. I think this is mainly used by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese folks. I really like the walls of Buddhas especially. And the people there are so nice, a monk came up to me and encouraged me to continue photographing pointing out some details I should pay closer attention to.
All in all, it was a nice visit. I do know the way to San Jose, and enjoy taking that route.
To be honest, I’m actually back home in the San Francisco Bay Area. But I’ve been busy processing my stock photos from a trip down to Southern California to cover an event unrelated to my Silicon Valley Stock shtick.
My first uploads are of Balboa Park. The park is a historic district, much of which was built for the Panama Pacific Expo (I think).
I tried to put all my tricks into use here. Lots of aerial shots, a few architecturally correct shift photos, and a few long daylight exposures as well.
The area is just sooo beautiful and well suited to photography. I hope to return and spend more time down there.
Just to clear things up first, no you will not see any photos on this post of the new rumored Chrysler-Fiat Pacifica Self Driving minivan. It is in the works as I understand it, and have seen some photos online in a Google parking garage. But eventually, they will have to take this thing out for testing, and I’ll be there ASAP snapping away.
However, I did get to sit on a bench on a pleasant fall day and snap some nice photos of other Google autonomous cars passing by. I felt kinda like a fisherman might feel fishing out of a stocked pond.
At one point (while I was on the phone to my friend and fellow photographer Christian 1*) I heard the electric car whirring sound on my left. I excused myself from the phone call, stood up and saw two of those cute 2 seat prototype autonomous cars on my left, then looked to the right and saw another one! It was like I was being surrounded.
Unfortunately for my stock photo luck, there was another interesting scene – that could have been an even better contrast had there been a self driving car there as well. A homeless guy (?) came riding down the slight hill next to the Google X building carrying a bunch of huge bags full of recycling.
I’ll head down soon and see if I can find this rumored vehicle in the wild.
Another stock opportunity? The stack of ballot measures were staring at me for weeks. Before I sent them off I figured I’d be wise to get a few shots of the actual ballot and dropping it off at the ballot box.
This election cycle has been rather news-worthy. So why not get a few closeups of the (evil) Trump as well as Hillary and whatever else?