Aura – An Easy to Follow Self Driving Vehicle

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.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

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.

Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Mission Santa Clara

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.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

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.)

Auro Self Driving Car Race

Salinas and Steinbeck

Salinas, California
Salinas Train Station

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.

Salinas, California
Salinas Rail Station

And I was pleasantly surprised!

Salinas, California
Downtown Salinas Stock Photo

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.

Salinas, California
Antique Salinas Soda Bottles

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.)

Salinas, California
National Steinbeck Center (stock photo)

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!

Salinas, California
Nazi hat in antique store

 

Kensington and a couple of Botanical Gardens

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, CA

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.

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

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!

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

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”.

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!

Kensington

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!)

Kensington

The Architect of Death

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.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA
Millionaire’s Row, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA

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.

Millionaire's Row, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA
Millionaire’s Row, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA

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.

Long Daylight Exposure of Obelisk at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA
Long Daylight Exposure of Obelisk at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA

A Very Asian Day in San Jose……

A Very Asian Day in San Jose……

Japantown San Jose, Silicon Valley

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.

Japantown San Jose, Silicon Valley

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.

Overfelt Gardens Park, San Jose, Silicon Valley

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.

Overfelt Gardens Park, San Jose, Silicon Valley

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.

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

All in all, it was a nice visit. I do know the way to San Jose, and enjoy taking that route.

 

Greetings from San Diego

Greetings from San Diego…..

Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Alcazar Gardens, Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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).

Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Museum of Man, Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

The area is just sooo beautiful and well suited to photography. I hope to return and spend more time down there.

Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Long daylight exposure, Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Balboa Park, San Diego (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

In Search of the Self Driving Minivan

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Vote Early and Shoot Often

Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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.

Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

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?

Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Voting (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

A Few More Tearsheets

Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

There’s been a small stack of magazines sitting on my living room table. I’ve been meaning to setup my desktop shooting station and take a few nicer photos of them for my tearsheet postings for a while but finally got around to it. A friend and (successful) photographer Tom Paiva had brought another magazine he was reading and noticed the photo credit (Bloomberg Businessweek.) There were a couple of Silicon Valley Stock images in the latest Via Magazine (the AAA member magazine,) and Santa Clara University’s magazine too.

 

Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Berkeley, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Berkeley, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Magazine Tearsheet - Via Magazine (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Magazine Tearsheet – Via Magazine (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga California (M Halberstadt/SiliconValleyStock.com)

 

Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Silicon Valley, San Jose and the South San Francisco Bay Area as seen from the East Foothills (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Silicon Valley, San Jose and the South San Francisco Bay Area as seen from the East Foothills (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

 

 

Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Magazine Tearsheet (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Yahoo! Parking Lot, Santa Clara (M Halberstadt)
Yahoo! Parking Lot, Santa Clara (M Halberstadt)

I Did Promise You a Rose Garden & Ringin’ Muir’s Bell

I thought it’d be fun and go out and photograph a few versions of the same thing, like on a theme. I’ve also been exploring Oakland a bit more for the stock photo biz. So I opted to check out something new to me in Oakland. The theme I intended to follow was Rose Gardens from Oakland to Walnut Creek. But plans don’t always work out. My intended reconnaissance mission was then to see what I could of the secretive GoMentum automated car testing grounds in nearby Concord.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

There are so many cool and hidden pockets of Oakland to surprise even those of us who’ve lived nearby for ages. The Morcom Rose Garden was yet another surprise for me. It was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project, which I find particularly cool. If it weren’t for Republican resistance, I think we could have had a modern wave of building innovation after the economic collapse that started under the Bush administration a decade or so ago.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

In any case, Morcom has that WPA look. The buildings have that sort of Mission Revival ? style and the gardens are terraced in nicely symmetrical. Though I’m reasonably happy with some of the photos I took, this wasn’t the ideal time of year- I should come back in summer next year.

the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
the Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So, on to the next rose garden on the list. This was in Berkeley. Unfortunately for photographic purposes this was something of a bust. The lighting was less than ideal when I arrived. But more importantly some renovation was underway, so there were vehicles and orange plastic fencing etc ruining the aesthetic.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Ces’t la vie.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

So next stop I had planned was Walnut Creek or Concord- I didn’t care what order. But as is often the case, I got sidetracked. From highway 4 I saw the signs for the John Muir National Historic Site. I was relieved to see a “free entry” sign at the front and went on in. Again, the lighting for the exterior was far from ideal.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Inside however there were a few fun finds. The ranger inside said to go on up to the top bell tower and ring away if I wanted. And I did. I got a bunch of bell photos thinking that they would be a good geo quiz type image. And though I had no tripod, I couldn’t help but shooting a few interiors.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

It was late afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch or much of a breakfast, so I tried finding something in Martinez. But instead I found the handsome buildings downtown including a historic courthouse and post office and photographed them.

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

And then moved on to Concord, still hungry.

Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Martinez, CA (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

I drove around the Gomentum/old military base but didn’t see many gaps or any self driving cars. I’ll have to do more research. And I never made it to the rose garden in Walnut Creek. Guess that’s for another day.