It’s true I am an atheist. Most folks who know me realize that I hold a rather negative view of religion in general. But don’t get your panties in a bunch yet. This is yet another intentionally provocative title desperately trying to get attention. And if you read this and you’re not my dad (hey pop!) it worked!
The suburbs can be more interesting than folks think. Particularly in Silicon Valley. Large waves of immigrants have left a colourful mark on the otherwise beige stucco and cement that makes up most of the area between urban and rural in North America. Exhibit A is Wat Buddashorn in Fremont. It’s a Buddhist temple wedged between otherwise indistinguishable tract houses near Niles, a surprisingly interesting district in its own right. Another plus of hanging out around Buddhist temples in my experience is that people tend to be quite nice and photo friendly. A 6’2” white guy dangling a little camera 15’ over their temple didn’t prompt any reaction.
Exhibit B the Buddhist Church Betsuin in San Jose. San Jose is unique in having one of the few remaining Japantowns in North America. They also sport a nice garden next door. Unfortunately they store their orange cones and no parking sign in the front, so head on shots are kinda not so pretty. But it’s a handsome structure none-the-less.
Having dealt with a stock request for Japantown last month I figured I’d see what I could do with the two block commercial street too. I really love the place. I eat semi-regularly at Kazoo and grab coffee and pastries at Roy’s Station. But it’s visually not the most interesting of places. The elevated perspective did add something, but only so much. Another akweird side to the pole aerial photo shtick is catching lots of people looking at me or the camera with a WTF look on their faces.
In addition to pole dancing in Cupertino, I managed to get in a few stitched panos. I’d been trying to think of where. Down in San Jose one of my favorite motifs is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. It’s the kind of architecture that if they were building it now, I’d consider tacky: Mock buildings made to look ancient Egyptian in style but with stucco and modernish materials. But somehow with almost a century passing there’s a quaintness to the style. Plus it has really nice gardens.
Being a Monday the museum was closed. Which for stitched photos is a plus. The fewer changes in the scene over the two minutes it takes to make all the dozens of individual photos the more likely it is to work. The overcast weather kept the contrast down which is another important consideration on images with such a wide field of view. Though it worked in my favor, I was really surprised how little foot traffic there was. On this beautiful block in the wonderful and safe Rosegarden neighborhood there might have been a total of six pedestrians that passed me.
And speaking of the Rosegarden neighborhood, the namesake garden is just a couple of blocks away. I setup for a pano there but as is often the case ended up trying to explain what I was doing to several curious photo enthusiasts. It’s really strange explaining why something as beautiful as a huge rosegarden in full bloom is difficult to capture. But it really is. In addition to the technical challenges the subject is one that the viewer kind of immerses them self in, not a single mental image but the entirety of the experience. At least at ground level. Esthetically I prefer the pole shots I made there the day before. But enough excuses.
I had another idea for a nice wide shot….. Fremont is one of those places. It’s the suburbs. Yet much more interesting than most. One interesting area is Niles. Charlie Chaplin filmed movies back before Hollywood had a near monopoly on film. Perhaps one reason he chose Niles was the abundance of rail lines. Any good silent film needs plenty of rails to tie a maiden to prior to being saved. At the center of this lovely little neighborhood now is an elegant train station and park. The station I believe has been converted to a museum, and I don’t think serves passengers anymore. But it is still on an active rail corridor.
Stitching all these photos together can lead to some odd results. Instead of capturing 1/60th of a second in one go, it’s capturing 1/60th of a second representing the upper left, then a second or so to move the camera, then 1/60th of a second over slightly. Trying to predict what will happen in the two or so minutes is part of the game. And surprises happen, sometimes pleasant surprises. In my first go, an Amtrak train passed by. It wasn’t there in the first frames that started on the left and moved rightward. In the end the only part that showed was the very front of the locomotive between two pillars! In reality if that frame showed the entire scene in that moment in time you’d see more of the locomotive and perhaps a train car on the left. I think I reshot a frame to be able to fix error, but I like the non-realistic result.
Heading back home, I opted to stop and photograph in Hayward. Another stop not on your typical Bay Area photo trail. But there’s a beautiful Modernecityhall abandoned on a mainstreet.
We here at SiliconValleyStock.com are constantly looking for ways to help you….the photo researcher, picture buyer, magazine, text book publisher or anybody else looking for photography of what the kids now refer to as Silicon Valley.
It so happens that not only am I a photographer, but so is my dad, Hans. Even my grandfather (Milton “Hal” Halberstadt) was a photographer. Must be in the genes I guess…… Hopefully my daughter Ella will escape the the creative occupation that has cursed our family for three generations and become a doctor or accountant!
In any case my dad has been digging through dusty old shoe-boxes full of slides. Somewhere between the photos of tanks and scantily clad maidens (eeew, TMI!) he’s found a vein of old photos of Silicon Valley and tech stuff. My guess is that the photos he’s digitized and given me are from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s. In short these photos were most likely made while listening to Def Leopard on a cassette deck.
When I was a wee lad, my dad actually rented a small office at the (then domestic) San Jose Airport. The office was in the same building with Aris Helicopters, and he used to go up and shoot aerials on occasion. So there are quite a few aerials in the mix.
My dad also managed to gain access to some excellent vantage points. In fact the view above is from the form San Jose Medical Building on Santa Clara street (actually 25 North 14th Street). The building is now dubbed “San Jose Business Center” but seems to only have a pot dealer “medical” marijuana dispensary on the ground floor. I’ve been nagging the property management company (Chavez Management) trying to get access. Wouldn’t it be cool to have before and after photos?
From what I understand there are thousands and thousands of dusty slides just waiting to see the light of (the internet). Guess I better start digging around in and scanning!
Probably not fair to call Villa Montalvo a Faux Chateau, it really is a beautiful place. This formerly second home to three term San Francisco mayor James Duval Phelan was transformed into a public park and center for the arts. I’ve been here a few times in the past- but I was intimidated by the “NO COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY” sign displayed very prominently in front of the building. Of course this isn’t “commercial” photography. But it’s been my experience that the way such rules are enforced are by somebody who knows nothing about photography looking at how big a camera I have. It’s one reason I sometimes still prefer to use my little Sony NEX cameras which have “professional” image quality and are tiny enough to fit in a pocket. I don’t think I’d get far trying to explain the difference between editorial and commercial with most folks.
In any case the grounds are beautiful. It so happened that they were hosting a private breakfast for Netapp, so I took a quick walk around a very short trail and explored behind the mansion for a while. The wisteria was in full bloom and the weather really cooperated undulating between lightly cloudy and sunny.
Some fellow and I came upon the gate surrounding, what later research is being referred to as the “Love Temple” and gardens. It wasn’t clear to either of us why there was a gate, I let him go in first and test the waters. When no alarm sounded or crazed employees chased him, I followed suit. As I guess what now is obvious, I’ve really been harassed by security enough to be very self conscious!
The garden does a good job at what I assume was its intention: mimicking those of wealthy Italian estates. The fountain in the “Love Temple” was off, as we are in a serious drought condition right now. But I’d have to say it displayed some of the creepiest statues I’d seen in some time. Behind the temple was a small cactus garden and some sort of woodcutting exhibit in progress.
From Villa Montalva in Saratoga I meandered to Los Gatos. Strange for a town named after them, I don’t recall having seen any real cats. There were a couple architectural ornaments if you look really closely at the Deco facade of the Los Gatos Theater but that’s all I saw.
Los Gatos has been on my stock photo radar for a while. The theater came up as a request on one of the stock photo sites: Image Brief or Photographers Direct I think not too long ago. It’s also one of those very affluent areas that needs illustration in various publications regularly. It’s even more affluent than I remember, they even have a Bently dealer in town.
My primary goal was to get a few good shots of the theater and the Old Town sign. I waited a long time for the light to get where I wanted it. While I waited in addition to having coffee and cake at a local coffee shop, I did a little walking around town. I went looking for the Forbes Mill Museum. I was thrown off by the fact that the sign led me down a private road and part of a condo association. But walking down the hill and around the corner a handsome stone historic building appeared. But it was closed permanently.
The shuttered museum did lead to another POI: an overpass that promised to connect to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Why not, I had time to kill. So I wandered looking for a some good views. I try to get people in the photos without looking too creepy. That can be a balancing act, I don’t want closeups of people but more like the lone jogger above to give a sense of scale and not make the place look too abandoned.
Eventually the theater got where I wanted it. You know where interior building lights and neon were about as bright as the sky above it- “golden hour” ish.
The Old Town sign wasn’t as cooperative. It’s rusted brown, with tall trees behind it. I was counting on the “christmas lights” separating the sign from the background, but I didn’t notice that they only covered the decorative metal above the letters. Oh well.
With a few more destinations check off the list, I feel like I’m making progress.
It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects. Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside. Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!
The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.
<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….
Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.
Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View. So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.
I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.
It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.
Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.
One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.
I still have to pinch myself. Did this really happen? Right before the official opening of the new Eastern Span of the Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge a friend let me in with his special access.
We drove around on an almost empty bridge free of all but construction and CHP traffic. We stopped pretty much wherever we wanted. Nights we could even set up our tripods right in the middle lane of the bridge and make long exposures.
My friends at Oakland Magazine previously got me press access onto the Bay Bridge on a wet and windy night to document the LED art installation. We could setup our tripods for this access, which was nice. But since there was still auto traffic, the bridge shook and long exposures were fruitless.
I could have kept shooting there for weeks if they let us. These are the views photographers like me find so beautifully frustrating: so beautiful, yet unattainable. It’s what we see stuck in traffic and think if only I could just park my car and pull out my camera.
My parting shot was a long exposure disturbed by a CHP call to “leave now” minutes before the official opening.
I decided to ferry/bike to an appointment in San Francisco recently and take my camera with me. Last time I drove through SF I noticed Mozilla had an office in what back in my day in San Francisco was Gorden Biersch brewery and restaurant. And Adobe has a presence in my old neighborhood near the train station. Not the most interesting of subjects, but glad to add more to my library.
Turns out the ferry/bike combo works well for stock and hope to do more soon.
The young woman above, Howland, posed for some stock photos. I think she has a really nice look. I’m still in the process of adding model released people to my stock photo library and hope to find more like her.