Guess Where Silicon Valley – September

Back in the 1970’s this suburban Silicon Valley house witnessed the beginning of what would become one of the world’s most successful corporations. Can you guess what it is and where?

Fremont: The Suburbs Are More Interesting Than You Think

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Centerville Station-Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Pioneer Cemetery, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Pioneer Cemetery, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Oh well.

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.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

 

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.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Mission San Jose-Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Wine on tap- The Vine – Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont Gurdwara, Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

California Nursery Historical Park, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
California Nursery Historical Park, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.)

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 

—– further reading: ——

Pioneer Cemetery
Centerville Station
Shinn Estate

—- silly lines I hoped to use but didn’t —-

I can see for Niles and Niles

A Few New Stitches

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
High Resolution Panorama of San Jose’s Egyptian Museum (prints @ ca. 40×10 feet @100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt)

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.

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Niles Depot in Fremont (prints at ca. 30 x 10 @ 100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt) SEE DETAIL EXAMPLE FURTHER DOWN IN STORY

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.

Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of interest: see inset
Detail of Amtrak Locomotive (FYI: this section would print at 20×24″ @ 100ppi)

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 Moderne city hall abandoned on a main street

 (Michael Halberstadt)
Historic Hayward City Hall, Hayward, CA (prints at ca. 17×8 feet @ 100ppi) (Michael Halberstadt)

The suburbs are more interesting than you think……

Pao Hua buddhist temple in San Jose

Buddhist Temple in East Side San Jose, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)
Buddhist Temple in East Side San Jose, California (Photographer: Michael Halberstadt)

The suburbs can be more interesting than we give them credit. One of my favorite photo locations in San Jose is near where I spent much of my youth in the eastern suburbs of San Jose.

Surrounded by beige stucco houses and strip malls full of familiar chain stores is the Pao Hua buddhist temple.  Typically there are a monks around in orange robes sweeping. And unlike much of Silicon Valley, this is a photo friendly spot, they encourage photography!