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Yosemite in Winter

Turtleback Dome is just beyond the tunnel on 140 and a short scamper places El Capitain next to Half Dome

Turtleback Dome is just beyond the tunnel on 140 and a short scamper places El Capitan next to Half Dome

A friend and I were aching for years to get to Yosemite during the Winter. Fortunately, the El Niño of this year brought much needed rain and snow to the Sierra. So we hastily planned a three-day excursion. Winter in Yosemite is a completely different experience than in the other seasons. It’s almost what I would consider “uncrowded” -certainly by Summer standards. The Valley which is normally choked with smoke from the RV campers is nonexistent as the campgrounds are closed. And, if you listen hard, there are actually sounds of nature that can be heard in the Valley. Although it wasn’t really blanketed with snow, there were still many beautiful snow scenes to be had. We couldn’t have gotten luckier weather-wise, we arrived just upon the clearing of a storm and had two exquisite days of High Sierra sun.

 

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Oregon, the In-Between State

Wizard Island framed by the woods

Wizard Island framed by the woods – Click image for gallery.

For years I had pretty much skipped Oregon in my West Coast travels. I would fly directly from California to Washington or points further north. It wasn’t an intentional slight; I just didn’t know better! However, upon hearing a friend’s mesmerizing description of the amazing beauty described one night at dinner, a trip was planned within the week.

We took the route up Highway five with a long overdue stop in Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Then on to the Coastal Dunes, Salem and Portland, not forgetting the Columbia River Gorge. Then out to Bend, Crater Lake and finally one last stop at Mt. Shasta on the way back. It was a very enjoyable road trip -but 10 days is woefully too short a time for such a beautiful State and we’ve vowed to return.

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Photos for Visualization

Early this year I was contacted by Robert Becker Visualization and asked if I could get photos of a parking lot where a new potential building may be erected. He contacted me because of my architectural photography background and would need the images to be perspective corrected with focal length data in the metadata. He would then take the photos, insert his rendering and various other items to give it perspective. These images are then used by developers to get approval from the cities and communities to build in these locations.

Broadway lot

Broadway building

Since then, Rob and I became fast friends and I have shot a half dozen or so locations since then. He’s found it helps the renders when the locations are professionally shot and they have more verisimilitude with the people making the decisions.

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The Paragon: Tech Housing for Fremont

My client bought out another multi-family residential company and as a result needed an image refresh for their site. Fremont has long been a haven for many of Silicon Valley’s engineers especially those from South Asian descent. It is a well designed mega complex spanning over two full city blocks. As most of the units followed similar floor plans I was only required to shoot the amenities and a one bedroom model. Although the units themselves were a bit generically boxy the amenities and exteriors were well designed and appointed.

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The Mosso

The San Francisco’s ever insatiable need for more high-end housing seemingly knows no limits. As a result, housing is selling out before construction is even completed. I am often required to get imagery of what they have finished at the time with the hope of returning to complete the shoot. The Mosso was one such project. With the enviable address of Folsom and 5th, it was selling like hot cakes even before it broke ground on the adjacent building. I was called in to shoot a one bedroom and the amenities and then called back to get some roof shots. Hopefully, the Mosso will require more and more images and the building process continues.

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Hero Video of Russell Abraham

My colleague and studio mate hired me to make a hero video for his website update. We shot an interview in the studio and I employed his images as a pan and scan for imagery. We also added some footage that I got during one of our jobs together.

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Prague: Still One of the Best Preserved Medieval Cities

Both sides of the Bridge have towers. Prague Castle is in the background

Both sides of the Bridge have towers. Prague Castle is in the background

This was my second trip to the city. The first was in 1995, only six years after the Velvet Revolution. I was forewarned that the city was already over run with tourists and that I should see it as soon as possible. I came by the overnight train from Berlin and arrived at 5am on a weekday. At the time I wasn’t preplanning too much so I hadn’t made any reservations, figuring I’d do it like all the previous cities and make them at the train station visitor’s office. Much to my surprise there was nothing open and not a person within a mile that even spoke a word of English. I could read the sign on the station windows that they would open at 9am. With the help of a crude map I made my way down to the shores of the Vltava River where I caught up on some sleep on a park bench until the tourism office was open. I was first in the line when the visitor office opened up but the person working there spoke very little English and the lonely Planet book didn’t help much. Fortunately a passing stranger helped me to ask for accommodation. There were very few affordable hotels located in the Staré Město (Old City) in fact the only accommodation I could get was in a Soviet era bunker at the end of the metro line which was about an hour out of the city.

After settling in I took the metro in and explored to old city area on foot. To my surprise, other than the few overpriced restaurants in the main square, the city was not over run with tourists. In fact, I had to seek out an expat bar just to have a conversation that didn’t involve something like Charades. While it wasn’t empty, it wasn’t over run by any stretch. There were so few English speakers that I had to spend most of my time in and immediately around the tourist traps by the Astronomical Clock to make sure I got something like what I ordered.

This trip, I wasn’t going to be caught as off guard. We rented an apartment for the week in the Nové Město (New Town) area -easily within walking distance of the Staré Město and close access to the metro for further travels. It was much more crowded than in 1995 but the City seemed to be handling it. We were able to shop at a local grocery that only spoke a little English and after you left the mob scene in front of the Astronomical Clock, all awaiting the animated parade of the Apostles which only occurs every hour, you didn’t have to go far to leave them behind. Although most sites were within easy walking distance of the Staré Město, we did make use of their punctual public transit system.

The Municipal Building and Powder Tower

Prague is ranked fifth best European destination according to Tripadvisor and its old city is included in the Unesco list or World Heritage sites. The word “Bohemian” has its origin here as the region was settled by a Celtic tribe called the Boii around 200 BCE. It was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire under Charles IV and was the site of one of the first Christian reformations led by Jan Hus nearly a century before Martin Luther. It is where the term “Defenestration” (the act of pushing someone or something out a very high window) was coined. In fact, they mark two seminal periods of their history by defenestrations: the first igniting the Hussite War and the second sparking the Thirty Years War in 1618. Its patronage of science and the arts include Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Albert Einstein , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonín Dvořák , Bedřich Smetana, Ludwig van Beethoven, Rainer Maria Rilke , Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera and Miloš Forman who filmed Amadeus there.

Night view of the old town square

 

Prague is one of the best preserved medieval cities primarily because it escaped two of the most destructive events in modern times. It escaped the carnage of World War Two because Hitler invaded and declared Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate in 1939, unopposed -he even thought that one day he would retire in the city. The Soviet Union liberated Prague on May 5th 1945 forcing many Germans to flee the country. There was a popular uprising against the Soviet regime in 1968 but was quickly suppressed by their heavy military presence. In 1989, along with the crumbling of the Soviet Union, the Czechs peacefully overcame the Soviet grip on power with what became the Velvet Revolution. As a result, Prague has buildings (not just ruins) dating back to the 12th century, architecture spanning medieval through modern and a wealth of art and relics from its rich and influential history.

Regardless of when you get to it, Prague is one of the must see locations of Europe!

 

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Rome [sic] if you want to..and I do

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My apologies to the B-52s but the [mis]use of their lyric was too tempting. Although I’ve been to the Eternal City twice before in the 70s and 90s, I don’t think I gave it the attention that it deserves. In doing my research for this trip I was stunned with the number of innovations that are due to Rome and it’s empire. So much so, that this jam packed, week-long trip could have easily been another three without retracing any steps. Here are but a few Roman innovations that have shaped the western world.

The Romans invented concrete which allowed them to make formed, permanent structures. The Pantheon is the premiere example of this technology. For more than a thousand years it was the largest unsupported dome in the world and it still stands after nearly two thousand years. The ingenious coffering of the inside of the dome helped keep the weight down as well as choosing lighter aggregate in the concrete mix as the dome approaches the oculus. Romans even invented concrete that would set underwater. Regretfully, the recipe for concrete was lost after the sack of Rome and very rarely used until the technology was re-invented in the mid-18th century. Concrete is the most widely used man-made building material in contemporary times.

The city was probably the first in antiquity with an ability to support a large dense population. They were able to do this by building extensive aqueducts to get water into and sewage out of the city. This is the primary reason that the Centro Storico is navigated by piazzas and at the heart of those piazzas are fountains. They are more than elaborate, decorative elements for tourists; they were the primary source of water and represent the ability of city to support their population, thereby becoming the first modern metropolis.

The thousands of miles of aqueducts, each precisely slanted to give a regular direction of flow, were an impressive engineering feat in themselves but were made possible with Roman widespread use of the arch. This building technique has the capability to distribute the structures weight through the side columns allowing for a much larger, unsupported opening. Although this is not their invention, the Romans made the most extensive use of this technique in antiquity and well after.

Beyond those and many more innovations, Rome is a vibrant, clean, colorful and even a very walk able city. The sheer volume of art and history is staggering but coupled with the aromas and tastes, Rome deserves a visit or three.

Piazza della Rotonda

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Duh?!? It’s the View!

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There are many reasons to rent a penthouse in Mission Bay: its great location for downtown, its great amenities and a permanent parking spot in the city. But the main reason, the selling reason, is for the view. Channel Mission Bay hired me to shoot specifically for that.

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They had two units that had this high value view: the penthouse and the Sky Vue lounge. They both have remarkable views of downtown and the ballpark. Although they are naturally gifted with this view it’s a bit difficult to capture it photographically. For one thing, windows have a reflectivity problem. Any lighting used in the space will be reflected back in the glass obscuring the view. Often times, the glass is tinted which renders the view both darker and with a weird color balance. There are essentially two techniques to render the view photographically.

As a through back to the film days, the first is a multiple exposure. With the camera sitting on a tripod take one exposure for the foreground and turn out all the lighting within the space and take another exposure for the external view. Then load then as layers and do a mask for pass through of the windows. The second is to take a separate photo of the view from one of the widows or outside and again at approximately the same angle and again loading them as layers, Again, do the masking of the windows and bring the background view in and change the perspective to fit the original view to look natural in size and perspective. This second technique gives you the ability to have a completely clear view and modify the perspective a bit for best impact. Of course there is the issue of verisimilitude but I’ve rarely run into anybody in marketing that wasn’t willing to sacrifice that for a little more pizzazz

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Booming Mission Bay

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For those of you who don’t live in San Francisco, the extent of the housing boom magnitude is probably not fully grasped. I was hired to do some pick ups by a new client who has one of the more finished buildings in Mission Bay. It was a real challenge to get shots of and from their building without the massive construction projects becoming the focus -in some cases, it was just impossible. Fortunately, I’ll be returning there when more of the surrounding construction is completed.

 

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