Category Archives: Photography

Hero shot of 475 Sansome

Twilight of 475 Sansome St. with the Transamerica building in background. Shot with UAV
475 Sansome St.

We went back to 475 Samsome to get a hero shot of their building (the one in front of the Transamerica building). This hero shot was taken for the company’s annual report cover. This was a shot that could only be captured by drone because the building is partially obscured by other buildings. In addition, we were able to adjust the height to include the items we wanted like Coit Tower and the Bay behind. While we were waiting for the magic time or balanced twilight, we got this pano of downtown with the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge.

Twilight of downtown San Francisco with bay bridge shot with UAV.
Twilight of downtown
Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

1500 Mt. Diablo Boulevard

A new client: Mark Davis Design, hired me to shoot a project of his, located at the corner of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and Main street in Walnut Creek. It’s a beautiful new building with retail and restaurants.  As beautiful as it is, it presented a number of challenges to photograph it.

First, the common area inside consisted of a three-story starirway. This striking wood and metal staircase is located in narrow, vertical channel sharing space with an elevator that leads to the restaurants. The illumination of the staircase comes from a combination of a cluster of long pendant incandescents hung 10-30 feet from the ceiling and a vertical window rising almost as high, directly across from it. This extreme verticality and narrowness posed problems in getting a good view of the staircase and overall space. Therefore, we decided to depict it in a number of photographs including some Dutch (oblique) angles I wouldn’t normally shoot as an architectural photographer. In the end, I think we were able to catch enough views to get a sense of the space and show off a lot of the details involved.

The exteriors too were a bit of a challenge. Mount Diablo and Main is a very busy intersection, both for cars and for pedestrian traffic. In addition, the building is about a block long on the Mount Diablo side making it a long clear for the sidewalk. We overcame this my shooting multiple exposures from the same tripod-mounted position and painted out the pedestrians and cars that were in our way. As if that were not enough, the umbrellas on the rooftop were being blown around by gusts wind -almost all of them had to be corrected in post.

Finally, the twilight shots were towards the Northwest and the sky was a milky, overexposed mess so we did a complete sky replacement in post to give us the look and feel we felt worked for the building.

Although it required a bit more work and planning, the shots turned out very well. Sometimes architectural photography can become more of a problem-solving exercise than an art.

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , , |

July 4th Parade

Gary at the 4th of July parade

Several July 4ths ago I got this shot of my neighbor Gary. He’s a very patriotic guy and is a fixture in all the July 4th parades here in Alameda. I always liked the shot because it evoked a certain sense of sadness. At the time Obama was still in office and I’m certain Gary (a diehard Republican) wasn’t feeling too excited with the direction of the country at the time. Yesterday, I too felt this despondency in the opposite direction and rediscovered this photograph in the dark recesses of one of my hard drives. I was always very happy with this shot and decided to share it.

Gary and I don’t agree upon much, but we do agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Besides, He’s full of great trivia including the fact that Alameda’s 4th of July Parade is not only the largest 4th of July parade but also the 3rd largest parade in this country just behind Macy’s Thanksgiving and the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , |

The Star on Park

The Star on Park interior

Under the heading of unusual restaurant venues, Star Pizza chose to take over an old bank building in Alameda to open their latest location. Truth be told they were not the first to start a restaurant there. Before Star took it over the previous tenant embraced the bank theme by opening a restaurant called Capone’s Speakeasy which closed within a few short years. We all hope Star will have better success and if their deep dish, Chicago style pizza is any indication, they will do very well.

The building presented a few challenges for my client architect: Stephen Elbert. It is a historic building and therefore much of the exterior could not be changed without going through an extensive design review. In addition, as it was a bank with a few old-style reinforced vaults, gutting the interior would have been an enormous and immensely expensive task. In fact, they did have to cut through one of those two-foot, reinforced concrete walls to make the kitchen more usable. That task took a team of professionals from Southern California a complete day. But fortunately, the owners embraced the bank theme and even found that the vaults became a convenient place to store their impressive wine and liquor collection.

For me, the challenges were how to light a very tall, very long, open space filled with light sucking dark-wood paneling. The only way was to set up a bank of Dynalite strobes at the entrance to get a general light on the space, then take a strobe out into the space illuminating sections of the interior that were too distant to be illuminated by the Dynas (curse you inverse square law). Move the light to another area and take another frame. Eventually, I used 6 frames to create this one interior carefully painting myself and the lamp out of the shot and blending it with the others. Digital photography makes this technique not only possible but reasonably easy to do.

Stephen, in his dry sense of humor, reminded me that this technique was not new and had been used in the pre-digital age. However, it did involve the photographer dressing in a total black suit and constantly moving as to not resolve on an incredibly long shutter speed. I was happy enough to do this in my current photog uniform of a tee shirt, shorts, and white tennis shoes😉

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , , , , |

The Perch

New multi-family residence in Dublin, CA

I was hired to get some aerials of a new multi-family residential complex in Dublin, CA. We were able to get several angles that were not possible with anything other than a quadcopter. The client was very impressed with the results …as were we.

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , , |

Oakland Panorama

Areal panorama of downtown Oakland with San Francisco in the Background

I was hired to shoot a picture for the new construction in Oakland which had to include landmarks like Lake Merritt, Grand Ave. the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. My quadcopter has a wide-angle lens but even it was not sufficient to get this all in one shot. Backing up wasn’t an option as St. Paul’s towers were in the way. Thankfully, we were granted permission to launch from the roof deck of those towers and positioned the aircraft significantly to the right of the towers and took 3 shots, rotating the aircraft about 30° from that fixed position. The quadcopter is satellite tracked which allows it to maintain a solid position while in the air. We then stitched this beautiful Oakland Panorama in Photoshop.

It’s amazing the amount of new construction in Oakland these days!?!

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , |

La Jolla Modern

Stephen Dalton Architects


Not all beach houses have to be located right at the beach. Although this modernist-inspired, 2300sf, 3 bedroom/3 bath house is about 6 blocks from the Pacific, it sports those amenities specific to the beach house including an outdoor shower. Its design is a light and airy open plan with a central steel and wood staircase which forms the separating element between the spaces. The living room features a tall ceiling, a fireplace and a sliding panel to conceal the TV. But by far the stand out feature in this room is the large glass-paneled swing out garage door which maximizes the seamless indoor/outdoor experience common with modernist design. Stephen used “volumetric projections” to create a composition of rectilinear masses to avoid flat, boring walls.  The downstairs spaces are further separated by changes in ceiling heights, elevations of the flooring and some sliding African mahogany panels rather than doors or walls. In concert with the owners, Stephen concentrated on using reasonably priced and durable materials such as concrete, stucco and fiber cement panels which are virtually maintenance free. The interior is a tasteful combination of cedar, maple, birch, steel, drywall, concrete and unpainted, formed cement. The owners did it right by completely clearing the old structure, building up the lot with additional soil and starting from scratch. As a result, everything is square and all the doors have a neutral swing.  A new build allowed them to incorporate some of the small extras which really enhance the experience like recessed lighting, built-in sound and data system, laundry shoots and casework. Other features include a separate arts and crafts space and guest house. It also doesn’t hurt to have a roof deck with a view of the entire La Jolla Bay. This is a great case study in a casual San Diego Modernist beach house design.



Also posted in Recent

Belvedere by the Water

A roofing client needed to show off his prowess with a project right on the waterfront. I was a perfect project for a quadcopter as you can see by these shots on a great day.

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , |

We have wings…well, propellers anyway


Parc Telegraph, San Francisco – Shot for Sun Valley Solar

Late last August the FAA finally came out with rules and an exam solely focused on the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) otherwise called drones. This is called the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate that allows non-pilots to legally fly for commercial work if you pass the exam and register the aircraft.

di-40670-editParc Telegraph, San Francisco – Shot for Sun Valley Solar

I am proud to say that I have passed the exam, registered my quad copter and am now offering aerial services to my clients. This really expands the photographer’s toolbox. The quad copter offers angles that are impossible to get any other way. They are more cost effective than a helicopter and can fly from 1′ to 400′ to get the right perspective on your buildings and property. The quad copter features an integrated camera offering a live view while flying and can shoot camera-raw stills and 4k video.

Also posted in Recent

West Portal Wine Bar

My longest lasting architectural client Stephen Elbert had a wine bar remodel out in the West Portal neighborhood called Vin Debut.  As per usual, it was a dark location with plenty of glass, mirrors and shiny stainless steel for those uncontrollable specular highlights.  And just to make it extra special; it’s open 7/365 forcing an after-hours shoot.

However, Stephen did a wonderful job in designing the interior! Although it presents challenges, it’s quite a beautiful venue and I was honored to shoot it. Besides if it wasn’t a challenge he could just get anybody to shoot it. Stephen is a renowned photographer in his own right so he was familiar with the challenges. Fortunately for me, Stephen acted as art director and did all the thankless work of staging the site which was no small feat.

These days I shoot with a number of speedlights for the additional lighting. They are light, battery powered and allow me to move through a space quickly. That turned out to be very helpful because there was a slight hiccup in the shoot; the owner couldn’t make it back that night to lock up. So we went from a 5-hour shoot to a 2-hour shoot. Fortunately, we were able to get the core shots we needed within that time frame with just a little sweat.

In the end, I think, and more importantly, Stephen felt, we got it done.

Also posted in Recent Tagged , , , , , , , |