OldSF - A website showing historical photos, geotagged

One of the hats I wear is Commissioner on the City of Santa Clara's Historical and Landmarks Commission.   We are supposed to advise the City on all matters historical and one important area is documenting and conveying the City's history. Of course I love anything related to cataloging and geotagging photos, and I've found a website that does an amazing job of using technology to showcase historic photos of San Francisco, our more-famous neighbor to the North:


Perhaps we could get a grant to put something like this together for Santa Clara...

Older Canon cameras for sale

It's time to clear out some older cameras that don't get as much use as they could with someone else.  Both cameras are about 8 years old and come with the boxes, the original accessories, and multiple extra batteries.  They both take pictures just fine and would be good for somebody just getting into the world of digital SLR. Note:  I'm not including any lenses with these cameras, unless you want a broken 17-85 EF-S lens that does not focus.  It works (worked) well with the 40-D for a long time.

First is a Canon 40-D which is a "regular size" dSLR good for general stuff.   It takes Canon EF and EF-S lenses and shoots about 5 frames per second.  Read the DP Review of this camera here:   DP Review of Canon 40-d

Next is the Canon 1-D mk ii which shoots 8 frames per second and is great for sports!  This camera has had a lot of use and I purchased it used last year.  Read the DP Review of this camera here:  DP Review of Canon 1-D mkII

I just shot a football game this week with this camera and you can see the results on flickr in these two galleries here:

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Let me know if you're interested in any of these cameras.  I'm making good deals, especially for friends.   Cash in person, please.

Photo location wiki or database

I've been thinking about restarting my website for photo location and scouting information which I abandoned a few years ago.  I hand-coded the first version but I'm thinking about using the standard wikimedia software (maybe hosting it myself or maybe using a hosted solution) this time around.   There are some geographic features I'm not sure the stock wikimedia engine offers but I'm investigating. I don't want to bore you with details in this email but I've got some ideas about how such a site would be set up, roughly based on wikitravel.org but with more photos.  The idea would be some combination of the geo-based photo browsing of flickr and Google Earth, but maybe looking more like wikitravel.org.  I don't envision it looking like a photo-rich site like flickr or 500px - the point is not to be a photo viewing site but to provide location info like access info, special equipment needed, seasonal issues, etc.

Anyway, if I were to set up something like that would you be interested in contributing information or photos to it?   Would you ever use such a website for finding photo locations?

Intro to Lightroom Classes Available

I list "digital workflow consulting" as one of the things I can offer to help you out with your digital photography but recently I've been thinking about putting together a more focused workshop that would help someone new to digital photography get up and running. I'm thinking of a 2 hour workshop focusing on Lightroom that would work well  one-on-one or for a small group, offered at your place or mine.  I have an outline (below) but since it's for individuals or small groups it could obviously be tailored to focus more on what you're interested in.

Here's an outline of what I think should be included in a class for people newly serious about digital photography:

  • Digital RAW concepts (RAW files, metadata, and non-destructive editing)
  • Organization of files on the hard drive
  • Importing into Lightroom
  • Sorting and rating
  • Keywording, organizing, and geotagging
  • The Develop module (this topic alone could take a day!)
  • Editing in outside applications
  • Exporting to to the hard drive and other services
  • Printing drafts and final copies

Optional topics could include:

  • pros and cons of printing online vs. at home
  • the book making module

Something like this would probably run about $100 for a two hour one-on-one class.  Please let me know if you're interested in something like this!

Photographing the Santa Clara Post Office

I was recently able to photograph the interior and exterior of the old (but still minimally staffed and used) Santa Clara Post Office.   My photography was to support a report being written by Lorie Garcia, our honorary city historian, about the history of the structure.   I was looking to document the architecture and state of the building in hopes that it will be able to be listed as Significant to the City of Santa Clara. Flickr pictures are here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/56685004@N00/13118735105/in/set-72157642280014303

I was pleased to meet the Supervisor of the Post Office who was more than happy to show me around and then let me photograph virtually the entire structure.  There is an office for the former Postmaster, although the Santa Clara Post Office does not still have a Postmaster.  The entire basement is pretty much unused, except for storage.  (Note to self: I didn't see an elevator.  How do they get heavy stuff down there?  Perhaps only down the exterior ramps?)   The heat has been broken for years although there was a repairman there today working on the boiler.

There are a couple instances of woodwork that are in very good shape.  There are lots of exterior wooden windows that are beautiful on the inside but covered with dense metal screens on the outside, presumably to keep sub or wildlife out of the windows.  Most of the furnishings that remain are 60's - 80's style office stuff.

By far the most interesting part of the entire building is the small network of not-so-hidden surveillance tunnels called "lookout galleries" (or LOG for short) running throughout the facility.  They didn't have a view of the public areas of the post office - they only run through the "behind the scenes" areas for keeping track of postal employees.  The Lookout even runs through the men's bathroom (which is in the basement) although the viewports in the bathroom have been painted over.

One unique feature of the LOG tunnels is the "breakout doors" which presumably allow postal inspectors to "breakout" of the tunnels and bust people as they catch them in the act of stealing mail.  Because the LOG tunnels are elevated a couple feet off the floor, all the doors to the tunnels are also elevated two feet off the floor.  To make the doors even more obvious, they are all placarded with large "NOT AN EXIT" signs, just in case you thought the exit doors from your room were two feet off the ground.

I found an interesting article on the Internet detailing these tunnels and the difficulty of maintaining such a thing in the current environment of building codes and accessibility:

I designed a Distribution Center for Zip Code 90017. At that time the USPS assigned a staff Architect to the project conveying all their "standards". The most challenging part of the project was a suspended surveillance tunnel with one-way mirror viewports. The general public is not generally aware of these security measures. In this day of superior electronic systems, I questioned the need for these measures, but nothing has the legal standing of personally observing someone taking your property from the mail.

The Postal Inspection Service (Postal Police) worked on this aspect with us. Los Angeles was holding up a permit on this privately owned building due to "accessibility" concerns with the tunnel which changes planes abruptly, is painted flat black inside, and has minimum lighting. At a hearing we were able to persuade them that the tunnel could not be used by other than trained, physically fit individuals. The USPS owned central Distribution Center  for Los Angeles has what seems like a mile of these tunnels.

H. Thomas Wilson AIA Pasadena CA

And here's a youtube video of someone going through the LOG:


There's a whole book about this sort of thing called "Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America" by Anna Vemer Andrzejewski, available at fine booksellers everywhere.  And finally, the definitive word on Lookout Gallery design is the USPS's Handbook RE-5, entitled "Building and Site Security Requirements."  This document details design requirements for LOGs as of 2009.   Google will give you a copy.

I'm not sure if the tunnels are actually used by visiting postmasters anymore but all the tunnel access doors I found (which are very obvious because the door is two feet above the ground!) were indeed locked.  I would love to see inside the tunnels sometime, just for fun.