The tree with the business model

I’m looking back at who has had a real impact on how I see the world. Thomas Hawk is near the top of that list. He got me enthusiastic about photography again. Now I carry my Canon 5D most days and when I don’t I hear his voice in my head “take pictures every day.”

Today on the way home I heard his voice in my head again and, so, on my commute home I stopped several times just to see the world.

The golden oak tree

First, I’ve passed by this oak tree hundreds of times (I used to work across the street from it) but I never really noticed it — how many common, everyday things do we take for granted and drive right by? One thing about photography is that it gets you to slow down a little bit and enjoy the beauty we have all around us. Something about the sunset got me to pull off of Sand Hill Road and think about the entrepreneurs that have passed by this tree. The Hewletts. The Packards. The Jobs. The Wozniaks. The Ellisons. The Gates’. And hundreds of thousands of others. It’s the tree at the top of Sand Hill Road overloading FWY 280 and Sand Hill Road. Off in the distance is the Stanford Linear Accelerator, the longest straight building in the world and home of the first Web site in the United States.

The tree with a business model

Sand Hill Road is where entrepreneurs come and pitch VCs in fancy offices and try to talk them out of funding. It’s a place for idealists. For dreamers. I was thinking that this tree has a business model better than most of the entrepreneurs who’ve driven past hoping to start a business. Heheh. Think about it. It’s lasted quite a few decades and probably has quite a few more left in its branches.

So, now, if you come and visit Sand Hill Road, you’ll look to your left as you get off of Freeway 280 and you’ll remember the tree with a business model that’s probably going to outlast yours. And if you get to Bank of America, go inside. It’s the nicest Bank of America I’ve ever been in. By the way, if you look closely at the bottom of the tree photo you’ll see a concrete pouring pumping machine. There’s a big new development going up on Sand Hill Road right across the street from the tree. Progress marches on.

Bank of America

One thing that Thomas taught me is to keep looking and keep shooting, even after you think you got the best photo. I laid down on the pavement to get another look at the tree. And then I looked down and saw this leaf. Something about it caught my eye because of the sunlight from the last few minutes of the sunset.

Oak leaf on Sand Hill Road

After leaving the tree and driving over route 92 I came across this sunset over Half Moon Bay and had to pull over again. Found some defiant weeds and realized I’ve got one of the nicest commutes in the world. Thank you to Thomas Hawk for putting that little voice in my head that says “pull over, make pictures.”

Sunset over Half Moon Bay

Also deserving credit is Marc Silber — we spent a couple of hours today at a Peets just brainstorming and talking about what we want to do in 2008. Hanging out with creative people does rub off and does make life richer. His lesson to me? Force yourself to use a 35mm lens. All the photos I took today were taken with my 35mm F2.0 lens. When I got home I discovered this lens is sharper than my others, which made me happy too.

Oh, and none of these photos have been retouched other than to apply a little unsharp mask. I see there’s a bit of dirt on my sensor. Gotta go clean that off. Someday I gotta get together again with Jan Kabili, who does Photoshop and get some more workflow tips (I videoed her a year ago giving Thomas tips, time for another lesson!).

UPDATE: I forgot, all of my photography is public domain. You can steal it! Copy it! Use it in your mashups or in whatever you like (dart boards, etc).

An ode to great photographers

Thank you to the photographers who taught me to capture the main event.

If I believed in God, this is why I would

Thank you to the photographers who taught me to look for the details.

Sentry on the sunset

Thank you to the photographers who taught me to look down.

Social graph

Thank you to the photographers who taught me to look for juxtapositions.

Moon and light=moonlight

Thank you to the photographers who taught me to look for love.


Thank you to the photographers who taught me to get down on my belly and get into the mud.

The last photons this grass will see today

Thank you to Flickr for making such a killer community of people who help inspire other photographers. Thank you to Canon for making a tool that is amazing.

Hope you are having a glorious evening, just like this one. All these shots were made tonight with a Canon 5D on my evening walk.

Don’t miss our next photowalking with the National Geographic at Stanford University where you’ll learn some of these lessons yourself. You’re invited! Tom Seligman (Director of the Cantor Art Museum) has confirmed his participation in the photowalk.
Marc Levoy will be there, too. He is a CS/EE professor who has been doing some amazing work in the areas of photography and imaging.