Water Street Trestle

Water Street Trestle
At some point in Petaluma’s past, trains ran down this stretch of track in downtown. Since I’ve lived here, it’s been a hazard and an eyesore. The trestle runs along the water front of the Petaluma River turning basin, a main pedestrian thoroughfare in downtown. Several years ago the trestle was fenced off to prevent people walking on it because it had deteriorated to the point where it became a safety hazard. Now the 85 year-old trestle sits, neglected, in the heart of town as a sad reminder of our past.

But, there are some who care about preserving history for future generations. The Petaluma Trolley Project is working to get the trestle and trolley service restored to Petaluma. There is even talk of putting the trestle on the National Register of Historic Places. I would love to see the trestle restored with trolleys running along the river. I’m not sure it would help traffic, but it would be cool, kind of like the Cable Cars in San Francisco. OK, maybe not as cool, but for a small town like Petaluma it would be great.

So much local history gets lost, and it seems there is little support for preserving old landmarks. Developers want to make money off the land, or turn places into resorts to generate profits. I’d like to see more historic places preserved for everyone.

The Petaluma Argus-Courier has a good article on the efforts to restore the trestle and its history.

This shot has a Geotag on Zooomr for those that want to know the exact location. This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org.

Playing Catch Up

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been behind in the 2008 Challenge. This week I’m trying to catch up a little by posting two shots, both of which I took this morning while on a walk with my dog.

Dairy

Only a few blocks from downtown sits one of the town’s dairies. I don’t know how long this one has been around, but I’m pretty sure the site has been a dairy since Petaluma became a town. This one also sits across the street, diagonally, from city hall. Petaluma has a long history as a diary town, so it’s nice to some reminders right in the middle of everything. The trucks coming and going are probably a nuisance since it’s a residential neighborhood, but I like seeing it.

What Remains
Petaluma has its share of graffiti problems, but this is actually authorized graffiti artwork. I am totally opposed to graffiti as vandalism, but completely support property owners who allow graffiti artist to paint walls as a form of
expression. In Petaluma, the Phoenix Theater allows graffiti art on the back wall of the building. The art is clearly visible from one of the busiest streets in town and has grown more colorful and expressive in recent months. This shot is inside an old room attached to the building that has no roof. Fortunately the left over cans and trash aren’t visible from the street.

Both shots are hosted on Zooomr for those that want to know the exact location. Both shots were also taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org.

The Sky We Live Under

The sky we live under
I took this for the 2008 challenge last week and posted it to Zooomr and Flickr, but haven’t had a chance to blog it yet. I also submitted it to JPG Magazine under the “Fresh” theme for Issue 16. I’d appreciate a vote if you like it.

This scene is very representative of the farmland around Petaluma at this time of year – green and yellow with a bright blue sky. Even though much of the country is still in winter, California gets to experience Spring starting in February. We’ll get some more rain before Summer, but at least we have color early. The color will fade by June and the fields will all be brown then, so I always enjoy the green while it lasts.

The irony of this shot is that the county landfill is nestled in the hills in the background. Fortunately, you can’t seen it in this shot.

This shot has a Geotag on Zooomr for those that want to know the exact location. This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org.

First Zooomr Survey

This week I decided to take Google Forms for a spin to test out a new feature that allows you to feed data from a web form into a spreadsheet. Since Zooomr had a major upgrade on March 3 and because the community there is awesome, I figured a Zooomr survey would be a good topic for my little experiment. If you haven’t taken the survey, please do.

Before I talk about the survey, I want to be clear about a couple of things. First, Zooomr is awesome. I believe it is the future of photo sharing online. Kris is building an incredible site to match the incredible community. Second, this survey was designed more for me to learn about Google forms and spreadsheets, not as a way to promote or vent about Zooomr. Take it with a grain of salt, less than 60 people have responded so far, so the sample size is way too small to hold any statistical significance. I had fun doing the survey and think people had fun taking it. That was the point.

Survey Results

Here’s what I learned about Zooomr users: They’re almost all guys who live all over the world, most like Barack Obama, use Windows, and use a DSLR camera. Ok, a bit of an oversimplification, but still mostly accurate based on the data. For those that want to see the summary data, you can view it at http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pdevXlWEbsfBu89OaL9_KYQ. This only shows the multiple choice questions, not the text fields. I even threw in a couple of pretty charts for those visual folks. I think a few people reading this like visuals, just a hunch.

I want to focus on the open answer questions. There were only two open answer questions on the survey (aside from DSLR model); here’s my take on the responses. Some commentary on the other questions is at the end.

What’s the coolest thing about Zooomr?
In a word, Community. The community and social aspects Zooomr are definitely what people like about the site. Oddly, no one mentioned quality of photos. I’m ok with that. My answer was community, not photography. My favorite response was “You and everyone else like you.? I think that pretty much sums it up.

A close second is the features Zooomr offers, specifically unlimited uploads and Zipline (which could be considered part of Community). A couple of people mentioned Kris, which is worth noting here because Kris has done an incredible job of building a great social site that also happens to be a great photo sharing site. There may be features we still want, but the main draw to Zooomr is the people and Kris understands that. He’s made it easy for us to be part of a community. So my personal thanks to Kris Tate.

What’s the one thing you want that Zooomr doesn’t have right now?
Even though I said “one thing? most people listed several. The responses to this question didn’t have any surprises because I’ve been using Zooomr for a long time and have closely followed the bugs and feature requests in the groups.

It’s hard to pick one or two things, so here are a few of the more common requests:

  • Make all sizes viewable based on contacts and/or licensing (there were several variations on this, I’m paraphrasing)
  • Bulk editing for things like licensing
  • Improvements to Groups, like photo pools and searching
  • Fix Geotagging

There were people that said they were happy with Zooomr and the recent upgrade. I’d like to say I’m glad to see EXIF data for my photos. The best response was “A direct link into my brain??

All the other questions

I wasn’t overly surprised by any of the results. For example, the overwhelming majority of Zooomrites use a DSLR camera with a fairly even mix of Canon and Nikon users with some Pentax and Sony users in the mix. Based on the quality of photos I see on Zooomr, I expected that most people use DSLRs. DSLRs have come down in price in recent years, so people can afford them.

In terms of demographics, I was a little surprised that only 4 people who responded are female. I thought there were more women using Zooomr, or maybe it’s just that they didn’t respond. Geographically, users are all over the globe, which I think is great. One of things I’ve always loved about Zooomr is finding shots from parts of the world I’ve never visited.

Oh, people were split on the smiling clouds. Half got rid of them, half said they’re cute. As a side note, Kris put up a lot more themes that did not include clouds after the survey went online. The best part, you can change your theme. If you’re inclined, you can put rainbows and unicorns on your Zooomr page, but I’d caution against it.

Summary

Zooomr Rocks.
Seriously, people like Zooomr and the community. If you spend any amount of time there, then you already know that. The really cool thing is that you get a great photo sharing site along with the cool people.

Oh, and the Google tools worked great. I’m not a spreadsheet guru, but I was able to learn what I needed in a couple of hours.

Antoher Spring

Another Spring
It’s the end of February and Spring is in full force. In typical California fashion, a few weeks of bad weather was followed by a week of upper 60s and low 70s, so all the plants have started budding and blooming. I drove by this house kind of on accident today and had to stop to take a picture.

Even though I didn’t plan the shot, it’s perfect for the 2008 Challenge for this week because the weather has been spectacular, as it usually is in February. Our town has a lot of flowering trees and several beautiful Magnolias. This tree, in particular, is stunning and the photo just doesn’t do it justice. So, no long blog post for this one, just enjoy the weather, if you can.

I used a polarizing filter, so the sky is really dark. I did some minor contrast adjustment, but this one is pretty
much “as is”. This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org. The photo is hosted on Zooomr, along with these others I shot this week.
Signs of Spring There is beauty in imperfection

Alone in this world

Alone in this world

Corner of Rohnert Park Expressway and Stony Point Road, Rohnert Park, CA.

Rohnert Park is not really in my local community, but my family does bit of shopping in Rohnert Park and we drive through it often. This particular location could have a dramatic impact on my local community, though. The land in the middle distance of this shot is slated to become a Las Vegas style casino built by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Imagine a large building with lots of blinking lights obscuring the view of the mountains in the background. For those that cherish open space the casino will be a horror. The cow pastures will be replaced with parking lots. The street I stood on to take this will likely be too busy for me feel safe standing on. Not that the view would be worth photographing if the casino gets built.

Most folks don’t want the casino, but with the casino the city will get a nice kick-back for fire and police service. I think there will also be money for schools and other organizations as well. The tribe says they have the right to develop the land, even though the local community is vehemently opposed to it. This impacts Petaluma because Petaluma is only 11 miles South, and between Rohnert Park and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Basically, everyone coming from all points South and East will have to drive through Petaluma to get to the casino. The casino would be about 45-60 minutes from San Francisco. Well, not considering the extra traffic that will no doubt clog Highway 101.

Another concern for Petaluma is that another tribe has bought land on the southern edge of Petaluma. The tribe claims they have no plans for a casino, but residents don’t believe them. Just because they don’t have plans today doesn’t mean they won’t in the near future. If the casino gets built in Rohnert Park, Petaluma will be next. The goal of the casino developers is to buy land as close to the Bay Area as possible while paying the lowest prices. Petaluma is not cheap, but it’s not as much as Marin County or the South Bay. Our suburban town with a history in farming and agriculture will be transformed into a gambling destination. I don’t care how much money comes to the city or county, it’s not worth it. How much is your soul worth? More than a couple of casinos.

The Stop the Casino 101 Coalition has more information on how the casino will impact Sonoma County. The City of Rohnert Park also has information including environmental impact statements regarding the development.

This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org. You can see where the shot was taken by viewing the Geotag on Zooomr.

Tour of California

The rest of the pack
The Tour of California bike race is happening this week. On Monday, the race came through Sonoma County and one of my favorite towns, Tomales. My daughter and I drove out to Tomales, or rather to a spot on Hwy 1 near Tomales, to watch the race. I picked the spot because it was out of the town in the middle of cow pastures. I was surprised that about 50 other people thought it would be a good place to watch. That actually made it a little more fun and exciting.

Tomales is not in my immediate community, but I feel it is part of my extended community, and biking is definitely part of my community. Tomales has the best bakery on the West Coast, Tomales Bakery. I visit as often as I can, and pretty much every time I go to Dillon Beach, probably my favorite beach. I used to ride out to Tomales at lunch on my bike on a regular basis, but my latest job makes that ride a bit of stretch.

There are a lot of bikers in Petaluma and Sonoma County, so the Tour generates a lot of excitement in this area. The route the race takes is popular with riders, although I prefer some of the back roads with fewer cars. The stage ends in Santa Rosa, where large crowds gather to watch the final laps in the center of downtown. I haven’t gone to watch the end of the stage, but I hear it is quite an event. The tour web site has a live race tracker if you want to follow along during the day.

This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org. You can see where the shot was taken by viewing the Geotag on Zooomr.

Here’s a shot of Jackson Stewart, who had an 11 minute lead when these shots were taken:
Jackson Stewart

Transit

Transit

For as long as I’ve lived in Petaluma, the main bus stop for the West Side has been at the corner of 3rd and C streets. It’s very convenient for people who commute to the San Francisco, but the large buses don’t really fit on the narrow streets through downtown. They have a hard time making turns.

In November a new $2.7 million transit mall opened that will hopefully reduce the number of buses running through downtown and adjacent residential streets. I’m all for
having some buses make stops in downtown so that it’s easy and convenient for people, but the commuter lines don’t need to go through downtown. The new transit mall has plenty of room for passengers to wait and plenty of room for buses. It’s only a couple of blocks from downtown and probably a 5-10 minute walk from the old stop at 3rd and C.

Although the cost seems a bit high considering the transit mall isn’t much, I’m glad the city made the effort. It will make it safer to walk and bike downtown, reduce traffic on already congested streets, and encourage people to use public transit.

A recent article with more information can be found at the Argus Courier web site.

This shot was taken as part of the 2008 Challenge at photochallenge.org. You can see where the shot was taken by viewing the Geotag on Zooomr.

As side note, I’m trying to catch up on shots for the 2008 Challenge. I have several shots planned, but not enough to make the 52 needed for one a week in 2008. I guess I’ll have to get creative.

Vallejo’s Petaluma Adobe

Time has no meaning

Six weeks into 2008 I’m doing my third post for the 2008 Challenge. It’s definitely been a slow year for me, at least in terms of taking pictures. Everything else is completely insane, unfortunately photography has been moved to the back burner. This week I forced myself out of my cube and took a long lunch just to be outside taking pictures. I decided to go to the Petaluma Adobe State Park.

I’ve lived in Petaluma for 13 years and had never been to the adobe until this week. I may have been there as kid in grade school as part of a field trip, but I don’t remember. It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that I haven’t visited this cornerstone of my community. The Adobe is probably the most historically significant place in the area. For a complete history and description see the official web site at http://www.petalumaadobe.com/index.html.

Aside from the historical significance of the building, it’s also an impressive structure that has stood for 160 years through several earthquakes, including the 1906 and 1989 quakes. General Vallejo built the Adobe in the 1830’s as part of his 100 square mile land grant from the Mexican government. The building is made out of adobe bricks and redwood. I love old buildings, especially simple, natural structures. As soon as I walked up to the building I knew I could spend the day just taking pictures and appreciating the simple beauty of construction and architecture.

I choose this photo because it gives a sense of the size of the building and shows the adobe and redwood construction. The second floor has a wide balcony the runs around the entire building, this shot was taken along the back wall of the building on the balcony. I took about a hundred shots and haven’t processed them all, but a few are up on Zooomr:
I'll always hold you Petaluma Adobe Reflections

I plan on going back to the Adobe with my family and spending more time going through all the exhibits. The Adobe is a state park and is open everyday. The admission fee is very low, I think it was $2 for adults. If you’re in the area it’s worth a stop just to see the building.

Near Flooding

Petaluma River
This is the Petaluma River in downtown Petaluma. Normally the river is several feet lower, but heavy rains on Friday pushed the river to flood stage. This shot was taken several hours after the rain stopped and the river had actually started to go down.

Petaluma didn’t have any major flooding, just the normal amount in the lowlands of the river basin North of downtown. Some parking lots and roads were flooded, but no there was serious damage that I heard about. Flooding is pretty much a yearly event here. Some years are certainly worse than others, and compared to the December 31, 2005 flood, this weeks flood probably won’t be remembered as a “flood”. The river just got to really, really high.

I live in an area above the flood plain so thankfully never have to worry. As a community however, seasonal flooding is something we all think about. Many streets in town get flooded because the run off has nowhere to go because the river is full. Businesses in the flood plain have to sandbag, commuters get stuck in snarled, flooded roads, and sump pumps in basements are working overtime.

Many people point to growth in the flood plain as a primary reason for flooding. The controversy has been ongoing for decades as far as I know. There hasn’t been real development in the flood plain in recent years, but there has been development in areas near the flood plain that have probably made problems worse.

Taken as part of the 2008 Challenge (although I’m a week behind).