Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Downtown San Jose
Trip Date: July 17, 2004
Report Author: Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: July 20, 2004

The all-day downtown San Jose photo shoot for Saturday, July 17 was well attended with eight persons present for the morning session, six present for the midday segment and seven persons present for the evening photographic ritual.

All events went relatively smoothly, save for a few glitches. Peanuts didn’t open at 6:30 a.m. as I promised, but the owner of the restaurant saved the morning by opening his door early so we could sit inside and chat while he prepared the kitchen. Once breakfast was done we hit the cruel streets of downtown San Jose and saw everything bathed in the most delightful morning sweet light. The humidity was relatively high for July and a slight haze took the edge off the sun, giving it just a touch of warmth.

Overhead the oddest cloud formations oozed across the liquid blue sky. Some of them appeared to be covered by cottony atmospheric poodle hair. They provided a wonderful background for pictures of the new City Hall construction project or the other buildings—it was one of those rare summer sights.

The streets were relatively free of traffic, making shooting in an urban environment considerably less hazardous.

Our group ended up at St. Joseph’s Church and the San Jose Museum of Art, near Plaza Park the former center for the old Spanish and Mexican towns. The plaza is oval shaped, reminiscent of the bull ring that used to occupy so many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century California settlements. After statehood, the civic focus of the picturesque little city shifted to a “natty” newer park called St. James Square (now filled to capacity with various territorial clots of unfortunates who use the park as their living room).

In the early 1930s St. James Park was the scene of some rather ugly mob “justice,” when angry rioters broke down the jail doors and dragged out the kidnappers of the Hart child (son of a popular local department store owner). The two criminals killed the boy and dumped his body in the bay, which created mass public hysteria. The two kidnappers were brutally lynched from one of the old trees in the park (which has been since removed). The incident was the last public lynching in California—an event in history that San Jose has never boasted of.

A little later the noon group gathered at Hydration on Third Street and struck out in search of interesting subjects. We encountered a protest on police violence that was poorly attended and when that broke up we gravitated over to the fountain in Plaza Park where children and their parents played in the water. We decided to leave to search for other subjects, but that was a mistake, since the climbing temperatures and harsh midday sun thwarted our efforts at getting those heart-stopping images. Some, however, went home with their cards nearly full to edit out their “take.” Please refer to the web site of participant Randy N. to see some of the images that he took that afternoon:

Randy included the picture of the mysterious man in white because he was sent as a prophet to the Transit Mall to try to convince film users, such as myself, to convert to digital: Thus shouted the prophet, “Are you using film? …Why?!”

I truly believe this apparent apparition was sent solely for my benefit in order to steer me away from the wrong path of film onto the correct path of pixels. I thank him(and his sponsoring diety) for his concern and now I can move through life knowing that when my hard drive is erased at the end of real time, my data will be saved on the backup CD of salvation. Bless you, “Spy vs. Spy” man!

Apologies to those who were less than delighted by the empty streets and lack of afternoon subject matter. Sometimes those are the breaks. (When the downtown San Jose shoot is offered again, I don’t plan to have a midday checkpoint—perhaps two: 7 a.m. and the other at 2:30 p.m.)

The night shooters, mostly new additions and a couple of tired, old participants, gathered with renewed enthusiasm and noshed at the Sonoma Chicken Coop for a Yuppified cafeteria-style dining experience. The restaurant was packed and the food was decent. After a quick meal the group did a swing through San Pedro Square and then headed over to the little mall that runs between the San Jose Art Museum and the Fairmont Hotel. We waited for a potentially spectacular sunset effect on the bank of clouds that hovered over the city. Mother Nature delivered a 4.5-on-a-scale-of-10 sunset. Undaunted, we ventured over to the Paseo de San Antonio to capture some of the neon lights of the San Jose night. Camera 12 Theater happened to be celebrating its grand opening and had turned on every bulb in the house to illuminate the event, giving us quite a few opportunities.

After a lot of tripod shooting, the brass of the group wore thin (especially mine) and we reached the consensus that we should retreat back to Milpitas—and we did, but with rather contented smiles on our faces.

© 2004 S.R. Hinrichs