Architectural Photographer | San Francisco Bay Area | Russell Abraham
  Menlo Park Residence
  Garay House
  Spring Rd Residence
  One Hundred Grand Apartments
  Orinda Residence
  340 Fremont Apartments
  Golden Gate Rec Center
  SFO Airport FireHouse3
  Warm Springs BART Station
  Santa Clara Square
  Riverpark Tower II
  The Orchards at Walnut Creek
  Telegraph Hill House
  Pac Heights House
  Alameda Home
  Portola Valley Home
  Hillsborough Colonial
  Sinbad Creek
  Tahoe Family Retreat
  Politzer Drive
  Los Gatos Home
  One Henry Adams
  Asian Oasis
  Encasa
  The Alise
  California Pizza Kitchen
  COMO Shambhala Estate
  Silicon Valley Courtyard by Marriott
  Chateau Tivoli
  W San Francisco
  Il Fornaio Restaurant
  Hotel Griffon
  The Progress
  ARMA Museum and Resort
  Francis Ford Coppola Winery
  The Bristol Hotel
  Food
  Furniture

Blog

Commercial Photography San Francisco
Music Orange live room, San Francisco, CA.
We shoot lots of houses, public buildings and interiors, but in the past month we were lucky enough to photograph a handful of unique projects in San Francisco that have interesting stories.  Here is a quick look at two.
Music Orange

Music Orange is a creative music studio run by two unsung heroes of the music world.  Michael Lande and Hector Perez create music for TV, the web and advertising.  Those catchy tunes from TV and radio ads that just stick in the back of your brain more than likely came from their sound studios at the base of Green Street in San Francisco.  If you have children that are Spongebob fans, Music Orange created the theme song for that eternally popular cartoon series. Lande and Perez are prolific composers and musicians. They have a music library of over 900 themes that are available to license. They are also Emmy and Grammy award nominees and winners. Perez is a collector of mid-century modern design which fills the studio.

Commercial Photography San Francisco
Music Orange production room, San Francisco, CA.

A Tiny House

Hidden away on a quiet mixed-use street in San Francisco's Mission District is a neglected earthquake shack that has been given a new life by architect Karen Mar of YAMAMAR Design. After the 1906 Quake, the city hired union carpenters to erect small, temporary houses. Families could rent to own and it allowed lower-income residents to become first-time homebuyers. And so the "Earthquake Shack" remained a permanent feature. This particular "shack" was used as a contractor's office and yard until an adventurous young family bought it and decided to make it a home again. Mar calls this project the "tiny house." She cleverly manages to squeeze three bedrooms, two baths and a third floor out of a 650 square foot floor plate. Using new and recycled materials, the house has a uniquely San Francisco charm and has become an oasis for its new owners.

Architectural Photography San Francisco
View from the third floor of YAMAMAR's Tiny House.
Architectural Photography San Francisco
Architectural Photography San Francisco

Old Files

I don't reminisce fondly of the days of film, but there are a dozen or so large file cabinets that sit on my studio floor filled with a lifetime of images.  We are slowly in the process of going through each file folder and keeping only what is essential. We are keeping negatives and original transparencies, but discarding every print and paper object. Part of the psychology of being a photographer is being a collector of things. Trying to decide what image, if any, will have a future value to a historian or fellow collector is tricky.  I just wonder if that Aztec potter ever thought his whimsical figurine would be dug up a thousand years after he was gone and become an object of adoration in a museum a continent away.

Top: Brochure for Rucker Fuller, circa 1981. Bottom: Pebble Beach House by Will Shaw, FAIA, circa 1990 BCE.

Interiors Photographer
Sky Cycles art project by Catherine Widgery. Installed at the Warm Springs BART station in Fremont, CA.
A Year in Pictures

2017 was something of a visual departure for us. Along with doing our usual set of architectural work, we spent a significant effort documenting life in San Francisco. Hopefully our efforts will result in a handsome coffee table pictorial book, San Francisco Secrets, later this year. The book tries to explore what makes San Francisco such a unique place to live in and enjoy. From Chinese New Year in February to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in October, we got more than our big toe wet in the goings on of the City. Along the way, we sampled the food and drink of over forty eateries and bars photographing everyone. Here is a random sample of some of the wonderful images that found their way into our cameras.

IPhoto
New Year's celebrant in Chinatown.
PhotoPhoto
Interiors Photographer
A young musician plays the guzheng, a zither-like instrument, during the Autumn Harvest Festival. Below: Scenes from the SF PRIDE Parade.
Interiors Photographer
Interiors Photographer
Interiors Photographer
Interiors Photographer
Interiors Photographer
Trick Dog bar, Mission District, SF.
Food Photography
Food Photography
Hospitality Photography
Original furniture from the CLIFT Hotel. Past and present circa 1915-2017.

Shooting architecture and interiors is how we make our living. We were fortunate to shoot a host of great houses and commercial projects up and down the California coast and work with a handful of very creative clients, both locally and from around the U.S. From baronial estates hidden away in the Santa Lucia Preserve to sleek, modern residencies and sophisticated office parks in Silicon Valley, to impressive public works projects around the Bay, we kept very busy. Here is just a quick and very incomplete glimpse of what we did last year.

Interiors Photographer
Menlo Park Residence. Architecture by Moderna Homes.
Interiors Photographer
Orinda Residence. Architecture by ODS Architecture.
Interiors Photographer
Santa Lucia Residence. Architecture by Eric Miller Architects.
Interiors Photographer
Detail from Alameda Residence. Copper Creek Builders.
Interiors Photographer
Testing the firepole at SFO's FireHouse 3. Shah Kawasaki Architects.
Interiors Photographer
TRACE Bar at the SF W Hotel.
Interiors Photographer
City Slicker Farms, Oakland CA, Lowney Architecture.

I did several travel stories last year and spent a long week visiting each of the five National Parks in southern Utah. The local Mormons welcomed us with open arms and the scenery was amazing. Definitely a place for everyone's bucket list.

Travel Photography
Zion National Park, UT.
Travel Photography
Petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park, UT.

I love irony and it is often not hard to find. I found this hapless fellow asleep under a freeway underpass near our studio in Jack London Square. The MAGA hat was just a little too rich. I have the sinking feeling that his wait for the hat's slogan to deliver for him will be a long one. Happy New Year everyone.

Make America Great Again.

Hospitality Photography
View of the Luisa Tetrazzini Suite at Chateau Tivoli, Steiner St, San Francisco.
Looking at San Francisco's Rich and Varied Hotels

San Francisco has been a tourist destination long before the word tourist became popular. Its legendary hotels have been shelters for presidents, kings and opera stars since the 19th Century. As part of our ongoing travel book project, San Francisco Secrets, we took another look at a handful of hotels that share some of the city's rich and eccentric past and a few new ones that caught our attention.

Hospitality Photography
The Palace Hotel on Market St. is one of San Francisco's most legendary. Enrico Caruso was tossed out of bed by the 1906 Earthquake here. President Warren Harding died here under less than respectable circumstances. The Palace, with its grand glass domed central hall, the Garden Court, is the most classical elegant meeting space in the Western U.S.
Hospitality PhotographyHospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography
Pied Piper Bar and Grill at the Palace Hotel, featuring the famous painting by artist Maxfield Parrish.

The Clift is one of the finest examples of Art Deco exuberance found anywhere. What is amazing is the fact that it was not destroyed when Philippe Starck remodeled it 15 years ago. Having a drink in the Redwood Room should be on everyone's bucket list.

Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography
Lobby inside the Clift, boasting eclectic furniture including Philippe-Starck-designed Big Arm Chair.

The W San Francisco hotel should be a corporate cookie cutter type of place serving the convention crowd. It's not. It is a chic, well-designed modern space that is several steps above it's south of Market neighbors. It has a hip, sophisticated uptown look in a downtown environment. Third and Howard St. is a busy intersection, but once inside the hotel, you don't realize that you are in the heart of the city.

Hospitality Photography
Living room fireplace at the W.
Hospitality Photography
View from the second floor lounge.The design concept for the lobby was inspired by the city, laid out in a grid pattern, constantly being interrupted by periods of shifting fog.
Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography

Chateau Tivoli is one of those 19th Century Victorian mansions that survived the fire of 1906, the hippies of the 1960s and the New Age communalists of the 1970s. Today it is a beautifully restored mansion that reminds us that this was always a classy place. You can almost hear the opera stars of old who were guests back in the day. Their names along with other famous San Francisco persona are on the doors of each of the nine rooms and suites.

Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography
The parlor inside Chateau Tivoli, artfully restored with Victorian-era and furnishings and decor.

A View From the Other Side of the Camera

We thought we would get a bit personal and give you a look at what happens on the other side of the camera. Kristen Paulin is always documenting the job so she can tease her midwestern friends on Facebook. Here are a few snapshots from behind the scenes.
Hospitality Photography
Food shot inside the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel.
Hospitality Photography
Working on the eclipse day in August. Thank you, Catharine Garber of FGY Architects, for supplying our eclipse glasses.
Hospitality Photography
Working with plates of dim sum at Dragon Beaux.
Hospitality Photography
Adjusting the drinking chocolate at Dandelion Chocolate.
Hospitality Photography
Above: Russell, reviewing proof sheets on site in Hillsborough, for Swatt | Miers Architects. Below: sampling the wares at Paul's Hat Works, Geary Blvd, one of 30 retail stores to be included in San Francisco Secrets.
Hospitality Photography
Hospitality Photography

Architectural Photography San Jose
Modern Farmhouse, FGY Architects.
Some Houses We Like

Aside from trying to finish work on our San Francisco pictorial book, we have been actively shooting houses in and around Northern California for a variety of architects, interior designers and construction firms. Surprisingly, a handful of new firms have hired us to shoot a variety of building types, each with their unique style and challenges. We did a modern farmhouse in Palo Alto for FGY Architects, a modernist spec house for Swatt Miers Architects, a complete rebuild of a neo-classical historic house in Alameda for Copper Creek Builders and an exciting modular house in Orinda for James Rogers Construction and Sage Modern Architects. In no special order here is a quick selection of the work that we have done recently.

Architectural Photography San Jose
Modern Farmhouse, FGY Architects.
Architectural Photography San Jose
Cinnamon Ct, Swatt | Miers Architects.
Architectural Photography San Jose
Bay Street House, Copper Creek Builders.
Architectural Photography San Jose

Spring Road House, James D Rogers Builder.

San Francisco Secrets: A Book About San Francisco's Hidden Beauty and Bravado
Architectural Photography San Jose

For the last nine months we have been slowly aggregating thousands of images of life in San Francisco in all its beauty and zaniness. The book is called San Francisco Secrets and it is being published as part of a series by Images Publishing of Australia. More than most urban centers in the United States, the city is a nexus of commerce, art, frivolity and fun. From street fairs to hidden architectural gems to out of the way cuisine, we have tried to turn over many stones. The city is a crazy quilt of period architecture, creative food, lively arts and people trying their damndest to live life to the fullest. Since we are first and foremost photographers, here is a very random sample of what has made it to our cameras in the past six months.

Architectural Photography San Jose
View of downtown from Dolores Park.
Architectural Photography San Jose
Legion of Honor.
Architectural Photography San Jose
View of the Diego Rivera mural "Allegory of California" inside the City Club of San Francisco.
Architectural Photography San Jose
Architectural Photography San JoseArchitectural Photography San Jose
Architectural Photography San Jose
Architectural Photography San Jose
Golden Gate Park.
Architectural Photography San Jose
Folsom Street Fair.

Architectural Photographer California
Front page of our new website

Developing A New Website

As technology marches along, we are presented with new challenges and opportunities to develop and fine tune our image. This is true of every business, from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 companies. We just finished a two month process of rebuilding our website and reconstructing our identity. You can see the results here:www.russellabraham.com. We started with the concept of working with CMS web hosting (content management system)that was suited for photographers and other creative professionals. We created a list of site requirements and then worked our way through a surprisingly long list of CMS hosts. After testing and rejecting about ten, we settled on one, a href="https://www.sitewelder.com/">SiteWelder, that gave us the big screen look on a splash page and nested portfolios where we could display hundreds of images from scores of assignments, all in high resolution.

Architectural Photographer California

We discovered that our pictures look great BIG! Our raw files come out of the camera over 8000 pix across. Why not use all of that image power? Our opening page slideshow went from 775 pixels across to over 2000 pixels. With a little bit of Photoshop magic from Kristen Paulin, the images displayed brilliantly on both small and large screens. We also decided that we might as well put a lot of pictures on the site, rather than a small sample. We did close to 500 pictures in total. Every shot was done in the last three years, with most in the last 12 months.

Architectural Photographer California

As part of the re-branding process, we changed the firm name to Abraham Paulin Photography. Kristen Paulin has taken an increasingly active role both behind the camera and in front of the computer. Going forward, I see her both working with me and on her own as assignments arise. Take a look at the site and let us know what you think.


Architectural Photographer California

San Francisco Secrets

Working with Images Publishing in Melbourne, we have been selected to develop a beautiful, large format, picture book about San Francisco, aptly titled "San Francisco Secrets." They have published four books in the "Secrets" series, mostly in Europe. The San Francisco book will be their first in North America.

Architectural Photographer California
Architectural Photographer California
Architectural Photographer California
Architectural Photographer California

The most obvious question one can ask, are there any secrets left in the City by the Bay? The question is a good one, and we have been looking. Personally, this project has a significant bit of personal nostalgia. When I first arrived in the Bay Area many years ago, I was fascinated by San Francisco's patchwork landscape, Victorian heritage and colorful streetscapes. Climbing up and down its legendary hills, I took lots of pictures with my ancient Nikon loaded with Plus-X. Now, at the back end of my career, I am doing the same thing with a bit of déjà vu. The City has changed in all those years yet stayed the same. Freeways have come down and high-rises gone up. Neglected neighborhoods have found new residents and new life. There are not many secrets a city can keep, but we have discovered some amazing places, vistas, people and cuisines that maybe the world should know about. It is an adventure and it's still going on.


Architectural Drone Photography and Video
Russell and Artist Catherine Widgery discussing video shots at the Warm Springs BART Station.
Drones, Video, and Animation

The lines between video and still photography are getting blurred every day.  Most good DSLRs (the cameras most of us use) are also video cameras.  The cameras with full frame sensors are now equipped with cinema-graphic lenses and sound gear to shoot broadcast-quality TV.  Much of what you see today on television is shot with Canon still cameras in video mode.  Working with our favorite videographer, Eric Sahlin, we have tip-toed into the world of video and drone photography with some excellent results.


Warm Springs BART Station

Generally speaking, buildings don't move, but the camera can move around, through, and above a building creating remarkable imagery.We recently completed two projects, one a video and the other a purely drone shoot that we want to share with you. A finished video of an architectural project can be animated stills, live "B roll," and drone footage spliced together in a seamless fashion. Our video of the Warm Springs BART Station, done for Widgery Studio of Boston, was just that, a combination from all three sources. All capture modes have their pluses and minuses as you can see in this video. Some techniques, like time lapse, work best from live video while the drone may make the best long truck shots, and a slow pan shot may work best from a still image. Working with stills and live footage can be a cost effective way to create a video for your website or PowerPoint presentation.

Architectural Drone Photography and Video
This movie, shot and edited by our partner Eric Sahlin, consists of live video, still image pans, and time-lapse footage.

340 Fremont Apartments

Drone photography has come a long way in the last five years.  They have gone from toys to professional tools.  The crafts are much more stable, the lenses better, and the sensor resolution greatly improved. Recently we shot 340 Fremont Apartments for our client Equity Residential. The Fremont St. tower is sandwiched in with a dozen other high rises on Rincon Hill and presented some photographic challenges that were best solved with a drone. We were able to station the drone 75 yards in front of the building and create a boom shot that rose close to 400 feet in slow motion. Breathtaking! And my partner on this project, videographer Eric Sahlin says that the crafts are only getting better with higher resolution cameras and real video shutters. BTW, Eric has taken the time to get the FCC operator's license so we are completely legal. Sometimes, a drone shot may be your best alternative with a tricky building shoot.

Architectural Drone Photography and Video
340 Fremont Apartments. Drone video photographed and produced by Eric Sahlin.

Interior Photography San Francisco
One Henry Adams Apartments, San Francisco, CA. BAR Architects.

Trends in Multi-Family Housing

Many years ago when working for a major housing developer based in the mid-west, I asked why all their projects were located on the coasts and none in the mid-west or south. His answer surprised me: "We like to operate in high-barrier entry markets and California is just such a place." It is not any one thing that drives costs and rents, but a combination of circumstances that make the Bay Area the most expensive housing market in the country. Needless to say, many developers are jockeying for a piece of the multi-family pie with former rail yards, industrial sites and strip malls being transformed into trendy housing for millennials and whomever else can afford it.

In the past year or so, we have been fortunate to shoot a handful of projects executed by some well established architectural firms both in the heart of the city and on suburban turf. Because space is at a premium, the design paradigm has shifted to small units with some upscale amenities (washer and dryers in each unit) and large, multi-function common spaces that any ex-frat boy or start-up entrepreneur could warm up to. Game and TV rooms, lounges with demonstration kitchens (just in case Martha Stewart shows up) roof top decks, hot tubs and bike repair shops. Ground floor retail is increasingly being integrated into the design adding a significant convenience factor to the project. Under the same roof can be your gym, your favorite coffee shop and a boutique supermarket. Here are two interesting projects fresh out of the camera.

One Hundred Grand Apartments

Architectural Photography Tahoe
One Hundred Grand Apartments, Foster City, CA. Seidel Architects.

One Hundred Grand is Foster City's attempt to put on an urban face on an otherwise antiseptic suburban landscape. Located just off the west side of the San Mateo Bridge, it is a sophisticated urban oasis in a suburban environment. Alex Seidel of Seidel Architects mixes town house city living with five story urban block development on a tight site in the middle of Foster City. An expansive central courtyard with gardens, a large pool and outdoor fireplace creates a buffer to the intense urbanized exterior. A rich mix of natural and man-made materials helps give the project curb appeal.

Architectural Photography Tahoe
Architectural Photography TahoeArchitectural Photography Tahoe

One Henry Adams

Our client Equity Residential, hired us to shoot One Henry Adams. The building is in the heart of the San Francisco Design District and next to two iconic brick warehouse buildings that are still used as design center showrooms. When San Francisco was still a port city, this neighborhood was mostly warehouses and light industrial. Henry Adams, the urban developer and recycler, changed all that about 40 years ago by turning the abandoned warehouses into a vibrant center for interior design showrooms. One Henry Adams reflects some of its converted industrial neighbors by sitting on a half story tableau that was originally a loading dock and now is a pedestrian walkway. The project is divided into two six-story blocks with a handsome broad courtyard between the two and is street accessible. A second story community room opens onto an internal courtyard and allows ample space for you and 300 of your closest friends to party the night away (or until someone calls the cops.)

BAR Architects of San Francisco mixed brick, stucco, Trex and shallow bays to give the facades a sophisticated urban look while not conflicting with its historic neighbors. Each building has its own rooftop garden with downtown or waterfront views, a great place to take your date after a night on the town or just unwind after a long day in front of the computer.

Architectural Photography Tahoe
One Henry Adams Apartments, San Francisco, CA. BAR Architects.
Architectural Photography TahoeArchitectural Photography TahoeArchitectural Photography Tahoe



Architectural Photography SF Bay Area
Sky Cycles public art project by Catherine Widgery. Installed at the Warm Springs BART station in Fremont, CA.
Going Big:

Big Art at Warms Spring BART

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) wanted to make a definitive architectural statement when they commissioned the Warm Springs Station. It may seemingly sit in the middle of a bean field, but that won't be the case for long.  Right now, Warm Springs in Fremont is the end of the transit systems line and BART wanted to make it an elegant terminus. Robin Chiang & Company won the architectural design competition and our client, the internationally acclaimed artist, Catherine Widgery, won the competition to create all the environmental art at the station.

Architectural Photography SF Bay Area
Sky Cycles public art project by Catherine Widgery. Installed at the Warm Springs BART station in Fremont, CA.

Most of Widgery's projects are large in scale and many use glass in some innovative way. The last project we did for her were a set of illuminated glass murals 40 feet high and over two hundred feet long that adorned and upscale mall in Canadas capital. Chiang's original design was a gigantic glass funnel that served as the entrance. The funnel morphed into a forty foot glass drum which became Widgery's primary canvas. Most of Widgery's work exploits the dualities of materials, and "Sky Cycles" at Warm Springs is no exception.

The BART station rotunda is both a mirror and a stained glass painting of the skies and hills that surround the station. The artwork is kiln fired on each panel of glass and is permanent. The alternating bands in the rotunda panels are made of a reflective/transparent material. Sometimes there is reflection and sometimes we see through these vertical bands between the painted sky, depending on where the light is greater. The effect is subtle and it may take the average commuter many trips through the station before they see the effect, but it is all part of the design. Big art helps make a small station a big deal.

Architectural Photography, Fremont, CA
Architectural Photography, Fremont, CA
Sky Cycles public art project by Catherine Widgery. Installed at the Warm Springs BART station in Fremont, CA.


A Big House for Some Big Apparatus
Architectural Photography Bay Area
Engine No. 11, an Oshkosh 8X8 Striker, has a 630 gallon tank on board filled with fire-fighting foam.

What do you do with a couple of fire engines that are the size of two Greyhound buses, have tires four feet high and can unload 630 gallons of foam in 60 seconds? You build a place to park and service them close to an airport runway so that they can be ready to go in a split second. SFO is a busy place, the fourth busiest airport in the United States. Close to 400,000 planes a year take off and land and over 50 million people embark or disembark annually from the airport. That is enough traffic for the airport to support three fire stations housing eighteen pieces of apparatus and a 24/7 crew of firefighters trained to handle any emergency, from an onboard medical situation to a full-scale runway conflagration.

Architectural Photography Bay Area
Architectural Photography Bay AreaArchitectural Photography Bay Area

Fighting airplane fires is very specialized and the equipment used is the same. FireHouse 3, designed by Shah Kawasaki Architects of Oakland in joint venture with YAMAMAR Design, is much more than a garage for oversized fire fighting apparatus. It is a firehouse designed for the very specific needs of airport fire safety.

Among its unique features, the building has a command center with a panoramic view of both runways. It also has its own foam fill delivery system with a 1600 gallon tank, and an oxygen tank fill station. The building's windows are triple glazed to absorb the runway roar just yards from its bays. And there's a special HVAC system to filter out jet exhaust. FireHouse 3 is a big house to handle big emergencies.

Architectural Photography Bay Area
FireHouse 3, at San Francisco International Airport.