Architectural Photographer | San Francisco Bay Area | Russell Abraham

Garay House

Danville House

One Hundred Grand Apartments

340 Fremont Apartments

Golden Gate Rec Center

SFO Airport FireHouse3

Warm Springs BART Station

Santa Clara Square

Riverpark Tower II

Telegraph Hill House

Pac Heights House

Sinbad Creek

Asian Oasis

Portola Valley Home

Los Gatos Home

Tahoe Family Retreat

Politzer Drive

One Henry Adams

The Alise

California Pizza Kitchen

Silicon Valley Courtyard by Marriott

ARMA Museum and Resort

COMO Shambhala Estate

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Hotel Griffon

Il Fornaio Restaurant

The Bristol Hotel




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 on-going travel book project, San Francisco Secrets, we took another look at a handful of hotels that share some of the citys rich and eccentric past and a few new ones that caught our attention.

The Palace Hotel on Market St. is one of San Franciscos 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.
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 everyones bucket list.

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.  Its 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 dont realize that you are in the heart of the city.
Living room fireplace.

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.

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.

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.
Food shot inside the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel.
Working on the eclipse day in August.  Thank you, Catharine Garber of FGY Architects, for supplying our eclipse glasses.
Working with plates of dim sum at Dragon Beaux.
Some Houses We Like
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.

Modern Farmhouse, FGY Architects.
Cinnamon Court, Swatt | Miers Architects.
Bay Street House, Copper Creek Builders.
Spring Road House, James D Rogers Builder.
San Francisco Secrets: A Book About San Franciscos Hidden Beauty and Bravado
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.
View of downtown from Dolores Park.
Legion of Honor.
Asian Art Museum.
Autumn Moon Festival.
View of the Diego Rivera mural "Allegory of California" inside the City Club of San Francisco.
Holy Virgin Cathedral.
Golden Gate Park.
Folsom Street Fair.
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:  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, 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.

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.

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.
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.
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 Franciscos 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 its still going on.
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 dont 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.
Warm Springs BART
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 operators license so we are completely legal. Sometimes, a drone shot may be your best alternative with a tricky building shoot.
340 Fremont
340 Fremont Apartments. Drone video photographed and produced by Eric Sahlin.
e-news for May
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
One Hundred Grand Apartments, Foster City, CA. Seidel Architects.
One Hundred Grand is Foster Citys 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.
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.)
One Henry Adams Apartments, San Francisco, CA. BAR Architects.
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.