Monthly Archives: November 2014

San Francisco Aerials & Fog

Golden Gate Bridge

I’ve always loved getting different images and views that most people are unaccustomed to seeing. That is why on my latest adventure to San Francisco I decided to snap a few images of the city and bridges from above. When I say a few, I really mean about 4000 photos over the course of one sunset, and the concurrent sunrise.

Lets back up for a minute.

I’ve flown about 50 helicopter flights during the course of my professional career, over Miami, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, and Alaska. Most of that work was for video projects, using gyros and nose-mounted cameras. My clients usually sit in the rear, advising and directing, but we all secretly know that it is the pilot who ultimately sets you up and gets the photographer into the correct position for the shot. All of the pilots that I have been fortunate enough to work with have been extremely professional, and experienced, especially my latest pilot.
Marc Fiedor was the pilot for both of these flights over San Francisco Bay. He works out of, located in the Oakland area, and he is the real deal. Experienced, a great communicator, and probably the best controller I’ve ever used to get me into the right spot. I explained what I was looking for beforehand, and he obliged, setting me up perfectly each time, at one point he even offered to fly UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge! He knows the area better than most, the best times for images, and his experience really paid off for me on these flights. Thanks Marc, can’t wait to do it again, real soon.

AT&T Park

Moving on…..Day 1.
The San Francisco Giants had just paved their way into the MLB World Series against the Kansas City Royals, and the entire town was painted or lit up with Orange and Black. Everywhere you looked, the city was gearing up for 3 straight days of games, unfortunately, so was the FAA. All flights over AT&T Park (baseball stadium) were restricted, my only hope of shooting the field was the day before the first home game was to take place. We took the opportunity to remove the doors on the chopper and left home base about 20 minutes before sunset. The fog and sun were perfectly placed as we flew overhead. My business partner Steve Kidd was strapped into the back of the ’44 and he shot a bunch with his new FujiXTI. He was on cloud 9.
The stadium was lit up like it was Christmas time, with the field workers painting the logos onto the well manicured grass, all in all, it made for some beautiful images. We then headed over the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge for a few circles, before flying back over the tallest buildings in S.F. The flight was magical, and the images simply kicked ass! We set down in pure blackness, I was so excited to see the results. I uploaded a few dozen to the website, in hopes of highlighting the city and the park for their World Series coverage.

Golden Gate Bridge

Day 2….
The next morning, at 4a.m. to be exact, I was back at it. I walked to the Powell Street BART station (the subway) and headed to West Oakland. Yup, that’s right, THAT Oakland, not the one that is located just 20 minutes from my house, but the Oakland where the Raiders live. Just 45 minutes later I was waiting outside in the barely lit parking lot for Marc to grab me and head off to the airport. I made a point to remind myself to take off the Giants cap on my head, just to steer clear of the Oakland A’s fans that were hanging in the lot and most likely cheering for Kansas City, they are a tough bunch I’ve been told.

The sky was a bright orange about 15 minutes before sunrise and the temperature had really dropped, this Florida boy was wearing blue jeans, a neck scarf and a jacket as the doors were once again off the bird.

San Francisco Skyline

The first thing I noticed as we passed the Oakland Coliseum was all of the stopped traffic on the roadways. Cars were moving 10 mph at best, it was very much like Interstate 4 in the Disney area, pure hell. The headlights were pretty bright, so I adjusted the ISO on both cameras to accommodate for the darkness.

We made our first pass over the city and the fog layer was almost nonexistent. The sun was beginning to peek out over the horizon and we were on the Marin Headlands side of the Golden Gate Bridge. When the bright orange ball was finally up, the entire skyline of San Francisco lit up like a camp fire. The ISO changed from 3200 all the way down to 640 in a matter of minutes, and the fog layer started to creep in. We flew over bridges and the TransAmerica building, watching as the workers looked at us from behind the glass of the highrise. The new Bay Bridge was golden in this light, and we rushed to catch it before the light changed to blue. Upon shooting back into the city from Oakland, there was time for one quick pass over the UC Berkeley campus.

TransAmerica Building

The images I captured that day were beyond belief, and I can not wait to return there to shoot more aerials with Marc. You never know what the weather will be in that city, but regardless, the experience is always worth the risk.

All Images Copyright Alex Menendez- These are low quality for the BLOG post.

Licensing and prints from my site at:

ROSEWATER- Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

On a recent trip out West for a medical based assignment, I was met with a phone call from the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism about covering a special event for them once again. It is always a pleasure to receive these types of phone calls from them, as they are awesome to work with and their guests are usually very worthy of not only covering, but also very informative and cutting edge. (see- James Risen, and Daniel Ellsberg in the past).
This assignment once again fit the bill…

Jon Stewart, Mazair Bahari

The Daily Show host and newly crowned director Jon Stewart was the assignment for the evening, with special guest Maziar Bahari in tow. Stewart’s yet to be released film “ROSEWATER” was being screened for the UCBSOJ students and faculty as well as for their special guests, with a lecture to follow the film. My assignment was to cover the event, the introductions, meet ups, the screening, behind the scenes, the 15 minute student interview session and of course, the aftermath with questions and answers of the guests on stage.

Jon Stewart

The film itself is based on the book “Then They Came for Me”, a story written by Bahari, an Iranian/Canadian journalist who was sent to Iran, to cover the 2009 presidential elections that pitted incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against reform-minded opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Bahari was on assignment at the time for Newsweek magazine when he was arrested and charged with being a spy.
After some trumped up charges, including the possession of pornography, Bahari is kept in prison and basically tortured for over 100 days, much like his father had been in the 1950’s. I won’t get too deep into the film here, as I suggest you go see it firsthand, especially if you are a member of the media or are planning a career that may take you out of the country. I will say that Stewart did a fine job in his directoral debut, and I hope this is not the only film he produces.

Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari

As for the event itself, Jon Stewart is a class act and if he has an ego, he left it at home on this night. The man was incredibly humble, joked with almost everyone that he interacted with and was a trooper even when his handlers were saying it was time to leave. His onstage aura was hypnotizing, the multi Emmy-award winning host of The Daily Show was definitely in his director role for this event. He never spoke out of turn, thus allowing Maziar to tell the story as he remembered it, with intense mental and physical struggles daily as his torturers tried to break him, even though he had actually done nothing wrong. The crowd of 600 in the packed house listened to every word that was spoken, and laughed nervously at some of the raw humor as the questions were answered. Berkeley Graduate students and staff alike asked honest and tough questions and at the end of the night, many lessons were learned. The time they spent onstage could have gone for hours if allowed, but the night was getting late, and the guests were off to Chicago the next day, so after about 45 minutes, the event ended.

Rosewater has won many awards at the film festivals where it has screened, and it will surely make a dent in this autumns’ national movie schedule. I like the fact that Jon Stewart was able to make this film based on a true story and that its main concern was the journalists that cover worldwide policy and conflict. If the real world would wake up and see what really happens outside of the U.S., and how it is reported, the world, our world, would be a much better place. Go see this film when it comes out, though I personally don’t think it will win an Oscar or Academy award, it is a very well documented story that needs to be seen. I truly enjoyed what I saw!


ROSEWATER images available on Copyright Alex Menendez 2014