The SF Peninsula has some serious photo talent. Meet the shooters who have been catching our eye.

Otherworldly surf scene by Coastside photographer Teddy Miller. (Images courtesy of Teddy Miller)

When it comes to the region’s collective cultural identity, the Bay Area certainly has its share of accomplished industries that make their mark: our ever-eclectic food scene, juggernaut tech and iconic sports teams are just a few that play their part.

As photography fanatics, many of us here at the Six Fifty often marvel at the quality and calibre of the the image-makers in the area. In fact, when we specifically scale down to look at just the Peninsula itself, we’re regularly amazed by the photographs that factor into our feeds.

So as a nod to the local photographers who have been doing exceptional work in the past year, we compiled this list to showcase their imagery. Some of them are well known, while others are just beginning to make a name for themselves. Regardless, their work (and general sense of visual expression) speaks to a level of skill and vision that we are excited to endorse.

So take a look, give a follow and find some inspiration in their imagery.

Clockwise from top: Chinese chess in Boston; a portrait from Fenstermacher’s series—Rickshaw Drivers of Delhi; Rafael, a police officer in Puerto Rico, who couldn’t return to his home for 3 days after Hurricane Maria because of debris in the roads. He arrived to find that his roof was missing. (Images courtesy of Dan Fenstermacher)

Dan Fenstermacher

High on our list of local photographers to follow is Dan Fenstermacher, who really caught our attention this year as the Best in Show winner of our 2018 SF Peninsula Photo Contest with his Cartier-Bresson-like black-and-white street imagery.

A street scene in Palo Alto. (Image courtesy of Dan Fenstermacher)

Fenstermacher’s portfolio is a case study in versatility, ranging from socially-conscious documentary photography (such as his work on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria), international photo stories (his portrait series— “Rickshaw Drivers of Delhi”), sublime street photography and offbeat urban landscapes.

After defecting from an unsatisfying career in advertising, Fenstermacher’s photographic hobby evolved more fully during an internship in Ghana and then a teaching position in China not long after. He got his MFA at San Jose State in 2016 and just recently began a new position teaching photography at West Valley College in Saratoga.

Fenstermacher’s current work involves a captivating color series of street photography from around the Bay Area that makes use of fill flash and unconventional cropping for some absorbing (and at times—really funny) images. He articulates his street work as “trying to create beauty out of ordinary life moments,” but ultimately points to a more big picture use of his photography as a means to “raise awareness…and help people who are under represented in the media and society.”

Recent street scenes from San Francisco that reflect Fenstermacher’s use of fill flash and slightly-off cropping technique. (Images courtesy of Dan Fenstermacher)

Follow Dan on Instagram @DanFenstermacher

A selection of wildlife photos from Miller’s portfolio. He cites bobcats (lower left) as his favorite to photograph: “they test your stealth and patience with each encounter. One wrong movement will send them off into into the brush.” (Images courtesy of Teddy Miller)

Teddy Miller

If you were able to imbue photographs with the zen aesthetics of surfing and a deep love of nature, the resulting imagery would likely resemble the work of Davenport resident Teddy Miller in both style and content. His photos are bold, refined and speak to the atmosphere of the Coastside environment where he lives.

A coyote pouncing in the snow (and then emerged with a rodent in his jaws shortly after). (Image courtesy of Teddy Miller)

In fact, Miller’s initial interest in photography began while he was working on a cattle ranch in San Gregorio along Highway 84 which inclined him to capture “the array of wildlife and untouched landscapes, just over the hill from bustling Silicon Valley.”

Since transitioning into a full-time photo career, his work has very much lived up to that initial mission statement. He specializes in National Geographic-like nature photography and glossy surfer magazine-style feature shots which leaves us feeling like he’s the most inherently Northern California photographer that we follow.

An assortment of dynamic surf scenes from Teddy Miller’s Instagram account. (Images courtesy of Teddy Miller)

Follow Teddy on Instagram @TeddyHMiller

High-end renderings of top notch cocktails. (Images via Danielle Tsi’s website)

Danielle Tsi

Now that every person on the planet is a food blogger, allow us to point you in the direction of Danielle Tsi’s work, which constantly reminds us that there is a considerable difference between professional food photography and pointing our phones in the direction of a meal.

Sublime sweets. (Image via Danielle Tsi’s website)

A native of Singapore, Tsi is fairly new to working in the Bay Area, and specializes in her own personal areas of interest—travel, food and yoga. Yet, when it comes to anything edible, the next-level quality of her work leaves us wondering if her imagery may actually be fine art photography merely moonlighting as food pics.

Tsi also runs the super local food blog Beyond the Plate which features a wide variety of culinary content from around the Bay and beyond.

All told, Tsi is a new, dynamic and very refreshing photo presence on the Peninsula (though her page often leaves us feeling hungry).

Colorful carrots, spice and salmon. (Images via Danielle Tsi’s Instagram)

Follow Danielle Tsi on Instagram @DanielleTsiFoto

From a series entitled “Capitalism Meets Communism,” in which Sugano explored the contrasts of a changing People’s Republic of China. (Image via Dai Sugano’s website)

Dai Sugano

When we asked our colleagues if they had any suggestions for local photographers to follow, the first name that always got mentioned was Dai Sugano.

Mitzi Trumbo, daughter of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, poses for a portrait with a photograph of her father at her home in Los Altos. (Image via Dai Sugano’s Instagram account)

A veteran staff photojournalist for The San Jose Mercury News, Sugano is a Pulitzer Prize finalist (for his work on the 2003 California recall election) and an Emmy Award winning multi-media journalist.

His work simultaneously reflects the skill and old school aesthetics of a well-trained photojournalist, while also embracing the ever-evolving 21st Century media landscape via his deft video storytelling.

In addition, Sugano is the co-founder of the Viewfinder, the visuals blog for Bay Area News Group photojournalists (make sure to take a look at their Best of gallery from 2017).

If you’re interests in photography (or visual media in general) goes beyond just being a hobby, we recommend you follow Sugano and pay close attention.

Images from a series that Sugano did on the “Governator”—Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s special election for Governor in 2005. (Images via Dai Sugano’s website)

Follow Dai Sugano on Instagram @ DaiSugano

You can follow the work of Sugano and other Bay Area News Group photojournalists @MercNews

A variety of engaging imagery from Pamela Chen’s personal Instagram account: (counter clockwise from top left): color study in London; textures in Manhattan; two different street scenes in Florence, Italy. (Images via Pamela Chen’s Instagram)

Pamela Chen

On the topic of producing visual content, well…we don’t have the space to fully relate the full volume of Pamela Chen’s resume, so just take our word that it is lengthy, impressive and involves Emmy awards and a senior position as a NatGeo photo editor.

Apollo and Bean (Image via Chen’s cats’ Instagram account)

Oh…and she runs the world’s largest Instagram account—@Instagram.

Yes, Chen is the head of creative at Instagram, which makes her personal account pretty fascinating (and kinda meta) to follow, because it channels multiple facets of what Instagram itself has to offer: engaging photography, hip happenings, fashion, celebrity scenes and, of course, cat photos (actually, Chen has an entirely separate account enthusiastically dedicated to the lives of her two Egyptian Mau felines—Apollo and Bean.)

In this sense, the real fun of following Chen’s page is that it so seamlessly teeters between these different realms: just when her cat pics convince you her account is like everyone else’s, the next shot is of Chen hanging with Lady Gaga. Like we said—pretty fascinating.

Celebrity scenes (clockwise from top left): Taylor Swift and her cat; Gaga and her hairstylist; The Weeknd and Selena; Missandei and….WHERE is Grey Worm? (Images via Pamela Chen’s Instagram)

Follow Pamela Chen @ChenPamela

Follow her cats Apollo and Bean @twomau

A variety of images from Irene Searles’s 2018 photo-a-day-project. (Images via Irene Searles’s Instagram)

Irene Searles

Menlo Park photographer Irene Searles regards her current Instagram series as a visual diary of her life in the last year, which has entailed traveling frequently and posting one black-and-white photograph per day. The result is a quietly compelling series of monochrome images that globe trots out from the Peninsula to many places abroad.

Searles cites photography as a third career of sorts (banker & pastry chef preceding) and works locally for the likes of InMenlo as well as a variety of education-based non-profits. On deeper and more personal terms, she embraces photography as a way to “get out of her own head,” following the recent passing of her husband.

Having tried three or four times previously to post once per day, Searles has steadily maintained her pace for three-quarters of the year now, and seems to only be picking up speed at this point. Follow her momentum as she completes the 365 and then shifts back to color for 2019.

Scenes from Searles’s trip to Oaxaca this past year. (Images via Irene Searles’s Instagram)

Follow Irene Searles on Instagram @IreneSearlesPhotography

Katharina Pierini

As we wrote in our big profile piece of Pierini last autumn, her Instagram account offers an unfettered glimpse into the indigenous wildlife of the San Francisco Peninsula, and is really quite unlike anything else we’ve come across.

An infrared image of local mountain lion. (Image courtesy of Katharina Pierini)

The Cliff Notes version to her unique body of work reads like this: living in “a cabin in the woods” south of Pescadero, Pierini began placing motion-triggered trail cams around the vast property she lives on in an attempt to document the native wildlife. It took a while, but she eventually got really good at what she was doing and began compiling a prolific collection of stills and video documenting the local fauna around her: bobcats and skunks, kestrels and owls, families of foxes and many many mountain lions. The resulting view of the animals is enthralling and amusing, sometimes savage (check out the rattle snake vs. bobcat brawl) and often strangely human.

Stay safe, Katharina!

Follow Katharina on Instagram @Bergundwald

Clockwise from top left: Geisha commute in Tokyo; Students of the Academia de Mariachi in San Jose; ballet rehearsal; dancers from the folkloric troupe Raices de Mexico perform during the Posada celebration at the Buena Vista RV Park in
Palo Alto. (Images via Federica Armstron’s Instagram)

Federica Armstrong

A friend and collaborator of The Six Fifty, Federica Armstrong’s work speaks to our ideals for what we want photography to be—visually engaging, deeply humanistic and ultimately employed for progress.

As a documentary photographer covering a wide range of subjects, Armstrong’s imagery exudes an always underlying social and cultural awareness, such as her recent series on the all-too-forgotten hazardous legacy of Silicon Valley superfund sites (as published in the New York Times).

As the founder of the Palo Alto Photo Forum, Armstrong also works to bring world class photographers to the Peninsula to present their work with the aim of sparking awareness for local and global issues alike. The Forum is a hub for the local photography community and well worth following.

A variety of landscapes from Armstrong’s “In Plain Site” series, which chronicles the hazardous legacy of Silicon Valley superfund sites. (Images via Federica Armstrong’s website)

Follow Federica on Instagram @FedericaArmstrong

Follow the Palo Alto Photo Forum @Palo_Alto_Photo_Forum

Clockwise from top: Camping under the stars in Cali; upward ascension on Mount Shasta; biking Borel Hill on the Peninsula. (Images via Jake Young’s Instagram)

Jake Young

The Instagram account of Peninsula native Jake Young makes us want to get out and commune with nature.

Sense of scale in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. (Image via Jake Young’s Instagram)

Sure, there is no shortage of outdoors-y imagery on Insta, but Young’s landscapes combine epic scenery with I-wish-that-were-me moments of people interacting with them.

Though born in Los Gatos, Young grew up in South Dakota and then returned to the Peninsula to attend Stanford. He cites the open spaces of the Santa Cruz Mountains as “his saving grace” throughout his school and career.

Unsurprisingly then, his Insta account is interspersed with dynamic landscapes ranging from local spots such as Russian Ridge and Purisima Creek to all manner of National Parks and grand outdoor environments around the hemisphere.

(And yes, you may notice that The Six Fifty has embraced his imagery for our lead banner on our home site. As we’ve been saying, his work speaks to our wavelength.)

Clockwise from top left: the grandeur and vastness of central Colorado; Grand Canyon National Park; Valley of the Ten Peaks, Alberta, Canada; Butano State Park in Pescadero. (Image via Jake Young’s Instagram)

Follow Jake on Instagram @JrrYoung

The Experimental Aircraft Association’s 1929 Ford Trimotor over Stanford University. (Image courtesy of Michael Mainiero)

Michael Mainiero

If you’re the type that gets excited every time a pilot comes on the speaker system to say “and out the window to your left…” then we strongly encourage you to follow local pilot and photographer Michael Mainiero. We profiled the elevated perspective of this 21-year-old Menlo Park native earlier this year, and have been fascinated to follow him skyward ever since.

Mainiero got his private pilot license on his 17th birthday and quickly matched it up to his interests in photography. The resulting body of work that has taken flight since then is a unique view of all things aerial that—as we’ve said before—just doesn’t look like anything else that we’ve seen on Instagram.

In addition to chronicling his travels as a professional (and occasional stunt) pilot, Mainiero’s account showcases a variety of aircrafts shot from the sky (known as “air-to-air photography”) against stunning views of our local landscape, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Stanford Campus.

From left: Flying with the Patriots Jet Team and capturing images via GoPro during San Francisco’s Fleet Week in 2016. Mainiero works with the team as a support pilot and videographer; A Beechcraft A36 Bonanza aircraft captured over downtown San Francisco. (Images courtesy of Michael Mainiero)

Follow Michael Mainiero on Instagram @MaMainiero

Root Down critters. (Images via Root Down Farm’s Instagram)

Root Down Farm

No, they’re not even in the business of photography, but we don’t mind—Root Down Farm’s Instagram account is one of our favorites in the entire 6–5–0.

Ducks! (Image via Root Down Farm’s Instagram)

The imagery from this Pescadero agri-operation gives a clear (& strangely cheeky) glimpse into the life of a local farm, and leaves us with a feeling of muddy boots, open landscapes and lively livestock.

Owned and operated by Coastside mainstay Dede Boise—a queer farmer, new parent, New Jersey native and high school girls basketball coach—Root Down engages in humane farming practices for pasture-raised chickens, pigs, turkeys and ducks on 62 acres near the Pacific Ocean.

Their Instagram account conveys a hyper-local operation that embodies Bay Area values across spectrums…while also just being a lot of fun to follow.

Claws and paws. (Image via Root Down Farm’s Instagram)

Follow Root Down Farm on Instagram @RootDownFarm

Stay up to date with other coverage from The Six Fifty by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, featuring event listings, reviews and articles showcasing the best that the Peninsula has to offer. Sign up here!

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Fungus Photography: Mushroom hunting in Northern California (through a macro lens)

Charles Russo

Award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience across mediums, including videography, investigative reporting, editing, advanced research, and a wide range of photography.

Author of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America; represented by Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency.

Freelance clients include Google, VICE and Stanford University.

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