Whenever I leave San Francisco, I take a redeye home. That gives me time before the flight to head over to Point Lobos for a California sunset.
I’ll take luck where I can get it, and I’ve been fortunate in this area. There’s a lot of scenery around here, so it’s not that hard to get good photos. Even if it’s foggy, there’s a lot of cool stuff to see. I love taking pictures in the fog. In Florida, we only get it briefly a couple of times a year. As I write this, I’m putting San Francisco fog photos on my list.
Speaking of lists, I’m not actually a list person. Maybe I should be, it might be useful. I do make a list when I’m told to go get groceries. That’s so I don’t screw up and forget something critical, like goat milk. But when I go to the store on my own, I don’t use a list. If I screw up then and forget something, nobody ever knows. Life is easy under the radar.
Here’s an early morning shot of the Palace of Fine Arts. I came early because I wanted to see it lit up, and, I was still on eastern time.
Because I was on a different time zone, it felt like mid-morning to me. Disassociation with local time is something I try to take advantage of when traveling. It allows me to get out early or late without much effort. Maybe that makes me sound a little lazy.
A couple of years ago I worked on a panorama of this, but I can’t find it now so I must have deleted it. I vaguely remember not being too happy with it. Nevertheless, I’ve taken another stab at it, and this time I’m satisfied. This is only one frame, but it looks a little like a pano. I didn’t do much other than a bit of color balancing and a crop. I guess I just needed time to forget about it and try try again.
A few years ago, I was in San Francisco and while walking around I stopped at Grace Cathedral. It’s in an area called Nob Hill which is a nice little hike up from my hotel in Union Square. I was looking for a place to rest and the cathedral seemed like a good option.
Because of the hushed atmosphere, I didn’t feel comfortable just walking around taking photos, although it probably would have been okay. However, my camera has silent shutter mode that allows me to take photos without making a sound. Churches are one place I use that, I used it a lot while visiting cathedrals in Europe. But it’s also useful at weddings during the ceremony.
For an American city, San Francisco has some nice cathedrals. My other favorite in the city is Cathedral Of Saint Mary Of The Assumption which I saw on a subsequent trip. I think the best time to photograph cathedrals is on a weekday when no one is there and the sounds are hushed. I suppose we could say that both sights AND sounds played a role in the making of this image.
This is from a section of the trail known as Lands End Lookout. As the name implies, it’s on the coast and above the ocean at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. I had a wonderful time here one afternoon and evening and took pictures until long after sunset.
For my money, golden hour is the best time to be here but any time of day is good. From this point, you can look down and see whales going by and large ships coming in and out of the bay. Maybe you can see little red and green dots on the ocean, those are navigation buoys marking the entrance to the bay.
If I had to pick one of my all-time favorite places to hang out, this would be it. I’m not alone, a lot of people come here for the same reasons; chill and recharge. Something about that west coast breeze washing over you on a warm night.
This is inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, aka SFMOMA. The last time I was in California I visited, seeing as many exhibits as I could. This is the central atrium with a skylight at the top. These types of shots are disorienting until you figure it out. That’s the whole point, a little mind puzzle.
I spent a lot of time at the photography exhibits as well as the abstract paintings. The photos were from film and taken over fifty years ago, documenting an era in LA that I found fascinating. The abstract paintings were just as intriguing, some with such extraordinary detail that it was hard to imagine the effort required. But then that’s the reason to go; to see new things and learn.
I visited each floor, finally arriving at the top where I walked across a bridge under the skylight, which is bigger than it appears here. There was a lot of stairs, a lot of walking and a lot of standing and observing. When I finally got to the top I took the elevator down and grabbed this image before leaving with a coffee and a head full of new ideas and inspirations.
This may be the most photographed bridge in the world, that or possibly the Brooklyn Bridge. Nevertheless, every time I approach it I feel the need to take a photo. Never mind there may ten thousand photos of it taken that day, I still have to take my own. Is that crazy or what?
Since cameras merged with cell phones we’ve become a photo-obsessed society. We see something that moves us in some way and we snap a picture. It’s as though we are creating an infinitely rich record of everything we see. Imagine if we combined all photos ever taken into some kind of database. Companies like Google are already laying that foundation so maybe it’s just a matter of time.
Anyway, this is one of many millions of photos of this bridge. Even knowing that I’m still moved when I see it and feel the need to take a picture. And if I’m lucky this image will be added to that great big database in the sky.
This is from my last time here at Lands Ending in San Francisco when I must have taken a million photos. I like how the pool reflects the light of the sky against the sea. It’s what remains of the Sutro Baths from about a hundred hears ago and there is a history of it you can look up on Wikipedia. Speaking of which I just made my yearly donation to Wikipedia. I use it a lot and feel a sense of obligation to contribute.
The west coast of California is something I took for granted when I grew up here. That, and I was more of a mountain boy spending time skiing and backpacking in the Sierras. Whenever I’d mention to someone that I was from California they’d assume I surfed, but to this day I’ve never rode a single wave.
Now that I’m into photography it’s renewed an interest in my homeland of California. So when I’m here, usually for other reasons, I take time for photography.
This is a long exposure that I took of San Francisco from Treasure Island. I took this at the beginning of the year but if I go back and take it again today it would look different on account of the construction. I never really thought about it but changing skylines seem to be a normal thing. Constant change is an oxymoron if there ever was one but it fits what I see each time I go back.
I guarantee you there are a million pictures of this same scene. Now there is one million and one. What I like about this one in particular is the detail and colors. I was here a month before and the same shot came out fuzzy. At the time I was using a light travel tripod that couldn’t hold the camera steady in a moderate wind. This time I took my Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod and it kept the camera solid as a rock.
I am born and raised in California so I know the area. Now when I go back I notice changes. I also used to live in New York. I’ll be going back there shortly so I’m sure I’ll be seeing a ton of changes there as well. The more we are gone the more we see.
Even when I leave home for a week or two I notice changes around my small town. It could be as simple as a new sign or a re-paved road. If I’d stayed it might have gone unnoticed, just part of the daily scenery. It seems we don’t notice gradual change, rather only when we’ve been away do we see the contrast.
I think it all boils down to our ability to adapt to change around us; we are wired that way. As long it’s gradual we seem to pay little heed. However the only thing that’s constant is change and, …that will never change. If that’s not a circular argument I don’t know what is.
On a recent trip to San Francisco I got up early one morning and came here to the Palace of Fine Arts. As it was a Sunday I had the whole place to myself. That by itself is an experience to say nothing of the photographic possibilities. I imagined myself in an ancient Rome as though a ghost out of time.
In this image I placed the camera near the floor and aimed up with a Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens. It’s a special lens because it keeps the horizon flat without distortion, which is where the Zero-D comes from. Perhaps this is what the cat sees as he prowls the palace grounds each night.
As I look at this it reminds me that I’ll be heading back to Europe soon. I never know what I’ll see but I suppose that’s true wherever I go. When I go out to take pictures I have an expectation in my mind. That’s good for certain types of photography but on others it just gets in the way. When travelling the trick is to see what’s in front of me; I might miss something if I’m preoccupied with something in my head.
That’s not to say I don’t have a lot of ideas of images floating around. But it takes presence of mind to pick out details or compositions in a new place. Otherwise it’s better to work in a studio where we can shape an image to match our idea.
I normally take two or three lenses with me when touring. Like in this case I had the wide angle in the bag and so I pulled it out. I might experiment with taking just one lens on an excursion. Back in the day of film many cameras had a 35mm focal length. There’s a degree of liberation that comes with that because you stop thinking about the lens choice and just work with what you have.
If I had to choose just one lens I’d start with the 35mm; that’s a good field of view to work with. But I also like the 50mm and the 85mm. Just thinking about the choice makes me anxious. Isn’t that the craziest thing you ever heard?
This is an example of looking in the other direction during a sunset. The warm light and color in the clouds can be just as valid an image as the sunset itself. These are the Sutro Baths which are at the north end of Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I took this from the Cliff House Bistro where you can eat with a view of the Pacific. I stepped outside to take a few pics of the sunset and then turned my camera north to capture this.
Earlier in the day I was on those mountains across the bay at Point Bonita Lighthouse. It’s a thirty minute drive over the mountains with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I did not see whales on this visit but have at other times seen Humpback and Orca. I managed to get a few images last time but they didn’t turn out that great since I was too far away.
The Sutro Baths used to be covered by a big structure. There were seven pools that were heated to different temperatures. The baths could be filled at high tide in about an hour. These remnants are all that’s left of what was a popular attraction in late 1800’s. However they are still filled at high tide. At low tide there is a small beach just below the rocks.