Bay Bridge Sun

I took this the morning after arriving from the east coast. When I woke up, it was before 4:00 AM, so I went out taking photos, and this was the last place I stopped. I started at the Palace of Fine Arts and ended up here at Embarcadero.

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Bay Bridge Sun
As the sun rises through the San Francisco Bay Bridge

It was early on a weekend so the streets were empty and I could get from place to place in no time. Traveling to the west coast is easy to do, going the other way is another matter entirely. That is unless you like staying up late, but I’m more of a morning person, so going west works better for me. Early to rise…, and all that stuff.

california in the gallery

It’s been two years since I took this and looking at it now I thought it was the Golden Gate bridge. But the background doesn’t look right, and the sun doesn’t set or rise this way as far as I know. Something didn’t seem right. Fortunately, this is tagged with GPS coordinates from an app I use; just like iPhone photos, but for Sony. So I looked it up on Google maps and only then did I realized it was the Bay Bridge. Silly me.

Silence in Grace Cathedral

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.

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Inside the hushed atmosphere of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco

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.

more cathedrals from the gallery

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.

Fluid Dynamics

This is Ocean Beach from Point Lobos in San Francisco. My wife and I were having dinner at the Cliff House restaurant when the colors started changing and, as usual, I had to excuse myself from the table. There’s no getting around the fact that the spouse of a photographer is long-suffering.

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Fluid Dynamics
From a distance, crowds seem to mimic the flow of water

It’s interesting how the people on the beach are evenly distributed. Have you ever notice how crowds of people seem to mimic fluid dynamics? Here they’re evenly dispersed like little water molecules on the sand. You can see this phenomenon when you view crowds from a distance. At a certain level, people follow the laws of physics. We observe the same behavior in traffic patterns which is then used to model highways and ramps.

see my favorites from the portfolio

In a previous post and similar picture from this beach, I compared the grains of sand to stars in the universe. It seems that whenever I look at this scene I’m reminded of the order of things, and how that order repeats regardless of the scale. Food for thought from someone who can’t sit long enough to eat.

Lands End Lookout

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.

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Lands End Lookout
A section of the trail known as Lands End Lookout

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.

more from California

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.

The Good and the Bad

This is another HDR photo that I created using AuroraHDR 2018. Actually, this was a little tricky to make because it’s a long exposure using an ND filter shooting directly into the sun. The aperture of F14 is what creates the starburst effect. I combined five photos ranging from one to six seconds in length which gives the water a smooth quality.

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The Good and the Bad
On average I like the photo, despite some flaws

Even though I spent hours on this I’m not totally happy with it. That’s because I’m aware of all the technical flaws it has; noise in the shadows, lens flare and lack of detail on the rocks. I’m posting it anyway because I like the overall effect and feel. And also, each time I work with photos I learn a little more. In this case I know what I need to do next time I have a similar scene; each time I get a little better.

more from san francisco

In the end, it’s the scene and the mood that are most important to me. The technical aspects are important also, just not as important. I was able to recreate the idea I had in my head at the time, so it’s a win. I’m posting it because on balance, I do like the image. And to tell you the truth, that’s why I do photography in the first place.

SFMOMA

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.

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SFMOMA
An abstract rendering of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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.

more interior photos

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.

The Most Photographed Bridge in the World

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?

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The Most Photographed Bridge in the World
The Most Photographed Bridge in the World is the Golden Gate Bridge

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.

more from San Francisco

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.

Sutro Baths at Lands End

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.

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Sutro Baths at Lands End
Sutro Baths at Lands End in San Francisco

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.

California Gallery

I had a flight back to the east that night and so I had time to kill and plenty of space on my memory card. So I stayed long after the sunset composing a million images until it was completely dark.

West Coast Skylines

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.

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West Coast Skylines
West coast skylines are in a constant state of change

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.

more cityscape images

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.

Palace of Fine Arts

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.

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Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

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.

more black and white

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?