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?
As the name implies, the Cliff House restaurant is atop a cliff overlooking the pacific. This is a long exposure I did a few months ago. I came back about a month later and each time I was lucky enough to see a good sunset. As a result I have a tonne of pictures from every angle and many of them like this taken long after the sun went down.
I used to shoot film and photos like this were impossible. You might get close but it was trial and error and required precise measurements, settings and calculations of exposure length. Now in the age of digital I can have images like this in a matter of minutes and know exactly how it turns out. So it’s no wonder people like me love shooting in low light. It’s a relatively new phenomenon in the age of photography.
Speaking of cameras and the age of photography, that giant camera at the edge is a Camera obscura. The idea was first used in the 1600’s as a painting aid. It’s an ancient device that employs the same principal as a pinhole camera by projecting a reflected image on a wall or table. Here is a reference to it on wikipedia.
I wonder if cameras will become obsolete in some future timeline of ours. They have come so far in a few hundred years and things are not slowing down. Maybe our eyes will get replaced with hi-definition sensors and view screens and then we can choose to save images or share with others in a virtual reality universe.
Would the people that invented the Camera obscure recognize the cameras of today? In that same vein then I will not recognize cameras a hundred years from now. Given where we are headed with sensor tech and VR, perhaps my idea is not so far fetched.
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.
Each time I travel to San Francisco I pass over the Bay Bridge. This new section was recently completed after a monumental construction project. Now they’ve started deconstructing the old one which sits adjacent to this. Finally after many months it’s getting so you can take a picture of the new bridge without it being crowded by the old one.
I took this from Treasure Island which is halfway between San Francisco and Oakland. Fortunately it was calm that night so as to produce the colorful reflections on the water.
I take pictures of bridges because I find them fascinating and especially enjoy images at night. That’s because bridges form leading lines for our eyes to follow. They also have repeating elements to provide a sense of scale and direction. The link below is a collection of bridge pictures from places I’ve been.
I grew up near San Francisco so I’ve been over the old bridge countless times. Maybe in a hundred years we’ll all fly drone cars and won’t need bridges. Until such time they’ll keep building new ones and i’ll keep taking pictures of them at night.
Whenever I see a photo of a bench I unconsciously project myself into the scene. It’s something I realized early in photography and a theme I’ve repeated through the years. An empty bench can be a metaphor for many different ideas. This one was at the base of the Coit Tower in San Francisco. In fact there was a girl sitting here earlier but I didn’t like how it turned out so I opted for the empty version.
As I was saying we tend to project ourselves into photos or scenes. I’m not sure we’re aware of it but it’s a natural consequence of seeing. Where we put our attention is where we go in our mind. You can say a lot of things about what and who we are, but one thing for sure is that we experience things. We experience things physically in the world and we experience things in our inner world of thoughts and feelings.
If we see a bench in front of us, whether we are standing there or seeing it in a photo it’s nearly the same experience. So if we walk up to the bench physically or in our mind it is of little consequence. We don’t need to be somewhere to experience it. This is the essence of projection and it is something we do all of the time, whether we realize it or not.
A ship heading out to sea from the San Francisco Bay. I have been fortunate in that when I come to this spot there are colorful clouds at sunset. As I live on another coast I know that it’s not always the case and sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. I’m not adverse to a little luck.
There are places known for sunsets and this spot at at Lands End is one. From my own experience it seems the conditions are conducive for colorful displays like this during the golden hour. Another place that comes to mind is in Texas. I’ve not spent a lot of time in Texas but the few times I’ve been there I noticed colorful sunsets.
Not to be outdone, we too have sunsets in Florida, but often there are no clouds so the colors can be limited. We do get spectacular sunsets, it just seems maybe fewer than California, but I could be wrong, it might just be a matter of my luck.
I noticed this ship close to the Golden Gate Bridge earlier and I was surprised to see it still heading out to sea an hour or more later. These large vessels seem to move very slowly, but could just be an illusion created by their size and the distances involved. This is zoomed in almost 200 mm, so it is a long ways out.
Once I was at the waters edge at the entrance to the bay in Vancouver BC. It was late at night and otherwise quiet as I watched a large container ship pass under the bridge into open waters. It passed close to where I was standing and the vibration of the engines left an impression on me. For whatever reason I am struck with fascination whenever I see these lumbering giants.