The Bay Area is not short of photogenic locations. Probably the most famous is the Golden Gate Bridge. I have certainly photographed it many times from different places. One that I have not shot from before, though, is Baker Beach. Located on the outside of bridge on the south shore, it provides a nice angle on things. I had seen plenty of shots from there before but my previous effort at visiting had occurred on a day when visibility on the shore was just good enough to see your hand in front of your face.
Nancy and I decided to check it out as a fall back when something else we had planned proved to be so busy we couldn’t find anywhere to park. We headed to the beach and strolled along the sand avoiding (most of the time) the waves rolling up on the shore. The view of the bridge was much as expected. As we wandered around, a number of container ships came into view heading for the bay. I was curious to see just how large they looked when compared to the bridge. We loitered until one of them went under the bridge. It suddenly looked a lot less impressive, even though it reached a good distance towards the bridge deck.
A previous post showed the time lapse video I created from me shot sequence on the Marin Headlands. I didn’t just sit and let the sequence go, though. I also had a second body and took shots with that. Unfortunately, I only took one tripod with me so the initial shots were handheld trying to make use of reasonable handholding technique combined with the benefits of image stabilization in the lenses.
Once the time lapse sequence was done, I was able to use the tripod to get some shots in the dark. Cities always look cool at night. The proliferation of lights makes an interesting skyline look even better. Combine with that the motion of some elements and things get interesting. The motion can help or hinder. Streaking car lights are good but planes in the sky can be a distraction since they take on a significance that was never there when you saw the view.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an interesting foreground element. I chose the spot I wanted, even though I couldn’t park there. I parked further up the hill and walked down. (The walk back in the pitch black was a touch more interesting since the path is narrow at points and drops away very steeply!) Getting the white balance right to show the bridge color as it appears at the time is tricky. Auto analysis is not much use and there are few things that you can sample to give an accurate gray.
I have enjoyed night photography since I first started taking pictures. There is something quite peaceful about being out at night with your camera. However, this location probably doesn’t fit that mold. The place was busy the entire time. Meanwhile, I could watch numerous people taking pictures of themselves and the view struggling to understand why the camera “wasn’t working right”. I helped out a few but, after a while, I decided it was easier to just relax and let everyone do their thing. Without a tripod, there was only so much you could do to help.
After my buddy John had headed back into San Francisco, I had the choice to go home or to head back to the Marin Headlands to see whether I could get some shots across the Golden Gate to the city. The sunset was not too far off although the cloud levels looked like they might take away the best light. However, I figured the transition might make it worth a time lapse attempt.
I had come prepared with both a tripod and an intervalometer. As it turned out, I thought I had got this wrong when the intervalometer had dead batteries. However, I did have a backup plan with the Triggertrap iPhone app. (It turned out later that I had brought spare batteries with me for the intervalometer so I actually had more redundancy than I realized. However, I did manage to harm things a bit by nudging the tripod a couple of times when shooting so it didn’t all go well.
Even so, I did get a good set of shots to process. I was more conscious this time of having some spare footage before and after the sequence to make sure it didn’t have a sudden ending or one that cut off some aspect of motion. This ended up being the tour boats. They come out to the bridge and turn around. They provide some good motion in the sequence but also need to be complete or the eye is too aware of their sudden demise. Consequently, after shooting the sequence I wanted, I had to keep it running for a while in order to avoid the boat suddenly vanishing.
All of this was then processed in Lightroom and LRTimelapse, a program I have posted about before here.
Continuing my theme of return visits to take Mum to places, Fort Point was on the itinerary. Always a cool place to visit on a nice day and it benefited from the swell resulting in some great waves crashing up against the fort. Also, we saw some guys taking advantage of the swell to do some surfing alongside the fort. Very cool although they had to know what they were doing since, if you rode all the way in, a rocky wall awaited you! (This also meant that choosing your parking space was a big deal unless you wanted the car to be covered in salt water!)
Go out to the end of the Marin Headlands and you reach Point Bonita. At the very end of the land is a lighthouse to protect the rocky entrance to the Golden Gate itself. I didn’t know this existed until watching Sunday Night Football one night. As is usual for the show, they had a series of fill in shots of local settings between the plays. This lighthouse was one of the subjects so I did a bit of checking on Google Earth to find out where it is. Then, Nancy and I headed out to visit it. However, that trip was frustrated by some persistent fog so we never made it out to the light.
This time we were there on a far nicer day. It was towards the end of the afternoon and the light was becoming lovely. The view back towards the city was getting very attractive as the light was dropping. However, what I hadn’t counted on was that they close off the lighthouse quite early. It sits out on a rocky outcrop with a suspension bridge to reach it. However, this is not the problem. The walk down involves a short tunnel and this is what gets closed off when they shut things up. Fortunately, the rangers told us what time it was closing and how much time we had. Therefore, we zipped straight down to the lighthouse and then worked our way back. As long as we were passed the tunnel in time, we would be fine. As it was, we did not end up feeling rushed. We even saw people walking down as we left although I am not sure how far they ended up getting.
The lighthouse itself is not terribly large. Its location is what makes it so interesting. Going at the time of day we did, it was the hardest bit to shoot since you were looking into the setting sun. However, it did provide some good options. The structure of the bridge is cool in itself and I spent a lot of time looking at it. If you are a nervous person on structures that are flexible, this bridge might not be for you. If you are the only one on it, you might be okay. However, the chances of that are limited so, with others moving across, you will certainly feel it move! You have been warned!
A great place in San Francisco to take people but one that seemingly is ignored by many tourists is Fort Point. Located at the mouth of Golden Gate, it is a fort designed to protect the bay entrance. Now it is right underneath one end of the Golden Gate Bridge so it provides a very different vantage point for bridge viewing.
I forget how interesting a place it can be. We took our visitors there so that they could get the unusual view of the bridge but we ended up spending a lot more time there since the place is very interesting in itself. Why do I not remember that?
The fort structure is very cool and it has a number of exhibits including old cannons, rooms configured as they were when it was in use and displays on the building of the bridge above it. The upper levels provide a great view of the entrance to the bay as well as the bridge and he bay itself. Being so close to the bridge gives you a chance to play with some angles that provide a more distorted view of things which can be quite fun.
Also, you are under some of the ironwork which has great colors and textures. A little HDR can help here to cover the well shaded structures as well as the views beyond that are in full light. Whether you want to see the context or go a little abstract, you can find something to play with. Meanwhile, some panorama options are there to be played with given the shape of the fort and the bridge beyond.
Moving means you don’t always have a lot of time for having fun. However, when your move includes a time when you are in limbo between two places and staying in temporary accommodation, you actually have more time than you think. Sitting around in a hotel room can get old pretty quickly so scheduling some exploration makes a lot more sense. One place that a colleague had mentioned was out on the Marin headlands. There are a number of areas out there that caught my interest including one that wasn’t open on this day so will be the subject of a return trip and a future blog post I hope.
We had plenty to look forward to and the forecast was promising so off we headed. Of course, we hadn’t counted on the fickle Bay Area weather. Leaving the East Bay in glorious sunshine, we got to the Bay Bridge and drove into a wall of fog. I had chosen this route as I had yet to travel over the new bridge having seen it under construction for a number of years. This time I did get to drive over it but I didn’t get to see it! Oh well, on through the city of San Francisco towards the Golden Gate Bridge and straight back into the fog.
Again we drove over a bridge we couldn’t see. Then we turned out onto the Marin headlands. The drive up the coast took us out of the fog and into glorious sunshine. Looking back at the city and the bridge, it was a different story. Below us was a thick bank of fog. It also lay over some of the parts we intended to explore. As it happened, we explored some parts and saved others for another day. The fog didn’t thin while we were there. If anything, it got worse while we were there. Now we have a reason to go back – if we can forecast the weather better than we did this time!