Shelley and I had a few days at the end of our trip to spend in and around San Francisco. We arrived north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon of the day that we left Point Reyes.
Point Bonita Lighthouse 2018
The Point Bonita Lighthouse is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. When Shelley and I arrived, we only had a few minutes at the location before it would close until the following Sunday. You see, the Point Bonita Lighthouse is only open Sundays and Mondays between 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM. It so happened that we arrived at 3:15 PM on Monday. With only fifteen minutes to find a composition and get my photograph, I had to work quickly. I pulled out my camera and checked the composition that I was thinking of using.
Once I was sure where to set up the tripod, I mounted my camera and dialed in the exposure that I wanted. For this composition to work the way that I wanted, I knew that I was going to need to slow down the clouds in the sky. So I grabbed my 10-stop ND filter and circular polarizer. By adding these two filters to the front of my lens and closing down my aperture to f/22, I was able to get a shutter speed of 25 seconds. I zoomed my 14-24mm lens in just a tad to 15mm. By doing this, I was able to remove some of the distractions that were showing in my initial composition. A really lovely thing about slowing clouds with the 25-second shutter speed is that it also pretty much removes all of the people who were walking around the lighthouse.
Golden Gate Bridge from Moore Road
Before Shelley and I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, we went in search of a composition of the bridge from down by the water. Before leaving for the trip, I researched different locations and reviewed compositions that other photographers have taken. I did this in hopes of finding something new, but sometimes you end up with a slightly different arrangement of the tried and true.
For this photograph, I chose not to use filters, but to shoot brackets of the composition. By doing this, I was able to pull in more detail where needed during post-processing. I wanted as much depth of field in the final photograph as possible so I shot at f/22. I applied an in-camera crop by zooming my 24-85mm lens to 52mm. This allowed me to slightly slow down the clouds by getting a base exposure at 1/30 of a second and combining an even slower exposure that I had to bring down the brightness in post. By doing this, it helped me to achieve the clouds that I wanted. I shot this composition at ISO 50. I did this to reduce the likelihood of noise in the final photograph.
Moore Road was the last location for that day. The next morning would begin the first full day of our visit to the City by the Bay.
Looking Down Market Street – San Francisco
The next morning Shelley and I headed up to Twin Peaks to photograph at one of the locations that I knew was a cannot miss spot. I tried a few different compositions from this location. One is an ultra-wide panoramic, but my favorite from the Peaks was looking down Market Street. For this composition, I tried to center my frame on the centerline of Market Street and balance the image with the San Francisco skyline on either side. I bracketed the composition so that I could bring in detail in the sky. By doing this, it allowed me to highlight the fact that there were different levels of clouds and not just a purely overcast sky on that day. I also zoomed my 24-85mm lens to 85mm. By doing this, I was able to use an aperture of f/7.1 at ISO160.
Palace Of Fine Arts – San Francisco
I have wanted to photograph at the Palace of Fine Arts for a long, long time. I am so glad that once I made it there, it did not let me down. This composition was my first of the Palace, and I knew from photographing at Twin Peeks that the sky was not going to corporate with a single exposure or filters. So, with this mind, I bracketed the composition at f/4, ISO 100. I allowed the camera to select the shutter speed for the plus and minus exposures of the bracket. The base exposure was at a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second.
Beneath the Dome – Palace Of Fine Arts
This photograph is an example of what you can achieve when you change your perspective on your subject. I might also add that it’s very interesting to photograph lying down in the middle of the dome where people are walking around. You get some of the weirdest looks. I’m pretty sure that most people thought I was crazy, it wouldn’t have been the first time. For this composition, I set up my tripod with barely enough space for me to lay down underneath it. I then mounted my camera and zoomed my 14-24 mm lens wide to 14mm. I set my aperture to f/2.8 and was able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second at ISO 100. While I could have shot this composition with a narrower aperture, of say around f/5.6, it would not have helped the image. As it is, the image is critically sharp.
Reflections of San Francisco – Palace Of Fine Arts
I really wanted to make a compelling reflective photograph of the Palace of Fine Arts while Shelley and I were in San Francisco. With San Francisco being at the end of a 14-day photographic road trip, I was definitely getting tired and worn down.
We were at the location at the wrong time of day, but when traveling, you have to shoot at the location when you are there and not when you would like to be. I tried to keep this in mind as I worked my filters and camera to produce the best photograph that the light would allow. I was able to slow the water down enough to get a good reflection of the Palace by getting my shutter speed down to 5 seconds. In addition to my 10-stop ND filter and a circular polarizer, I lowered my ISO to 64 which is technologically outside of the native ISO range for my Nikon D600. I composed the frame wide at 14mm to take in the length of the Palace of Fine Arts.
Overall, I am happy with the photograph that I came away with from that day. But I know that if I had easier access and could go anytime that the conditions were perfect for my ideal photograph that I would come away with a better photograph.
The Painted Ladies – San Francisco
What trip to San Francisco would be complete without a photography stop at the Painted Ladies? For this composition, I shot multiple frames intending to stitch them together during post-processing to create a panoramic photograph. The hardest part of making this photograph was the harsh light from the low-level clouds. The sky kept blowing out, and there was little to no detail in the clouds, so bracketing did not work either. I made this photograph at ISO 64, 72mm, f/6.3, at 1/80 of a second.
William Westerfeld House – San Francisco
San Francisco is home to so many cool structures that I could have easily photographed there for months, even years and not captured everything that I saw. The William Westerfeld house was what Bob Ross would call a “happy little accident”. While Shelley and I were walking around Alamo Square Park and admiring all of the other homes, we came upon this house which photographically spoke to me. I tilted my camera slightly up to remove any of the distracting objects from this photograph and zoomed my 24-85mm lens to 55mm. I made this photograph from a single exposure at ISO 100, f/7.1, at 1/400 of a second.
Lombard Street – San Francisco
Lombard Street in San Francisco is one of the most famous streets in the world. Undoubtedly you have seen many shots and photographs of this location.
For my composition, I wanted something different. I wanted to accentuate the curves of Lombard Street. How did I do this? I shot multiple images at 14mm in portrait mode. I then in post stitched them together as a panoramic of sorts. By doing this, it allowed me to accentuate the building heights as well as the curves, thus giving the photograph an other-worldly view of the street.
In post-processing, I didn’t apply any lens correction, thus allowing for the buildings to be distorted and stretched taller into the sky. Also, for this composition, I went handheld, seeing as I was shooting on a narrow sidewalk. This composition was one of the few times that I went handheld during the whole trip. I made this photograph at f/7 in order to maintain critical sharpness throughout the image. Shooting this location in the mid-afternoon allowed me to keep a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at ISO 100.
Coit Tower – Sundog
The last photograph that I made on the trip was Coit Tower. Shelley and I made it the Coit Tower around noon on the last day in San Francisco. I was tired from the miles of driving, not to mention the traffic in the City by the Bay. From Coit Tower, you can see many of the sites that we were not able to make it to on this trip. I, however, was able to capture this sundog creating a halo around Coit Tower. I made this photograph at ISO 100, f/13, at 1/1000 of a second.
Thank you for coming along with us on our journey from Seattle to San Francisco. The Pacific Northwest coastal roads are indeed a treasure trove for photographers. Hopefully, if you have not seen it for yourself, someday you too will be able to enjoy it as we have.
Please check out the corresponding video over on my YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVEf9aXoQMPTAVTztNkNIxg.