San Francisco Skylines - Part Two
We all do it, some folks more than others. Perhaps your practice is utilitarian, maybe you are just following a whim, whaterver your purpose San Francisco is a great town to do it in. Even with all the hills, in fact the hills might make it better. I have heard it said that San Franciscans have such fine posteriors because of all the hills. Yes, I am talking about walking and in this installment of San Francisco Skylines I'll hit a few locations that are all walking distance from each other.
Telegraph Hill is a great spot to shoot from. You don't have to climb Coit Tower to find a good image. If you are willings to scramble around, there are some pretty nifty things that don't even involve skylines. And... there are good skyline shots to be found mid-level. The first shot as taken just before 6:00 am in June You don't even have to walk to get a picture like the second... just stay in the same spot for about 6 months & 17 hours. When you find your favorite spots to see the city from you can shoot from the same spot in different seasons, different times of day and watch the new buildings sprout up over the years.
The area around Telegraph Hill is a really fun area to explore. It has some of my favorite public staircases to be found in the city. One is a very nice brick staricase that is picturesque and isn't too hard to find. Then there are some long, strange twisty ones that seem to go on and on... It... in fact you cou could probably spend the better part of a day and climb over 200 flights of stairs if you wanted to hit all of the public stairs around Telegraph Hill.
About an hour before the first shot on this page I was on the other side of Telegraph Hill and found this shot. The sun still wasn't up so the office lights are subjectively bright enough to show in the ambient light. (I should have brought a ladder!)
A warm afternoon hanging out at Alta Plaza Park. It's a wonderful thing, you should try it. They have tennis courts, a big lawn, and a great playground for kids. And stairs, we mustn't forget the stairs. Some days you can sit in the sun at Alta Plaza Park and watch the fog pouring over Twin Peaks. Alta plaza is only two and a half miles from Telegraph Hill and there are a zillion different routes. each onlt a few blocks more-or-less different in length. You can skirt through Chinatown, wind up twisty Lombard... If you walk up Vallejo Stree, there is a nice public staircase between Mason, Taylor & Jones. You can even take pictures from those outlooks!
From Alta Plaza there are views in all directions.There are benches where you cn sit at the top pf Pierce street and look North over the bay to Angel Island & Tiburon. On the other side of the park look to the South. There's Sutro Tower and the spires of St Ignatius Church. A little bit of the ocean haze can capture the late-late afternoon glow and turn it all into layers of golden silhouette.
Only a block from Filmore Street in Pacific Heights, Alta Plaza Park is a pretty safe place. It is nestled between Clay & Jackson, walking distance to just about anywhere. You have a nice view of the unique roof of Grace Catherdral and if you take a nap on one of the benches and wake up after dark you will have an opportunity to take advantage of some of the nice night vistas to be found. The light of a full moon plays nice with the roof of Grace Cathedral.
All lit up at night, the spires of St Ignatius Church stand above the block of the City Center Mall. When shooting the city at night keep in mind that sodium vapor lights have a very low light temperature and they are by no means full spectrum so play around with your white balance to see what look you can end up with. Of course it is best to shoot raw so you can play with that in post. With more cities moving their street lights to LEDs your night shots will be capturing light from many sources with many different phosphor blends, each with their own set of challenges & opportunities.
It's all down hill from here. That's right, we're walking down to the marina. Not even two miles and, as I said, all down hill. Again, you have lots of route options. It can be as simple as walking straight down Scott street until you notice your feet are wet, or you can detour past the Palace of Fine Arts and take pictures of wedding parties having their pictures taken. Flourescent orange wedding dresses seem to be in style this year. You can even Walk up Jackson street all of the way to Lyon Street. One block over is Pacific & Lyon the highest point in Pacific Heights. From there you can mosey down the Lyon street stairs and gawk at all of the exercize buffs who will run up & down these stairs many times in succession. You can peel off and walk in the cypress woods of the Presidio, there are lots of trails there to discover. If you go over to Broderick, on one of the steep foot-traffic only you can see through the livingroom of a house that has an awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge & the bay. You have lots of options, that's a good thing, pick one.
So you are at the Marina, you see a lot of boats. Little boats, big boats, expensive boats. I was walking past the marina late one night. There was a big guy wearing a black t-shirt with the punisher logo walking toward me. It was a beautiful night just the right amount of coolness, about a half a moon out. I returned his nod with a friendly "Howdy." He took another step and then paused and slowly turned toward me.
"You know," he said, "I've been walking up and down here for a an hour and you're the first person to say hello to me."
"Well," I replied, "No offense, but you are a kinda big guy and you have a big ol' skull on your shirt. Some folks might find that a little intimidating."
And so began our converstion. It turns out Allen is a veteran that commutes in from Modesto for weekend Uber gigs. They pay a lot better than anything in Modesto, and don't conflict with his day job.
"I like taking a break and coming down here to look at the boats." A boat fits into Allen's plans. "...You can live in it, travel in it, You can go almost anywhere in the world..." He wasn't looking at the giant yachts he was realistic about his resources... or lack thereof. "That's why I have to make plans, they give me a way to get there."
"When I got back, all of my friends were doing the same things they were before I left... They had no dreams and weren't making any plans." Allen is a dreamer. These days he's dreaming a lot about boats and his plans are his map to bring his dreams to reality.
"I don't even know how to sail yet..." But Allen has plans for that... Classes this Summer. So next time you are taking an Uber ride in San Francisco and your driver has a dreamy look and talks a lot about boats give him an extra big tip... he has plans.
But you.... You are going to walk around the west end of the yacht harbor and go out to the jetty. Go out to the very end of the jetty. Wave at the passing boaters... If there isn't too much haze you can see the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge. If the tide is low you can walk out on a sandy beach. There are some nice views from there.