Focusing on San Francisco

Focusing on San Francisco

Take in the sights… and take home your best pictures ever. Go ahead, leave your heart. You can’t help leaving a piece of it, anyway. It will get lost in the crowded, bustling streets of Chinatown, the picturesque Victorian “painted ladies,” the vast green expanse of Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco is a photographer’s paradise, with its endless array of impossible-seeming angles, ever-changing show of light and shadow and treasure trove of old and new architecture. It is also a city that will make a photographer out of the uninitiated – one simply must capture a part of San Francisco.

Reduce the country’s most beautiful city to a mere few images? Impossible. But for starters, here are a few favorite shots from photographer J’vIark E. Gibson-who’s lucky enough to make a living at it. Gibson has been using Canon equipment for 22 years. “It’s performed extremely well for me-I’ve never been tempted to switch,” notes Gibson.

Cable Cars… Poetry in Motion

They are the only National Historic Landmarks that move-and perhaps the single most recognizable icon of the City by the Bay. The cable car system represents the charming contradictions of San Francisco at its best: functional frivolity, 120-year-old remnants of the old world stubbornly and happily bustling along with the new. Adventurers can still ride along on the outside-just hold on tight around those curvy streets and plunging hillsides.

Focusing on San Francisco

California Street, at the crest of Nob Hill

Gibson explains, “The perspective is from the top of Nob Hill, looking downtown. From here, you can get a great front end view, because tbe cable car runs up and down California. And, if you’re at tbe right cross streets, you can get wonderful sideviews of other moving cars, or people getting on and off. In the background, tbe view stretches all the way downtown, and beyond to the towers of the Bay Bridge. It’s a fantastic mixture of visual elements.”

According to Gibson, time of day is important for this shot. It’s best with good frontal lighting, so make sure the sun is behind you.

Fisherman’s Wharf… The Fabled Dock of the Bay

The pungent aroma of fresh seafood and the irrepressible pulse of seafaring commerce beckon us to discover the sights and sounds of the incomparable Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf draws in 87 percent of San Francisco’s visitors-unquestionably its perennial catch of the day. Enjoy the teeming humanity right along with the succulent crab, shrimp and fresh sourdough, as you stroll through the waterfront marketplace. But calm tranquillity is always as near as the water’s edge, where colorful fishing boats punctuate the horizon.

Docked fishing boats

“The vantage point of this shot is from the pier, approximately eight feet above the water. This tight close up shot emphasizes the repetitive pattern of the fishing vessels. Use a slow shutter speed and a tripod or pier railing to prevent camera movement and to get a clear sharp-focused shot,” advises Gibson.

Golden Gate Bridge… Gates of Heaven

“I don’t know who decided to paint it orange, but God bless them,” declared the author Susan Cheever, speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge. And whether it provides your doorway into the great city or your conduit to the neighborly delights of Sausalito and Marin County, the sight of its 4,200 foot expanse at sunset is not one you’re likely to forget. But bring your camera just in case.

From north of the Bridge-Marin headlands road

“Drive across the bridge and get on the elevated road that goes along the Marin headlands shoreline,” says Gibson. “As you drive west along that road, looking back you can find a spot on the road where you align the north pair of towers of the Golden Gate Bridge with downtown San Francisco-it’s a great shot with the bridge in the foreground and the skyline behind it. You can get a detail of the Bridge tower with the Bank of America and the Transamerica Pyramid behind it. It’s a very popular shot for people who want both elements.”

When conversing with Mark Gibson about shooting San Francisco, his excited reverence is irrepressible. “Visually, this is an incredibly rich place. There is such variety, with the hills and the water, the bridges and the architecture. And the lighting is phenomenal-fog, clouds and clear blue skies in rapid succession. There’s always another perspective. How could anyone get tired of it?” Here are a few tips for shooting in San Francisco:

Don’t let San Francisco’s trademark fog make you camera-shy. It can add a dramatic mood to your shots, but use a fast film for clarity. When photographing a moving cable car-or from a moving cable car-be sure you’re holding the camera steady and press the shutter release gently.

Here on the Marina Yacht Harbor jetty at the foot of Baker Street, our feathered friend offers a slightly different angle of a familiar landmark: the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.

Related Link: View more travel tips and ideas >>

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