Category Archives: San Francisco Area

The end of the Berkeley Pier

The Berkeley Municipal Pier stretches almost a half a mile out into San Francisco Bay. Along the way out to the end there are views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and Mt Tamalpais. The pier used to go even further, so the end is boarded up with the slats you see here, which look decorative in the sunset light. By the way, the view from under the Berkeley Pier is also pretty cool!

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

This image was shot on a tripod, and used three blended exposures. I used a Nikon D810 and Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 set to f/22 and ISO 64 (the native ISO for the D810). The shutter speeds were 2.5 seconds, 8 seconds and 25 seconds. Post-production included HDR blending and minor perspective correction.

Catching the full range of light

This shot from within an abandoned building on Point Richmond, California is a good demonstration of capturing an entire dynamic range of light. There’s quite a range between the bright and sunny San Francisco Bay exterior, and the far less bright interior (it is hard to describe the interior as “muted” though, considering all the colors on the walls).

Abandoned Building, Point Richmond © Harold Davis

Abandoned Building, Point Richmond © Harold Davis

I used my Nikon D800 with the extremely bright and sharp Carl Zeiss Distagon 15mm f/2.8 lens. There were six exposures, with shutter speed duration ranging from 1/1600 of a second (for the bright exterior) to 1/5 of a second for the comparatively dim interior. This amounts to a range of 320:1 from lightest to darkest. Each exposure was shot at f/16 and ISO 200. I combined the exposures using default settings in the Nik HDR Efex Pro plugin from within Photoshop.

Related story: Craneway Pavilion.

San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24, 2014

The San Francisco Bay area is one of the places on our planet most visited for photography. If you live here, why not spend a weekend photographing San Francisco as if you were seeing it for the first time for the wonder it is?

If you have always wanted to photograph San Francisco but are coming from far away, what better way to go about it with the guidance of master photographer and Bay area resident Harold Davis?

Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

100 Views cover

Following a brief orientation, we will carpool and photograph around the Bay area in an exciting and fun weekend with locations depending on weather, lighting and group inclinations. Group size is limited to twelve photographers. There will be time for image review, and Harold will make suggestions for image improvement and creative thinking about image making.

There will be a night shoot on Saturday, and Harold will present material on photographing San Francisco in both color and black & white.

Why not get the imagery of San Francisco you have always wanted?

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where: The orientation and classroom sessions of the workshop will be hosted in Berkeley, California. We will car pool to field shooting locations.

Cost: Tuition is $745 per person. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.

Registration: Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Abroad at Home

Photographing with a group at Kirby Cove waiting for the full moon to rise behind the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed to me that I live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Wherever I travel, for beauty it is a hard comparison with the San Francisco Bay area—and yet, part of the trick is to look at what is near at hand with the same wonder and curiosity that we automatically give to destinations that are more distant.

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Craneway Pavilion

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” wrote Karl Marx. In that spirit, the photo shows the floor and windows of what is now called the Craneway Pavilion. It’s used today for weddings, rock concerts, and trade show exhibits. Its most important historical use was to make military hardware during the second World War.

Ford Richmond Plant © Harold Davis

Ford Richmond Plant © Harold Davis

The Craneway Pavilion is located in Port Richmond, California, and is the largest space in the old Ford Richmond Plant—incorporated into the ponderously named Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Back in World War II, this space—designed by famed industrial architect Alfred Kahn—was where the military hardware that won the war in the Pacific was built, with more than 100,000 jeeps and tanks coming out of the Richmond Tank Depot (as it was known then).

Information about the image: Nikon D800, 28-300mm lens at 42mm, circular polarizer, eight exposures, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 100, shutter speeds ranging from 1/20 of a second to 20 seconds, tripod mounted; processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro, Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex Pro, Topaz Ajust and Topaz Simplify.

Beneath the Berkeley Pier

The Berkeley, California Pier juts out 3,000 feet into San Francisco Bay. When originally constructed in the 1920s, the pier was over three miles long, and an integral part of the Lincoln Highway, the first highway across the country. There was a ferry terminal at the end of the pier. While the western end of the pier has deteriorated and fallen in the water, much of the diminution in the length of the pier comes land fill. In other words, there is much less of San Francisco Bay than there used to be.

Beneath the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

Beneath the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

I have often shot the Berkeley Pier, with its wonderful views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, from the pier itself. For example, here’s one shot of the Berkeley Pier from  a few years back.

Recently, it occurred to me that it might be possible to shoot the pier from below. Yesterday afternoon, I checked the tide tables for the Berkeley Marina, and arrived at the Berkeley Pier at low tide.

Beneath the Berkeley Pier in Black and White © Harold Davis

Beneath the Berkeley Pier in Black and White © Harold Davis

Getting beneath the pier felt kind of weird, almost as if I were descending to the underworld through a crack. The opening was about two feet high, so I really had to slither with my gear and tripod to fit through (alas, I am not as svelte as I used to be!).

Once under the pier, however, I was surprised at the spaciousness. Of course, this was low tide, but the pier construction extended back over something like a chamber carved out of landfill.

Everything was clammy and wet. I shared the space with scuttling crabs, seaweed, rats and assorted broken glass and garbage. As I made my time exposures, every once in a while a wave came through the pilings with a splash that got my attention—and had me ready to move quickly to protect my gear if necessary. I found a place to position the tripod legs between the rocks, and moving them made a squishy sound in the mud. Mentally, I vowed to wash everything washable as soon as I got home!

Exposure data: Shot with my Nikon D800 using a Zeiss APO Sonnar 135mm f/2 lens at 4 seconds, f/22 and ISO 50; circular polarizer; tripod mounted.

Graced with Light in Grace Cathedral

Heading into Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, my idea was to practice HDR photography on the vaulted ceiling of the church. I had done this once before in Grace Cathedral, and also in other churches, such as the Cathedral in Chartres, France (shown here in monochromatic HDR).

Often the best laid plans of photographers “go awry,” which is the best reason I can think of for living one’s life to carpe diem, or to seize the day, which all photographers should do as often as they can. In this case, the interior of Grace Cathedral was taken over by “Graced with Light,” an art installation by Anne Patterson that features some twenty miles of multi-colored ribbons dangling from the church’s ceiling.

Graced with Light at Grace Cathedral © Harold Davis

Graced with Light at Grace Cathedral © Harold Davis

Clearly, the image I had envisioned was not going to be possible because the ceiling was hidden by the colorful ribbons. For photographers, right up there with carpe diem is another cliche: if you are given lemons, make lemonade. Another way of thinking of this is to be open to grace, particularly appropriate in Grace Cathedral when confronted with “Graced with Light.”

I sat down in a pew, and attached my camera to the tripod. The legs were collapsed, so the tripod was low to the ground. I positioned the camera and tripod in the center of the center aisle, and pointed it up and back towards the rose window above the entrance to Grace Cathedral. I wanted the image to be entirely in focus, so I needed a fair amount of depth-of-field. This implied stopping down (to f/18), which in turn compelled a fairly long duration of time (15 seconds) for the shutter speed.

Still seated in the pew, I tripped the shutter using my intervalometer, and gave thanks for the grace that allows me to see images that interest me and show the beauty of the world, and of places that people hold sacred.

Exposure data: Nikon D800, 28-300mm lens at 28mm, 15 seconds at f/18 and ISO 100, tripod mounted, RAW file multi-processed in Adobe Camera RAW and finished in Photoshop.

Special thanks to Jake, without whom I would not have been at Grace Cathedral to make this image.

Out with the Old

As the new year approaches I am reminded of the saying “Out with the old, in with the new.” As an immigrant to California, this truly resonates for me because—as has often been pointed out—the spirit of California is one of self-reinvention.

Old Bay Bridge Pylons © Harold Davis

Old Bay Bridge Pylons © Harold Davis

What applies to people can also apply to structures. The massive, depression-era pylons of the old Bay Bridge are shown here, photographed from the pedestrian walkway of the white, futuristic new Bay Bridge structure. Sometime in the next few years the old Bay Bridge is coming down, and the Oakland-to-Treasure-Island passage will be spanned by the spanking, brand-new structure alone!

Does a sunset need color?

Photographing from Hawk Hill was truly one of those great moments in the life of a photographer. In front, the extra-large June “super moon” cleared the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate as a bank of fog added picturesque accents. Behind, the sun was going down in a profusion of layered mist that made the Marin Headlands glow and appear to be a spiritual landscape. The air was warm and almost tropically balmy, in an exposed location that usually bears the brunt of Mark Twain’s famous quip about never finding a winter as cold as summer in San Francisco.

Sunset in the Headlands © Harold Davis

Sunset in the Headlands © Harold Davis

Does a sunset need color? Most people I’ve shown it to like the way I processed this image of a sunset, but I have heard the viewpoint that without color it “isn’t really a sunset.” Of course, it is an image of sunset, albeit reproduced in high-dynamic range black and white—as if one had sketched the sunset in pencil, or with black ink, rather than using color paints.

Is this any way to treat a sunset? What do you think?

Exposure data: 200mm, five exposures at shutter speeds from 1/50 of a second to 1/1250 of a second, each exposure at f/6.3 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined and processed using Photoshop CC, Nik HDR Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro, and the Topaz plug-in; converted to monochromatic using Photoshop adjustment layers and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

In Clarion Alley

One of my favorite places to photograph in the Mission District of San Francisco is Clarion Alley—a very magical but somewhat seedy place. Paintings cover the walls, and they are always changing.

In Clarion Alley by Harold Davis

In Clarion Alley © Harold Davis

What I like about my photo above is that the trompe-l’œil depiction of the alley opening from the silhouette in the painting on the Clarion Alley wall seems to show the scene in which I was standing, duplicated—perhaps in another, parallel universe.

In the photo below, a fearsome San Francisco death head seems to be peering at a woman in the forest. I like that the two very different paintings are interacting, which is why I called it Death and the Maiden.

Death and the Maiden by Harold Davis

Death and the Maiden © Harold Davis

What will be on the walls of Clarion Alley next time I visit with my camera? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out!

 

Bay Bridge Lights

In this image of the Bay Bridge the moon seems to be “captured” within the tower of the Bay Bridge. The image is a hand-HDR blend of six exposures at shutter speeds from 1/2 of a second to 8 seconds. During one of the exposures the lights for The Bay Lights, an art installation and project by Leo Villareal that will come on “for real” on March 5, 2013 appeared briefly (in testing mode I guess), and I painted them in on a layer at about 30% opacity. Note that this light show has nothing to do with the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge, which has come and gone—and is simply a rather wonderful art installation.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Black & White by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Black & White © Harold Davis

The sequence of exposures in this image was shot during Saturday’s smashing moonrise adventure workshop—which I feel was good photographically and a very successful workshop despite the break-in of my van. I started with color images, combined them, manipulated them in post-production to create an image with an extended range of tonal values—withthe results shown below. To finish the image, I then converted it to black and white, using layers and masking to control how each section of the image converted.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Color by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Color © Harold Davis

Smashing Moonrise Workshop

The San Francisco Moonrise Adventure workshop on Saturday was a smashing success. Despite some unexpected logistical difficulties—due to a demonstration on Market Street—we settled into our Embarcadero waterfront location in good time. The moon rose mostly where it was supposed to, and is shown here over Port Oakland. The photo was shot under the Bay Bridge using my 300mm lens. I’ll be posting more photos of the moon interacting in complex and photographically interesting ways with the Bay Bridge itself!

Moonrise over Port Oakland by Harold Davis

Moonrise over Port Oakland © Harold Davis

Not to take away from the workshop and how much fun it was, but unfortunately “smashing” applies to what happened to my van, parked near the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco while the workshop was transpiring. The rear window was smashed. The bad guys got a briefcase with my iPad and the prototype of Botanique—currently, the only existing copy.

Well, we’re assembling the actual copies of the edition this week, so there will soon be more copies.

It’s hard to imagine that the smash-and-grab thief has much interest in an archival box filled with oragami-like botanical art. So my fantasy is that it was immediately discarded, and will turn up in twenty years or so when the rest of the copies in the edition are in major museums. There will be much debate about the provenance of the prototype before it is auctioned for megabucks at Sotheby’s.

Returning to earth, if you happen to be wandering in downtown San Francisco and see a box of botanical art in the gutter pick it up! Let me know!

I’m not giving up on San Francisco photography, but will be more careful about where I park in the future. Please consider joining me in the Mission on Saturday February 23—I know it will be a fantastic shoot!

Sunset from Sutro Baths

Sunset was spectacular here in the San Francisco Bay area yesterday. I shot west out to the Pacific Ocean from Sutro Baths, shown here with a long enough exposure (15 seconds) to calm the action of the waves.

Sutro Sunset by Harold Davis

Sutro Sunset © Harold Davis

Not a pretty face

Not far as the crow flies from the glamorous and scenic parts of San Francisco lies a moldering waterfront south along San Francisco Bay. The structures look like they belong more to Detroit and the Rust belt than they do to San Francisco.

Abandoned Industrial Building, India Basin, San Francisco by Harold Davis

Abandoned Industrial Building, India Basin, San Francisco © Harold Davis

An occasional luxury condo building appears within the zone of shoreline decay. China Basin, India Basin, Hunts Point—you can feel these areas holding their collective breath just waiting for the infusion of massive renovation funds. In the meantime, the ordinary affairs of the dislocated and the 99% continue. As evidence, the sign shown in my iPhone photo prohibits living (“habitation”) in one’s vehicle during the hours of the night (10PM – 6AM) “Everyday” [sic].

Shot with my iPhone 4 camera app using HDR, and processing using the Plastic Bullet app.

Lombard Street at night

The idea of this night shot along the famous curves of Lombard Street in San Francisco was to use my shutter speed setting creatively to get the desired effect with the car trails. So the process was to first determine the duration that was about right for the tail lights of a car slowly moving down the curve to fill the frame horizontally.

Of course, there are going to be variations depending on the speed of the car, but the best effects were achieved using a shutter speed duration  in the 8-15 seconds range. With the shutter speed in place, it was easy to calculate the other two components of the exposure equation (aperture and ISO).

Lombard Street at Night by Harold Davis

Lombard Street at Night © Harold Davis

The exposure information for this frame was 12mm, 15 seconds at f/11 and ISO 200, tripod mounted. The exposure works in part because of the ambient light of the background scene, which is bright enough so you can see Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge in the background (as well as nearby houses), but not so bright that it is blown out at the settings that work for the cars.

I shot the image just before Christmas while hanging out with a friend and listening to Christmas carols sung by inebriated cable car passengers going by on Hyde Street.