I spent an early morning dawn photographing San Francisco with Doc Miles Photography on a recent trip to the city by the bay. Doc collected me from my hotel at 5.00am and we whizzed off in his brand new range rover with cameras and tripods to catch the sun rise. Fortunately I had been wide awake since the early hours with a mix of jet lag and anticipation but felt reasonably confident and alert for the adventure. Our first stop was Bay Bridge which spans San Francisco Bay and dates back to the 1930’s. As it shimmered in the street lights, I set up my camera and stared into my viewfinder only to see pitch black. It took me a few moments to realise to my utter embarrassment, I had forgotten to remove the lense cap from my camera. Having fumbled around to fix that, myself and Doc quickly established that I was in truth a complete rookie and this was in fact my first attempt at capturing cityscapes.
San Francisco is a city I regularly visit and in truth I am still trying to make my mind up about it. Having visited its opera house, the ballet, top restaurants, galleries and museums, I know it to be a city rich in culture, but somehow I still struggle to understand its vibe. That morning however it was quiet and peaceful and as we moved through the empty streets, it had a certain magic to it. For our next shot, we climbed the infamous steep streets (in Doc’s landrover) and set up for a skyscraper composition. While we stood discussing the shot and adjusting various functions on the camera, suddenly my heart nearly jumped out my body as a large black dog came bounding out of a nearby house headed straight for us. I thought I was toast. Fortunately the owner came running out behind him in her pyjamas and we all stood around exchanging pleasantries as if it was a regular morning encounter. If San Francisco has anything, it has charm.
As the sunrise was timed for precisely 6.46am, we made our way back across the bay to shoot the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. After a short hike on foot to the best vantage point that Doc knew, we encountered many other budding photographers lined up along the cliff edge waiting expectantly for the magic moment. The Golden Gate is of course an architectural work of brilliance and Doc was able to fill me in on lots of interesting fun facts. For example, the beautiful rusty orange colour of the bridge is called ‘International Orange’ which coincidentally is the same name as the Spa I had visited the previous evening (more on that in another post!). Doc and I discussed how I might take an under exposure of the bridge to highlight the sky and then do an over exposure to highlight the bridge, blending both in Lightroom afterwards, but I have still to figure that one out. (Suggestions and comments welcome below!)
Our next stop was to photograph the underbelly of the bridge. The morning was still in its infancy and asides from some local traffic, we could hear the waves lapping on the rocks and feel the sun on our face. It felt good to be alive and I was just beginning to bask in the moment when the battery on my camera died. Rummaging around in my camera bag, I was relieved to find my spare but horrified when I realised that I had forgotten to charge it! Doc was kind and gracious, he was after all dealing with the rookie of rookies, so we made do with some iphone photography for the rest of the tour. And even then, I learnt a few new things like how to position an iphone on a tripod (you need a certain gadget) and a couple of useful features in Lightroom. We ambled on out towards the head lands and made our way back to the city stopping by a few landmark city points. I got back to the hotel at around 9.00 and felt like I had experienced a new side to San Francisco as well as continuing to scale the learning curve of photography. On another occasion, I might also consider Photographing San Francisco at sunset.