Wandering the streets of San Francisco with a camera has always been a rewarding experience; along with being an interesting, often picturesque urban environment, there is endless opportunity for the unexpected.
This is a favourite image from my archives, captured on a relaxed summer afternoon of city exploration. I had never ventured far into one of the commercial complexes near the Embarcadero Plaza, and was wandering through the network of bridges and walkways that linked shops and restaurants in a canyon of office buildings and hotels. At one crossing of paths, I noticed a stairway leading down to the level below, and paused to admire the echo of form, texture, and tone in the large fern that grew in the curve of the stairs.
While composing the frame and trying to balance shapes and leading lines, a woman walked down the stairs, and as she reached the bottom I captured a single frame. I had not planned on the human element, but I love how it adds a sense of motion to an otherwise static scene. In black and white, the texture and tone of the mosaic floors and fern become more cohesive, and the spiralling, circular structures of concrete, plant, railing and tile frame and compliment each other, tying it all together.
This image is included in my Black and White Prints collection, and offers both architectural interest and a timeless moment full of details that invite reflection.
Most of the photographs I collect when visiting Fort Point, San Francisco are of the architecture and magical spaces between shadow and light created by the repeating motifs and angles of the Fort itself. Climbing the steep stairs to the top of the structure, one is rewarded with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and this day was no exception.
I have seen this place at various times of day, in different seasons, all types of weather, and part of the what keeps bringing me back with my camera is the potential for dramatically framed, constantly shifting scenes. On this particular July afternoon, the fog had settled heavily along the water, and as I admired the form of the bridge vanishing into the mist, a pair of figures paused in just the right spot to unexpectedly add balance to the frame.
As I had been at that moment experimenting with the panoramic capabilities of my phone, I quickly captured this photo with the camera in hand, rather than risk losing the moment while switching to my DSLR. I did managed to grab a couple similar frames with the big camera afterward, but for me this image stands alone.
Minutes later, the couple had moved on, and the fog began to lift, giving way to a glorious sunny day and a large pod of humpback whales feeding beneath the bridge – those particular photos will get their own post – proving that one never knows just how fleeting a moment will be or what will come next!
The personally creative side of my photography goes through variations of inspiration and focus. Sometimes I have the time and energy to create extensive, comprehensive bodies of work, and sometimes my muses emerge over long periods of study, often with many returns to the same subject over many, many years.
My love of Fort Point, San Francisco, began as a child with an old manual SLR camera and countless rolls of black and white film. It was a place my family would frequently stop to visit on our way into or out of ‘the City’ when visiting with friends or playing tour guide to visitors from out-of-state. These two shots are from one of those early rolls of film, scanned ages ago when the at-home scanning technology was still rather limiting.
We likely visited Fort Point so often due to my father’s photography hobby, which I suspect led him to love the place then as much as I do now; with an overwhelming array of juxtapositions, angles, textures, layers of light and shadow, the intersection of Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge is a photographer’s paradise.
Now, I’m the one pitching it to visiting friends who want to spend a day in San Francisco, and it’s likely that for many years I’ve always managed to end the day at this historic spot, camera in-hand, without really thinking about my ulterior motives. Fort Point has emerged as one of my most beloved muses and I never tire of hunting out the details and architectural compositions that I find so interesting there.
Working through my archives, I recently spent some time processing a handful of cityscapes and architectural shots from a trip to San Francisco last year. These two images were shot on the same day, and depict different angles on the same windows and balconies of one building.
This image intrigued me, with looming rows of railings, the couple hidden in the shadows, and the layers of squared corners and circles at the top. The tone and texture of the building against the blue sky seems to add another layer of interest, as it is difficult to decide whether this building might be a modern experiment from years past, or some possibly futuristic structure.
The second image frames one edge of the angular building in the heavy concrete of a foreground structure. I chose to work in black and white for this view, as the elements of interest are all caught up in the layered angles, and in the balance of light and shadow as the afternoon light settles across the skyline.
It is important for me to routinely challenge my eye with these comparisons, as it can take so little to bring an entirely new meaning to a photograph. Which interpretation of this building do you prefer?
Some places have a special kind of nostalgia, often unexpected and off the beaten-path. San Francisco’s Fort Point National Historic Site offers many angles on both the water and striking architecture, from a strategic spot beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. A photographer’s dream location, the light is always interesting and the compositional opportunities are seemingly endless. I have rolls of film shot here when I was a child, enthusiastically clicking-away in the echoing halls while sight-seeing with my family. I’d love to work with a model or two in this space sometime, but for now I’m content to explore these familiar arching passages and the dramatic setting for structure’s sake.
Took a short break from my current series of portrait projects to pull a few images from the archives for some creative consideration. These architectural compositions were discovered while spending an afternoon wandering through San Francisco. Late afternoon light fell between the buildings, bouncing and glittering from one wall of glass and steel to another. As someone who spends relatively little time in larger urban spaces, I find the similarities in structure to be remarkable, as the man-made landscape often echos the world in which it is built.