Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An amazing San Francisco sunset!

Recently, my wife and kids were out of town and I decided to take off on my own and shoot photos for an evening. I don't know about you, but I love taking photos strictly for the pleasure of doing so. I was not taking these for an ad campaign or another job, but strictly for the love of photography.  And wow, I picked the right evening and the right location to take photos on this particular day!

The previous evening, I was driving and saw a really pretty sunset, and I wondered if it would be as pretty the following day. After meeting with clients and editing some images, I decided to take a chance, and drive an hour north to San Francisco to see if I could grab some nice night shots of the city.

As I drove up to the city, I saw clouds moving in, and wondered if they would enhance the sunset or obscure it. Only time would tell...

I arrived in San Francisco around 4:30pm and drove up to Twin Peaks to checkout the view and check the visibility.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 100mm, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec)
This is the view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks. And as you can tell, visibility was excellent! I took some photos with the Canon 5D Mark III using the Canon 28-300mm lens. I really like this lens since it provides me with a great range of focal distance. This photo was taken at 100mm, but I did shoot wider and tighter photos.

As I was taking photos up at Twin Peaks, I was careful to watch the time. I use an app called "Sunset" on my iPhone and knew that I had limited time before the sun was going to set. I had a 20+ minute drive to Treasure Island and did not want to miss the best shooting time.

I drove across the Bay Bridge and immediately after taking the Treasure Island exit, I saw a turnout. I parked the car there and decided to fly the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ for a shot of the bridge and the city.

Taken with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ aerial camera (with built-in camera)
I flew the aerial camera up over the tree line and just caught the setting sun dropping down behind San Francisco. The setting sun was casting a perfect golden light on the Bay Bridge. I took a handful of photos and videos before realizing that I might be missing a good sunset. I quickly packed up the drone and drove down the hill to see this...

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 85mm, ISO 320, f/8, 1/250 sec)
It was only a two minute drive down the hill, but I saw this sky and hauled butt to park the car, grab my gear and start shooting. You see, I have been to this area numerous times before but NEVER seen a sunset like this over San Francisco. For those of you who live in the area or have visited, you know that this is a rare occurrence I had my 5D Mark III, the same 28-300 lens, my Gitzo tripod and Acratech ball head. I was ready to go! The photo above was the first photo I captured. And when I looked at the LCD of the camera, I was blown away! The clouds were so perfectly placed over the Golden Gate Bridge, reflecting the sunlight and still showing some of the blue sky.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 65mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/25 sec)
And it just kept getting better! The people there must have thought I was a crazy man. I was standing there, shooting one photo after another, all while smiling and saying "holy crap - this is amazing!"

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/13 sec)
Normally I would not shoot a photo showing so much sky or water, but I zoomed out to 28mm to capture the entire scene. I really wanted the Golden Gate Bridge, the sunset and the San Francisco skyline all in one shot. I knew that I could always crop this later if need be.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 160, f/10, 10 sec, -0.7 exposure comp)
After shooting in the direction of the sunset for 25 minutes (and loving every second of it) , I turned the camera to capture the Bay Bridge and city in the last bit of evening light. So pretty! (Photographer's note: On this photo, you will notice that I did crop some of the water and sky out of the photo. I want to show the deep blue sky and the reflections in the water, but once the water or sky go too dark, they did not add to the photo. I cropped the water to just below the bridge reflection and the sky to where the deep blue ended and the black took over.)

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 160, f/13, 10 sec, -1.0 exposure comp)
In the last remaining light of the sunset (now 6:30pm), I grabbed this shot of Coit Tower. The challenge of getting this shot was metering the camera as to not blow out Coit Tower, but make sure that the sky and water were still exposed correctly. This involved a little bit of tweaking in Adobe Photoshop to darken the tower and brighten the rest of the shot.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 160, f/16, 8 sec, -1.7 exposure comp)
At 6:45pm, the last of the deep blue sky was gone and the night sky had taken over. But not wanting to stop this incredible shooting experience, I walked over to the other side of the island and shot this photo of the Eastern side of the Bay Bridge. This is the new span which was opened less than a year ago.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/13 sec for main image)

This final shot is one of my favorites, and one that I have already had made into a large metal print (which I may make available to purchase. Email me if you are interested in one.) It is hanging behind me as I write this blog. This is a composite of numerous photos which you saw above. It is the wide sunset shot, now cropped to show less of the sky and water. I have taken the lit buildings from the other photos (taken when it was darker) and dropped them into place, one at a time) so that I no longer have a silhouetted city. The colors and composition of this photo just make me smile, not to mention the memory of that great evening of shooting!


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Lois said...

All I can say is, "WOW!" I am so envious of your incredible photo shoot!

aCreativeEngineerInNV said...

Wow, I love the photos.

danielkehoe said...

All your shots are good as usual but sunsets are kinda ho-hum as a rule. The exception being your shot of Coit Tower. The colors were more subtle and Photoshop wasn't heavy handed. So all good but one more so.

Anonymous said...

Great photos Jeff, as much as we love them, it's good to have these moments to yourself when the family are off doing their own thing.
Well done to you also for your dedication to blogging and social media, I don't know how you have the patience for it.