Friday, October 16, 2015

San Francisco at night - A photo I have wanted for a long time!

Two nights ago, I made a trip up to San Francisco for the official launch party for the Light camera. I brought along my best friend, Glenn, since he is into photography as well.

We got up to the city a little early and made our way over to Treasure Island, which is located halfway between the two spans of the Bay Bridge. I knew that sunset was set for 6:30pm, and we arrived at 6pm to give us time to hike into shooting position.

Before we hiked to the spot where I wanted to get my post sunset shot, I saw the sun setting near Coit Tower and grabbed these shots.

If you have watched any of my teaching videos, you know that I always encourage people to take photographs different ways to get a variety of compositions. Practicing what I preach, I shot both horizontal and vertical photos. I have included both here, because I like them both. do you have a favorite composition between these two?

I have photographed from this island before, but there are certain restrictions which make it difficult to get the shot that I have been coveting for quite some time. For one thing, there is no parking up by the bridge, and there are no sidewalks leading from the parking area up the hill to the best shooting location. So Glenn and I started walking up the hill (on the side of the road) and then had to hop the side rail and find a path down the side of the hillside. 

After a little investigating, we found a trail which lead down to a nice spot. This was the view I was looking for, with a view of the city under the Bay Bridge.  Notice how bland the lighting is at this moment (6:38pm - 8 minutes after sunset). This meant that we had to wait for the darker blue sky.

Glenn took a photo of me and my setup, just as I was posting an iPhone shot to Instagram and Facebook. I was shooting with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 28-300mm lens. These were mounted on my Gitzo GT2532 tripod with the Acratech ballhead.

And then at 6:56pm I started getting the light and the shot I was hoping for! It is at this point where the lights of the city and bridge blend well with the night sky.

This shot was taken 3 minutes later (6:59pm) with my camera set to -0.3 stops to darken the scene a bit.

Since it was getting dark and we had to climb back up the hillside, I packed up my gear and started heading up from my original spot. At this point I looked over and saw Glenn taking one last shot. I set up my tripod again and asked him to stay as still as possible for this silhouette shot.

And then as we were climbing up the hill a little more, I turned back and could not help myself. The light was so good and the view so amazing, I had to set up for another photo. For those of you wondering how I got all the starbursts in the lights, it is not a Photoshop trick. I set my camera to f/14 which creates this starburst effect. This is my favorite photo of them all and is now safely added to my "All Time Favorites" collection.  The settings for this photo were: lens at 50mm, ISO 400, f/14, 5 second exposure, -0.3 exposure comp).

When we got towards the top of the hillside I noticed the crescent moon (which had been blocked by the bridge in my previous shots). Again, I set up the tripod to get this photo. See a pattern here? I get so excited at times like these that I just go crazy shooting photo after photo.

As we walked back down the road, we were constantly presented with different amazing views of San Francisco.

The moon was setting quickly, but positioned perfectly over the San Francisco skyline for this shot.

This last shot was taken right by my parked car. It was 7:23pm and the end of our night shooting. We had lost all of the deep blue skies, but I loved the sliver of a moon over Coit Tower. Because the tower is so bright, I had to set the camera to -2 stops of exposure compensation, so that the tower was not blown out (too bright). But this darker setting helps accentuate the tower and the moon, keeping everything else dark.

Overall, it was an amazing hour of shooting! Not only was it fun to share this experience with my best friend (and college roommate), but I also came away with a new "money shot". I did not get home until 11pm, but could not wait to get on my computer to download and edit the images.

I hope you enjoy viewing these as much as I did taking them!


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Unknown said...

Thank you so much for these amazing shots. I'm in Sacramento and am always excited to get to the city. It's because of you and your incredible teaching style that I have finally bought my DSLR camera. I look forward to your blog post it's exciting and educational.
Thank you
Cheryl Conley

Zee Breidenbaugh said...

WOW! Truly beautiful photos. I like your pick also, but my next two favorites are the one of your friend silhouetted and holding his camera and the final shot. Thanks for sharing the beauty from all around our country!

Jeff said...

These are some very nice shots and you certainly have gotten some stunners. I like the one you picked as your "favorite," but the horizontal of Coit Tower is certainly a contender. Thanks for the narrative and sharing your work!

Glenn Tokunaga said...

Great shots, Jeff! It was a blast shooting with you the other night. That hike up and down that steep hill to get into shooting position was a little treacherous, but it was worth it. Next time I'll need to bring a tripod so I can get some of those cool starburst effects and long light trails from the cars on the bridge. That silhouette shot you took of me holding my camera came out pretty nice! Can you believe the lens I have on that camera I'm holding is my BIG lens? We definitely need to go out and do more night photography again soon. I'll bet even shooting simple stuff around town would look pretty cool when shot at night.

Stephen Hill said...

You guys are very fortunate to live in such a scenic city, I used to fly to San Fran quite often back in the 80's when I was with Eastern Airlines. My wife and I usually did the "touristy" thing...took the ferry to Sausalito...Japanese Tea Garden...went to Kahn's in Chinatown numerous times. Anyway, Jeff, I always enjoy watching your teaching/training videos at B&H in New York, you are very concise and do a great job of explaining your shots and how you obtain them. Listening to you speak about your passion for photography rings so true to me, I'm just the same when I'm out and about, it always "just one more shot." I tried to sign up to get your blogs, but for some reason the box to take my email address wouldn't activate ? Maybe you can tell me what to do. Thanks for being so willing to share your skills and passion.
Stephen G. Hill-Boone, NC Western NC mountains ( I included my website which I'm building, so there's hardly anything there, but soon will be. )

UofC Uncommon Economics said...

Do you know if you are allowed to fly the drone near the Golden Gate Bridge i.e. Vista point? Or would you get fined?