Three classic locations of San Francisco with a moody twist.
The origin of Alamo Square goes back to the1800s. By that time this prominent hill was known for having a water hole where horses made a stop to drink on their way in or out of the Misiones. Around 1850 the Mayor of San Francisco declared the area an official park, and it has remained like this until nowadays.
What I guess it was completely different in the old days are the views you can reach from it. The cottonwood tree, eucaliptus, and oak forests that once dominated the landscape have been replaced by skyscrapers, gigantic bridges, and infinite light points. It is a view that never disappoints, even when fog partially blocks Downtown. If you add the pastel colored victorian style houses at the foreground, you understand why this is still one the most recognizable postcards of San Francisco.
The Painted Ladies are probably the best known example of victorian architecture in the area, but it’s not the only one. My personal favorite are four houses located at Steiner and Fulton intersection, where you can also get a clear view of the Vatican style City Hall dome.
The Alamo Square name comes from the ancient cottonwood trees—Alamo in Spanish—that once populated the area. There are just a bunch of them still standing, but they are home for a surprisingly large number of hummingbirds. Something I definetely didn’t expect in a city.
Like most public spaces in the city, Alamo Square is dog friendly. There’s a designated off-leash area for dogs where to romp and socialise.
Legend says inside Mount Shasta there’s a hidden city inhabited by advanced beings from the lost continent of Lemuria. Thousands of years ago, when Lemuria sank into the Pacific Ocean, the Lemurians who survived decided to settle in this magic mount.It is believed that they built a complex system of interconnected tunnels inside this dormant volcano, and they have been seen wandering along the mountain and dressed in white robes by many generations of locals. Some even claim that the unique clouds usually surrounding the mount are the way Lemurians travel with. They can hide inside clouds using their state-of-the-art technology… Reality or myth, the only thing certain is Mount Shasta’s other-worldly beauty. It is omnipresent by miles away, showing you a different face every turn, every ray of light shining on it. Scattered along Mount Shasta’s skirt, there’s millennial red pine forests, sugar pines, and incense cedars hidding waterfalls and shaded ponds like oasis where to rest and contemplate.
Original Text by Cesar Sandoval / English Translation by Robert Ruz
This land stares at hope from down south, and carries one short story inside everyone of us. This continent made of bended silences sneaks into us under the shade of blistering, copper sunsets.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Patagonia is the course of dreams. We get there empty-handed, only with our dry, empty, silent soul. Slowly, like short sips, like an invasion of deafening, allucinating winds, the word is born just to slip from our lips inwards, and become chant.
El Chaltén, Argentina
Time wandered along the gorge. One man, one only man for such a vast landscape. The never ending agony of tundra memorizing ancient rains. That was the new land. A man’s land is forged in blood, as wind blew its rugged flute. And you stay without even realising it, letting time slip away idly.
Viedma Glacier, Argentina
Later, like short sips again, the miracle comes to us.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Now is time for long trails, stretched distances, dilated expanses. But you are not alone anylonger, even when the sandy wind strikes fiercely. You are not alone. The army of dusty, ancient deaths settles in your memory, bones, word.
Torres del Paine, Chile
This land, half dream, half despair, represents the exact center of wait; the most shivering corner of nostalgia.
Viedma Lake, Argentina
I remember the first time I experienced the Pacific Ocean as if it was yesterday. Being born and raised by the Mediterranean, the wildness and rawness of the Pacific blew me away.
There is something mystic about it. Maybe the deafening cry of waves crashing against defiant rocks and cliffs, or the violent wind gusts reminding you no man is in charge here, only Mother Nature.
Perhaps its heart-warming sunsets or those scarce moments when the ocean appears to be calm and resting in peace–yet a tricky mirage.
It could also be the exuberance of life that creates and provides for all kind of beings, including us; or the sad paradox that it could take you away in the blink of an eye. Creator and executioner at the same time.
My guts tell me I will never resolve its mystery, probably it is beyond my understanding as a simple man. But I will keep sitting by your side on a rock, and let the tide whisper in my ear all those ancient songs.
San Francisco is arguably one of the most photogenic cities I’ve been to; dozens of hills scattered along the city provide you unique vista points and jaw-dropping cityscapes. Then add its picturesque architecture, and you get the perfect recipe for stunning city photography.
There’s many locations I enjoy photographing from this city, there’s always something going on no matter what time of the day, but my favourite subject is hands down the skyline at dusk–I’m sorry dear Golden Gate Bridge…
In my opinion, 20s/30s long exposures right after the sunset bring out the best results, those few minutes when the lights of the city are starting to shine and there’s still a color cast lingering on the sky. You can add some interest to the foreground including some light trails from vehicles or some colorfull victorian houses, and the result never dissapoints.
To make this captures you obviously need a tripod; that’s non negotiable. But basically that’s it. For better results though, I use a polarizer to darken a bit the sky and bring out cloud details or reduce some unwanted flare. Sometimes, if the sky is still too bright, I throw a light neutral density filter, like a 0.3.
With this post I want to share some of my favourite locations in the city where you can capture the Skyline with an interesting foreground, in order to make your pictures more compelling.
90 f22 25s ISO100
This is an HDR image, made out of three long exposures. I’m a huge fan of this location because the 280 Highway twisting along the frame adds a futuristic look to the capture. Traffic is usually heavy around 7 or 8pm when everybody is commuting in&out of the city, so in Spring time you get very consistent light trails from the cars right after the sunset.
45 f16 30s ISO100
This is also an HDR image combinig different long exposures. Probably this is my favourite location in the city, because it feels like my backyard. I live two blocks away from Alamo and many times I carry my camera while walking my dogs early in the morning or late at night.
It’s specially charming during the blue hour, when all the tourist are gone–during the day it’s impossible to get a clean foreground–and the city lights are at full glow already. The Painted Ladies make a wonderful foreground for the capture, and from this view you can see the most emblematic buildings of the city, like the Transamerican Tower or the the new SalesForce Tower under construction.
This may be considered one of the most iconic shots of San Francisco, and I know it’s been captured countless times, but long exposures allows you to be a bit more creative and come out with a more personal image.
If you wanna add the car light trails you may have to stack a bunch of different exposures when editing your final image because traffic tends to be scarce at this time of the day at Steiner Street. I also recommend getting there before sunset so you can get more detail and color out of the Painted Ladies; they get a bit dusky when the sun is set, and there’s kind of poor street ilumination.
40 f11 1/125 ISO100
This is a pretty impressive location. You are way closer to the Skyline than in Twin Peaks, but at the same time far enough to get a capture with strong depth of field. It’s located in the geographical center of the city and has an easy access to the peak: All smooth and easy.
In my opinion the best time to capture the city from Corona is during sunrise, as the sun is reflected on the bay and early rays of light sneak into buildings creating truly amazing effects. The only thing to consider is that the sun is rising right in front of you, so a polarizer or even nd filters can become very handy for better results.
105 f9 30s ISO100
This is a 30 seconds long exposure taken from Treasure Island. Despite having to cross the Bay Bridge, the Skyline of the City with the bay as a foreground never fails to impress. I always make sure the weather conditions are appropiate for the kind of shot I want to get before driving to Treasure Island, even though conditions can change in San Francisco in the blink of an eye.
From this location you can also get very interesting perspectives of the Bay Bridge. If you are into panorama, this is a brilliant spot, too. There’s definitely plenty of opportunities in Treasure Island.
During sunrise this location looks totally different since the sun bathes directly this side of the city, and you tend to get plenty of morning fog. I like it better after sunset, because there’s just a thin light coming from behind and the contrast between buildings and lights is simply stunning.
Be aware there are massive racoons living among the rocks from where you get the best perspective of the city, so carry your bag on your shoulder at all times! I’ve seen racoons stealing food and bags from tourists, and they can act agressively if you face them.
This is just a shortlist of some of the many photographic opportunities San Francisco has to offer. Stay tunned for new locations in the city and accross California!
If you want to see more of my work visit my Instagram account @robert_ruz