Weekly Photo Challenge: Big – San Francisco City Hall


Good Evening:

San Francisco’s Civic Center is one of the finest public spaces in America; no brag, just fact. The Hope Diamond in the center of the crown is City Hall, one of the most successful examples of “dome-on-a-box” architectural design. Mounting a dome on top of a square or rectangular structure presents three enormous challenges: 1) getting the proportions of each element correct; 2) getting the proportions of the assembled elements correct; and 3) minimizing the number of angles from which the resulting building will look ugly. I present a typical daytime view from a location equally favored by both tourists and locals.

But we’re San Franciscans; we get artsy-fartsy with everything:

And San Franciscans do love Christmas (as one might expect of a city named after St. Francis):

At least City Hall looks good in gold.

But the trick to taking good pictures of City Hall consists of finding unusual angles and/or resisting the temptation to snap nothing by color photos. I took this B&W from the uppermost level of San Francisco’s Symphony Hall:

I had to do much tweaking in iPhoto, but finally achieved an adequate result. The final picture for tonight focuses on a very rare street-level angle, specifically Franklin Street, which runs one block west of City Hall and parallel to Van Ness Avenue. You will find a little park between the Opera House and the War Memorial, and when you situate yourself there in the late afternoon light, the Magic Hour can produce a striking effect:

I hope you liked these little pictures of a big subject. Believe it or not, all were taken with an old Nikon CoolPix 4300.

Vonn Scott Bair


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