Sutro Baths At Sunset, 22 February 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

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Good Evening:

The biggest lumps at Seal Rocks (just offshore from the ruins of the old Sutro Baths) happen to number three, so they seemed a most suitable location for experimenting with this week’s Challenge. I had never heard of this idea of using “threes” in photography to tell a story, and figured that something had to present itself almost as soon as I arrived.

Not quite.

I ran into considerable difficulties for many reasons, but perhaps that was a good thing; how can we learn anything if we don’t run into difficulties first? Sunset at the beach on a cloudy day when the fog starts rolling in makes for really weird light that freaks out digital cameras and makes them question both their own sanity and the sanity of their photographers. I refused to blame my camera–’tis a poor carpenter who blames his tools–and tried my best anyway.

Another problem lay in–well, lay in nature itself. Turns out that nature does not conveniently arrange itself in such fashion as to make long, medium, and closeup shots of the same subject, take from the same angle and with the same object in the middle of each shot, yield fabulously perfect compositions every single time. Of the batches of three where I tried to pull this off, this set turned out comparatively best.

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Notice that as the camera zooms in, the quintet at the bottom right becomes more important. Incidentally, the so-called “king tides” of January (when the tide comes in very high and the surf slams the baths hard) have receded, but this remains a risky place to visit. Of the roughly 200 people attending this grey windy sunset, about a dozen consisted of photographers of varying skill levels ignoring warning signs and getting very close to the pounding sea. Me? High and dry and very safe.

Most of the time, better results came from tilting the camera up or down, creating the best composition possible given what I saw in the view finder. The next three are completely unedited.

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This time, The Cliff House, the object in the back, not the front, becomes more important as the camera zooms in.

Despite all of the challenges, I had a great time, especially about halfway through my half-hour session, when my “Masterpieces of Rock and Soul” playlist randomly launched the absolutely most perfect song for the occasion: “California Suite: Grey Day,” by Jesse Colin Young, from the Light Shine album. Because serendipity is a life skill that can be mastered. A song like that, during a sunset like that, will make me wanna (Shout!), kick my heels up and (Shout!), throw my hands up and (Shout!)–from “Shout, Pts. 1 & 2” by the Isley Brothers. In other words, the next song played.

Yeah, today was a good day.

Three more random shots, pictures that I believe prove I’m more lucky than good. Incidentally, the specks are birds; I stuck with a 1/13 speed for most of the afternoon.

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Seems that I did better when not trying to capture threes, but with enough practice and perhaps reading the manual, I might yet become a real photographer some day.

Vonn Scott Bair

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11 responses »

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  3. The random three have layers of colour washes that remind me of a Turner painting. The walls of the baths remind me of the layout of a Lido. Structures built to solely be used for pleasure have a strong presence I find especially out of season when not being used. All of the photographs make me happy!

    • litadoolan: Funny you should mention one of my favorite painters. Seems that most of my greatest photographic influences painted; Hopper, O’Keefe, the Hudson River School, Turner, and the photorealists of the Sixties and Seventies. The latter is a bit odd, if you think about it. Photos inspired by painters inspired by photos?! Vonn Scott Bair

      • Will check out some photorealists to complete the picture. That is a blindspot for me! That’s an intriguing loop of inspiration. Enjoy Sunday.

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