Tag Archives: Golden Gate Bridge

Answer: A Slice of Heaven. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Thirds.)


Good Evening:

Question: What do you get when you combine the world’s finest creatures, their obedient human servants, perfect Saturday morning weather, and San Francisco’s Park Presidio?


Turns out one finds a lot of ways to use Thirds in your photo composition. If you mentally divide your pictures into imaginary 9 rectangle (3×3) grids as I do, you can put your subject in a variety of spaces. In the above portrait shot, the dog stands in the middle of the imaginary lower horizontal line, and the armrests and human head all point to the pup. The next shot shows the same treatment in a landscape orientation.


And sometimes a picture “thirds” itself–here it’s sky, headlands, bay and beach.


The above shot also shows a comparatively rare phenomenon–the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge on the Marin Headlands. Most of the time, the morning fog won’t lift until the sun is well up into the sky.

The next show proved tricky to edit, especially when it came to arranging the composition in the 3×3 grid pattern.


It’s a little subtle. The taller woman’s head rests at the intersection of the upper horizontal line and the left vertical line. Meanwhile, the darker dog rests at the intersection of the lower horizontal line and the right vertical line. So you have that nice 45 degree diagonal directing your eye to the happy canines.

Of course, the dogs care nothing of any of this. It’s Saturday, their humans treat them as they deserve, and they get to hang out with their fellow furry superior critters. Just one heck of a good day for a dog.

Vonn Scott Bair

Between the Golden Gate Bridge and You (Weekly Photo Challenge: Between)


Good Evening:

So how the heck can anyone take a different picture of San Francisco’s iconically iconic Golden Gate Bridge?

Local photographers pretty much ignore the Bridge, leaving it to visitors and postcard companies, but your faithful correspondent can’t resist the lure of the impossible challenge. Some recent attempts just happen to meet this week’s Photo Challenge, “Between.” What I accidentally discovered is that you can do something interesting with the Bridge if you use it as the backdrop, not the subject, of the photograph. For example, when traveling to the Fringe of Marin, I got a bit lucky with this shot of highway construction, producing a decent triangle-within-triangle effect.


A few Sundays ago, I went to Chrissy Field early to take fog pictures and found myself in the middle of a triathalon, a bicycle race, and an art museum exhibition–simultaneously. The art exhibit is an installation sponsored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Since I’m not the greatest journalist, I’ve forgotten the sculptor’s name and whether this is a temporary or permanent display. But the giant works look pretty good contrasted against the Golden Gate.

DSC_0045 DSC_0079 DSC_0122

The ongoing restoration of Chrissy continues to produce beautiful results when complete. Not far from the sculptures I found this jogger passing through the restored wetlands.


I hope you have a good weekend of photography.

Vonn Scott Bair

Three Days of Celebrations in San Francisco


Good Afternoon:

We can’t just settle for one holiday during a three-day weekend. No, not in San Francisco. Saturday, as you know, saw the departure of the USS Iowa from the Bay Area. Today of course is Memorial Day. Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, you know, that bright orange hunk of steel that is so uninteresting when the weather is perfect (see here) and so beautiful when the weather is cold and grey (see here). I think I’ve walked a total of nine miles with 20 pounds of camera equipment over the past 2 days. You already know that I’m not complaining; I’m a photographer.

First up: I took another look at my photo library, and found this, possibly the best picture of the Iowa I captured yesterday.

Incidentally, I haven’t edited these Iowa pictures; not enough time; this one might be a little tilted. Fortunately, battleships tend to possess highly photogenic qualities that tend to obviate the need to tend to resort to much processing.

Another picture from the pier; amazing how plants will grow in anything, isn’t it?

The fireworks show on Saturday night presented my first opportunity to test my cameras on a very difficult subject. I brought a Nikon Coolpix S9100, and my five or six years old D40 DSLR. One interesting lesson is that even a six year old DSLR with “only” 6 megapixels can still take better shots than a 12 megapixel point-and-shoot; surprisingly, the Fireworks setting on the Coolpix proved almost completely useless–the first time any Nikon has ever failed me. I fared much better with using Shutter (or speed) Priority on the DSLR and setting exporsure time for 1, 1.3, 1.6 or 2 seconds, with 1 second working best overall.

Nikon Coolpix S9100, “Beach” Setting

In fairness, the S9100 fared well for sunset shots using the “Beach,” “Snow,” “Sunset” and “Dusk/Dawn” settings. With the “Beach” setting, the blues came out looking especially rich.

The fireworks show seemed plagued with technical problems (the North Tower was accounted for almost all of the action, whilst the South remained dark–very strange), but started well:

“Waterfall” Fireworks, 27 May 2012

Beautiful use of the span between the towers.

I call this next one “Megamind” because it reminded me of the cartoon character:

This was a pure luck shot; every time the camera indicated that it had focued on something, I snapped a picture without even seeing what was in the frame.

Nikon D40 DSLR, 1 Second Exporsure, Shutter Priority

The most dramatic shot of the night; I like how the South Tower glows in the night.

Today is a day for rest, writing and baked ribs and fried chicken. Oh, and for remembering our soldiers; Dad served in the Navy during the Fifties and Sixties, his brother was in the 2nd Marines from Saipan onward in World War II, one of Mom’s uncles just barely survived Gaudalcanal, and another uncle of hers might have been one of the first Americans to see the inside of a death camp before V-E Day (he never talked about it). They all came back, but I have never believed that Memorial Day was only about remembering the ones who did not.

Vonn Scott Bair

The USS Iowa Departing the Bay Area, 26 May 2012


Good Afternoon:

Yet another picture-perfect picture of the picture-perfect Golden Gate Bridge on a picture-perfect day. Oh, look, it even has seabirds and a sailboat.

Or in simple English, booooorrrrrrring.

The same Golden Gate Bridge, with the addition of BB-61, the battleship USS Iowa:

Much better.

The Iowa left the San Francisco Bay Area for the last time on Saturday, a fitting beginning to the Memorial Day weekend here in San Francisco, a city that has alway madly loved the US Navy (you should see our tribute to the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco, one of the most decorated warships in American history). The lead boat, San Francisco’s fireboat the USS Phoenix, kicked up a lot of spray as it escorted the battleship through the San Francisco Bay, creating a fine mist which posed a few problems for the hundreds of photographers and retired sailors who wanted one last look at the ship; as the mist evaporated, it rendered a sort of hazy watercolor look to the scene (and watercolors don’t come to mind when thinking of a ship that fired 16-inch shells during World War II).

As a rule, most photographers brought serious photographic firepower (unlike me, who only had a Nikon Coolpix 9100 and iPhone). The retired sailors brought much less expensive equipment, but they also must have brought their memories, because many of them pressed their lips tightly together as they turned misty- and teary-eyed.

Some more pictures of the afternoon’s activity, including snaps of some old sailboats participating in a regatta.

Me at My Artsy-Fartsy Best

So what do you think is easiest to photograph, babies, kittens, or puppies? Well, what about sailboats?

Of course, not everything in or by the Bay is concerned with the (literal) passing of an era:

Sea Lion Begging for Scraps from the Local Fishermen

I know that the unchecked growth of jellyfish populations around the world are posing a threat to fisheries, but I don’t know if their presence in the Bay is cause for concern.

Jellyfish by Pier, 26 May 2012

A few more more-or-less random shots:

Iowa Passing Angel Island, Extreme Zoom View

The Citadel and Forward 16-Inch Guns of the USS Iowa

USS Iowa, with the North Bay in the Background

A Closer View of the Iowa Passing Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Iowa, with Tour Boat and a Surfer Using Sails for Propulsion

The Golden Gate Bridge, USS Iowa, and Fort Point, 26 May 2012

Note that Fort Point and the Iowa both represent obsolete military technology, but the Bridge, which turns 75 this weekend, is still one of the (peacetime) engineering marvels of the world. Funny how that works.

I hope you have a memorable Memorial Day.

Vonn Scott Bair

The San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge at “Fogrise,” 3 September 2007


Good Afternoon:

I was wondering if my photo collection included any decent shots of a real, genuine, true San Francisco sunrise, a sunrise so real, genuine and true that it is not even a sunrise; “fogrise” seems so much more appropriate. Found this:

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge at "Fogrise," 3 September 2007
Picture taken with a Nikon D40 DSLR, cropped and converted to B&W in iPhoto

Now that is more like it. I’m not saying the picture is great, but this is a real, genuine and true San Francisco fogrise: none of this conventionally pretty clear blue sky and brilliant color, but a picture as grey as the scenery, with the Golden Gate Bridge partially concealed by our legendary fog. Don’t the jogger and the birds look like they’re freezing? Now I feel that I have really, genuinely and truly represented my city.

Vonn Scott Bair

Saturday Morning Photography at Crissy Field, 21 April 2012


Good Evening:

San Francisco can be so capricious to the amateur photographer.

I cannot estimate how much willpower it required for me to drag my aging carcass out of bed before 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, shower quickly, shove breakfast into my bike messenger bag, take the 43-Masonic down to the Presidio, and finally walk another mile with my camera gear to Crissy Field. I take special pride in the Presidio in general, and Crissy in particular, because I played a minor, minor, minor role in its reclamation and restoration, having temped for two months at International Technology, one of the environmental engineering companies that restored the habitat. Those guys were good: if you planted a multivitamin with zinc anywhere in the Presidio, their equipment would detect it. Then they would have to remove it because technically, in that context a multivitamin with zinc is a pollutant.

I wanted to take some good sunrise photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge. If possible, I would take a picture every 15 seconds until I had a few hundred shots and make a time-lapse movie out of them. For a spectacular example of one such project, search for “The Mountain El Tiede” at YouTube or visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk6_hdRtJOE. Alas, the city was not cooperating, as the day broke clear, brilliantly blue, and completely fogless. All San Franciscans know that such “pretty as a picture” postcard sunrises are a bit disappointing; watching the fog slowly lift is one of our great pleasures. Here is the best of a pretty sorry lot.

Meh. Whatever.

Naturally, Monday’s sunrise will be exactly what I need, but I’ll be at work. Sigh. But I did find some moments of interest. Here is a straight-down shot from a foot bridge of the mudflats at low tide.

Even mud can look good in the proper light. I also had fun watching this snowy egret catching breakfast. Snowy egrets have a hunting technique which looks funny unless you’re their prey; they shuffle one foot in the mud underwater until they stir up some food and then pluck it out of the water with a quick plunge of their beaks.

Finally, the bridge did redeem itself by the time I had wandered east into the Marina District. I suspect that most parents will agree with the notion that one of the great pleasures of raising children lies in the opportunities to amaze them.

Dad will probably remember this moment with happiness for decades to come.

Wishing You Had an Enjoyable Weekend, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

A Question of, and a Contrast of, Perspectives


Good Evening:

My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 4300 that I bought in 2003 for $339, at a time when people would say, “You got a 4.3. megapixel camera for only $339?!” On one of my earliest photographic expeditions, I walked down to San Francisco’s Marina District for a few shots of the Bay. Here is one, guest-starring our very iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s not a bad picture of not a bad San Francisco sunset. I used the Landscape mode, which Nikon has always done well and has become my default setting on any camera. Frankly, I’ve never really mastered the manual controls on any of my cameras, because I’ve never really had the time. But what do you think of the mood of the picture? Seems very quiet and peaceful, doesn’t it? Calm, serene. Now look at this picture:

Rather a different feeling, isn’t it? Turbulent, even violent, as if there’s a fire or explosion beyond the hills. Actually, what’s really behind the hills is several thousand miles of Pacific Ocean. What has always interested me about this picture is that it is the exact same scene as the first picture, just a few seconds later. Check out the lower left-hand corner of the top photo. The only difference between the two pictures is that the first one zooms all the way out, and the second one zooms all the way in. And yet, the result, and the effect upon the viewer, is very different. ‘Tis indeed instructive how two faithful, unedited, gimmick-free pictures of a scene can lead to results so different, and this pair of pictures never fails to make me reflect upon perspective, accuracy and truth in photography.

Vonn Scott Bair