So a family member was getting hitched in LA so my wife and I decided to make a trip of it and celebrate the nuptials and then run off to San Francisco for a few days. We went with only a single planned item on the agenda...Alcatraz. Other than this, we went with an open mind, and a deep desire to have some fun.
We stayed in the historic St Francis which was originally opened in 1906 and the lobby is filled with little historical notes. The hotel is a grand dame in all senses of the word. We felt we were living a little bit of history, a bit of the old world charm in a city rapidly changing. The cocktail bar thrilled us with amazing cocktails that took us away from the typical Old Fashioned and into some marvelous adventures through a theme tied to Alice in Wonderland.
The food, as you would expect, was expensive and delicious and we had more than our fair share of it. Try the breakfast in the St Francis Oak Room as a great way to start your day! Everything from Italian to French to the new age fusions were amazing.
In terms of photography, I went old school. I took my Leica M10, M6 and the Hasselblad. I left the Hasselblad in the hotel with the exception of a single day when I took it to photography the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB). This structure has long been a photographic goal of mine and it did not disappoint. The structure is awe inspiring but the surrounding area is what really took my breath away. I had rainy days, sunny and everything in between.
The surprising aspect of the trip with China Town. I loved this spot and we spent an entire morning and most of an afternoon just walking up and down its wonderful streets. People did not seem to mind us walking around but they did not want us taking their pictures. I kept my street photography to some hidden shots and to buildings without bothering people. Nice people just private and I can respect that.
Below is my favorite shot of China Town and is a solid street shot. Let me take you through what I like about it and how I shot it.
This was taken with my brand new (first day I was shooting with it) Leica 28mm Elmarit which is a wonderful lens for street or environmental portrait photography. I saw this man singing on the block lighting his cigarette. I stopped with my wife and looked to the left of the image I was taking. Shot a couple of shots of a building (came our very well) and shot two images of this man. Once his cigarette was lit, he got up and left. He had a bit of a limp so I believe he needed to sit to free up his hands to light his cigarette.
I kept the man on the bottom left of the shot with a wide f-stop to ensure that I had a great deal in focus. I wanted to highlight the location he was in, his neighborhood as well as the man. I loved the way he was sitting but had to wait for his hands to drop away from his face.
I converted this to B&W and gave it some contrast and a bit of vignette and called it a day. It is a simple street shot, with some nice gesture in the way the man is sitting, with a wonderful view of a very Chinese street.
Here are a few more I took on the streets of Chinatown.
Ok this last image was not really street photography and more architecture. I still had to take it and loved how it came out.
As you can see most of my shots on the streets of Chinatown were taken with a hunting mentality. I would find an interesting backdrop and wait for someone to walk by. This made it easier to shoot the shy people and did not bother them as much. While no one said anything to me some would hide their face a bit and as soon as they did I would drop my camera so they saw I was not going to press the issue.
On another blog post I will go into some other shots I took around San Francisco including the famous shopping district. The shots on GGB will require a whole other blogpost in order to properly cover. I did a bunch of research before setting out to photograph this icon and I am rather pleased with the shots in spite of the lack of fog.
I highly recommend spending at least a day in Chinatown, eating shopping a photographing. Just remember, tea first, then photography!
There are a few shots where you can use a tripod. Nothing beats that perfectly steady focus that can only be obtained with a tripod, cable release and a mirror lock up. So if you have one take it along! I did not but I had some wonderful light and shot with a fast shutter speed. Not the best but a solid second alternative.
There is no point in going long on these streets. This is a place for street photography so go wide and get close. Shoot from the hip, find a background a lay in wait, pretend to be shooting a building and as you "chimp" take the shot of the people or use whatever trick you have to get some shots of people!
I used a 28mm, 35mm and 50mm. Even the 50mm was a bit long at times.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.