“The air is chill, and the day grows late,
And the clouds come in through the Golden Gate:
Phantom fleets they seem to me,
From a shoreless and unsounded sea;
Their shadowy spars and misty sails,
Unshattered, have weathered a thousand gales:
Slow wheeling, lo! in squadrons gray,
They part, and hasten along the bay;”
This is "THE" iconic landmark I just had to capture. I did not go looking for a specific image in mind, I went with the clear desire to capture it in as many different ways as possible. To truly study the bridge, what it represents and the environment it is in. This was not a historic study, it was a study about what this landmark, so well known to the world, means to me as a first time visitor. I do not claim a special relationship with the bridge, but I was always taken by the amazing photographs that people have taken with it.
Since I am a digital and film photographer I wanted to take photos of it using both mediums. I am currently developing the rolls of film I took of it using my Hasselblad 500cm and the Leica M6. Both cameras are completely different and built for different styles of photography. I knew this when I selected them. I took the Hasselblad exclusively for photos of the bridge. Here I will show the digital pictures I took as my film work requires much more time to get the image I envision. I have made a print but it still needs a few hours work to be presentable!
My journey to the bridge began one morning when my wife wanted to do a bit of shopping and we agreed to split up for the day. I called an UBER and asked them to take me to the Golden Gate View Point in the upper left hand of the map below. This was a bit daunting as the UBER left and I had no way of getting to a spot where an UBER would be likely to pick me up. But I had to get the picture and these seemed like a great place to start.
I stayed there for a solid hour, soaking in the scene and taking pictures. People would stop their cars to take selfies and then zoom off to their next location. I just sat and watched slowly picking my angles and moments to steal a shot or two.
Some wonderful weather and a bit of patients and I captured the full image of the bride that I wanted. You can see San Francisco in the background, there is not blown out cloud or sun in the image. Wonderful colors gave me a nice B&W conversion and the detail is amazing.
If you come to this spot feel free to take a tripod as there is plenty of room to spread out however once you walk down to the bridge you will not have the place to set up a tripod. Too many people walking, running and on bikes.
Once I was done I began walking down that road towards Battery Spencer location which is where the old WWII anti-aircraft batteries were located. There are some nice vantage points but to be honest it is a bit more of the same vantage point from a lower angle. I captured some wide shots of the bridge but mostly used this spot to sit and rest a bit.
I then walked down to the bridge itself, which has a great pedestrian crossing underneath the bridge which takes you to the rest stop on the other side of the bridge. This is where the tour busses stop and it offers a great view of the bridge but it is the most common shot taken. All tour busses stop here and only here for shots of the bridge. They stay for 15 minutes and then drive off. If there are a bunch of people wait the 15 minutes and watch a bunch leave. There are bathrooms there and a water fountain to get a bit of water. Then you can cross the bridge on foot.
The shot below is the second place on my trip to San Francisco where I wanted a longer lens. Not for a tighter shot but for the compression that a long lens gives you. The shot below could be more compressed looking as if you are standing on the road to take the picture. You can do this from the bridge but then there are cars blocking your view. From this vantage point this picture could have been much better with the compression of a 200mm lens for example. My eye sees it but I did not have the gear to execute it.
And then I crossed. I enjoyed the crossing and I really tried to soak in as much as I could. The sound of the cars driving across, kids laughing, adults chatting and the clatter of foot steps all around me. The occasional bell from a passing bike and even the yell from an aggressive bike rider. All of it combined into an all encompassing experience. While crossing there are some detail shots worth taking but the main reason for crossing the GGB on foot.....to get to the other side!
As you reach to the other side of the bridge some new angles and perspective presents themselves.
As mentioned before, this is the place where a long focal length lens would be helpful. Generally my 50mm did most of the heavy lifting here and even when I wanted a larger vista, a simple panorama stitch did the trick very well.
A tripod can be used at the start of the trail but put it away before reaching the bridge. Shoot pictures of the people crossing the bridge as well as it is something that I wish I would have done more of. Look down off the side of the bridge as I got some good shots there too. And don't forget to look up!
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.