Thread the NeedleTransamerica Building seen through the Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
Christmas time in SF means a couple special things for us photographers: The Beacon is lit atop the Transamerica Building and 17,000 lights outline the four Embarcadero Center buildings. Because of this I had 2 shots I really wanted to take: 1) the SF skyline from Treasure Island, under the bay bridge (see previous photo), and 2) "Thread the Needle" -- the Transamerica Beacon taken through the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Having already shot the skyline from Treasure Island I needed to go back and get The Beacon in the GGB.
I convinced my friend Zack to leave work and drive up to SF with me. Luckily the traffic was pretty light and we made it to Marin in plenty of time to setup and wait for the blue hour. Zack's D70x wasn't really working so I leant him my D300s while I used the D700. Having been here before I knew that I really wanted ~300mm on a DX body so I was going to have to hope that my 70-300mm lens on the D700 would be good enough and I could just crop it. Unfortunately, the 70-300mm is not exactly the best lens, produces ugly lightstars and didn't take very good pictures. Just as blue hour (or the 5 minutes of it) hit, I asked Zack to switch lenses and borrowed his 80-200 f/2.8 lens, which was MUCH better.
I tried numerous different compositions, and I even have the typical close crop of this but ultimately I liked including the bridge in this photo. I think it shows more of the scene and puts a little more focus on San Francisco as opposed to a tighter cropping focusing on the beacon. We call this "threading the needle" because the Beacon, which looks like a needle, fits perfectly in the north tower of the GGB. Note that the photo may looks like it's not properly leveled because the bridge appears to go up in the photo … I assure you that this photo is actually level (and I even double checked before/after I took the photo), it's just an illusion due to the angle the photo was taken.
Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF
155mm, f/11, ISO 250, 30 sec, Tripod
Holiday CitySunset at the Bay Bridge and SF Skyline
San Francisco, California
Willie and I have been wanting to take the now popular San Francisco skyline photo from under the Bay Bridge for a while now. The photo is much much nicer during the holiday time when the lights outlining the buildings are turned on and a bright white light (called The Beacon) is turned on at the Transamerica Building (the triangular building). Willie checked the webcams for a couple nights this week and it looked like The Beacon was on, and I got confirmation from a friend in the city that it was also on (although, she described it as a "blinking light" -- I should have known this was bad information … read more about that).
We left work early and headed out to Treasure Island with plenty of time to find parking, hike up the hill, find "the spot" and then get setup. Unfortunately when US-101 and I-280 merged we hit a HUGE Friday afternoon holiday traffic. We arrived at Treasure Island much much later than planned (almost an hour later), and had to high tail it up the hill and over the Bay Bridge (we were both sweating pretty badly). After hopping the guard rail we actually found the spot pretty easily (just as we were walking over the Bridge a CalTrans truck drove by and screamed over the loud speaker "No photographs from this side of the bridge." We kept walking). We scouted out the area for a while, found our spots and then waited for the light to get nice.
Luckily for us there was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL sunset that night, which makes the photo much more interesting. As the sun went down we could start making out the lights on the buildings, first some random window lights, then the building outlines, and then a light on top of the Transamerica Building. A light … a red blinking light … NOT the white BEACON we were hoping for. In fact, The Beacon *never* showed up for us :( We still came away with a great shot but both Willie and I felt jipped because The Beacon is the icing on the cake of this classic shot. We're going to have to re-attempt it another time :(
Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S:
42mm, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 125
No filters, NOT an HDR (all from 1 exposure)
Foggy SunriseFog Over Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
I liked this photo because the light around the south tower (the right tower) is amazing. I'm not really sure why I didn't post this as my original flickr photo -- I think I wanted to originally go with a wider crop (the photo I did post) but decided to them crop it down similar to this shot. I actually prefer this photo now that I already posted the other one :P
Last week Willie and I made an attempt at getting the Golden Gate Bridge with low fog. Unfortunately there was either no fog, too much fog, or back to no fog. This week the fog has been nice and low but we were watching it on the webcams from our homes and not with our own eyes. We decided to wake up early this morning and drive up and hope the fog would cooperate. Luckily, it did … mostly! It was a bit higher than we wanted but it still managed to show enough of the bridge to make the photo kinda interesting. We're gonna keep trying (we even found a better spot to shoot from for next time).
This is a 4 shot stitched panoramic.
Nikon D300s w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S
38mm, f/10, 34 seconds, ISO 200, Feisol Tripod
HiTech 3-stop Reverse ND Grad, and 2-stop ND Grad
A Black and White version of this photo is also available.