You could spend an entire lifetime photographing the San Francisco Bay Area and still not capture it all. It is one of those rare gems – packed full of scenic vistas and perspectives that can keep the passionate photographer endlessly inspired. It certainly keeps me visually interested and coming back, year after year. I still continue to find new vantages that compose nicely in the photographic frame. But what if you are only coming to the city for a weekend, where do you go? I will share with you some of my favorite locations to photograph in San Francisco. Some of them are very iconic, some of them are a bit less widely known. Alternatively, you could join me personally and explore my favorite spots alongside me during one of my SF photo workshops.
GOLDEN GATE SUNRISE San Francisco, California
#1. Battery Spencer This spot is certainly no secret, but regardless, it is one of the most spectacular locations to photograph. And not just in San Francisco, but perhaps the entire country! This is called Battery Spencer. Get up there at sunrise or sunset and be prepared to be blown away! It feels like the Golden Gate bridge is close enough to reach out and touch, which is a very cool feeling. If you can translate some of that feeling photographically, you are likely to make a powerful photograph. You can use wide angle lenses all the way to longer lenses for countless perspectives. Get creative and experiment. For the above photograph, I was in position well before sunrise and prepared when the light started to get sweet. The thick fog helped keep the composition simple and clean – making it all about the light, color and atmosphere.
GOLDEN GATE FOG San Francisco, California
#2. Horseshoe Bay Another fabulous location, one that is less visited by the masses than Battery Spencer, is at the end of Fort Baker road on the Sausalito side. This is a great location with many photographic possibilities, and one that I never miss when visiting the city. Be here around sunrise and sunset for optimal light, and hope to be here as the fog drifts into the bay. I found myself there at this perfect time for capturing the image above – sweet light and incoming fog. Allow the light and atmosphere to do it’s thing and don’t mess it up by including too much in your compositions, and you’ll likely walk away very pleased with a stunning photograph of one of the top iconic architectural wonders of the world.
UNTITLED San Francisco, California
#3. Baker Beach Yes, Baker Beach is an iconic location and it has been photographed a gazillion times, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still go there and photograph it! Especially when you only have a few days in the city. It’s iconic for a reason – because it photographs so well. Trust me, I’m never for photographers running around playing “see-and-repeat” and shooting the same stuff everyone else does, but when you are in a locale for a short while, you can base your shooting time around some iconic locations like this. Keep alert to what’s going on around you and not laser-focused on “the shot” that you have pre-visualized, the one you saw a million of on Google images, and you will find new and interesting and expressive photographs to be made along the way. The above image was captured at sunrise, alongside my workshop participants who joined me for my last San Francisco workshop. We all made plenty of successful images throughout the weekend – at vogue spots like this and other locations you’ve never heard of.
San Francisco is one of the most scenic destinations in the world and that can serve the photographer very well with many compositional possibilities. But be warned, this does not necessarily make it easy to photograph. There still is many aspects that go into making dynamic and compelling imagery that is beyond the location itself. Get out there, enjoy the process, be present in the locale, feel more than think, and you’ll be on the right path toward making expressive photographs that capture the endless beauty of the world.
To be continued soon with more locations…