Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco is often regarded as one of America's most beautiful cities, but it's a pickle for photographers because it's so often shrouded in fog. The weather usually doesn't lift until lunchtime, so photographer and city native Eros Hoagland recommends taking pictures indoors for the morning. At the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39, visitors can get a 180-degree view of marine life in this tunnel and go face-to-face with sharks. The aquarium's artificial lights provide excellent backlight for dramatic photography.

Sea Lions

There's only one reason to go to the ultratouristy Fisherman's Wharf: to see the sea lions. You'll find the barking, wriggling masses sunning daily on these floating decks, installed by the city to give the sea lions a place to lounge — and to keep them from obstructing the fishing boats that work the nearby waters.

Cable Car Turntable

San Francisco's iconic cable cars are loads of fun to ride — if you can get a seat. In theory, you can board at any stop along the route, but the cars are usually too crowded to accommodate new passengers. San Franciscans in the know board at the cable cars' terminuses, like this one at the base of Powell Street, where the cars are turned around on a giant spinning platform and set off on their routes.

View from the Powell-Mason line Cable Car

This is a fun, symbolic shot of San Francisco, from aboard a cable car. If you don't have a friend to photograph, Hoagland recommends asking a stranger's permission before taking his or her picture. But, he says, in tourist situations, it's less of an issue, since everybody is taking pictures in every direction.

Golden Gate Bridge Entrance

Any working photographer will tell you that success is half skill and half luck. Sometimes, a photographer just stumbles upon something unexpected, which is why pros almost always wear their camera around their shoulder, lens cap off, ready to shoot. Hoagland came across this motorcycle club as they assembled to take a group photo at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The light was good, the composition was right and he had just five seconds to squeeze off a frame or two before the group dispersed.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francsico's most emblematic landmark is most often photographed from afar, but Hoagland says you'll get the best pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge by walking across it. On foot, the bridge comes alive with cyclists and tourists, like this young woman, a visitor from Eastern Europe.


Hoagland encourages beginning photographers to play with aperture and narrow depths of field, the portion of a scene that appears sharp in an image. For this shot of Alcatraz, taken through a chain-link fence, many shooters might push their camera lens right through the holes between the wires. Hoagland chose instead to mount a 200 mm lens on his camera, step back about five feet from the fence and use the links as a foreground element, giving the remote prison island a forbidding air.

Golden Gate Bridge Tower

The few minutes between sunset and the onset of night are a photographer's best friend. During this narrow window of time, the light changes rapidly and dramatically. Out on the bridge at around 8 p.m. last September, Hoagland captured the rich indigo hue of the sky, offset by the powerful skylights that illuminate the bridge's stanchions. By using a relatively slow shutter speed (1/8 second), Hoagland enhanced the rich color of the dusky sky.

Transamerica Tower

Part of San Francisco's charm is borne of the constant clashing of old and new. For instance: this juxtaposition of the modern Transamerica Tower pyramid and the historic landmark Sentinel Building, opened in 1907. (The building is now home to Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope production company.) To add tension between the two buildings, Hoagland took this photograph at night, when the neon signage of a nearby hotel adds a little grit and enhances the "old" part of the frame.