One October evening I set up on Duboce Avenue in San Francisco with my then new F3T and 35mm PC lens (perspective control lens, which allows for movement of the front element) and made this view using Kodachrome 25 color slide film.
Difficult to believe that was nearly 30 years ago!
In October 1990, Boeing-Vertol light rail vehicles pass on Carl Street, just west of the Sunset Tunnel.
My intent was to show the streetcars against a backdrop of San Francisco gingerbread Victorian houses. Selecting the optimal exposure was tricky owing to the low-angle of the sun. I wanted to maintain the bright highlights without risk of under exposing the background.
Although it is tempting in these situations to expose for the highlights, in this case I didn’t want the unnatural ‘nightmare’ effect caused by surreal dark background.
Unlike today, back then I’d rely largely on my handheld Sekonic meter to gauge exposure. Although the F3T had a built in meter, I never found this to be sufficiently accurate to maintain consistent exposures with slide film.
Are you seeing the whole picture? Tracking the Light presents: A Glinty Electric Bus.
Did I notice this scene in my rear view mirror one morning in the 1990s? I think so. Anyway, a memory of a image—something like this was nagging me.
On the morning September 3, 2009, I set up on Hayes Street in San Francisco with my 100-400mm lens. Just after sunrise I exposed a series of images of an electric bus (trolley bus) catching the glint of the rising sun as it crested Alamo Hill.
For me the wires make the photo interesting. Not only do the dual wires power the bus, but they visually tie the scene together.
I like the dramatic lighting and monochromatic effect of the silhouette. I’ve carefully included the pole at the far left to visually anchor the wire network to the ground. This also adds balance.
There’s a famous vista made just to the left of my location. It features a staggered row of gingerbread style Victorians with the San Francisco skyline. It is an iconic setting that appears on post cards, calendars, books and etc. You’d recognize it if you saw it. While the clichéd vista is typically exposed in the afternoon from the park, my view is from the street in the early morning.
In 1992, I was living on Haight Street in San Francisco, just a short walk from this location. One August morning, I got up early to make photos of Muni’s light rail cars exiting the Muni Metro on Duboce in the sunrise glint light.
For this image, I’ve used the trees at the left to shade the front element from direct sun to minimize flare. Although it was a clear morning, the sun was tinted by pollution that I remember as being a common effect in the Bay Area, especially in the summer.
My goal was to catch a car taking the wye from the J-Church line heading west on the N-Judah line, which was a common way for Muni to position cars in the morning. While I did make that photo, I felt this image was actually a better picture.
It shows an inbound J-Church car turning toward the subway portal with an N-Judah car outbound.
Although, I commonly used Kodachrome at the time, for this image I used Fujichrome 100 (before the introduction of Provia), which I processed myself at the photo studio where I worked in South San Francisco. Among my studio duties was running E6 transparency film. We used a roller transport machine and mixed the chemistry on site.
Although less photographed than historic cable cars and vintage streetcars, San Francisco Muni’s light rail routes offer plenty of interesting opportunities to make urban railway images.
San Francisco enjoys spectacular weather and lighting conditions. My favorite times to photograph are a sunrise and sunset. While the modern Breda-built cars lack the flair of historic PCC’s (see San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008), they still make for interesting subjects for the creative eye.
On the afternoon of August 21, 2009, I worked San Francisco’s famous hills aiming to make images of Muni’s cable cars, arguably one of America’s most pictured railway operations. I set the exposure manually using the camera’s spot meter to base my judgment. I sample the sky and street and aimed for texture in the highlight areas, allowing the shadows to go dark. My choice of film was Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 (EB3) which offered an ideal color-balance for such a silhouette. San Francisco’s many above ground wires added a geometric framing to the image.