Tag Archives: Northern California

San Francisco Bay and Port of Oakland, August 2009


Working with Wonderful Light in an Infrastructure-Intense Environment

San Francisco Bay is famous for its beautiful light; the combination of soft sun with rolling Pacific fog and layers of pollution make for a rich textured golden glow in evening and mellow bright conditions during the height of the day.

Following my Northern California theme presented over the last few posts to Tracking the Light, I’m offering a few views of San Francisco Bay exposed in August 2009.

San Francisco Bay at sunrise.
On August 10, 2009, a loaded Pacific containership catches the glint of the morning sun as it passes San Francisco on its way to the Port of Oakland. Where historically San Francisco served as a primary port, today very little heavy shipping happens in the City itself; most port activities are focused in the East Bay around Oakland. Oakland container traffic represents an important business for both Union Pacific and BNSF. Until 1957, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (seen here in silhouette) carried Key System interurban electric trains, and originally also hosted SP’s red electrics as well.
Port of Oakland
An Amtrak Capitols train passes CP North King Street near Jack London Square in Oakland, California on August 25, 2009. The Port of Oakland makes for a fascinating industrial backdrop. Notice the approaches to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. At the time of this photo, new approaches were under construction to replace the 1930s-era steel-lattice cantilever structure.
Train with highways.
On August 24, 2009, the rarely photographed Oakland Terminal Railway navigates former electric line trackage beneath the maze of Interstate highways in Oakland.

These images were exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3 and 100-400mm lens.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Union Pacific’s Ozol Yard, Martinez, California, August 12, 2009.

Graphic Use of Morning Light.


This photo of Union Pacific’s former Southern Pacific Ozol Yard at Martinez was exposed from the same hillside on the same morning as the image of Amtrak in yesterday’s post (See: Amtrak Capitols Crossing Carquinez Straits, August 12, 2009)

In this case, I’ve walked (or scrambled) further down the hillside from my parking place on Carquinez Scenic Drive. The road is gated overnight and opened to the public in the early morning hours. Finding the right street in Martinez to reach Carquinez Scenic Drive can be a trial to the uninitiated, a good map or sat-nav device is recommended. I used a Northern California DeLorme Atlas and Map Quest, (plus vague memories of having photographed from this road in the early 1990s).

Working with hard silhouettes requires careful exposure. Also, I’ve found it helps to avoid excessive lens flare. This is one of those things you rarely read about. If the sun (or other bright light) hits the front element of your lens it will cause flare which will change the contrast of the image and may cause patterns (light streaks or blobs).

While in some instances it may be desirable to include flare (Hollywood discovered the dramatic use of flare in the 1960s and 1970s), often it is best to minimize it.

What to do? Shade the sun from hitting the front of your lens. Traditionally a lens hood will solve this problem . However, when the sun is very low to the horizon, a simple lens hood isn’t sufficient. To compensate, I’ll try to find something to stand behind (such as a hedge, awning, convenient sign post). If this fails, I’ll use my notebook (which I carry with me everywhere) to shade the lens. For this reason, I often carry a 5×7 in size notebook with a dull charcoal gray cover (to minimize reflection).

I’ll position the notebook in such a way so its shadow covers the front element, but the notebook itself isn’t in the image. This is a handy trick to use for night photography too. It helps to have the camera on a tripod (or have a capable  assistant to hold the notebook!)

In this instance, my intent was to emphasize the glint off the rails and signal bridge in a hard silhouette. Notice where I’ve positioned the locomotives in relation to the glinting sun. I’ve deliberately exposed for the highlights, allowing the shadows to consume most detail.


Enhanced by Zemanta