San Francisco

Photographer Mark Bates provided the details and images for San Francisco, California.

San Francisco is the type of place that you can and will fall in love with.

After gathering your things and your rental car, head north to Sausalito for a bite to eat. Explore the shops, view the city of San Francisco to the south and wait for 6PM to arrive. This is how we started our holiday this year. We arrived in San Francisco on June 22nd (super moon Saturday).

After dinner in Sausalito, we headed south back toward San Francisco and exited into the Marin Headlands. The headlands are a series of hills located on the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is where I expected to photograph the super moon. 400 other photographers had the same idea. We were all lined up along the access road that lead from Highway 101 to the top of the headlands.

The expectations were high for the moon to rise in the east and we would get a shot of the moon as it peaked over the horizon. But this was not to be. The skies were clear. We were in position. The time was right (7:58 PST). No moon. We could not see the moon.

Being from the Midwest, we routinely have land that the sun can hide behind as we watch a moon rise facing east. Along the Pacific Ocean there is nothing for the sun to hide behind. We had to wait an additional hour for the sun to set far enough into the West to allow the moon to show. Image 11 is the result of that wait. The title is “Last Light”.

We chose June/July due to availability of time off from work. The weather was mild in the upper 70’s. This is typical for this time of year. The evenings can become cold in the lower 40’s as the fog rolls in. Mark Twain was correct when he said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”. Plan to dress in layers.

The best way to get around San Francisco is to park the car and then walk, ride a bike, catch a trolley or train. Parking prices range from $18.00 USD for 12 hours to $36.00 USD for four or more hours. Location, location, location as they say.

Watch out for limo drivers. They position themselves by the trolley ticket windows and are happy to tell you how long the wait is for your turn to ride the trolley. They will take you where you want to go for a fair price. You just have to wait for his limo to fill up. That could take 30 minutes to an hour.

Plan to spend 3 to 5 days in San Francisco to really enjoy the city. Locate a hotel downtown so you can get up early and stay out late to get the shots you want. Shoot the same scene multiple times choosing different times of the day and look for different weather conditions. We stayed south of the city in San Bruno. This was an hour’s drive away and did not make it too easy to stay out late at night. (We chose this location as San Francisco was not our only destination. We needed the ability to go south and not deal with the traffic). There are reasonably priced hotels in the downtown area.

Areas photographed included: Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point and Lighthouse, North Beach District (aka Little Italy), Palace of Fine Arts, Trolley locations throughout the city, Alcatraz, Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, boat ride past Alcatraz Island, and Pier 39.

If you plan to visit Alcatraz, purchase your tickets two weeks in advance during the summer months. Tickets sell out early. Look for combination tickets from a charter group. We were able to do a double decker bus ride and San Francisco Bay water ride in the same afternoon/evening for a good price.

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