Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eclipse at Golden Gate

When Sankar told me on Friday evening that they were planning to shoot the lunar eclipse at San Francisco at 4 in the morning, the very first idea that struck me was "Why the hell is he inviting me?" but I gave him an impromptu response "Yeah sure, I'll join you guys".  I'll tell you what it means - Waking up at 2:30AM, driving for an hour to reach San Francisco (though he drove this time) with the risk of whole city being clad with dense fog, standing somewhere along the bay in the dark exposing yourself completely to the freezing winds of the Pacific, exchanging views on how to shoot and finally shooting the eclipse.  When I substitute the previous sentence with "sleeping warm in the hotel and waking up to a sunny morning with hot breakfast", it was real tough for me to go for the former option though I was at the verge of choosing the latter.

The beauty of going with seasoned landscape photographers is their preparation.  They knew the fog forecast, they knew where the spectacle was gonna take place with respect to Golden Gate, they knew where to mount their tripods and cover the spectacle from and they had precise idea as to how their shots should look.  Precisely at 4AM, we were at the parking of Crissy Field Center.  We reached the bay front without much difficulty and we initially felt the weather wasn't that bad either.  After a bit of scouting, we settled down at the beach front and mounted our cameras on tripods and waited till 4:45AM, the time when the eclipse was to start.

Compared to the other photographers with whom I went (Sankar, Raja and Anand) my gear was the most primitive and most basic.  I shot with my good old 20D with 17-40/4L and 70-200/4L mounted on my Manfrotto tripod.  I didn't have remote release and I was running low on battery to use self-timer.  I then decided, if I don't have good photos...WTF...I'm witnessing one of the rarer nature's phenomenon with Golden Gate in the foreground.  Finally the eclipse set in at 4:45AM and I started shooting, I felt a bit disappointed.  70-200 was a bit too short to shoot such an event and 17-40 blew out the eclipse completely.  It was a tricky affair to capture the penumbra initially - try to get the penumbra the moon surface would wash out; try to get the details on the moon would result in no penumbra.  Add to the disappointment is the biting cold winds which made my fingers ache despite the gloves.  Things started looking slightly better in terms of photography after 6AM when the twilight of the dawn made the rosy moon look beautiful.  The sunrise also painted beautiful clouds in the east.

By the end of it, I was wholeheartedly grateful for Sankar for inviting and glad about me that I pushed myself out of the bed in the cold to make it to the event.  I haven't got any great shots as such, but it was an amazing experience to witness such a spectacle at one of my favourite landmarks, Golden Gate.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Rodeo Beach

On a nice sunny Sunday afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Ravi, Sundar and myself set out in a gas guzzling Chevy Impala to Rodeo beach in the Marine county, slightly ahead of San Francisco, off 101 highway.  Why Rodeo beach?  Because I had seen the photographs of the haystack in the beach and I wanted to click them.  We followed this route which was definitely better than driving just on 101.  We grabbed few beers in one of the wine stores in SFO.  I have this inexplicable excitement when I drive on Golden Gate and this time was no exception.  We had to pass through a single lane tunnel which has a 5min long stop at each end.  The beach has got free parking and clean toilet but there's not a single store around to get even the basics like water.  There are hiking and biking trails that lead to some beautiful inaccessible beaches, we took the hiking trail before treading on Rodeo beach.  We walked for a while, settled down close to a cliff off the trail and finished 3 large cans of beers accompanied by yummy koDubaLe and ChintamaNi style peanuts.  

After beers, we came back to Rodeo beach and I waiting for the sun to go down to shoot haystack.  The genius in me suggested the team to walk barefooted on the sand and am thankful to them for not having killed me for that idea...for our feet we felt was cut open and burnt at the same time due to cold and coarse gravel.  I had to wait for a while before I could shoot the haystack since I didn't have the GND filter and I so wished I had one at that moment.  So finally the sun was down and I could shoot the haystack the way I had seen and here are the results.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Twin Peaks, SFO

Had been to Twin Peaks in SFO on Friday night with a bunch of my photographer friends to do the cityscape in the night.  More about the peaks here.  The view of SFO from the top of the peak is breathtaking.  Most of SFO's major landmarks are visible from here during the day and some during night.  The most brightly lit street on the right third of the photo is Market street, the garland of lights on the right is the Bay bridge and the beautiful Golden Gate can be seen on the left.   It was extremely windy and chill when we went, I couldn't take a single shot using my 70-200 lens mounted on tripod due to winds.  I had to actually place it on the wall and shoot.  Here are few of my photographs, the first and the third photo were shot with 17-40/4L and the second and the fourth were shot using 70-200/4L all in bulb mode.  It was actually hard to shoot, I didn't have a remote release, I had to keep the shutter button clicked by my finger for more than a minute to get the exposure.