The magical (but imperfect) path to the ocean

The Stairs at Battery Crosby - San Francisco, California

The Stairs at Battery Crosby – San Francisco, California

Yesterday, I talked about Battery Crosby, an absolutely fantastic place to make photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge. In that post, I mentioned stairs that offer a good vantage point of the bridge and here they are. These stairs lead from the concrete bunker down towards the ocean. I didn’t have time to explore so I didn’t go any further. What looks like gently curving stairs directly to the ocean actually stops short and runs parallel to the water line, according to Google Maps.

As you might have guessed, this is another HDR photograph. Processed in a more painterly style and not my usual, more realistic approach. I don’t think it’s over the top but it definitely passes that fuzzy line between realistic and artistic, at least in my book. Your mileage may vary. Why do I process some HDRs realistically and others in a more artistic fashion? It really depends on the mood I want to convey. The golden light, the green grass, the meandering path to the ocean and the distant sunset hills put me in the romantic mood, I guess. I think the place has a magical Tolkien-esque feel. Why not amp up the magic with some HDR post processing?

In retrospect, I wish I framed this differently. At least, I should have experimented with different points of view. That is one of the disadvantages of using a tripod. There is a tendency to set it at a particular height and shoot it from there. I move around more when shooting hand-held but I get more bogged down with the three metal legs attached. I was also rushed — trying to maximize my time taking photos of the Golden Gate Bridge — my primary purpose. The moral of the story, look around, shift your point of view. It wouldn’t have taken too much longer to find a better framing and I would have been rewarded with a stronger image.

What don’t I like about the photo? I think there is entirely too much ocean. The balance of the elements are not quite right. I would like to see more stairs and greenery, less water. I do like how the silhouetted mountains came out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad photo. I really like the color and mood, it’s just that the composition could have been stronger. Perhaps if I lowered my tripod to get more of the stairs. It would change the angle and reduce the ocean. Would this alternate framing would work better? Who knows but the point of this post is that I should have explored other possibilities.

Battery Crosby is a beautiful place and I hope to get back there. Maybe next time, I can create an even better photograph.

Photograph taken with my Olympus E-PM2 with the kit lens

Click on the photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure detail.

9 thoughts on “The magical (but imperfect) path to the ocean

  1. Hi Andy, I like the photo but know what you mean by the constraints, admittedly self inflicted, of a tripod. I like to shoot low, which may have met you desire to reduce the amount of ocean. Where I’m going is I’ve been shooting with an OM-D for a little over a year now and absolutely the tilt LCD. It has also allowed me to take quite a few successful HDR photos using only a Gorilla Pod that I can usually stuff in my back pocket. Admittedly it is more limited w.r.t. point of view option vs a full tripod, but I’ve found the combination of tilting LCD and the Gorrila Pod quite satisfactory.

    1. Ed, I also use a gorilla pod at times, especially if a location don’t allow the typical tripods, such as in NYC. In this case, I could definitely have lowered my tripod, I just didn’t think about it in my haste to get the shots quickly.

      The flip up LCDs are nice, it makes the low or high shot so much easier.

  2. Andy,

    It’s an interesting view. Seems to me lowering your tripod would give you less steps rather than more. Not knowing what’s on either side of the area shown, I’d probably also think of a wider aspect ratio. Two elements work against the basically square image: the curvature of the distant shoreline and the direction of the wave pattern give the impression of a tilted horizon and a barrel lens distortion that aren’t actually present. Challenging.

    1. Mike, I’m not sure of the best framing unless I’m there, however I think I can be lower, and still show more the foreground elements such as the stairs and grass Or I can probably shoot from higher up to show more stairs. I agree with you about the elements not working as well in a squarish frame. It would look better with a wider view, perhaps a panorama of sorts.

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