Variations on the Golden Gate Bridge with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall's Beach - San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall’s Beach – San Francisco, California

Back in March I was testing the newly released Olympus E-M5 Mark II. I was mainly interested in the new high-res 40MP mode which I talked about in post called Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II in San Francisco: Exploring high resolution. I also shot regular images too, including my HDR brackets which I feature in this post.

Like many visitors, I’ve already taken the typical photos of the Golden Gate bridge. I wanted something different. I remembered the memorable views from Battery Crosby and wanted to explore further, getting there early so that I could take the winding stairs down to the beach.

My challenge, to find compelling foreground elements for my Golden Gate backdrop. The smooth, mostly featureless beach wasn’t very exciting. As I walked north, it became obvious that the boulders were what I needed.

While I tend to shoot landscapes in my widest setting, a 24mm equivalent with the Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens, I was having problems finding a good composition. I experimented with many focal lengths and things started to work at 30mm. The balance of elements, the foreground, mid-ground and background looked promising, as you can see in the first photograph. But I didn’t like all the visual weight on the right side, without a counterbalancing element on the left. The boulders also looked too distracting.

Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall's Beach - San Francisco, California

I got down lower and closer with the focal length set tighter at a 34mm equivalent. The left and right balance works better and boulders, less distracting. I also like the detail and color on the rock surface. However, the photo is now more about the rocks, than the bridge. The iconic bridge certainly gives context but fades as the main subject. You have to admit though, it’s certainly not a typical Golden Gate Bridge photograph.

Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall's Beach - San Francisco, California

In a third variation, I shifted towards the water while keeping the same focal length. The boulders now balance the image rather than over shadow it and I like the effect of the long exposure on the waves. The bridge regains some of its prominence. Unfortunately, the large rock blocks a good part of the bridge, which is more distracting in this image.

Is it possible to have an unobstructed view from this location? Not sure. Perhaps on a future trip, I’ll have to try again. I’m satisfied with what I got, but things can always be improved. At least I created atypical views of a well photographed bridge.

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