Whether you’ve been there or not, we can all picture those iconic streets of San Francisco. From watching those famous car chases leaping into the air and loosing thousands of hubcaps, as the car defies the laws of suspension and hits the tarmac, to being mesmerised by thousands of coloured balls cascading down streets in that magical SONY Bravia tv advert.
The streets of San Francisco truely are like no other.
For a photographer you just walk around with a huge smile on your face, taking it all in. That’s what I was like when I explored San Francisco.
One of the most famous car chases of all time was filmed on the streets of San Francisco and featured the coolest film star on the planet, ‘Steve McQueen’, and his 1968 Ford Mustang, that film is called Bullitt.
The reason for me mentioning that film in the context of this article is in regards to the drivers point of view that you have in the film. You really do get a wonderful sense of how steep the streets are as the cars tip over those hills descending into another perilous corner.
Many people make the comparisons of it being like a rollercoaster and that’s very true, which brings me onto a set of three images I want to share with you.
Strap yourself in.
With this first photo I wanted you to feel like you wouldn't know what would happen if you went over the edge of the street, there is hardly any information to take in or process just a single street lamp that hints at more to come.
The view in the background is just barely visible as to not detract from the darker contrast of the buildings as they draw you into the centre of the street, with the parked cars at the side just tipping themselves into the unknown.
For me the numerous layers of road maintenance only adds to the patchwork of shapes and textures that reinforces the perspective I wanted to bring to light and makes for a far richer final shot.
A few more steps.
As you get closer to the edge, the buildings start to rise from what was originally seen as 'the unknown'. You can now start to embrace that magnificent view and continuation of the street.
Making sure everything was in focus was key to photographing this sequence, I needed to make sure that the street edge in front of me and the waterline off in the distance all played the same part. It was about showing the true depth of my surroundings and what was directly in front of me.
This shot was the perfect tease between height and distance.
All is revealed.
Look how much has changed through only walking a few feet.
I'm now at the edge, the rollercoaster effect is in full swing as you feel like you’re about to be tipped over, heart in mouth, and gripping the sides for dear life.
This sequence has gone from the simple tones and textures of the original shot, that was about focusing on the edge of the street, to now exposing everything below. I'm now able to witness the different forms of architecture and absorb those dark tree lines, which to me almost double up as explosions of smoke bellowing out from the sides of the buildings.
My favourite shot from the streets of San Francisco.
Why this is my favourite shot? Well, it’s a beautiful combination of connection, placement and people.
I’ve talked about and shown what it’s like looking down the streets of San Francisco, but actually looking up was even more wonderful for me. I felt this image really captured the structure and markings, playing with the curvature of the tramlines as they wave up the street.
Showing that ‘street edge’, in the sequence was interesting and worked incredibly well to emphasise what I was looking to achieve, but you didn’t actually connect with the street, you ended up embracing what was all around.
Just focus on this image for a second, take in the fabric of the street, the curvature of the tramlines, the road markings, the heavy patchwork of road maintenance, and then return to the sequence above. They all show the same content as this image, but I believe you just don’t connect with the street in the same way, well I didn’t.
Combing this beautiful street setting with these people made the shot take on a whole new meaning for me. Their positioning and placement is wonderful as they almost hover in the base of the dip, which only enhances the pseudo 3D effect of the street. Like a lot of the shots I take, I don’t know what these people are doing or where they are going, but I thank them for adding something special to this wonderful street shot.
I decided on calling this photo ‘Bullitt Time’, I thought it was the perfect marriage between the iconic streets, the film and the characteristics and motion of the people featured. You can also throw in the matrix as well for reference if you wish.
This image is one of my limited edition photography prints and is called: Bullitt Time.
For more photography from this and other trips why not check out and follow my Instagram feed.
Oh, one last image.
If your car isn’t flying through the air of those steep streets then you could embark on the twists and turns of Lombard Street.
If you decide not to embrace the angles that everyone else around you is trying to obtain and show the curves and bends, your image could take on a whole new context. Stripped of anything reminiscent of the 99% of photos you normally see this street starts to feel a little overgrown, something that’s been left for years, you could even say a little apocalyptic.