Happy birthday to the San Francisco Bay Area’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge!
Photographed from near the north end of the bridge, the sweep of the cables leading to the top of the north tower frames a panorama from Alcatraz Island at the far left, past beams of morning sun on the east end of the Bay Bridge, across the skyline of downtown San Francisco, with the Bay in the foreground.
Having lived and photographed in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades, the Golden Gate Bridge has been a central part of my experience of the area. I frequently photograph in San Francisco and across the bridge to the north, and even when the bridge itself is not my primary intended subject I almost always look in its direction to see what it will offer up as a new photographic opportunity. I have been fortunate to be close enough to see the bridge in an incredible range of conditions – at night, in winter storms, at sunrise, and more.
Since the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the bridge is being celebrated today, it seems like a good time to collect a few of my favorite Golden Gate Bridge photographs that feature, include, or are part of the experience of this icon. In keeping with the retrospective theme of such a birthday, I’ve chosen mostly black and white photographs. But first, a panorama…
Among the most famous views of the bridge are those looking back across the Golden Gate (which, technically, refers to the mouth of the bay) past the bridge toward the skyline of San Francisco.
The bridge and the city take on a completely different appearance at night. This photograph was made from the hills near the north end of the bridge, looking back through it towards San Francisco.
I am especially fond of the very early morning views of the bridge and the bay, and I often stop here on my way to photograph other locations. While one can certainly end up completely socked in by fog here, at other times the range of effects of atmosphere and light is extraordinary. Here several ships pass under the bridge on a morning when the fog is just beginning to clear east of The City.
Seen from high in the Marin Headlands, the silhouette of the north tower of the bridge bisects the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on a morning when low haze blanketed the Bay Area.
Classic Golden Gate Bridge fog passes fills the entrance to the Bay and rises up over the hills of the Marin Headlands, with the skyline of The City visible on the horizon.
The Oakland area and the eastern section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – both the old version and the new one under construction – seem over one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Looking south across the bridge toward the even taller structure of the Sutro Tower.
The silhouette of a large outgoing freighter passes beneath the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the distance beyond the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz Island and the Bay, lit by golden early morning light.
I’ll include one real night photograph of the bridge, though I’ll be sneaky about it and not show the whole bridge. (There are plenty of those photographs floating around and, yes, I have those, too!) Here I shot through the cables with a very long lens on a late autumn night when the holiday lights had been put up on the downtown San Francisco buildings – Look at the far left to see the Transamerica Building and the Embarcadero Center lights.
I joined thousands of fellow Bay Area citizens to rise well before dawn and photograph this full lunar eclipse just before sunrise.
You can see many more of my San Francisco photographs in my gallery.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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