Photo Essay: Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary

Posted on 27 May 2012

Happy birthday to the San Francisco Bay Area’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay Panorama - Panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay in dramatic morning light.

Panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay in dramatic morning light.

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…

Golden Gate Bridge Tower, Transamerica Building, San Francisco Skyline

Golden Gate Bridge Tower, Transamerica Building, San Francisco Skyline

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.

 

North Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Night - Black and white night photograph of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.

Black and white night photograph of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.

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.

 

Ships, San Francisco Bay, Morning - Freighter departing San Francisco Bay on a foggy morning is seen through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge with the San Francisco skyline in the background. Black and white photograph.

Freighter departing San Francisco Bay on a foggy morning is seen through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge with the San Francisco skyline in the background. Black and white photograph. September 18, 2007.

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.

 

Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Morning Haze - Black and white photograph of Golden Gate Bridge north tower, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and the East Bay Hills in morning haze.

Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Morning Haze - Black and white photograph of Golden Gate Bridge north tower, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and the East Bay Hills in morning haze.

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.

 

Clearing Fog, North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - Clearing Fog, North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - Morning fog clears from the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.

Clearing Fog, North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - Morning fog clears from the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.

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.

 

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, Morning Haze - Winter morning haze partially obstructs the view across San Francisco Bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and the city of Oakland.

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, Morning Haze

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.

 

Sutro Tower and Golden Gate Bridge South Tower, Morning - Morning traffic crosses the Golden Gate Bridge approaching the south tower with haze-shrouded San Francisco hills and Sutro Tower beyond.

Morning traffic crosses the Golden Gate Bridge approaching the south tower with haze-shrouded San Francisco hills and Sutro Tower beyond.

Looking south across the bridge toward the even taller structure of the Sutro Tower.

 

North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, Morning - The north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, with San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, a departing ship, and the East Bay hills beyond in morning fog and haze.

North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, Morning

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 and Yerba Buena Islands, San Francisco Bay, Foggy Morning Light - San Francisco Bay morning fog over begins to break up over Alcatraz and Yerba Buena Islands and the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge.

San Francisco Bay morning fog over begins to break up over Alcatraz and Yerba Buena Islands and the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge.

Alcatraz Island and the Bay, lit by golden early morning light.

 

San Francisco Skyline, Golden Gate Bridge Cables, Night - Photograph of the night skyline of San Francisco shot through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. Holiday lighting on downtown buildings.

Photograph of the night skyline of San Francisco shot through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. Holiday lighting on downtown buildings.

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.

 

Golden Gate Bridge and Lunar Eclipse - The moon, in full lunar eclipse, passes behind the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The moon, in full lunar eclipse, passes behind the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.


7 comments to Photo Essay: Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary

  • Beautiful birthday tribute to a grand, inspiring icon !!

  • Thanks, Rosemary. This bridge is a wonderful subject in so many ways – the ever-changing light and atmosphere of the Bay, the sweeping structure of the bridge itself, the ships that pass by, the city of San Francisco, and more.

    Dan

  • MarkNo Gravatar says:

    Some beautiful photos. Not seen the bridge taken from some of these angles.

  • Beautiful collection, Dan!

  • Samuel LoyNo Gravatar says:

    Ilived in Mill Valley for 40+ years and sold “fall” protection to “The Bridge”. I have been to the top of the North tower from which I took several pictures that are framed and now hang in my Mesa,Arizona office. This bridge has fascinated me since I arrived in Marin in 1958.

    • Samuel, thanks for sharing that! I’m jealous of your trips to the top of the bridge tower – that must be a stunning experience! The bridge has been a part of my consciousness since my family moved to California when I was a very small child in the 1950s.

      Dan

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