Category Archives: Photographs: San Francisco

Children in Striped Hoodies

Children in Striped Hoodies
Two children in striped hoodies walk along a San Francisco street at night

Children in Striped Hoodies. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Two children in striped hoodies walk along a San Francisco street at night

This is yet another photograph that I don’t actually recall making! Sometimes when shooting street I think I work so quickly and spontaneously that I simple capture an image and move on to the next one without imbedding the specific experience in my memory. This almost certainly was one of those very quickly made photographs, and I only made two exposures of these subjects before moving on to something else.

There is a lot in this photograph, some of which I was likely considering in the moment when I made the photograph and some of which may have been more or less a happy accident. I’m pretty certain that I was attracted to the fact that the two kids were both wearing hoodies with horizontal stripes — perhaps someone’s mother or father had just gone shopping for the two of them? A wonderful bonus was the child on the right (big sister?) putting her arm gently on the shoulder of the other child — her younger brother? Then there are the other bits of color — the blue form on the left (which houses an automated carnival-like figure) and the wildly painted lamp-post on the right. And, yes, there is something a bit disconcerting about seeing two young children alone on the nighttime streets of a big city — at least to this photographer who brought up three such young children.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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Video Surveillance

Video Surveillance
Warning sign on a doorway to an interior space, Chinatown, San Francisco

Video Surveillance. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Warning sign on a doorway to an interior space, Chinatown, San Francisco

When doing street photography I tend to “switch modes” as I photograph — one moment I might focus on people as individuals or in groups, and then my attention may shift to the “urban landscape,” the shapes and angles of the buildings and roads and sidewalks and more. At night there is always one more element, the unusual effects of artificial light on the scene. The light can be wildly diverse: Greenish from fluorescent lamps, yellow from sodium vapor, warm and saturated from tungsten, almost like daylight though perhaps cooler from LEDs, and occasionally the colors of dusk or the moon.

LED lighting, while wonderfully efficient, is not so wonderful for night photography. Since it mirrors the color balance of daylight so closely it takes away all of those color shadings. Some times it almost makes a night photograph look like day! I made this photograph shortly after I met up with a group of other photographers to walk through this section of San Francisco. At first I was focused in small things — windows, doorways, colorful business signs. As we descended one side street we passed this somewhat nondescript building, but in the nighttime light the interior glowed with an oddly colored light.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Couple, Night

Couple, Night
A couple out for the night in San Francisco

Couple, Night. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A couple out for the night in San Francisco

Although it is not particularly apparent in this photograph, one of the things I like about photographing at night is the way that the darkness, lit by multiple artificial light sources, becomes magical. You’ll never see shadows like those on the wall behind this couple in sunlight! This light, and the responses to the night of the people who are out and about, make the nighttime environment very different from the daytime world, and places that might be mundane in daylight can become special at night.

This must have been a quick and spontaneous photograph… because I don’t even remember making it, much less precisely where I was! I think I may have been along Grant Street somewhere below Chinatown and getting closer to Union Square. In all likelihood, I saw the two of them and quickly lifted the camera to make an exposure and kept walking. I love the expression on the woman’s face.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Man With Flag

Man With Flag
A man with a flag organizes a group of tourists on a San Francisco street

Man With Flag. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A man with a flag organizes a group of tourists on a San Francisco street

I think this is another “there’s more going on here than you might first realize” photographs. Yes, there is a man marching out of this store carrying a small flag, but why? The answer to that question is pretty easy — he is apparently leading a group of tourists through this part of San Francisco, and the flag is his way of letting them know who to follow. (You’ll see this phenomenon in almost any city or other area that is popular with tourists.) But there is something else interesting — at last to me — about this photograph. Many of the people in the scene have apparently just become aware of me and are looking my direction, apparently not quite certain how to respond just yet. (I’m discreet, so I probably didn’t have the camera to my face, and it isn’t a large camera.)

Pools of light like this one are prime spots for me when shooting urban areas at night. I love the way the light spills out onto the sidewalk, creating shadows leading away from the people. I can also play with this light. I might shoot straight into it and make shadow the main subject. Or I can sometimes get just a bit between the subjects and the light, and then it can light them quite beautifully, especially when there are multiple light sources. If I recall correctly, it was the light and then the bricks that first caught my eyes here, and then when the people appeared in the doorway the photograph was complete.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Asian Styles

Asian Styles
People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

Asian Styles. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

At about this time last year I made an important “discovery during a trip to Manhattan” — with newer cameras I can photograph at high enough ISOs that it is possible (and even easy) to do handheld night street photography. And since I use a small mirrorless camera for street photography, I can even do this sort of photography without carrying around a big camera and lenses. I’ve long been a night photographer, but generally the type to sets up a tripod and approaches this genre more or less the same way I approach landscape photography, but with longer exposures. Much longer! But this new development is tremendously liberating. Using a large aperture prime I can walk around and spontaneously respond to what I see, and I can capture brief and ephemeral moments in the wild and beautiful light of the urban night.

This photograph exemplifies one way that I’ve always shot street photography, though now adapted to the night. I begin by finding an interesting bit of urban landscape — buildings, light, color, texture, form. I find a composition that will work… and then I wait. Sometimes the wait is brief and sometimes it is long. I wait for people to populate this “landscape,” and to ideally configure themselves into some interesting combination. Since I don’t pose these photographs, I have to react quickly and take whatever the street serves up. This time it served up something special, I think. The storefront itself first got my attention, with its brightly colored merchandise, the light spilling out onto the sidewalk, the aqua windows on the left margin, and the red and yellow vending machine on the right. The small group of people just to the right of the doorway were my first target, and I think I have a photograph of just them taken shortly before this one. But very soon a wonderful and unpredictable conjunction occurred as the man walked out through the store doorway, the woman in blue passed in front of the vending machine, and the two men with the crying child in a stroller passed the store, followed by the woman with the bag.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Old Tracks, San Francisco Bay

Old Tracks, San Francisco Bay
Abandoned railroad tracks on a pier along the shore of San Francisco Bay

Old Tracks, San Francisco Bay. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Abandoned railroad tracks on a pier along the shore of San Francisco Bay

I made this photograph of a gray and foggy morning along the San Francisco waterfront, an hour or two before the sunlight began to break through the gloom. I ambled along this area of the waterfront, an area that is rapidly changing as this pressure for growth and upgrading increases here, and I poked my nose into any odd little alley or side-walk that I could find. This one turns out to not be all that obscure, and it even has a relationship to photography.

The old tracks lead out onto the edge of a dilapidated pier. The Bay lies beyond and far in the distance the Oakland shoreline is barely visible.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

San Francisco Urban Buildings

San Francisco Urban Buildings
Worn and frequently painted front walls of urban San Francisco buildings

San Francisco Urban Buildings. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Worn and frequently painted front walls of urban San Francisco buildings

I have a few more in this urban/street photography set from a recent day spent photographing in San Francisco. I took the train to The City, headed north along the waterfront, then cut inland at Market Street before wandering up past Chinatown (avoiding Grant) and through North Beach before heading back to where I started. There is a lot to see on such a walk on a weekday in San Francisco!

Usually when I pass through the Chinatown area I forego the walk up touristy Grant Street, and instead cut across (and uphill!) to take smaller streets and to miss a lot of the usual stuff. There are lots of little nooks and crannies here, and the buildings offer diverse and sometimes wild visual treats. These buildings, which certainly look run down from the outside, present an incredible surface of textures and colors, much of which probably evolved by accident as people painted out the ubiquitous graffiti.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.