Category Archives: Photographs: Structures

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.

Lamp and Wire

Lamp and Wire
An electric wire and a rusty lamp attached to a weathered wall

Lamp and Wire. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An electric wire and a rusty lamp attached to a weathered wall

Here is another “poking around in alleys” photograph from San Francisco. I have been walking along this section of the Embarcadero with a camera for a number of years now. The San Francisco waterfront has always been a place of change, but these days things seem to be accelerating. Real estate in The City is becoming increasingly precious and increasingly costly, and there is a continuous transition from inexpensive work, living, and warehouse space to much more expensive and trendy uses, especially in waterfront and other special locations. The changes are closing in on the Embarcadero from both ends and even the middle — from the tourist areas of Pier 39 through the Ferry Building to the bustling area around AT&T Park and on into China Basin.

More and more of the oddball little forgotten places are discovered and eventually transformed. This little alley leads to a set of abandoned railroad tracks leading out onto one of the old piers. Some kind of business seems to have moved in, but the rough walls, worn paint, and functional construction remain. This bit of wood siding, with a rusty lamp and a funky bit of exterior wiring is subtly colored with fading paint, rust and wear from the foggy environment, and bit of blue coloration from being in shade.


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.

Alleyway Ladder

Alleyway Ladder
A wooden later climbs a concrete wall in a San Francisco alley

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

A wooden later climbs a concrete wall in a San Francisco alley

This is a photograph from one of my early morning forays into downtown San Francisco, trips that tend to become a bit more common this time of year. The first of “the season” was near the end of May. I started at the Caltrain Station, worked my way mostly along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building area, and then took a winding route off into the City.

I tend to walk slowly while working on these projects — stopping to look, to wait, and to poke my camera into odd little corners. Here I found the gate to a small alley open, and after watching a couple of people walk through on their way to a business in the back I followed. Just inside the gate was an old textured concrete wall with this wooden ladder leading up along its face, and the combination of the textured concrete, the form of the ladder, and the perspective convergence created an interesting abstraction.


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.

Bricks, Reflection

Bricks, Reflection
Bricks and water reflecting urban sky.

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

Bricks and water reflecting urban sky.

Walking up Market Street in San Francisco I was watching out for anything that could be photographically interesting — architecture, people, vehicles, light — when I looked down and saw this little vignette of… not much at all really. Perhaps someone had been cleaning the street earlier, and now a puddle of water covered some sidewalk bricks and flowed over the gaps between others.

I stopped, more or less in the middle of the sidewalk, likely forcing a few people to take a path around me or perhaps just wonder what I was photographing with my camera pointed straight down. What I saw was, first, the water itself. Then I saw the narrow vertical band of lighter tones, where there was a break between reflected buildings. I only paused for a moment to make a couple of exposures, and then I continued on.


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


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San Francisco Street Scene

San Francisco Street Scene
Walls, doors, gates, conduits, signs, trash containers, peeling paint, reflections along a San Francisco street

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

Walls, doors, gates, conduits, signs, trash containers, peeling paint, reflections along a San Francisco street

I’m indulging my fascination with street scenes once again today. This photograph comes from a morning spent walking across San Francisco late last week. I arrived early in the City by train, got off, and walked by an unplanned and mostly spontaneous route across downtown, across Chinatown, through North Beach, and almost to the touristy Pier 39 before looping back to my starting point on The Embarcadero to catch a train back home.

This is a familiar sort of San Francisco scene, especially to those who wander though the City of foot, though I could find similar spots in many other urban areas. In a world where we often see things that have been carefully designed and unified, spots like this seem to occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. It would be easy to walk past and not see it — I’ve certainly done so many times — but once I stop and look I’m often amazed at the density of visually dissonant elements that are thrown together. Almost everything seem like it was initially utilitarian, but gradually a sort of near randomness seems to have crept in, and now the colors are wild and contrasting, paint is peeling, textures are varied, a few signs intrude, trash cans lean against doorways, and the sidewalk tilts.


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


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Fence and Metal Wall

Fence and Metal Wall
The patterns of a fence and metal wall

Fence and Metal Wall. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The patterns of a fence and metal wall

In some ways there is not much to say about this photograph and in some ways there should be much to say about it. But that’s never stopped me before… While I could say more about the subject and the circumstances of the photograph, I don’t think it is that important to do so. I’ll limit myself to saying that I made the photograph while walking through part of San Francisco and that it lies somewhere between being a “quick snap” (which it isn’t) and an image I completely understood at the moment I made it (it isn’t quite that either).

I’ve recently read some (occasionally odd) online discussions of minimalism in photography — what it is and what it isn’t. My ideas about minimalism are only partially based on visual concepts of the “ism,” and more based on my experience with musical minimalism, which I’ve known about for quite a long time. In a sense there are two threads that may ultimately arrive at a similar place. One simply tries to create an image (or other sound/visual object) from as little content as possible. Another may include denser content but rather the representing real things in an objective way it presents patterns or processes to the viewer/listener. (Composer Steve Reich’s concept comes to mind: “Music as a gradual process.”) In both cases I think the object encourages the viewer listener to look past the (often minimal) surface content of the work and into the material and structure of the thing. How it works might be more important than what it is.


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


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Stone Steps

Stone Steps
Stone steps in front of a San Francisco building

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

Stone steps in front of a San Francisco building

I sometimes wonder how it is that I enjoy such different photographic subject. Photographing natural subjects seems so different from photographing the constructed world of the city. In some ways, shooting in the urban landscape exercises different parts of my visual system than shooting in the natural world, and it encourages me to photograph in ways I might not try much in my landscape photograph. To some extent I always regard photography as a kind of hunting, and I’m on the prowl for things that are visually interesting. Those are available in abundance in the city, especially when it comes to interesting geometries and wild colors. In the city I virtually always work on foot and without a tripod, quickly spotting and photographing subjects and then moving on. The quickness of the work fine tunes my ability to see.

There was no particular plan that took me here this time — I was following a relatively random route across The City, dictated by whims, which direction had the green light, and whatever seemed interesting. Starting at the CalTrain station, I worked my way along the Embarcadero and then heading up Market before cutting north and following a wandering route through Chinatown (studiously avoiding Grant), though part of North Beach and then nearly to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area. I have walked past and photographed this building before, and I may have even photographed the steps, though in a very different way.


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.