Willie and I have been wanting to take the (now popular) San Francisco skyline photo from under the Bay Bridge for a while now. The photo is much much nicer during the holiday time when 17,000 lights outlining the Embarcadero Center buildings are turned on and a bright white light (called The Beacon) is turned on at the Transamerica Building (the triangular building). Willie checked the webcams a couple nights earlier in the week and it looked like The Beacon was on, and I got confirmation from a friend in the city that it was also on (although, she described it as a "blinking light" -- I should have known this was bad information … read more about that).

We left work early and headed out to Treasure Island with plenty of time to find parking, hike up the hill, find "the spot" and then get setup. Unfortunately when US-101 and I-280 merged we hit the HUGE Friday afternoon holiday traffic. We arrived at Treasure Island much much later than planned (almost an hour later), had to high tail it up the hill and over the Bay Bridge (we were both sweating pretty badly), got yelled at by a big CalTrals truck and eventually found the spot. We scouted out the area for a while, found our shooting locations and then waited for the light to get nice.

When I originally composed this image I wanted to make the SF Cityscape as large as possible -- unfortunately that meant that I clipped off some of the lights on the Bay Bridge. Once it got dark enough I realized that I really did want to include the extra light on the Bridge and I had zoom out and recompose to get this final composition.

Luckily for us there was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL sunset that night, which makes the photo much more interesting. As the sun went down we could start making out the lights on the buildings, first some random window lights, then the Embarcadero Center building outlines, and then a light on top of the Transamerica Building. A light … a red blinking light … NOT the white BEACON we were hoping for. In fact, The Beacon never showed up for us :( We still came away with a great shot but both Willie and I felt jipped because The Beacon is the icing on the cake of this classic shot. We're going to have to re-attempt it another time :(

Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S:
42mm, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 125
No filters, NOT an HDR (all from 1 exposure)

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