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Every year for the holidays there's a special treat in San Francisco: several of the buildings outline themselves in lights and a light on top of the Transamerica Building is turned on. It makes for a very beautiful cityscape! The best time to photograph the city skyline is at "Blue Hour" -- that half hour after the sunsets when there's still some color in the sky but all the harsh light from the sun is gone. Unfortunately the Transamerica Building wasn't turning their crown jewel on until blue hour had ended and the sky was dark.

Through some sleuthing I was able to get in touch with someone at the Transamerica Building and request that the Beacon be turned on an hour early on this particular evening. Everything seemed to be in place for the blue hour shot and Willie, Andy and I left work early and drove into the city. We met up with Alan and made our way over to Pier 7.

The lights along the Embarcadero Center buildings came on before the sun had even set. If the Beacon atop the Transamerica Building would come on we'd be in luck for a great night. We setup our cameras along the pier and waited for the light to come on. And waited. And waited. 5pm came and went. Turns out that the guy who was supposed to turn the light on at 5pm forgot and it didn't come on until 6pm, well past Blue Hour. With a little blending you get the idea of what we were hoping would happen naturally.

Interestingly Pier 7 is apparently too close to the Transamerica Building for the light on top to turn into a nice light-star like the rest of the lights in my composition. Stand further away from the Transamerica Building and you get a beautiful star.

I chose a slightly off-symmetrical composition so I could include the outlined Embarcadero Center buildings.

Nikon D800 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S:
24mm, f/11, 13 sec, ISO 160
No Filters, No HDR

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