San Francisco photo expedition

Discussion in 'Geographic Location' started by Dave Krueger, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    I'm planning a walking tour and photo expedition to San Francisco in September, but as my trip approaches, I keep coming across more and more stories like this:

    http://www.lbpost.com/life/greggory/12188

    and this:

    http://www.local10.com/video/28263478/index.html

    Interestingly, while I tend to shoot architecture and urbanscapes, I actually took some pictures of a mother and daughter at a playground when I was last in San Francisco a couple decades ago. You can bet I won't be doing that again.

    The last time I was in New York I was harassed by a building security guard who told me to stop shooting pictures of a Manhattan office building from the sidewalk out in front. As we all know, being in the right doesn't necessarily protect you from someone who insists you're wrong.

    So, while I've been excited about the upcoming trip, I now find myself dreading a encounter with someone who is anxiously trying to prevent the next 9/11 by challenging anyone with a camera. Are the days of artistic cityscape photography behind us? Is it worth the hassle anymore? Even more importantly, I'd be interested in what kind of experiences people have been having in San Francisco lately.
     
  2. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I really, really strongly doubt that you'll have any issue anywhere in San Francisco Come and enjoy or wonderful city. :smile:
     
  3. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Long Beach is a place with a strong military presence and history. I imagine that this affects police behavior and attitudes, and that the locations where a 'diligent' officer could use their power expand immensely in such an environment.

    It's been 5 years or more since I've had any building security approach me in San Francisco. Know your rights, know when you are on public land, know to ask them if you are on their property. Beyond a little mental preparation, I'd be really surprised if you have any problems. I do both birding and photography across the city, so I often have both binoculars and a camera while in port areas, near schools, parks, etc.

    As a matter of course, I do not shoot children in public without explicit engagement and permission from an adult. If I was going to photograph at a playground, I would engage parents and such beforehand, etc. It is a drag, of course, that such paranoia has become accepted, but in this case I go along with the dominant mood.

    San Francisco is full of tourists. People have cameras everywhere. If you ever feel that someone is confronting you needlessly, go into 'innocent tourist' mindset and it will all be fine. If you have a Southern accent, even better! Play it up. When I want to shoot in the street downtown, I put on a touristy outfit, and I can do almost anything. Wear a sweatshirt that says 'San Francisco' on it and you have the closest thing to diplomatic immunity you will probably ever experience.

    Depending on what kind of camera you are using, learn a bit about various neighborhoods. There are few truly dangerous areas, but there are places where I don't like being alone carrying a few hundred or thousands dollars worth of easily-transported materials.

    Tons of 'youngsters' (20-30 year olds) think film is cool. Most conversations will be about your camera, film, etc., not about whether you should be arrested or not. Be respectful of parents' concerns, be curious and polite to others, and have a good time.
     
  4. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    Don't worry about San Francisco, I don't know of anyone having any problems at all. I know hundreds of local photographers and have never heard of any problems. Just bring a sweater, we never really got a summer this year! If you do come to SF, feel free to stop in and say hi:

    https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Glass-Key-Photo/119199231470385
     
  5. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    tjaded, remind me to tell you some stories next time I see you, including just a block from your shop. If nothing else, you'll be reminded that one should never say never :smile:
     
  6. Monito

    Monito Member

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    San Francisco is geared for tourists with cameras and has a fine tradition of the arts. Very different from Oakland which has a tradition of higher crime and hardly any tourists or photogenicity in comparison. I never had a problem in SF, but even that is not much of an anecdotal data point.

    Long Beach is hundreds of miles to the south. The police chief there is inviting lawsuits and litigation for violation of the Bill of Rights. I hear southern California would be very nice except for the simian infestation.
     
  7. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    I may do that. Do you sell film? I plan to ship my film out to the hotel and then ship it back, but I would like to have a backup plan in case the film gets lost.

    I assume I would be walking up Market street to get to you. Is that a pretty safe area? My past experiences in SF have been all good. I have always traipsed around (usually sticking to Market Street and areas north) feeling pretty safe.
     
  8. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    The sweatshirt sounds like an excellent idea.

    Any advice you have in that regard would be greatly appreciated. I plan to make a map showing the Starbucks, Fedex places, and film stores. It would be nice to be able to mark up a map with areas to steer clear of. I was stationed on Treasure Island in the 70s and have been there a few times since, doing the walking photo expedition thing, but places change over time and, while I plan to stick mostly to the core of the city, I won't be focusing on tourist areas like Pier 39, etc.
     
  9. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    San Francisco has a coffee house on almost every block, almost all of which have free wifi and bathrooms. You'll find some parts of town have no Starbucks at all.

    As to where to avoid, I think this depends on a combination of what equipment you will be carrying and what your comfort level is. What kind of things do you want to photograph, what times of day do you shoot, and what equipment will you be carrying? For example, there are few blocks in the Tenderloin where I would hesitate to use a view camera in the early morning without someone along to keep an eye out when under the dark cloth. I've been told a few different store clerks to watch my TLR in the Haight-Ashbury (Upper Haight), which shows how well I can pass for a tourist when I want :smile:

    Well, this is all minor and not meant to make you fearful at all. It's America, it's a city that has yet to clear out everyone making less than $150,00 a year despite the best efforts of a certain sector. It's hard to know what advice to give someone. People have different expectations and different types of street smarts.

    You might check with tjaded at Glass Key and see if buying the film here makes sense. Save shipping it out, just pick it up from his fridge when you get here?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2011
  10. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    After dark you need to be a bit careful about some neighborhoods. Also, watch out you don't get run over by the traffic!

    Jon
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    The area as a tourist I'd be most worried about would be the Tenderloin at most times of the day, and the Polk Street area after dark. Although it's safe for you personally, do exercise caution when you're in the area around the Calumet store (21st and Bryant) as it is still gentrifying and cars do get broken into if you leave things sitting out in view. The Mission district looks rougher than it actually is, but still exercise reasonable caution. Paranoia is not needed. Chinatown is a great area for urban shooting, as is North Beach. If you want to see some parts of town that are very reflective of the "real" San Francisco without looking like postcards, take a drive out Geary Boulevard heading west from downtown. You'll pass through a number of ethnic enclaves including Russian, Greek, Vietnamese and Korean communities. If you want a break from the urban stuff, when you're at the end of Geary Boulevard, just before you get to Cliff House, turn in to the parking lot on the right and take the trail leading away from Geary Boulevard (Land's End trail). You'll walk along the cliff heads with an amazing view out over the Pacific, and maybe 3/4 of a mile or so along, there will be a set of stairs that lead down to the Land's End beach. You can get a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the beach that will be very different from what you're used to seeing. Just a word of caution - Lands End Beach is used by nudists in good weather - that said in the half-dozen times I've been to it, I've only ever seen one person sunbathing nude, and they were being harmless just sitting there. Also worth the trek across the GGB are the WWI/WWII era fortifications in the Marin Headlands portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
     
  12. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    I will be carrying only 35mm equipment on this rip, so I will obviously look more touristy than someone wih a view camera. :smile: When I shot a few test pictures of a local fire station with my 4x5 Cambo several years ago, I'm pretty sure they thought I was setting up a rocket launcher. I got their permission before hand and they still came out to see what the heck I was planning to do. haha!

    Anyway, I will be carrying a shoulder style gadget bag with two bodies and three lenses. I will also have a very light weight tripod and monopod that I may carry with me on occasion. I will be taking some infrared film with me which will need the tripod. I've heard that cops judge whether you're a pro versus amateur by whether you're carrying a tripod and they have apparently been known to enforce rules against commercial photography without a permit.

    I remember hearing stories on the news about SF's terrible crime rate in the late 70s and still never really felt threatened, so I'm not anticipating too much trouble. My concern now has shifted to cops and security guards being the most likely interference. On a recent walking trip around Nashville, I wasn't harassed at all (even around the federal courthouse). I was almost hit by cars three times, though (and that's when I was in the crosswalk and the light sad "walk").
     
  13. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    If you look and act like a tourist in San Francisco, you will will find that the probability of getting struck by a car while crossing the street much higher than that of being hassled by police. In fact, crossing the street maybe the only real danger in the city.
     
  14. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    watch out for cars, trucks, buses, trolleys, skaters and bikes!

    Jon
     
  15. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    I've never had a problem with a tripod on sidewalks. All in all, with iPhones and Holgas and tourists and a big 'Art' school downtown, you can do most anything. I've seen students shooting films laying dolly tracks all over the place with people just going around. Don't block the full sidewalk, watch for people in wheelchairs and such, and keep an eye on dogs mistaking a tripod leg for a tree.

    Speaking of which, keep your eye out for dog poop.

    And watch for bicyclists and cars. I'm not sure which is worse- cars do more damage, but there are more bicyclists doing dangerous moves. Just approach any intersection as if you are playing Asteroids- flying objects can come from any direction at any moment. DO NOT blindly trust things like 'WALK' signs and traffic lights. Too many people take them as mere suggestions.

    Not sure when you were last here. SOMA has changed a lot in the last few years ('South Beach' is simply a real estate creation, still SOMA). Valencia Street and Dolores Park have a lot of life, albeit a rather narrow 'ecological niche.' Walking Market St. to Haight, up to Glass Key for some film (and music), over to Divisadero and then down the Panhandle to the Park or Upper Haight (Haight-Ashbury) would be a nice stroll. Crissy Field in the Presidio has become quite a nice promenade. Starting at the end of the Fishermen's Wharf tourist area, the National Maritime Museum's ship collection at Aquatic Park is nice, Fort Mason has a great community garden tucked into the middle of the upper area, the walk to the Palace of Fine Arts (recently restored, with Barn Owls just fledging) and along the Marina Green and Crissy Field is nice, and Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge is a great building and location.
     
  16. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    If someone started harassing me about taking pictures - first thing I'd tell them is to stop harassing or else I'm going to report them to the police...
     
  17. BradS

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    again...I just cannot imagine anybody harassing you about photographing anything in San Francisco....watch for cars, bikes and dog poo...for sure.
     
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Alas, Harvey Milk, you are missed. Dog poo was the issue that got him elected! Now that he's been dead I guess the city has lapsed in its vigilance. Then again, it's nowhere near as bad as it is in Buenos Aires, which has more dog poop on the sidewalks than the Korean DMZ has landmines.
     
  19. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    Geez! I thought you guys were kidding about the dog poop.
     
  20. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    I wish I was kidding about the dog poop. Man, do I wish.....

    There are more dogs than children in SF. There are people with bumper stickers saying, 'I have a dog. And I vote.' The dog poop on the sidewalk is just the tip of the pile! And quite a huge pile it is, on all sides.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2011
  21. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    Dave--
    I'm not too far off of Market Street:

    http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=m&lat=37...haight street san francisco, ca&gid1=21361608



     
  22. tjaded

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    Uh oh, sounds interesting!


     
  23. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    Thanks. I already looked up your location. I may drop by while I'm there. I plan to fedex my film out and fedex the exposed film back. Since I do it through work, it's pretty easy (and cheap) to ship it out and have a preprinted return shipping label to ship it back. I don't anticipate any problems, but if it gets lost, I will definitely be needing a place to buy film.