February 21, 2021
Earlier in February I went for a walk in San Francisco. I had been cooped up for so long at home, following the shelter in place guidelines for avoiding COVID 19, that I grabbed my face-mask and camera and drove to SF for a walk. This walk would be different from my walks around the neighborhood, or my wanderings in the local regional parks.
I had recently purchased a new lens for my Leica camera and I wanted to try it out. It was a wide angle lens and I wondered how it would perform in the canyons and lanes of the San Francisco financial district. All of the photos in this post were taken with this new lens. The lens is a Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH Safari edition. That’s a mouthful of a name for a very fine camera lens.
It was a beautiful day with sunshine, blue skys, and white puffy clouds. It was February 3, only 24 hours after Groundhog Day, and it felt like spring was already in the air. Looking up I could see blue sky, but down at street level all was dim, shadows, and almost twilight. It was a day of contrasts; light and dark, sunshine and shade, brightness and shadow, color and black and white. I walked around for several hours, seeing almost no-one. Even though it was a Wednesday, only an occasional walker appeared. At times it felt like I had the whole city to myself.
Many of the skyscrapers have a stark, almost overwhelming beauty about them. One can feel the eminsity of their presence when looking up at them from the street level. The majesty and sheer weight of such a construction, framed against the blue sky, can make one feel small and insignificant in comparison. Looking down, I saw the patterns built into the sidewalks of the city. Beauty above and beauty below.
On this day the streets were empty and the curbside seating for restaurants and cafes looked strange when no one was around. A lonely picture. There was not much activity in the big city on this mid-week day.
I’m not sure which I like best: color photos or balck and white? I’ve included some of both here. There is something about a black and white photo that almost captures the soul of the object in the picture, if skyscrapers even have a soul, that is.
This black and white photo above shows the Sales Force Building, the tallest skyscraper in SF, in the background. Actually, the Sales Force Tower in San Francisco is taller than the Wilshire Grand of Los Angeles if decorative spires are excluded.
I love the reflection seen in this building. I think the building is called the Lumina ll. At 400 feet tall and 38 floors it is a residential condominium project built in 2015. It looks like it is made of glass, and ties with the skyscraper at 100 Van Ness Avenue for the honor of the 55th tallest building in San Francisco.
A friend of mine who I meet with in the printmaking studio at Walnut Creek Civic Arts works for a Bay Area graphics design company. He worked on designing this address sculpture for the building at 1 California Street. When I see him in the printmaking open studio he is working on designs for block prints.
The large red letters in the sculpture are quite impressive. This is looking up at the skyscraper from the bottom of the sculpture.
Another black and white photo of reflections off a glass skyscraper. I wonder which you like best; the black and white photos or the color ones?
Many of the buildings can reflect images in their windows. The futuristic Transamerica Pyramid building is seen reflected in the many windows of this glass and cement skyscraper in the Market Center complex. The famous Pyramid is the second-tallest skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline.
Above, light and shadow play on the beautiful columns of the Old Federal Reserve Bank. The building is now called the Bently Reserve.
The Phelan Building at Market and O’Farrell Streets in the financial district of San Francisco is a unique landmark. It is an 11 story office building. It was built in 1908 on the site of the original Phelan Building that was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Here is a self portrait taken with my Leica M10P through a storefront glass to a mirror.
This final picture is definitely better in color than black and white. I waited for awhile before taking the picture, but no-one walked by to be in the photo, so I just snapped the shot anyway. Coming across this graffiti lifted my spirits a bit. Love and beauty are where you find them.
Being in the stark cold canyons of the big city made me think of that wonderful song by John Hartford: In Tall Buildings. Click on the link below to watch and hear an exquisite musical performance of one of his greatest songs. The song is sad, indeed, but nevertheless a fitting end to my mind-boggling day in the canyons of San Francisco.