I can’t even remember the last time I visited San Francisco, at least 15+ years! It’s been on my list for a number of reasons…it’s been too long, it’s such a unique city, and I’ve been meaning to scout it in hopes of doing a photo workshop there. With Covid the last couple of years, everything has been put on hold. But a great personal experience had me visiting and I figured now was the time to spend a couple of days exploring the city’s architecture.

I’ll do a little recap of the locations I visited and some of the stops we’ll make on a workshop later this summer (save the date for Aug 20-21!). Plus, I’ll do some additional posts of individual locations that I made a lot of shots from over the next couple of weeks…stay tuned.

Alright, here we go!

My first architectural stop was the de Young Museum designed by Herzog & de Meuron. This will unlikely be a part of the workshop, it’s a bit off the beaten path in terms of everything else we’ll shoot, but if you’re visiting, it’s a worthwhile stop. Both for the art and the design. The architects chose materials, specifically the copper facade, to blend into its natural environment. Most obviously the trees as the copper turns green over time, plus the porous nature of the facade representing light filtering through the trees. As you see below, it hasn’t really begun to oxidize, but you get the idea.

My first couple of days there were pretty cloudy, so unusual for SF, but you work with what you have. Plus, those whiteout skies can be great for negative space and creating soft, even light on your subjects.

Yerba Beuna was the next area I explored, it’s full of museums, a park and lots of great design. Starting in Yerba Buena Park, I loved the textured, sculptural wall of the Martin Luther Kind Jr. Memorial.

Looking beyond, there’s the very post-modern design of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. While post-modernism is not my favorite, these patterns were fun to shoot.

So, I should have done some better research because both of the museums I wanted to visit were closed – Daniel Libeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum and Snøhetta’s San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). I was thinking rainy day, good spots to get inside. Oh well, I’ll be back soon and the interiors of these museums will definitely be part of the workshop. In the meantime, here’s a shot of the exterior of SFMOMA, the foreground being the original 1995 design by Mario Botta and the background by Snøhetta + a detail shot of only the Snøhetta section on the backside.

You see the choice to do a lot of black & white, very typical when the days are rainy and overcast.

Just around the corner of the backside of SFMOMA is this Art Deco gem, the PacBell building. The lobby is stunning.

As I wandered to my next location, I saw a couple of Urban Quilt-like scenes.

Next up, the Salesforce Transit Center designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. The most fun aspect of the design is the wavy facade (rotated 90 degrees, because I just thought it looked better this way).

There’s also this really great rooftop garden with some elevated views of the surrounding buildings. I had fun creating some high-key versions of 181 Fremont Street designed by Heller Manus Architects, the tallest residential building on the west coast.

One more view of that wavy facade and some of the surrounding buildings…

Onto The Avery, another design by OMA and another impressive residential high rise. Love the stepped pattern.

Just across the street, an unplanned find, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Not something one would expect to want to photograph but there’s this little park/sitting area outside of it with this fantastic concrete sculptural wall and benches.

Now for one of my favorite locations of the week, Mira by Studio Gang Architects. Also, another residential tower. This has been on my list to photograph since I first saw they were building this here. The sculptural quality of the facade is mesmerizing. I’ll be doing a separate post with more takes on this, but for now, here’s my favorite.

On my way to the Ferry Terminal, another unplanned find, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco designed by John Portman. While this brutalist design is a fun one from the exterior, the patterns are fantastic…

…the interiors are the most fun. Not only the impressive, open lobby.

But there’s this incredible sculpture inside called Sphere created by Charles O. Perry. It’s gold and is lit with lights that alternate colors making for endless options. Whether you include the interior building design for a bit of context…

…or isolate more individual elements of the sculpture…

…or have some fun with intentional camera movement (ICM).

This sculpture is another subject I’ll be doing a separate post on. So fun!

Moving onto something more traditional, The Palace Hotel. The lobby chandeliers and the archways are impressive.

Now for some incredible Art Deco design, the lobby of 450 Sutter Street.

Next, I wanted to shoot this spiral staircase interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright building but it’s a luxury store that requires appointments to enter. So, an exterior shot will have to do.

That was the end of a long, rainy, but fantastic day of shooting. Then, I finally had some sun and we’re off to one of my other favorite locations of the trip, The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption designed by Pietro Belluschi. We’ll be spending a lot of time here on the workshop, both inside and out. Here are just a few shots of this. Again, a separate post coming soon 🙂

Just across the street from the church is another residential tower, Carillon Tower, with fun patterns. Color and B&W for comparison.

Nearby, the Japantown Peace Pagoda.

Time to visit Nob Hill briefly. I wanted to get inside Grace Cathedral but it was locked, so the exteriors it was. Nice patterns. In this instance, the sunlight sure helps in creating some drama.

Across the street is The Chambord, a beautiful residential building. I could live here 😉

And the final architecture share from this visit, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. I shot it from both the northwest side with the city as background and then from the southeast side midday.

While I was visiting, the Fort Point National Historic Site was open so I wandered around there as well. Great shadow play and drama.

Again, I will have a separate post on the Bridge since I took so many shots of it.

In regards to a workshop, I still need to figure out how we’ll best approach this because there are a number of different vantage points that give different perspectives on this. Might be one entire day or half-day exploring just the bridge from different areas 🙂 But, we’ll get some great shots of this!

Now, for something not at all typical of me. I spent a few days in Carmel and Big Sur. So, why not share a few of the nature shots I made there. Sometimes it’s fun to break out of the normal subject matter and shoot something else. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this little tour! Be on the lookout for those individual posts plus some revisits over the next few months leading up to the August workshop dates.

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