Golden Gate Bridge at Night


San Francisco, California, USA

The north side of the Golden Gate Bridge has several places to stop and view the bridge, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Bay area in general. This particular shot is taken from the Marin Headlands. A windy road named Conzelman Road follows somewhat near the shoreline on the northern side of the bridge, leading up some hills. Along this road are several stops with spectacular views (and limited parking).

If you visit the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping along this road to take in the views is a must in my opinion. Beyond just the bridge itself, the panoramic view stretches for miles on a clear night. I have two other panoramas from the same area, a 3x1 pano and a a 6x1 pano, that can help give you sense of what I mean. However, no photograph really does the view justice. Even that pano is just a fraction of the overall view.

Beyond just being able to see the bridge itself, the entire northern side of San Francisco is visible. After sunset comes and goes, the entire shore lights up with the glow of the city. The city of Oakland is also visible in the distance.

When the wind is blowing from the west, the air is fresh of the Pacific Ocean. An night especially, it can get quite chilly, so make sure to check the weather to see if a jacket is warranted.

This photograph was taken just after sunset. There is a low-level layer of clouds slightly obscuring the top of each tower. There is a soft glow at the top of each tower within this cloud layer as light from atop each tower is scattered by the mist. The photograph itself is 36 megapixels at full size. The long exposure causes the lights from the cars crossing the bridge to form streaks along the road.

The Bay Area, Northern California

The area around the San Francisco Bay, is commonly referred to as the "San Francisco Bay Area," or just the "Bay Area" for short. This includes San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Silicon Valley, Mountain View, Berkeley, Napa, and many other notable locations. There really is no clear definition of the Bay Area, with different people defining different boundaries. I have heard a few different definitions myself while living here.

The Golden Gate Bridge

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is probably one of the most photographed bridges in the world. There are certainly no shortage of photos of this bridge. Doing a quick image search on Google will show you exactly what I mean. That said, I am a photographer living in the Bay Area. As such, I have a few of my own to contribute to the growing pile, and this photo is one of them.

The Golden Gate Bridge spans the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The bridge connects San Francisco (southern end) and Sausalito (northern end) along the scenic California State Route 1.

Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography, as the name implies, simply refers to photographs taken with relatively long exposure times. Typically, the photographer wishes to capture the movement of one or more elements within a scene over the course of the exposure. The resulting photograph then reflects this movement in some way. This technique can be used to create various effects, and thus is a useful technique for photographers to know.

Taking long exposure photographs can be a bit tricky. First and foremost, the photographer needs to imagine what is going to happen in the scene over time and how that will affect the final result. There are several technical aspects to take into account as well.

As with all forms of photography, managing the light in a photograph is important. Long exposure times can add yet another layer of complexity to lighting. Not only does the light build up over a longer period of time, but it may also move around and/or change in intensity. The exposure settings on the camera also govern how the movement will be captured, including how much overall movement is captured and how much each element of the scene contributes to the final image. Many factors, such as how bright an object is, how reflective it is (e.g. glossy vs matte), how fast it is moving, the use of flashes, and so on, all play a role in how an object will show up in a long exposure photograph.

Secondary effects, such as camera shake and sensor noise, have a higher chance of affecting long exposure photographs as well. Digital camera sensors tend to generate more noise when they are exposed for longer periods of time. Camera shake can become a factor as well. Even small, subtle movements can affect the sharpness of the image. For example, cameras are commonly placed near roadways when photographing the light trails created by cars driving at night. Vibrations caused by those cars can subtly and constantly shake the camera, introducing a slight blur in the final photograph.

More examples of long exposure photographs that I have taken can be found here.