Credits: Go California, Thomas Hawk, Stuck in Customs
The original town that became San Francisco huddled on the edge of Yerba Buena Cove, named for wild mint (good herb) growing nearby, where the first European resident pitched his tent in 1835. The first mayor changed the town's name in 1848 and San Francisco was born, its 469 residents including Ohlone Indians, Americans, Spanish Californians, Hawaiians, Europeans, South Americans and New Zealanders.
After James Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848, the world poured into San Francisco. By 1852, the city swelled to almost 35,000 inhabitants. The gold rush transformed a fishing village into the internationally-famous city of San Francisco almost overnight and today, San Francisco's 49 square miles are home to over 800,000 people.
For over 150 years, San Francisco has been a magnet for fortune-seekers, immigrants, artists and poets. Guarded by the famous bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the city by the bay is famous for its diverse citizenry, Victorian architecture, iconic San Francisco cable cars and scenic views - and for its fog. San Francisco's summer fog rushes in on ocean breezes as the city's cool air moves toward warmer places inland. San Franciscans make friends with the fog, and when the Coast Guard removed the bay's last foghorn, cries of protest soon brought it back.
The country's first Chinese immigrants came to San Francisco in 1848. In an act typical of San Francisco's mixing of cultures, the Japanese Hagiwara family invented "Chinese" fortune cookies at Golden Gate Park's Tea Garden, and at Chinatown's Ross Alley fortune cookie factory, a Rube Goldberg-like contraption turns them out by the dozens.
A city built on 43 hills will surely have steep, curving streets. Vermont Avenue between 22nd and 23rd is "crookedest," and Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth is steepest at 31.5 degrees, but neither fact discourages tourists from flocking to Lombard Street's seductive curves.
San Francisco outlawed burials in 1901, and the Presidio and Mission have the city's only remaining cemeteries. The dead are in neighboring Colma, making it the world's only incorporated city where the dead outnumber the living. Permanent residents of its 16 cemeteries include Wyatt Earp and Joe DiMaggio.
This stone, in the cemetery at Mission Dolores is one of the oldest there, marking the burial of the first Alcalde (Chief Administrator), first appointed while the area was under Mexican rule.
At Angel Island, the Ellis Island of the West, 175,000 Chinese immigrants and Japanese "picture brides" once waited to enter the country. Poems of hope they carved into the walls are still visible at Immigration Station.
San Francisco cable cars are the only moving National Historic Landmark, and 9.7 million people take a nine mile per hour ride on them each year. At the Cable Car Barn Museum, 500-horsepower electric motors turn the endless cable loops.
San Francisco has 215 historic landmark buildings, ten historical districts and 14,000 Victorian homes. From Alamo Square, the city skyline is a modern contrast to Victorian "postcard row."
Find out more about Victorian architecture and take a photo tour of them, including some fun locations you'll recognize from television and films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Party of Five and Full House.
Lands End views give The Thinker plenty to contemplate from his seat outside the Palace of the Legion of Honor, a replica of Paris' Palais de la Legion d'Honneur. The most beautiful of the city's 65 museums holds one of the world's most significant Rodin collections.
John C. Fremont named the San Francisco Bay's entrance "Chrysopylae" (Golden Gate) because it resembled Istanbul's Golden Horn. The Golden Gate Bridge, with 23 miles of ladders and 300,000 rivets in each tower, was the world's longest span when it opened in 1937. Seventeen iron workers and 38 painters constantly fight rust and renew the international orange paint on its 1.7-mile span.
Alcatraz means pelican in Spanish. The rocky pelican's island was a military fort before it became a prison. Today's resident deer mice, banana slugs and California slender salamanders aren't nearly as famous as former prisoners Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert "Birdman" Stroud. If you're dying to learn more, check out more facts about Alcatraz
Union Square is among the top four shopping areas in the nation. Boutiques, spas, galleries and San Francisco's only Frank Lloyd Wright building line nearby Maiden Lane, but it wasn't always so respectable. Once home to the lowest houses of prostitution, the former Morton Street was so depraved that even policemen hesitated to enter.
In 1850, gold seekers abandoned over 600 vessels in the bay. Some became landfill, now lying beneath the Jackson Square Historic District where the city's few surviving nineteenth century commercial buildings include Ghirardelli's first chocolate factory.
A.P. Hotaling & Co.'s Jackson Street whiskey warehouse was also among those surviving the 1906 earthquake and fire, confounding local clergymen who proclaimed the natural disaster a divine retribution for the city's sins and prompting poet and wit Charles Kellogg Field to write:
If, as they say, God spanked the town
For being over frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling's whiskey?
Mission Dolores (whose official name is Mission San Francisco de Asis) is the oldest building in San Francisco, built in 1791. Two major earthquakes couldn't topple it, but tiny powder post beetles almost did in 2000, chewing their way to international fame before they were stopped.
A U.S. President once lay in state in San Francisco City Hall, but President Warren G. Harding isn't the most notable of names associated with the Beaux Arts-style building whose dome is taller than the United States Capitol Building.
In 1954, baseball star Joe Di Maggio married movie star Marilyn Monroe at City Hall. The vows were said in the chambers of Judge Perry, a family friend who - in all the excitement - committed a regrettable oversight, forgetting to kiss the bride. And in 1978, former city supervisor Dan White assassinated Mayor Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk in an act that launched the famous "Twinkie defense."
What caused the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? How big was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? The San Andreas Fault ruptured along 296 miles of its length. People weren't measuring earthquakes with numbers in 1906, but for comparison, 25 miles ruptured in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and scientists say the 1906 quake was 16 times more powerful than 1989.
What time is it in San Francisco? San Francisco is in the Pacific time zone.
What county is San Francisco in? This one is easy. San Francisco is both city and county. Same borders, same government.
What does San Francisco mean? The city's name was taken from the Spanish mission, named for Saint San Francisco de Asis - Saint Francis in English.
San Francisco Population: 805,235 in 201
Size: 46.69 sq mi1
City Flower: Dahlia2
San Francisco was incorporated as a City on April 15th, 18503
Common Questions About San Francisco Answered
TOP 10 PLACES FOR PHOTOGRAPHY IN SAN FRANCISCO
One of the most common emails I get from readers is an email letting me know that they are coming to visit San Francisco and asking what I’d recommend that a visitor shoot while here on their trip.
With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a post today of what I feel are the top 10 not to be missed photographic sites to shoot while you visit.
To dig deeper into some of the things to shoot in the San Francisco Bay Area I’ve set up two collections on Flickr.
I’ve highlighted different views of the points of interest with links so that you can get a better idea what I’m talking about. Most images are geotagged so you should be able to find them pretty easily. If you can’t find a site for whatever reason, shoot me an email or comment and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.
So on with the list.
#1 The Golden Gate Bridge. This probably goes without saying, but the Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most photographed tourist spot in San Francico. That said, even as a local, I am constantly amazed at the shots I am able to get of the Bridge with each subsequent visit. There are four primary places that you should consider shooting the bridge from. The first one is simply to shoot on the bridge itself. I’d recommend both walking and having someone else drive while you shoot across the bridge. The three other spots I’d recommend shooting the bridge from are Fort Point (just under the bridge to the East), Baker Beach (a great beach West of the Bridge), and the Marin Headlines (many vista points just northwest of the bridge). There is also a spot just south of the bridge where you can get out of your car andshoot straight on at the bridge.
#2 Alcatraz. Not many things are more fun to shoot than abandoned old prisons. The best tip here is to reserve your ferry trip out to Alcatraz *early*. You will not be able to reserve a ride if you try and make your reservation when you are already here for your visit. Also I’d recommend making a reservation for a mid to late afternoon visit. This will give you an opportunity to shoot the prison during the day and after dark. The prison feels even spookier after dark and you can also get some great vista shots of San Francisco from the island (bring a tripod).
#3 Twin Peaks. At the top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco is one of the greatest vistas to shoot in the world. You can see the entire city of San Francisco as well as the Bay Bridge and Oakland. I find that this view is best shot at night. In addition to views of the City, City Hall, the Transamerica Building, downtown etc., there is an excellent far away view of the Golden Gate Bridge from this point as well as a great opportunity to shoot Sutro Tower.
#4 The Museums. The SF MOMA doesn’t allow photography in their galleries (shame on them) but you can still sneak photos here and there. The crown jewel for photographers in San Francisco though is the de Young. Although the de Young doesn’t allow tripods or backpacks (wear a photo vest), they do have an open policy towards photography. The other museum that you may want to visit is the Oakland Museum of California (currently under renovation so not 100% what it should be at present). You can take the BART over to the 12th Street BART station in Oakland and walk over to shoot the Oakland Museum of California. The Asian Art Museum allows photography as well and is a great shoot. There is also a great vintage arcade game musuem called Musee Mecanique in Fisherman’s Wharf.
#5 The Hotels. There are a number of hotels where you can get *great* overhead shots of San Francisco. Because hotels are fairly unrestrictive about who goes in and out, even if you are not a guest at a given hotel you can still gain access pretty easily to shoot.
The second hotel I’d recommend shooting from is the Financial District Hilton on Kearny. You’ll need to slip into the elevator with someone with a elevator key, but the views from the stairwell on the north side of the hotel are the best views of Coit Tower in the city.
The third hotel I’d recommend shooting from is the Fairmont Hotel which sits atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Take the elevator on the north west side of the hotel to the second floor from the top (the elevator won’t let you up to the Penthouse which is the Crown Room). Get off at the second from the top floor and make your way into the stairwell and use the employee service elevator to get to the top of the Crown Room (ignore the no trespassing signs). Usually it’s empty and you’ll have anamazing view atop the world all to yourself. I recommend shooting this pre and post sunrise.
The last hotel I’d recommend visiting is the Hyatt Grand Regency. Not only does this hotel have one of the most amazing modern interiors in the world of architecture, if you take the modernistic elevators up to as high a floor as you can you can sneak out the fire staircase on the east side of the hotel to get a spectacular view of the Bay and the Ferry Building. Make sure you prop this door open behind you as it locks and you’ll be stuck climbing down all the stairs if you don’t.
#5 Chinatown / North Beach. Chinatown and North Beach are comfortably close to each other by way of walking distances. Try walking up and down a few of the North to South streets in Chinatown (Grant, Stockton, Powell) to get some of the great neighborhood culture. After shooting Chinatown, make your way North to North Beach. There are some great night shots of the neon of the strip clubs on Broadway as well as great views in Washington Square Park of St. Peter and Paul church as well as beautiful views up at the top of Coit Tower.
#6 Haight Ashbury / Mission District. Not necessarily within walking distance, Haight Ashbury and The Mission are two of the best neighborhoods to shoot to see some of the best cultural sites in San Francisco. Both neighborhoods are rich with street art, graffiti and street murals and have lots of funky stores and art galleries where you can shoot the windows from the street. You’ll do best in the Haight sticking close to upper Haight Street itself. With regards to the Mission District I’d recommend shooting around Mission and 24th Streets. Especially pay attention to all of the little alleys shooting off of 24th Street and Mission itself. This is where you will find some of the best street art in San Francisco.
#7 City Hall. City Hall is one of the architectural high points of San Francisco. With unrestricted access to most of the floors of the building you can get several great vantage points to shoot the interior of the building. Bring a wide angle lens with you if you can. These shots work especially well there.
#8 The Ferry Building. Once a decrepited old rats maze of endless coridors of offices (if only I’d had more foresight back then to shoot them!), the San Francisco Ferry Building has transformed itself into a mecca for foodies. In it’s restoration it was also rebuilt to showcase the architectural beauty that it really is. Be sure and try to make your way up to the second floor and take the stairs just to the left of the grand staircase as you go up them. If you can act naturally enough like you work in the building you can squeak past the security guard and make your way up to a stunning interior walking bridge where you will get the best wide angled shots of the building of all. Try to visit the Ferry Building on one of the days (Tuesday and Saturday) where the farmer’s market is going on to get even more great shots.
#9 The Palace of Fine Arts / Exploratorium. The Palace of Fine Arts is a building in San Francisco originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It’s especially stunning at night. Be sure to try to shoot a bit under the dome of the building to get a shot that looks like this.
The Exploratorium is a science museum inside the Palace of Fine Arts building. Although especially great for kids, the museum also has lots of fun things for adults to shoot as well.
#10 The cemeteries. There are two cemeteries that I’d especially recommend shooting in San Francisco. Neither are particularly easy to get to, but if you like shooting dramatic cemeteries both are worth a visit.
The first is the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio. This is a large military cemetery with rows and rows and rows of identical grave markers. In addition to the stones themselves, there are dramatic views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio from the top of this cemetery.
The second cemetery I’d recommend visiting is Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.You’ll probably want to rent a car to get to this location as it’s not so convenient, but this cemetery has the most spectacular cemetery sculpture in the entire Bay Area. This cemetery is where the wealthiest in San Francisco’s days gone by were buried and has dramatic sculptures of angels especially. Don’t miss Crocker’s angel.
There are lots of other great places to shoot in and around San Francisco. Browse some of my collections for some other great spots and feel free to comment if you have questions on other spots to shoot.
Best Chinese Food in San Francisco: Henry’s Hunan (Downtown/Chinatown)
Best Mexican Food in San Francisco: La Taqueria (Mission District)
I found this spot in Stuck on Earth thanks to Thomas Hawk’s Top 50 Secret Spots in San Francisco. More are getting added all the time, and especially more soon with the upcoming release of Stuck on Earth 3.0!
SF would not be the same without the fog, would it? It’s part of the city, like the wind in Chicago. But the wind in Chicago kinda sucks, so I guess that is a bad analogy. Maybe a better one is it’s like the water in Venice or the neon in Vegas.
I took this photo from the top of Twin Peaks with a 28-300mm lens. I think it’s probably the best spot to take this photo because of the black background behind the bridge. If you shoot it from the other side, then you get the city behind it. Of course, that can be cool too – it’s just a different sort of shot.
Here is one from our San Francisco PhotoWalk when we made a surprise move and ducked into the Hyatt hotel. As you can imagine, I was not too excited about leaving the vibrant city to go into a hotel, but the people I was with assured me it was really cool inside. And it is! I was pleasantly surprised at the art and architecture on the inside… it was very complex and busy, but it proved to be a fun and challenging situation for composition.
Last week I spent the day at Facebook and got a private photo-tour of the campus. They just moved to their new HQ, so it was interesting to see how everything was spread out.
I was first escorted by a private security guy. He was ex-Marine and kind of a bad-ass. I asked if there were a lot of ex-Marines now hired at Facebook and he said there were quite a few… I figured they were the ones that were most badass.
I took a ton of photos, and I don’t know why I am sharing this one first, but here it is anyway. There are many cafeterias all over the campus, and I thought that this one was kinda cool…
A few days ago I went to Pinterest to give a talk about The Future of Photography (and various other things), and I hung around after the event to snap a few photos. You can see me there (Trey Ratcliff on Pinterest). I had a great time getting to know people around there. I took a ton of photos and I only put a few below. To see all of them, see my Pinterest Board on Pinterest.
WHY PHOTOGRAPHERS SHOULD STOP COMPLAINING AND EMBRACE…
Our PhotoWalk in San Francisco ended in this spot. At first, I thought the photowalk would just take a few hours, but I think it ended up taking four or five! That’s okay, we had a good time and only got kicked out of one place… we ended up here in this fantastic park… the sun was shining and it was perfect to round things off
It was thanks to Stuck On Earth that I was able to talk myself into finally getting over here! I saw so many interesting photos from this angle that I wanted to come over to see if I could do something a little different…
DAILY PHOTO – BAKER BEACH AND THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
This beach is not the easiest to get to if you don’t have a car. It’s at kind of a dead-end place, and getting a taxi to wait for you can get expensive. That’s one reason it took me many trips to finally get over here, but I’m glad I did. I was able to see a few scenes that were new to me!
The PhotoWalk is tonight! We have some prizes to announce from Adorama:
First, we’ll be giving away 5 gift cards for Adorama valued at $100 each! Second, we’ll be giving away Think Tank Retrospective 5 Shoulder Bags! After the event is over, put your photos in the Google+ or Facebook event below and tag them with #TRNewYorkPhotowalk – we’ll pick random people both! It doesn’t matter if you post 1 or 20 photos… you still have an equal chance of winning!
From on top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco, a good zoom lens when the fog rolls in can get a little crazy! The fog glows orange-red with all the lights and it feels a bit… apocalyptic. I took about 20 shots of this, and the fog would creep around this way and that. They all looked interesting, but in the end, I liked this one the best.
I did an interview with Forbes Magazine a few days ago, and the highlights of the video are there on the right. There’s also a longer article by Michael Humphrey after the link there. I talk about how being “Human” can become intensified with the internet and technology.
When I spent the evening at the Giants game in San Francisco, we had carte blanche to go anywhere and shoot anything, so that was pretty awesome. Tom and I had the number of the PR guy in our pocket in case anyone gave us any trouble… but no one did. We spent most of the night roaming around the stadium, taking photos from many vantage points. No one ever bothered us about the tripods and stuff, so that was a welcome delight!
This was shot with the Nikon 14-24 lens… as usual, all the EXIF info is there if you click through to SmugMug!
I saw that the CERN made the Higgs announcement and their infographic used Comic Sans, of all things. Geeky people got a real kick out of this, but I wanted to remind them of this poignant article written by the Comic Sans font himself.
DAILY PHOTO – ALCATRAZ AT SUNSET
I was over on Treasure Island one evening taking photos when I saw the sun sinking through a lot of moisture in the air. I also saw Alcatraz out in the water, so I jumped in the car to drive around and find a spot where everything lined up together. That was a great night!
Let’s say you disagree with the negative nancy below and you don’t think post-processing is the devil. And if you want to join the cause to “hurt the integrity of photography” to learn great post-processing tricks, then use “STUCKONDAD” to save 20% on the HDR Video Tutorial. (The code also works for eBooks on FlatBooks.comwhich may or may not be injurious to the artform of pressing a button on a chunk of iron and glass.)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS GUY?
So, I wouldn’t necessarily call this guy a “troll” — but perhaps a hobgoblin or some lesser fantasy creature that you have to defeat 10 of before reaching Level 2. I find people like this endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy observing them like mold in a petri dish.
He’s been popping around the site lately, distributing comments on the “About Me” page and countless other places. Here’s a few little jewels that he has dropped. Emphasis is my own.
…your cliched travel images and horrendous post-processing combined with your unfortunate popularity has probably done more to hurt the integrity of photography than anyone else in the world in recent years. You have made it incredibly difficult for millions of honest photographers trying to produce honest images. Please reconsider the effect you are having on photography.
And sprinkled into my India photos:
Sorry but these are all pedestrian images that tell us nothing about India. There are so many hundreds of other photographers producing interesting, informative, beautiful images of India. Don’t be fooled by Photoshop.
And with this image, I am once again launching full-out-assault on the hallowed traditions of photography. You know what I did with this image? I post-processed it! Oh yes, I really did. And I had so much fun doing it… at least as much fun as Dexter in his kill room.
I guess if I was to be really “honest” and take a photo of San Francisco and keep with the tradition of the greats of photography, it would have to be black and white photo, right? I mean, the world really is black and white, isn’t it? Oh wait, no… it’s in color. Wait, now I’m confused.
Oh no, look what I’ve done now. I’ve gone and upset people that think one form of artistic expression is superior to another form of artistic expression. How could I be so callous and open with my thoughts and techniques?