Bay Bridge blues

I generally shoot 7 frames for my HDR’s, and depending on the outcome generally use all of them.  However, I find that sometimes I get all I need out of a single exposure.  This was just what happened with this shot.

It was blue hour early one morning in San Francisco, and I had my Nikon pointed at the Bay Bridge, which is pretty common for me when I visit that town.  I fired all 7 like normal, but when it came time to process, I really just liked this single exposure all by itself.  In this case, HDR didn’t really help me any.

That doesn’t happen a lot, and it depends on what look you are trying to achieve with the shot, but when it does happen it sure makes the processing a little quicker!

Bay Bridge blues

As you have seen here before, and probably read here before, I have a million pictures of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  I love this bridge, and I try and shoot it on every trip I take out there.  It’s so photogenic.

I believe that taking photos of the same thing, but in different ways and different conditions, can help you improve your photography.  In fact, I did a recent blog post about that, which you can read here (and the post happens to focus on this bridge): 

I took this one early one morning, which I tend to do a lot when I travel.  It’s great to be out shooting when the rest of the world seems to be asleep.  It’s like you're the only one out there, shooting and enjoying the morning serenity.

Using monotony to spark creativity

Hi there, and thanks for stopping by today!  If you have been here before, you will probably know that my normal mode on the blog is to share a photo that I took somewhere, and tell you a little about it.  I plan to keep doing that, because I enjoy it.  I hope you do too.

But things change over time, and I too have been wanting to make a few changes.  So today I have a bit longer post to share with you.  I enjoy writing longer-form blog posts that include a bit of my ramblings, and plan to write a few more of these and share them here.  I hope you enjoy them.  Feel free to let me know in the comments.  


Using monotony to spark creativity

First, let me get this out of the way:  I love to see and shoot new things.  I enjoy a change of scenery - it’s part of my DNA I guess.  I grew up as an Army brat, and as a result have become used to moving around a lot.  To borrow a phrase from my Mom, I have “itchy feet”.  But, this article isn’t about that.  This article is about developing your vision by shooting the same subject over and over again.  Let me explain...


While my work does take me a lot of places, which affords me some great photo opportunities, I do find that I shoot in a similar fashion each time I go somewhere new.  I look for the same sorts of scenes I have shot in different towns.  Of course the scene is physically different, and looks different, but in many ways I am repeating myself in new places...shooting similar things that just happen to be in different places.

While this is fun, I find that I do not learn to get as creative, because the scenes are my thinking doesn’t have to be.  New stuff just presents itself to me as I wander, so I don’t “need” to get creative.  Does that make sense?


It’s as if my creative thinking goes out the window, because I keep getting new, exciting stimuli in the form of a new scene.  So, this is problematic for a photographer, because being creative is what this whole photography thing is about.

I have heard folks say that their creativity is “stuck” because they don’t get to see new stuff, and thus they are “uninspired”.  I totally get that, and honestly think that I might feel the same way if I never did travel.  But, I am choosing to think of it differently.  


I travel to San Francisco a lot for work, but don’t always bring my gear because I don’t have time to shoot there.  Sometimes, I can just shoot with my iPhone.  But every time, regardless of gear, I try to take a photo of the Bay Bridge, because it is near my office and hotel (and it's awesome).  Monotonous?  Maybe to some.  But I want to flip that thinking on its head and have you consider this:


You can enhance your creativity by focusing on the very thing that is making you feel stuck: having no new material.  Instead, pick a subject that is interesting enough to you, and consider taking on a personal project to shoot it in creative ways.


Things that might “make the cut” in terms of good subjects: an interesting or beautiful landscape (a mountain or river scene, perhaps?), a cool bridge, a train station or other architecturally-oriented subjects (a church?), or even a derelict old building.

Here are some ideas on how to stretch yourself in new, creative ways:

  • shoot at sunrise
  • shoot at midday
  • shoot at sunset
  • shoot at blue hour
  • shoot with a wide angle
  • shoot with a zoom lens
  • shoot with a prime lens
  • shoot only a portion of the structure
  • shoot only at a fixed aperture
  • shoot it with your iPhone
  • shoot it with the plan to convert every image to monochrome
  • shoot it under different weather conditions (sunny, stormy, snowy)


That list has 12 different things you can do - while shooting the exact same subject - to spark your creativity and get your creative groove back.  And if you think about each one, they each require a different “skill set” or approach to the subject.  There are light changes, weather changes, equipment changes - lots of factors which will impact decisions you have to make in the field.

Here is what will happen in the process:

  • you will begin to develop your vision for the scene, likely before you even get there, because it is familiar
  • you will begin to consider your processing choices for the shots as you take them, instead of when you sit down at your computer later
  • you will find that your creativity has just shifted because you are purposely not going to repeat yourself


Bottom line - I don’t believe that you have to always see new things to get inspired.  You can get inspired while shooting the same old stuff.  Go find something interesting nearby (or in a place you travel to frequently), and shoot it all sorts of ways.  

You don’t need a lot of free time, you just need an interesting subject and some imagination.


I included a selection of differing photos of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco in this little article.  I love it, and even if I only have 30 free minutes, I try and get in a couple of shots.  I always come home with something different.  And most importantly - I look forward to seeing and shooting this bridge on every visit!  The monotony of the subject is overshadowed by the challenge of getting creative!

Split personality

There is just something about the Bay Bridge that captures me.  I am a fan of bridges for starters - so there's that piece - but it has this classic form and with those old pilings in front it is just impossible for me to resist.  Literally, I shoot it every time I visit San Francisco.  So, that means I have a lot more shots like this one to share sometime!  Anyways, I caught this image on one of my trips there last year, during what turned out to be a colorful sunrise.  It was like the sky had 2 personalities that morning - I'll be pink, no wait I'll be blue!! - and with some HDR magic it brings it all to life!  Ah, how I love my brackets!

Sunrise on the Bay Bridge

As I have written here before, I absolutely love the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, CA.  It's a marvelous, imposing and beautiful structure.  If you happen to follow me on Google+ then you may have seen a couple of iPhone shots I posted from San Fran while I was out there last week.  I was very busy at work, but did find some time to get out with the D700 and fire off lots of brackets.  The Bay Bridge was an obvious target, and my hotel is pretty close so that makes it easier.  Despite several visits here over the last year or so, I had never had the chance to get up and shoot it at sunrise.  So, that was a definite goal of mine for last week.  And, it is.  Sunrise is a beautiful time to shoot, and doubly so when you can share it with the Bay Bridge.

In case you missed it, take a look at my previous post - I am giving away 2 free copies of Topaz Adjust v5!!

The Bay Bridge

I just love the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  Whenever I am there, I always make it a point to photograph this structure - it's just beautiful to me.  I have a lot of photos of it that are all fairly similar - there are only so many angles you can get - but I keep going back, time and again, and taking the shots.  I haven't been there in a while, but when I return, you can bet I will shoot this beauty again!  I caught this HDR image during a wonderfully foggy blue hour early one evening.

Speaking of blue hour - please return tomorrow.  I have an awesome blue hour shot from Montreal to share!  It had rained a little and the streets have that glossy shine - so please come check it out!  And tell your friends!  :)

Bridge, wharf, water

As I have written here before, I am a big fan of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  Since I am here this week, I thought I would post another view of this beauty.  I took this shot a while back on one of my previous trips out here, but I am in a Bay Bridge sort of mood, so here ya go! 

Bay Bridge triptych

As I have stated several times on the blog here, I am a big fan of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, CA.  I have a lot of photos of this fine structure, and decided that I would take my current top three favorites and put them together into a single here you go!

Bay Bridge colors

This is the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, CA - one of my favorite structures in the city - taken at night (I guess that part is obvious).  I posted a daytime shot of the bridge last week, and mentioned that I had an intensely colorful night shot of the bridge coming soon, so here it is.  I took this from a pier that juts out to the side of the Ferry Building - my other favorite structure in San Fran.  If you walk out towards the end of that pier you get this nice unobstructed view of the Bay Bridge.  I initially took 5 shots in order to craft an HDR, but once I started viewing the photos and getting ready to process, I decided to just take a single, long exposure (about 30 seconds) and use that instead.  I did run it through HDR Efex Pro for a little punch, and here ya go!

Sunny day at the Bay Bridge

I just love the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and have taken a lot of photos of it on my various trips out there.  Most of them have been during sunset, blue hour, or even near darkness, but here's one right in the middle of a sunny day!  I find it a very compelling structure to photograph, anytime.  Speaking of which, I have an intensely colorful night shot of the bridge coming soon, so check back (ok, that was a shameless plug)!