Being a Tourist in My Own City

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/3.2 1/30 second ISO160 ]

Wow, had such a great time this weekend! Two great friends from Japan visited our home and stayed for a few days. We took them on a tour of the city, heading to the usual “tourist spots” as well as places we locals like to visit. Running around with them made me realize that I can’t even remember the last time I drove around SF just to see the sights. It was pretty fun actually! Ready for a long post with tons of images spanning the course of 3 days? Ok, here we go!

Day One…

After we picked them up from the airport, we headed first to downtown San Francisco to eat and go shopping. They were surprised at how big the portions were at Nordstrom Cafe. We called our dishes をパγƒͺカンァむズ, or “American Sized.” Which means….too much food for us asian-sized people!

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/4 1/40 sec ISO160 ]

I see this shopping center all the time, but never really stopped to take a photo. Makes a difference when you’re going nowhere in particular, and have time to think…and shoot.

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/5 1/500 sec ISO80 ]

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/4 1/100 sec ISO200 ]

Here’s an example of how light picks up the color of what it hits, as the light bouncing off the brick sidewalk turns my subjects red. Doh!

A popular tourist area, there are usually tons of people during the day here on Powell street between Ellis and Market. Of course, being a transportation hub for BART and Muni and with so many shops around, you can expect it to be pretty crowded.

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/8 1/200 sec ISO80 ]

Here’s Ayaka (left) and Ayako (right). No, they are not sisters. Everyone we introduced them to asked us if they were since their names are so similar. Really funny. Behind them you can see Alcatraz in the distance, another tourist hot-spot.

Climbing these San Francisco hills with my manual transmission was a lot of fun. My guests would would yell “aaaaaaaah!” every time I had to take off from a cold stop on an incline like the one you see above. Ok, I yelled too =P

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/8 1/500 sec ISO80 ]

Oh my goodness…I NEVER shoot in mid-day sun. But sometimes you have no choice, so for most of the day I went into “snap shot” mode. I focused my attention on my wife and our guests and simply tried to help them record some memories. It was pretty liberating actually, from a photographic standpoint. No pressure…just take some snaps! Used my Canon Powershot S90 for the first day, shooting in Manual for most of the out-door shots, which is a joy with the S90’s dual control rings.

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/5.6 1/500 sec ISO80 ]

The weather in San Francisco is, as usual, very strange. Patchy fog with sun here and there, never climbing above 60F. Everywhere we went we all complained about how cold it was. 寒い!Of course, our friends probably appreciated a little break from the extreme summer heat in Japan.

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/7.1 1/500 sec ISO80 ]

Here’s Mrs. Lovely, taking a break in Sausalito. Behind her you can see the San Francisco Skyline.

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/2.8 1/30 sec ISO80 ]

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/2 1/30 sec ISO100 ]

From there, we took a short trip to Mill Valley for one single reason: Noci Gelato. Bridge and I have only been here once before, the last time we decided to take a weekend all to ourselves. That was what…at least a year ago? Sigh…I need to take more breaks!

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/4 1/100 second ISO80 ]

There was so much traffic on the Golden Gate coming back that I had plenty of time to take a shot of one of the towers, even from the driver’s seat (don’t worry! We were stopped in traffic!)

[ Canon S90 at 6mm f/2, 1/8 sec ISO800 ]

Here’s Ayako and Bridget, about to chow down on some seriously good Belgian fries at Fritz in Hayes Valley, SF. Sooooo gooood, and great with a glass of Chimay, I might add. Perfect way to end the day.

Day two…

On the second day of our trip, I benched the S90 and went with my D300s all day:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/30 sec ISO400 ]

Ayako and Ayaka stayed in Suki’s room for the duration of their stay, but that didn’t mean Suki wasn’t allowed to hang out with them in the morning, as you can see above. Yup, three Japanese ladies posing for a quick photo =)

Then it was a photo free-for all, where we all tried to get a good shot of (or with)Β Suki:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/30 sec ISO400 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 31mm f/2.8, 1/30 sec ISO800 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8, 1/50 sec ISO800 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8 1/20 sec ISO800 ]

Suki looks a little irritated here. Caught her at the beginning of a blink. I keep forgetting that she blinks so fast that it’s usually better to get a flash value lock before taking the actual photo =)

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO400 ]

We headed out as early in the morning as possible to do something I don’t think I’ve done in at least 20 years…ride the cable car in San Francisco.

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/4, 1/50 sec ISO200 ]

The reason why you have to get to the Cable Car stop early in the morning on the weekend, of course, is because if you don’t, you’ll have to wait in an extremely long line of tourists, especially at the Powell and Market stop. Well, despite getting there before most other tourists, the cable car was still jam-packed. We ended up standing on the car, squished together…kinda like being on a Tokyo subway train during rush hour, only everyone is taller than we are =D

We were so close together that the only way to take any pictures of our friends riding the cable car was to bust out the fisheye:

[ Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/30 sec ISO400 ]

The key to using a fisheye to take a portrait is to be in close to your subject (no choice in this case), and to frame them up in the center to keep them from getting distorted.

[ Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/15 sec ISO400 ]

At one stop about halfway through our trip on the cable car, many people got off, allowing our friends to move to the outside and enjoy the ride. I loved how this shot turned out as soon as I saw the preview on my LCD screen, so I processed it in-camera and let it be. The shutter drag gave a sense of motion to the image, while a pop of light helped keep my subjects sharp. Speaking of motion, I finally tried video with the fisheye. Seemed appropriate for the situation:

After fueling up at a nearby Starbucks, we hitched a ride on a vintage SF train (circa 1960). Again, something I can’t remember doing in ages:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 38mm f/7.1, 1/200 sec ISO400 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/50 sec ISO400 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5, 1/100 sec ISO400 ]

Got off at Ferry Plaza, where there’s a farmer’s market every Saturday morning. Ayako was drawn to the flowers:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/6.3, 1/160 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 32mm f/5, 1/100 sec ISO200 ]

And I guess Ayaka was more of a produce kind of girl:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/8, 1/250 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/7.1, 1/200 sec ISO200 ]

Me? I just followed everyone with my camera:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO200 ]

Of course with the Bay Bridge nearby, how could we not take more snapshots???

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/7.1, 1/200 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/8, 1/250 ISO200 ]

Inside the Ferry Building, there are a ton of shops and restaurants. It’s a great place to hang out:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/25 sec ISO400 ]

We took a break after spending all day out on the town, and went back out for dinner at Tres Agaves:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8, 1/30 sec ISO800 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 29mm f/4, 1/15 sec ISO800 ]

Ayaka is holding a “Sofia” margarita, my favorite drink at Tres Agaves. Made with 3 year aged Tequila. Yummm! They were surprised by both the strength of the drink and the massive amount of chips that came with the guacamole. Relatively massive, of course.

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 24mm f/4, 1/30 sec ISO800 ]

γŠγ„γ—γγ†! Before we eat we must take pictures of our food =)

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8, 1/5 sec ISO800 ]

See that hot green chili on Ayako’s plate at the bottom right of the frame here? Ayaka thought it was a pickle and took a big bite out of it. She just about burst into tears from the extreme heat, so I rushed over and ordered up a glass of milk to help sooth the pain. Ouch!Β  I alsoΒ  had to finish that margarita for them since between the two of them, they couldn’t get through more than half a glass that evening =P

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 18mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO800 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 18mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO800 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8, 1/125 sec ISO1600 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8, 1/160 sec ISO1600 ]

Things got extra touristy after dinner on Saturday, with a stop a Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. And that was day two…at this point I was pretty exhausted from all the touring. We wanted to get as much done as possible however, because they only had 3 days to spend in SF.

Day 3…

Day three was more of a half day. Their flight departed at 11am to LA, where they’d spend a few more days before heading home. So we kept things simple, heading first to a nice neighborhood for a stroll with Suki:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 38mm f/5.6, 1/250 sec ISO1400 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/4, 1/500 sec ISO900 ]

Our destination? My favorite coffee shop, of course. Every cup is individually hand-made:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6, 1/40 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8, 1/500 sec ISO800 ]

Suki had to wait outside while everyone went in for drinks. We didn’t leave her alone out there of course. We all came out and sat outside:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 45mm f/4, 1/200 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/4, 1/250 sec ISO200 ]

Suki maintained her post in front of us, guarding us from any potential danger. Of course, she looked so stinking cute that no one could resist picking her up and giving her a big hug:

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6, 1/50 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/8, 1/25 sec ISO200 ]

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 20mm f/5.6, 1/60 sec ISO200 ]

Even I felt the need to pick her up and give her a good squeeze. Like a typical teenager, Suki gets all irritated when daddy gets affectionate.

[ Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 25mm f/5.6, 1/80 sec ISO200 ]

This is the third time in a row we’ve come to this area and met another Shiba! This time we met a white one. γŠηˆΆγ•γ‚“οΌŸ

And that was it! Took them to the airport and they flew off to their next destination. I got to play tourist for a weekend in my own city. It was great!

One thing I also learned from shooting like crazy for three days was that I seem to a primarily wide-angle shooter. You can see from my EXIF that my focal length was most often at 17mm on my D300s, and that I pretty much always used my Canon s90 at its widest focal length. This probably explains why I love and use my Tokina 11-16mm lens more than any other in my bag. I left it at home and used the Tamron instead, however, so that racking out to 50mm for a tighter portrait every now and then would be possible without having to switch lenses. Photography is full of compromises! I also noticed that I rarely shoot at my widest aperture.

I mention this because sometimes its good to examine your shooting habits before making a lens purchase. What are your favorite focal lengths, apertures etc? Asking yourself some questions about how you shoot can help you answer those ever-present “what lens should I buy” questions. =)

Well, I think this post was long enough! Hope you enjoyed it!

22 thoughts on “Being a Tourist in My Own City

  1. What a nice stay! i’m sure they really enjoyed them self’s in California! Suki looks so cute! You captured some really nice pictures loved them πŸ™‚ I love California never been to SF though. Looks really nice too.

      1. You’re welcome! πŸ™‚ I bet you guys did. Wow hehe really? nice hehe that reminds me when i visited a Korean in Rialto (Cali) me and my cousin gave a comment in Korean haha i think i even said it wrong but oh well i tried πŸ™‚ it was a wonderful expirience for us. Yeah i really should visit SF someday, now i would actually know some one there haha you guys!! we can go on a Photography spree in SF hehe.

  2. Lucky! I’m sure they had such a great time. Love the photos! It’s one city in the US both Ash and I would love to visit.
    I noticed a lot of coats and jackets?? Is it cold in SF??

    1. You both should visit for sure! Yeah, it’s been pretty gloomy and not very warm at all here in SF. Typical summer over here unfortunately, but we’re used to it. =)

  3. wow Jon, I got exhausted just looking through all those images… u and Bridget were gracioius host and guides – I’m looking u up next time I’m in SF!!
    … and I know u mentioned this before in a previous post, but Suki is sooo petite in the last few shots, she’s such a cutie and always the poser…

    1. I know right! This is my longest post ever I think. My finger gets tired from all the scroll wheel rotations it takes to read the whole post. I usually try to keep my posts to a few images, but I figured meh, why not tell the whole story forwards and backwards =P

      Come to SF bro! We can hang out, swap stories…and lenses πŸ˜‰

  4. All very Nice Picture’s Loved the Story… It looks like you all had a Bunch of fun =) All the times I have gone to SF I have never ridden a Train or the Cable car.. I guess there will be a first time for everything.. It will be awesome taking Baby for the first time.. We might be making a trip up there next month, but not so sure yet since we are taking Baby to the Monterey County Fair, then Girloy Gardens with the free tickets I got =)

  5. awesome stuff Jon. We did similar this weekend except I only used my 35mm DX the whole time. I think im using that lens for the rest of 2010 πŸ˜€

    Nice flicks

    1. You know, I find more and more often lately that I spend far less time rotating my zoom ring than I do moving to compose a shot. That 35 should be all you need and more. Thanks man!

  6. Yeah, as you say, it’s part of fun to have friends from other places.
    We can see our own town with different eyes. Taking pictures will be a lot more fun, right?
    These pics made me more enthusiastic to go to SF!! Looks really nice!:)) I envy them… Suki-chan seems to have been so nice with them:))

  7. Hi Jonathan,

    A post full of smiles : that’s really great ! Thanks for sharing this with all of us out there around the globe πŸ™‚

    A quick comment on the pictures that were taken in the “Tiffany” room : they remind me of the pictures you can see in Japanese camera magazines ! I don’t know if you see what I’m refering to but if you have some Nikon brochures, check the “interior” pics and you’ll – maybe – understand πŸ˜‰

    Take care,

  8. Cool photos! I can’t see any on the last post after the video…hence I can’t see any of day three… Tried on different computers and they don’t load. Alas, my shiba Koshi can’t see what Suki is up to…

  9. I love travel shots! I’m learning a lot from your blog. Good to see the Tammy in action again! Have you heard about the Sigma 17-50 f2.8 OS?

    Keep shooting!

      1. Hehe, yeah I see what you mean. Fiancee? Congrats man! So the Sigma, yeah I’ve heard of it. Seems like it would be awesome with that HSM motor, though I never miss a beat with my Tamron, which seems to perform even better since I got it back from the Tamron service center for cleaning. =)

  10. you live in such a fantastic city! you ought to be a tourist in your own city more often. these 3 days sound like lots of fun. i carried (or more like my hubby) my 5D and 24-70mm lens on my 2-week trip. it was too heavy, but 50mm just wasn’t sufficient. i’m looking into a point-and-shoot for my next trip =)

    i just can’t get over how well-behaved suki is!!

    1. If I didn’t work so much I’d love to spend more time exploring my hometown and capturing it’s beauty! Whoa, 5D with 24-70 is enough to give you a workout. Good thing you had your “caddy” with you! =D

      It was really liberating to just carry my little S90 around on the first day. Definitely recommend it if you’re looking into a point and shoot. It’s also on sale now since the S95 is being released =)

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