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I am seriously in love with San Francisco. It is by far the most beautiful city I have ever visited and had the privilege to photograph. Some people even say it is the most beautiful city in the world, and I am not going to argue with that.
It has so much to offer, especially if you are interested in travel photography. I have visited San Francisco on multiple occasions, but I know I have still only scratched the surface and I hope to have more opportunities in the future to explore and photograph this fabulous city.
But what would you do if you had only two hours to spend in San Francisco?
Where would you go?
Which locations would you choose to photograph?
That was the real dilemma in front of me a few years back as I was packing for my unexpected trip to San Francisco.
It was a last minute trip to the Bay area; very short (only two nights and three days), and very busy. My schedule was completely filled with events and engagements around the Palo Alto area. I knew in advance that if I was lucky I would only have two hours at most to enjoy by myself before flying back to Canada.
I had limited options; I could go to the city, but with the traffic and the time wasted searching for parking I probably would only have time to visit one or two places. Another option was to stay outside of the heavy traffic areas and try to hit as many places as possible. I chose the latter.
Here is an outline of my wild two hour run, with the places I managed to visit and photograph. Please note: not all of the photos I chose for this post were taken on that day, but they do accurately illustrate the places I visited.
I took Interstate 280 from Palo Alto and I entered San Francisco from Highway One. My first stop was Baker Beach.
1. Baker Beach
Baker Beach is a beautiful place with the most amazing views in every direction; the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sea Cliff slopes, and the Marin Headlands across the Bay. With a big, free parking area close to the water there was no time wasted.
2. Battery Godfrey
Just a short drive (2 km) from Baker Beach is Battery Godfrey, an historic site with wide-open scenic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. It was extremely windy, but because of the views it was totally worth it.
I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and was planning to take Conzelman Road so I could enjoy the spectacular views of the Bay from the twisted road, but I totally missed my turn and had to take the one-lane Baker-Barry Tunnel instead.
3. Hawk Hill
This is probably the most popular and busiest spot around San Francisco. Every single visitor wants to take a few photos here, plus many local photographers visit this spot in the hunt for interesting shots.
The reason I like this place, besides the view, is that every time I come here it looks completely different. Because of the frequently changing weather, what kind of photo you are going to get is pretty much unpredictable.
This spot is famous for it amazing views of the San Francisco Bay and the city, but I also love the view from the opposite side overlooking Point Bonita and the Pacific Ocean.
4. Battery Rathbone
I made a very short stop here to take a few shots of the Bay with the Marin Headlands slopes in the foreground.
5. Point Bonita Lighthouse
At Point Bonita, I had a good news / bad news experience. The good news was that the lighthouse was open on the day of my run (I just got lucky.) and I could walk through the tunnel that leads to the point. The bad news was that the bridge to the lighthouse was under renovation and I could not cross it, but this did not prevent me from getting some interesting shots of the area.
6. Rodeo Beach
Rodeo Beach is only a short drive from Point Bonita. I could hardly find parking since the place was full of surfers. I spent a little while watching them do their magic, and then I walked along the beach to take a couple of shots of two beautiful rocks.
Now it was time for me to start moving towards the airport as I was starting to run out of time.
7. Battery Spencer
I had to stop here, if only for just a few minutes, before driving back to the city across the bridge.
8. Bay Bridge
At this point I was getting dangerously late. I drove along the Embarcadero without any plans for stopping, but while passing under the Bay Bridge I saw a vacant parking spot and could not resist the urge to stop and take a couple of shots around the bridge.
And that was it. The most eventful two hours of my photography life was over. I barely made it to my flight and spent the entire flight home sorting and tagging the new images in Lightroom.
My mission was accomplished.