I have driven through San Francisco many times for business and pleasure, and have always been intrigued by how its energy constantly changes depending on the time of day. Glimpses of tall structures casting shadows, observing lighting and framing scenarios, and colorful people performing urban rituals often seen from my periphery had an affect on me.
These glimpses inspired me to undertake a 4am to 4am 24-hour-long project to capture unaltered reflections hour-by-hour how the city, the traffic, lighting, commerce, and ultimately the people change… or do they?.
Slow to fast, empty to full, dead to alive, dark to light transformations in the vibrant North Beach San Francisco neighborhood. Has anyone seen the ebb and flow over 24 hours other than the people who live there? And have they?
This project was draining and, in the end, painful. Staying up for a 24-hour period and maintaining awareness for safety purposes and photo opportunities was a big challenge.
I carried a fair amount of equipment as well as supplies, including change of clothing, and literally walked for 24 hours with no sleep and next to no rest. By the end I could barely walk. The primary equipment I used was the Sony NEX-7 and its 18-55mm kit lens along with 55-210 and ultra wide angle lenses. For lighting I used F20AM and F43AM flash.
I also sparingly used an Olympus XZ-1 point and shoot and, surprisingly to some, a GoPro video camera in still mode with remote. I took over 1400 photos and cut that back to 310 final images.
There is a pattern of rituals starting at 4 AM with people of the night still lingering from the evening before along with street cleaners and people cleaning bars and restaurants.
At early light, out come the joggers with ear buds to music, traffic lightly trickling, delivery services pulling up to cafes. Light brings more traffic and business people on their cell phones, and tourists appear with cameras in hand.
We now see all modes of transport, buses, taxis, cars, bicycles, skate boards, even roller skates and of course walking and running. I hear different accents, I see every culture.
My senses are enhanced and hindered at different times of day. My vision is impaired at night but hearing and smell take over, especially outside bars. During the day my vision is enhanced but my hearing is impaired (or maybe overwhelmed) as life takes over. These sensations kept my adrenaline pumping.
Individuals observed me numerous times as I walked between Washington Park and The Transamerica Building throughout the day. I should have used a pedometer, as who knows how many miles I walked.
Some questioned what I was doing, and when I explained I was capturing life in North Beach over 24 hours they were intrigued and interested in seeing the results.
In the end I took a mix of images, some with people very aware they were being photographed, others not so much. In some cases I was asked to take their pictures, especially the late bar-goers — people throughout the 24 hour period were friendly and curious.
Throughout the day I became familiar with the environment and got to recognize people from a distance, some standing outside their workplace, and others as they made their way around the district.
I got to talk to many of the characters on the street, some local, some tourists. All had a great attitude and matched the vibrancy of the area — it was a beautiful day and a mild night. How would that differ with San Francisco’s ever changing climate? Maybe I’ll find out next time.
You can find the entire set of 310 photographs in this Flickr set.