PetaPixel

Shooting on the Streets of San Francisco for 24 Hours Straight

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


About the author: Wayne Dollemore is a photography enthusiast living in San Jose, California. You can find his work on Flickr and on 500px.


 
  • Chad

    boooooorrrriinnggg…

  • Jacqui Dee

    Duck down, stand on tip toes, jump up on a chair, get a birds eye view from a building. See the city as no one else has ever seen it before.

  • HenryCHOOOO

    street photos with a tele… meh.

  • Mansgame

    Instead of the gimmick of an arbitrary time frame, it would have been far more interesting to just capture moments worth capturing.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    It was a personal challenge and I feel I achieved my objective, I appreciate different opinions and look forward to seeing your work when convenient.

  • goodinuf

    Wayne, a great creative idea for a personal challenge. I applaud your effort and your stamina. I left a comment on your first photo on your set on flickr.

  • http://www.fotoclipping.com/ Stela Thompson

    Super shot ! Crossing the road, babies in the trolley.

  • Gman

    Nice project. Now go back and do it with a film camera.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    I’m glad you achieved your goals. But still I don’t understand what you were trying to achieve here.
    You say you “cut back to 310 final images”. Seriously?
    Personally I think that my images improve when I limit myself in some way e.g. when I use film cameras and/or prime lenses. I put more thoughts into the final picture while I can’t just “click away” randomly.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    I appreciate your comment and partly agree except my mission was to document what goes on over 24 hours. If you look at my other work I take great care with my images and very selective. I hear what you are saying and have no problem with it. I set myself a task, actually two and also accomplished that, and mission one was for me to achieve that goal and be satisfied with it. I did and I am.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    I used to shoot with a Bronica SQA and looking to buy another one soon so I may just do as you say. It will be a very different project.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    It was no gimmick believe me and there are some images in there that I would have captured if I wasn’t on this project but doing my regular work. Other images are there to document how the area changes over time, they are required to make the project complete.

  • Jop

    Don’t worry about Mansgame. He’s probably the most disliked, downvoted, and out-of-touch commenter on this entire site.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    I would be curious to see what this would look like culled down to 31 images. I don’t have time to edit someone elses’ work. That said its an interesting project.

  • Jay Dawson

    Excellent idea. I live in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK. The city has a wide array of environments and even though I live here, I know if I spent the day out, i’d find lots of new places.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    Well sometimes – this time for example – he’s got a point.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    Give it a try, I’d like to see the results.

  • Mantis

    I like how people love to criticize anothers art.

  • Jackson Cheese

    What’s his point? That he, of course, would have done a better job? The point of this exercise was a 24 hour photo adventure in one of Americas great cities.

    It was for the photographers personal benefit, not for some chump like Mansgame to criticize.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    All I keep reading is “it’s a personal project! no critique please!” Why, then, publish it online?
    I feel like the said photographer himself could’ve done “better” or improved his skills better by choosing another approach.
    This – yes, gimmicky – timeframe must have been an amazing opportunity for emerging in his environment personally! But as photography assignment?

  • Nick

    Great article! I’d love to do something like this.

  • Wayne Dollemore

    I don’t mind criticism, I can take it. Just be aware of the purpose of the shoot, a documentary of my personal challenge and desire to become more familiar with this district. A number of online sites felt it was worth publishing for one reason or another and I welcomed that opportunity. I really have no issue with the negative comments on here, I am comfortable with my photography outside of this project and this shoot did help me to improve in certain areas.