Tagged: san francisco

Attention To Detail

An Unexpected Discovery At Legoland

Mickey and Shamu hog most of the attention, but the discerning Bay Area six-year-old has another reason to travel to southern California: the sleeper theme park known as Legoland!  So, to it, my family unit went on a sunny spring morning a few days ago…

The following night, children and grown-ups alike dreamt of Miniland: the exquisite collection of urban mockups, clad in 20-million Lego blocks, that anchors the park at its center.  Within, you’ll find Washington D.C. and its monuments, a kid-friendly Bourbon Street sans the boobies and barfing, New York’s Empire State Building, and the Lilliputian City of San Francisco:

Miniland's San Francisco: Pier 39 in the foreground and the skyline to the upper right.

Part of Miniland's San Francisco: Pier 39 in the foreground, skyline to the upper right, and giants at left.

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More Steeps Of San Francisco

A New Steepest Street Is Born

24th Street on Potrero Hill

24th Street on Potrero Hill

Last November, as previously detailed, Weather Sealed searched San Francisco’s less-photogenic neighborhoods for under-appreciated inclines, rewrote the City’s “official” list of steepest streets, and discovered Prentiss Street, which, at a maximum grade of 37%, matches Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue as the most-tilted urban thoroughfare in the world!

Afterwards, I boarded the couch for a well-deserved weekend in pro sports vacationland.  All the while, loose ends whispered in the wind, open leads nagged, and unexplored territory begged for attention.  With a tap of the volume button, I could drown them out, but…

Did George Washington dip his finger into the Delaware and whine “maybe I’ll come back when it’s warmer?”  Did, daily at noon, Rosie the Riveter betray her trusty gun for the factory masseuse?  Did Pee-wee shirk his Big Adventure under the duress of potato chips and beer?

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The Lineup: Bay Bridge Diamond

Editor's Note: From time to time, I post the details of an upcoming San Francisco Bay Area celestial lineup. See this post for an introduction and more general information.

Howdy, pardner!  Polish up yer telephoto lens, oil that tripod, and bust out them walkin’ shoes.  ’Cause we’re gonna rope us a lineup!

The "Diamond" Lineup

The "Diamond" Lineup

This week, the coming winter solstice treats us to a classic combination of the northeast-rising full moon with the support struts of the Bay Bridge’s Tower Three (the second-nearest tower to San Francisco).  You can see it both Tuesday and Wednesday, from the Embarcadero sidewalk, between the southern end of Cupid’s Span and the bay, near 37.79145 north, 122.38945 west (click for a map).  Arrive with time to spare before it happens at 4:32pm on Tuesday, or 5:32pm on Wednesday, and once the moon crests the East Bay hills, take a few strides to perfect the alignment with the lowest, diamond-shaped gap at the tower’s base.

Simultaneous with the Tuesday lineup, the sun sets behind Twin Peaks, so the bridge and sky will have much more light on them than my shot above. On Wednesday, the sun has already passed far below the horizon, so everything but the moon will be darker, perhaps significantly. Tuesday’s moon is full and round, and Wednesday’s, waning and ever-so-slightly asymmetrical.

Particulars from my lineup calculator:

"Bay Bridge, Third Tower, Base Diamond Hole"
from "Embarcadero Boulevard Sidewalk, Mission to Harrison"
    moon within 0.0 degrees at Tue 01/Dec/2009 16:32:30 PST
    to landmark: alt 2.3 deg, az 60.4 deg, distance 0.91 km
    to body: alt 2.3 deg, az 60.4 deg
    from lat,lon 37.791506,-122.389516
    sun at 2.3 degrees
    phase 100%

"Bay Bridge, Third Tower, Base Diamond Hole"
from "Embarcadero Boulevard Sidewalk, Mission to Harrison"
    moon within 0.0 degrees at Wed 02/Dec/2009 17:32:10 PST
    to landmark: alt 2.3 deg, az 59.3 deg, distance 0.90 km
    to body: alt 2.3 deg, az 59.3 deg
    from lat,lon 37.791388,-122.389376
    sun at -8.3 degrees
    phase 99%

Use this information however you please, within the terms of the Lineup License.

Good luck and have fun!

The Steeps Of San Francisco

In Search Of The City's Steepest Street

A Steep San Francisco Street

A Steep San Francisco Street

Ask a San Franciscan about the City’s steepest streets, and four out of five times, he’ll say something like “Great for scaring the bejeezus out of tourists!”

Or, sweat beading upon his brow, he might recount that Damp Morning when he drove his Manual Transmission up the Impossible Grade, and was forced to stop, just below the top!  In frantic pantomime, he’ll pull the emergency brake and disengage the clutch.  Crane his neck to peer anxiously at the car sniffing his downhill bumper.  Bulge his eyes.  Gun the engine.  Pop the clutch.  Release the brakes.  Lay down some rubber with a piercing squeal.  Float his steed slowly onto the flat.  Wave the smoke from his eyes.  Pump his arms in brief celebration.  And finally, grouse about that sadistic driving instructor who got him into the pickle in the first place.  What a jerk!

Flush with the desire to frighten out-of-town guests, or to take the aforementioned test of motoring skill, you’ll need a suitable road with hill.  Google the “steepest streets in San Francisco” and you’ll find this:

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Set Your Sights High, Son

Self-Expression And The Transamerica Pyramid

Top And Flop

Top And Flop

We all have our long foul balls in life – the solid hits that power over the fence, but just outside of that yellow post at the edge of right field.  As a photographer, mine have mounded into a motley pile of not-quite-good-enough shots that I periodically revisit to see if I can do better.

For example, consider the pleasant vignette to the right, from August ’06, informally titled Top And Flop.  It melds the clean lines of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid with the rougher textures of a vintage Chinatown hotel sign, tidily evoking the many schisms at the edges of downtown Frisco.  Of skyscrapers to bay windows; bankers amongst bike messengers; conservative versus radical; breeder and gay; the materialistic sterility of today’s financial district, contrasted with the brash, sloppy pleasures of yesteryear’s Barbary Coast; et cetera.

Top and Flop is no home run.  Still, it’s got potential, so I had it up on the screen, under review for content, framing, light, and focus.  Scrolling across the Transamerica building at 100-percent zoom, I noticed something weird - a subtle, strangely-organic blip.  Hmmm.  I leaned closer.  What is that?  Etched upon the dirty concrete of the Pyramid’s windward edge, in Comic-Sans-meets-Script font, 600 feet above street level…

A series of crops of Top And Flop at increasing zoom, photo-enhanced for readability.

A series of crops of Top And Flop at increasing zoom, photo-enhanced for readability.

A tag?!?!  Yes, that’s clearly the letters L-E-O.  Definitely not the biggest or brightest doodle known to civilization.  But, oh, the placement!  Over the time that it lingered – hours, days, weeks, months, years? - it achieved immortality, forever captured in the zoomed-in snapshots of countless tourists.  A work lacking the scale or sophistication of a Banksy, to be sure.  Nevertheless, on its lofty merits alone, a defining moment in graffiti history, destined for the Hall Of Fame, where it might slot directly below the time that Fairey stenciled Andre’s mug on the Capitol Rotunda.

Forty stories up on the window cleaning platform, it probably went down something like this.  A couple of young bucks.  Break time.  Wafting testosterone.  Four minis of Cuervo apiece.  The Dare.  And bam!  Leo was hanging off the corner of the building, power spraying his name into the grime.

The next night, cutting loose on nearby Columbus Avenue, he gestured upwards towards the Transamerica.  Confused, his buddies craned their necks to see, and beaming a Cheshire grin, Leo serenaded them with this little ditty:

Yo sucka yo my name is Lee-oh,
I got mo’ smoove than Captain Eee-Oh,
Up the Pyramid, I holla with my hose,
Don’t try to stop me, I spy the po-po,
Bet you wish you could write like Mee-oh,
Can’t touch this my name is Lee-oh.

Cue the chuckles, fist bumps, and Jägermeister!

But wait a second: let’s not make an ass out of you and mee-oh.  Everyone deserves a fair shake, so take our arrogant punk and flip him 180 degrees.  Up on the platform: dutiful Leo, husband and father-to-be.  Night shift wrapping up.  Ten hours straight of misty monotony.  Vast deficits of sleep, caffeine, and core body temperature.  Desperate yearnings to do something – anything – creative.  Oh, poor, valiant Leo!  Give him five minutes of cathartic self-expression, stat!

Sensing confusion, the dark-horse scenario trots in, braying that we’ve got it all wrong: that our tagger was no Leo at all!  The letters could be an homage to Low Earth Orbit!  The scribblings of an unbalanced August-born astrologer!  A tribute from DiCaprio’s Number One Fan!  The truncated autograph of a Leon with poor planning skills!

As with any great mystery, we’ll never know for sure.  However, the Deities Of Comeuppant Comedy assure me that the Leon Theory is incontrovertibly correct.  Myself, I haven’t decided.

What is certain is that I’ll soon be OCR-ing my entire photography archive, in search of more of these twinkly little gems!

(Hat tip to The Lonely Island for the Lee-oh-Mee-oh rhyme.)