Author Archives: Scott Loftesness

About Scott Loftesness

Fine Art Photographer, Payments Professional. Follow me on Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown: Ross Alley and Vinton Court

News - Chinatown - 2015

San Francisco’s Chinatown is an area rich in photographic opportunities for street photographers! My friend Doug Kaye and I always enjoy a few hours on the streets of Chinatown – so many interesting places, always a lot of people out walking, etc. – it’s a perfect street photography venue. And, if you time it right – and get the sun angles aligned with the streets themselves, it becomes almost magical.

We’ve been to Chinatown twice so far in 2015 – the first time on January 2 and, most recently, last Friday March 20. On both occasions, we timed our visit to a align with the sun using the The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a very useful tool for this kind of advance planning.

While the sights along Chinatown’s main market street – Stockton Street – or along Chinatown’s “main drag” Grant Avenue are always fun, we’ve come to love the alleyways of Chinatown and can get lost in them for considerable stretches of time! Two of our favorites are Ross Alley and Vinton Court.

Ross Alley runs between Jackson and Washington Streets and is just a single block long. Part of what makes it fun is how narrow it is – and the fact that it seems to get a lot of foot traffic with folks walking through the Alley. I assume it has something to do with no automobile traffic – making it great for just walking. Here are a few images I’ve shot on Ross Alley.

Post No Bill - San Francisco - 2015

Breaktime - San Francisco - 2015

Ross Alley - San Francisco - 2015

Another favorite spot of ours in Chinatown is Vinton Court at Grant Avenue. Vinton is a street that is a half block long which intersects with Grant Avenue near Pine Street. What’s great about Vinton Court is that the street itself provides a great background for capturing people walking along Grant Avenue. It helps isolate them – they’re not up against some noisy background of shops and stores. Plus, it’s just interesting – with the steps going up on the right with the handrails, etc. Here are a few images I’ve shot at Vinton Court.

Glance - San Francisco - 2015

Shopping Trip - San Francisco - 2015

Solo - San Francisco - 2015

Walker - San Francisco - 2014

As you can see from these examples, both of these spots in San Francisco’s Chinatown offer some great street photography opportunities. If you go and take some pictures there, let me know – I’d love to see them!

Below is a Google Map image that shows the location of both Ross Alley and Vinton Court – you can click on it to open and explore:

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.27.36 PM

The People of Palo Alto

DSCG1594

We had lunch today at a restaurant on Palo Alto’s University Avenue. Sitting at a window table, I did some experimenting with manual focus on my Fujifilm X100T as folks walked by that window – capturing their profiles. The film emulation was Fujifilm’s new Classic Chrome – these are JPEG’s from out of the camera.

Here are some more of the images.

DSCG1573

DSCG1578

DSCG1580

DSCG1583

DSCG1584

DSCG1587

DSCG1595

DSCG1599

DSCG1600

DSCG1602

DSCG1603

A Beautiful Friday in San Francisco

Strolling - San Francisco - 2015

Doug Kaye and I headed out today on to the streets of San Francisco. We met up at the Ferry Building – where Doug showed me his big surprise – a Leica M6 that he’d just acquired. The M6 is one of the classic Leica film bodies. Doug’s been accumulating a collection of Leica lenses to use with his Sony A7 bodies – and decided to try a film project – thus the M6. It was fun watching him shoot with this beautiful rangefinder body today! Here’s Doug shooting on Jackson Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Doug Kaye - San Francisco - 2015

It was a wonderful day – we hopped on the F street car across from the Ferry Building and headed to Pier 39. From there, we walked to Fishermans Wharf and then up Taylor St. to the cable car turnaround.

Bay and Taylor - San Francisco - 2015

Pressing on up Taylor, we turned onto Columbus and walked into North Beach. We had lunch at a by the slice pizza place just off Washington Square – Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House – very tasty pizza!

Saints Peter and Paul Church - San Francisco - 2015

After lunch, we made a jog over to Stockton Street and walked into the busiest part of Chinatown – the produce markets along Stockton. I’m always amazed by the sheer humanity in this area – chasing great produce.

Produce - San Francisco - 2015

Our goal was to hit the Chinatown alleys around 1 PM – when the sun was going to be shining right down them. Those alleys are sheer delight for street shooters like us and today was no exception.

Post No Bill - San Francisco - 2015

We eventually wound back down to Grant Avenue and came across one of our favorites – Vinton Alley. A perfect background for street shots!

Glance - San Francisco - 2015

Wow, quite a day! My iPhone 6 reported 10,033 steps for the day – about 5 miles of very satisfying walking in the great city of San Francisco. It doesn’t get much better!

Across the Platform at Brooklyn Bridge Station in New York City

Across the Platform - New York - 2015

I’m just back from a very quick trip to New York City – and while I was there I took a subway ride from lower Manhattan up to Spring Street – starting on the 4 line and connecting, at the Brooklyn Bridge Station, to the 6. For a brief moment while I was transferring, I snapped this shot across the platform with my Fujifilm X100T.

Here’s one of my favorite shots – from several years ago – inside the Brooklyn Bridge Subway station.

Bookends - New York City - 2010

Recommended: Paris Views by Gail Albert Halaban

Paris Views

Earlier this week I listened to Valérie Jardin’s Street Focus podcast with her interview of Gail Albert Halaban, author of Paris Views. Valérie’s weekly podcast is one of my favorites in the photography genre – and this episode was extra special as the two of them explored Gail’s work shooting neighborhood scenes – into neighbor’s windows – with Gail shooting with the permission of both sides. After listening to the podcast, I checked out Gail’s website and some of her other work.

After listening and then looking at Gail’s work, I checked out Gail’s website and some of her other work and then ordered a copy of Paris Views – which arrived today. It’s a stunner!

I’ve bought a lot of photography books over the last few years – but this one was different. All too often, I flip through the pages quickly – just scanning for interesting composition, light, gesture – and put the book away for future reference.

With Paris Views, I slowed down – each of her images makes you just want to see and explore the details. The book is beautifully printed by her publisher Aperture and you find yourself just wanting to spend time – taking the time to see what she’s captured.

Gail’s created a wonderful body of work with Paris Views – and a beautiful book with wonderful views with the light, textures, and people of Paris.

Gail’s new project is called “Meet Your Neighbor” – she writes: “I photograph from one window to another with the consent of both parties. I am doing this all over the world.” Maybe you’d like to participate?

If you want to explore Paris street photography, I highly recommend spending a week on the streets of Paris with Valérie. I spent a very special week with her and a great group of colleagues last fall – doesn’t get much better! Here’s my album of images from that trip. Check out her Paris workshop schedule.

Filoli is Blossoming for 2015

Signs of Spring - Filoli - 2015

I’m fortunate to live about 15 minutes away from Filoli – with its country house set in 16 acres of formal gardens surrounded by a 654-acre estate in Woodside, California. Each year, about this time, Filoli opens for the season – and this was the first weekend the estate was open this year.

I enjoy walking the gardens at Filoli at different times of years. The seasons really sweep across the gardens as different plants and trees flower and blossom. On this first weekend, the bulb flowers – daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc. were blooming – but the trees were still waiting for more springtime light to spread their blossoms.

That said, I did capture this one image of early blossoms emerging. Shot with my Fujifilm X100T with the TCL-100 conversion lens.

The Image Quilt

ImageQuilt 2015-11-02 at 6.42.48 PMAt a recent one-day course taught by Edward Tufte, he introduced me to the notion of an “image quilt” – a mosaic of images that you can create using an extension available for Google’s Chrome browser.

Here’s an example of just such an image quilt – based on a Google image search using the phrase “ny times infographic

When creating an image quilt, you can make a number of adjustments including size, spacing, ordering, etc. as well as removing certain images from the quilt before saving it as a PNG image file.

Tufte also suggested that when searching for things on Google he often chooses to view image search results – not the regular web search results. He notes that the regular web search results have typically been extensively “gamed” using techniques like search engine optimization to influence placement of the results on the page. He suggests that isn’t the case with the image results. I’ve been trying it more frequently – it is a useful alternative for certain kinds of searches.

Sunrise – Mount Thielsen

Sunrise - Mount Thielsen - 2013

Tonight I was looking back through my Lightroom archive and came across this image. It’s from the summer of 2013 when I was driving up to Bend, Oregon for a workshop with Sean Bagshaw and Zack Schnepf. I stayed overnight in Klamath Falls and got up early to drive to Crater Lake before heading on to Bend.

Crater Lake itself was amazing – but the drive out to the north brought this view of Mount Thielsen which was hard to pass up. This is one of those images that really takes me back to the moment in time when I was there. Part of the joy of photography is re-experiencing these moments!