iPhone Photography Street Photography

Capturing the Art in Everyday Scenes

Street photography captures candid, unposed shots of people in public places. Unlike posed portraiture, street photography relies on spontaneity, serendipity, and impulse. The street photographer must have a quick eye to capture fleeting moments. As such, street photography is fundamentally an art of observation.

Henri Cartier-Bresson is often considered the father of modern street photography. His concept of the “decisive moment” emphasizes the photographer capturing the perfect instant within a scene. Famous examples like Behind the Gare St. Lazare show his knack for capturing those transient moments brimming with visual energy. His street photographs play with geometry, reflection, and movement in a lyrical way.

Helen Levitt was a pioneer of street photography in New York starting in the 1930s. She captured the daily life, humor, and grit of the city’s neighborhoods. Levitt often photographed children at play. Her work poetically captures the transitory joys within urban life. She had a gift for uncovering whimsy amid the mundane.

In the 1960s, Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans cemented street photography as an art form. His work stripped away romantic notions of America through raw, gritty, ironic photographs of real life. Frank traveled across the country and captured strangers, cities, cars, and open roads with an unwavering eye. His photographs reveal underlying emotions through powerful composition.

The work of these photographers matters because they transformed street photography into an artistic medium of observation, social commentary, and subjective expression. Their ability to capture visually arresting moments imparting deeper meaning put street photography on the artistic map.

Importantly, street photography is fundamentally about the eye of the photographer, not the camera itself. Many iconic street photographs were shot on nothing more than compact cameras or even modern smartphone cameras. The key is the photographer’s ability to see and capture meaningful moments in public settings. A great street photograph has more to do with vision and timing than expensive equipment.

Several years ago, I’d go out on the streets of San Francisco with a camera bag filled with a fewo Fujifilm cameras. I enjoyed shooting with those cameras – but, frankly, the gear became a hassle – one more thing to worry about. Increasingly, I found myself just pulling my iPhone out of my shirt pocket and capturing the moment with my iPhone camera. Perfectly adequate for almost any kind of street photography. In fact, shooting bursts is so easy with an iPhone that I might do that and then select one image out of many that I shot in a second or two of shutter time.

One other advantage of street photography compared to, let’s just say, landscape photography, is that you’re usually just steps away from a spot where you can take a break, sit down, have a cup of coffee or lunch, etc. before getting back out on the streets. It’s a much better pursuit for older folks like me, rather than hiking the hills out in some national park somewhere to capture one of the iconic vistas! I’ve attended many photo workshops over the years, and I’ve come to smile at how there’d often be a line of us workshop participants with our cameras on our tripods, shooting essentially the same scene! So, so different from street photography. Both certainly have their place, but I’ve outgrown my early interest in landscape photography and now enjoy street photography much more—at least when we’re not in a pandemic and people are actually out on the streets!

iPhone 13 Pro Max Photography San Francisco/California Street Photography

Back to The City

For many years, I met my good friend and photo buddy Doug Kaye almost every week on Fridays in San Francisco. We’d meet at the Ferry Building and head out walking from there – exploring the streets of San Francisco in a most leisurely way. Taking our time when we saw something that captured our interest, a scene that seemed particularly interesting.

As our tastes evolved, we became increasingly drawn to finding places with the best light, the most interesting light. Chasing the best, most interesting light and then slowing down to capture slices of time – as people would pass through while we watched and waited.

After a couple of hours walking the streets, we’d find one of our favorite places for lunch, kick back a bit and take a breather, perhaps do a quick review of the images we’d captured, and enjoy each other’s company over a shared table.

Then Covid hit… and everything changed. Those walks on the streets of San Francisco just stopped. Our photography interests changed during Covid – they had to change! The circumstances forced our hands – we had to abandon our love of street photography. We no longer had our favorites streets to walk. The people were gone. You know the feeling…

Last week we reinvigorated some of those old memories – meeting up in San Francisco again after over two years of being absent. We traveled light – no heavy camera gear – and we did do a lot of street walking. We stayed along The Embarcadero, shared lunch outdoors at Waterbar and went to see the new exhibition that’s just opened at Pier 24. We had a great time – it brought back memories of those years we’d walked the streets.

Doug summed our time up nicely:

Yeah, it was a great day. Good weather, good food, good friends. Hard to beat.

Here are a few images from our time in San Francisco – all taken with my iPhone 13 Pro Max.

iPhone Xs Max Photography San Francisco/California

The Aviva Yacht in San Francisco

The Aviva in San Francisco

Last Friday my friend Doug Kaye and I were out on one of our regular San Francisco photowalks – this time walking from the Ferry Building towards Pier 39. We had fun along the way outside the Exploratorium – watching these dogs strictly obey their dog walker – and some other street scenes.

Dogs at Attention – San Francisco’s Embarcadero

As we walked beyond the Exploratorium we came across this BIG yacht – the Aviva – docked at Pier 17 along the Embarcadero. According to Wikipedia, it’s 223 feet long (!) and owned by Bahama-based British businessman Joe Lewis.

It was interesting to find the yacht here – during the period that the Bahama’s were suffering under the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian last week. But perhaps it being here had something to do with the opening of Chase Center?

Here’s another, more artistic/painterly treatment of the Aviva:

The Aviva
iPhone Xs Max Lightroom Lightroom CC Photography Photography - Black & White Photoshop Photoshop CC San Francisco/California Topaz


Last Friday my friends Doug Kaye, Steve Disenhof and I spent some time at the recently re-opened Salesforce Park in San Francisco. This park is above the Transit Center on the roof – elevators at either end bring you up to this roof top level.

One of the fun things to see at the park is a fountain (you can just see the holes for the nozzles in the white ring above) that’s triggered when a bus comes through the Transit Center below. There’s a glass wall behind the fountain that makes for some fun reflections. That’s a reflection of Steve walking in the upper right corner (with the hat!).

With this image, I tweaked it a bit in Lightroom, Photoshop and Topaz Simplify to give it a more painterly effect in black and white. The original image – shot with my iPhone Xs Max – is below:

Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 San Francisco/California

Our BART Photo Tour

Car 28 - San Francisco - 2012

Yesterday, Doug Kaye and I headed out for another one of our duo photo walks. These are always great fun – as we get to catch up and chat while having a fun time photographing things that we see. We usually pick a venue and work it pretty thoroughly – but this time we tried something different.

The weather forecast looked like it might be a nasty day to be out and about – so Doug suggested we try hopping on BART and then getting off at a couple of the more interesting stations to just see what we could find that might be interesting.

Sounded like a plan – we agreed to meet at the Powell St. BART station – me arriving from Daly City and Doug from North Berkeley. We both got there within 5 minutes of each other and could see some blue sky up through the exit. So, instead of staying underground, we headed outside to Market Street and began taking pictures.

The one above is of the Muni cable car turntable at Powell and Market Streets. This image was shot with my Canon PowerShot S100 and post processed using Adobe Lightroom 4. Because of the weather and our original plan of mostly being underground, we both left our big cameras behind and just brought along small cameras – the S100 in my case and a brand new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 that Doug had rented for the weekend.

From there, we walked down Yerba Buena Lane to Yerba Buena Center where we explored “puddle photography” – taking pictures of reflections in puddles of water, glass reflections, the kids’ carousel, and more.

After lunch at Mel’s, we walked back to BART and headed toward the Glen Park station – apparently known for its architecture.

After that, on to SFO Airport and the Aviation Museum there. I’ve been to that airport hundreds of times – but never to the museum! We had fun talking with the curators there and were able to have some fun taking photos of an Italian motorcycle exhibit in the large International terminal. From there, we headed home – to begin looking at what we had captured during the day – some 115 images in my case!

It’s always fun to see what we each captured and what (and how) we choose to interpret our images in post-processing.

Photography San Francisco/California

Fun in San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach

Home Delivery - North Beach - 2012

I took a day off from work today to join my good friend Doug Kaye for a delightful photo walk in San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods.

Doug Kaye - San Francisco

We met at the Portsmouth Square Park/Garage – with handy underground parking that launches you right into the heart of Chinatown. It’s pretty amazing how your senses are soon overwhelmed when you emerge from the underground parking elevator into the park’s plaza. This park teems with energy – lots of folks, kids, etc just having a great time – even on a workday Thursday morning!

After exploring the park a bit, we headed out – up to Grant Avenue, over to Stockton St. and then across Broadway to Washington Square Park and North Beach. We stopped for a great lunch at Cafe Divine before heading back – up to Grant Avenue, back across Columbus and down Kearney to Portsmouth Square. That’s Doug out in the middle of Columbus Avenue shooting the Transamerica Pyramid!

Total mileage for our loop was 1.4 miles. We spent about 3-1/2 hours exploring, absorbing the many neighborhood smells, and having a great time shooting some fun images. Below is the map of our loop.

Gmap pedometer chinatown northbeach 29mar2011 600px

Black and White Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Canon PowerShot S95

Water Jugs Revisited

Water Jugs 2 - San Francisco - 2011

Back in September, I posted a black and white image of three water jugs that I took earlier at one of the restaurants at the Ferry Building in San Francisco using my tiny Canon PowerShot S95. I loved the black and white treatment I was able to create with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

This afternoon I played around a bit more with this image – basing my new treatment on that earlier post-processed black and white. I wanted to try some selective color enhancements to add some glow and depth to the image. Above is the result. Not sure why this image came to mind – but there’s something about it that I particularly enjoy and it drew me back to post-processing it again using some new techniques and new tools that I’ve been learning this fall.

This afternoon’s image certainly isn’t perfect – for example, I don’t like the subtle glow around the jugs or the bright lines on the bottle edges – but you get the idea of what’s possible from this version. In particular, the filters I used to enhance the image included Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – especially detail enhancer to pull up the details of the condensation on the jugs – along with two Solid Color adjustment layers to add the tonality to the image and a final Selective Color adjustment layer to tweak the final colors.

For easy reference, below is the earlier black and white version. Click on either image to see the large version. Which do you prefer?

Water Jugs - San Francisco - 2011

Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photoshop San Francisco/California

Painted Ladies – Victorians in San Francisco

Painted Ladies - San Francisco - 2008

Here’s another view of the Victorian homes across from San Francisco’s Alamo Square known as the Painted Ladies. There are usually several photographers up on this grassy hillside shooting this scene with the combination of the Victorians in the foreground and the San Francisco skyline in the background.

On this particular morning in February 2009, there was a clearing winter store and the sun had just begun lighting part of the city as the clouds remained in the sky. I had been up on Twin Peaks as the clearing began where I saw the opportunity to capture some interesting light and sky in this classic San Francisco shot.

This image was post-processed first as a single image HDR (from my Canon 5D Mark II) using Photomatix Pro and then in Photoshop CS5 using a combination of techniques that accentuate the drama in the sky and the colors and lighting of the Victorians themselves. Click on the image itself to see a larger version.

Black and White Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II San Francisco/California Selective Color

Stars and Stripes – San Francisco – 2011

Stars and Stripes - San Francisco - 2011

I was out on San Francisco Bay yesterday for the Fleet Week Air Show with the Marin Photography Club. Here’s a shot I took in between the air show flights – this lovely old sailing vessel with a huge American flag flying off the fantail.

This image was shot with my Canon 5D Mark II using the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L lens. It was post-processed using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 with a bit of selective color on the American flag – and a touch of blue toning overall.

If you ever have the opportunity to get out on the Bay for the Fleet Week events, do so! It was an incredible experience for me – and not just for the airplane pictures!

Golden Gate Nik Software Photography San Francisco/California

The Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise

Golden Gate Sunrise - 2007

As I’ve been learning new post-processing techniques (mostly the Nik and Topaz filters in Photoshop), I’ve been having some fun going back and working with older images – mostly not shot in RAW and, as a result, I’m not post-processing them as HDRs.

As I was reviewing my older images, this one caught my eye mostly because of the juxtaposition of the rock in the lower left and the lone tree up on the hill on the right. Plus, the light is lovely too and, in this case, the usual boring blue sky actually works nicely against the International Orange paint of the bridge itself.

This particular sunrise image of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken using my original DSLR, a Canon 30D, in March 2007 – almost five years ago. I used Nik’s Viveza and Topaz’s Adjust and Simplify to create this version. Simplify, in particular, is a new tool I’ve been learning – and, in this case, just a bit of Simplify helped smooth out the dirt and grassy areas of the image very nicely. The result, no surprise, is a bit simpler than the original which seems more pleasing to my eye.