The military skeletons of Marin County.
Ever since I moved to California, I have had a particular vision for a Golden Gate bridge photograph in mind. The photo requires the perfect mix of weather, light, and timing. It remains elusive.
But, the great thing about shooting for the stars is that, even when you miss, you were aiming high. So it is with Battery Spencer overlooking the Golden Gate from the shoulders of Marin County. If your vision doesn’t work out perfectly, you’re still overlooking an absolutely iconic piece of industrial architecture spanning one of the most gorgeous straits in existence and flanked by a glittering jewel of a city.
So, for the fourth time I have come to this location with camera in hand and left without my vision made flesh on the memory card. Be that as it may, I did not leave empty-handed. The area provides ample opportunity in all light.
The great, swollen hulks of cargo ships come cruising into the bay from their long journey over the raucous Pacific waves, their great holds filled to bursting with ore or their decks stacked with containers, guided by nimble pilot boats that dance over the waves in great, stomach-churning arcs like skipping stones gracefully cast from Oakland under the Golden Gate and onto the breast of the open sea.
The White Whale.
So what is this image for which I hunt? Well, as an exercise in pre-visualization and as a shared aventure I will tell you. Often, especially in the winter, a very thick and very low layer of fog steals in from over the California Current and drowns the bay and the city in a thick, cotton blanket of cloud. Only the very top of the Golden Gate Bridge’s two towers and the tallest skyscrapers in San Francisco breach the weather and appear to be floating on air.
Have other people made the image of the bridge and city in fog an icon, if not a cliched icon? Yes, but that is beside the point. My vision will bear a resemblance to these images, but will be mine alone.
From above Battery Spencer, from the very top of the highest hill along the shoulder blade of the headlands (which requires a pre-dawn hike and setup), I plan to capture the spine of Marin county, the bridge and San Francisco nestled in winter fog with a crescent moon hovering just above in the pale sky of early morning.
You can come along with me for the ride, I’ll be posting my experiences and my failures as well as (hopefully) the eventual
image! In the meantime, you and I will have to be satisfied with the juxtaposition between the luminous, hip Mecca of San Francisco and the rotting corpse of her sister county’s previous military occupation.
In a way the whole experience will be an exercise in focus and obsession. I am a big fan of Moby Dick, and, I have to admit, I find myself identifying more with Ahab than with Ishmael or Starbuck. I get Ahab. Stubb is a pragmatist, extremely lucky and extremely confident; Starbuck is a moralizer and the ship’s better conscience; Ishmael is an everyman; but Ahab is the most compelling character by far. His frustration, drive, and failings are so easy to identify with. Who wants to be a Starbuck and moralize another’s passion? Be an Ahab and find your White Whale.
I hope you’ll follow along with me on this journey and together, from Marin’s sage-perfumed heart, we will stab at this image as though it were the flanks of the White Whale himself.