Traveling the West Coast with a camera and an empty wallet? Take this hobo photographer’s insights for capturing the best of San Francisco over a day with meager resources on hand.
Northern Californya’s one hell of a photogenic part of the world, but if you’re trying to make the most of it in a short time, San Francisco’s got plenty to offer.
Your trip through the city can go any which way, but if you follow mine, you’ll do best with your own car. If you don’t have a car, the Bay has a supreme (by American standards) transport system called The Bart, which should be able to transport you to most places for reasonable costs. Click the map on the left to see where we’re going.
I started my photo journey a little before noon at Twin Peaks for a supreme view of the Golden Gate Bridge (left), the city, Oakland and the rest of the Bay (right).
One of the best things you’ll find in the Bay is the street art, particularly in San Francisco and Oakland. A great place to soak up some public art and a happening vibe is the Haight-Ashbury District. The tourist business may have replaced the Haight’s rebellious counter-culture of the 60’s, but it still makes for a cool afternoon walk.
Another spot with great art and the buzz of busy humans is the Mission District.
Now we’ll start with a look at some of the city’s more iconic sights. From here the route will take us through the heart of SOMA and the rat-racy CBD. There’s endless shopping and high-end restaurants here, but we’ll skip all that luxury nonsense for sights like the Embarcadero, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown and the Transamerica Pyramid.
Snapping the bridge from Baker’s Beach was a quintessential moment for me. Depending on the time of year, there’s enough room to enjoy yourself, but also plenty of people to socialize with.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty cool at night, and it’s free to leave the city, but do so carefully; it’s 6 bucks to come back in. Take the first exit after the bridge on the right, cross back under it and follow the road up the hill for several fantastic vantage points of the bridge. Park the car before the roundabout and track the bright light from downtown until you see the Transamerica Pyramid framed by the bridge.
On the way back down be sure to stop at the Battery Spencer, get out and walk towards the cliff and see if you can snap the classic bridge-by-night scene.
Final Note: San Francisco’s a wildly expensive place. If you’re really trying to pinch your pennies here, keep an eye out for different foods on carts or in little “holes in the wall.” Pay especially close attention to parking signs when you leave the car. If you aren’t careful, you’ll wind up in the wrong zone and pay something like $75 for that.