DIY Photo Tour of San Francisco

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.

Map of Your Trip in San FranciscoYour 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.

San Francisco and the Bay
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).

Street Art of Haight and Ashbury
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.

Street Art in the Mission
Another spot with great art and the buzz of busy humans is the Mission District.

The Transamerica Pyramid
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.

Fisherman at Baker’s Beach
With any luck we’ll have enough time to make it down to Baker’s Beach by sunset. I had the good fortune of catching a local fisherman at work trying to nab some dinner for the evening.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker's Beach
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.

The Transamerica Pyramid Framed by the Golden Gate
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.

The Golden Gate Bridge at Night
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.

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15 Responses to “DIY Photo Tour of San Francisco”

  1. Agness says:

    I’m impressed by the night view of San Francisco and the graffiti work!

  2. Dave that shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk is AWESOME! Thanks for highlighting some great places to shoot in CA. We’re heading to San Diego this summer and you’ve inspired us to get out and explore!

  3. Lane says:

    This is great! Sending this off to Twitterverse.

  4. It has always been my dream to visit san francisco, and I will in the future. Great shots you have there!

  5. Sally says:

    I’m stunned at the evening perspective of San Francisco. Thanks for featuring some excellent locations to capture in CA. We’re going to San Paul june and you have motivated us to get out and explore!

    • Dave Barger says:

      Sally-thanks for stopping in. Have fun in finding all the Cali love out there. You’ll find more than enough photo inspiration exploring all the side paths and roads off the 101. Hope you enjoy!

  6. Charlie says:

    That is some incredible artwork, wow! I couldn’t read your blog post on the front blog roll page as the font and the background are nearly the same colour… =/

  7. Ray says:

    These are some really impressive photos you took here! The night photography in particular is impressive. What kind of camera did you use to take these?

    • Dave Barger says:

      Thank you very much Ray! Here I was using an aps-c cropped sensor Sony NEX7. I’ve since upgraded to the a7 and my night photography has taken off to a new planet of excellence. Have you ever shot with Sony’s before? I think they’re fantastic new contenders for absolute greatness in several areas of photography at once.

  8. Ray says:

    Yes, I shoot photos with my five year old Sony Cyber-Shot. It has 16.2 Mega Pixels, 30x Optical zoom, and shoots full HD video at 1920 x 1080/60p. It makes for a great bridge camera as I didn’t quite have the money at the time to buy a Canon or Nikon DSLR camera. I must say that I have been quite pleased with the video footage and photos I have been able to take with my Sony, though. Particularly, indoor photography my ISO settings and shooting portraits with background defocus has been astounding. Prior to that, I was a Panasonic Luminix guy for a few years.

  9. The street art there is definitely not to be missed! Great post.

  10. Isaac says:

    What a beautiful Blog! Thank you for your sharing!

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Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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