Saturday, July 5, 2008

ooooh, the smoke....

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...blocked our view of the fireworks, so the trip to Treasure Island was a waste.... or was it?

I had planned on going to Marin County to sit at the headlands for three hours to save myself a good picture spot. Fog was forecast so I thought instead the Marin County bridge lookout point.... but sometimes the fog can be over the water and the northern portion of the bay and not San Francisco. I finally decided driving to Treasure Island... by coincidence, another photography friend was going also, so we planned to meet there.

For those not in the know, Treasure Island is the land added to Yerba Buena Island. It's an man-made island that housed patrol boats during WWII, and most of the facilities on the island was still there, though the housing buildings have been converted and/or renovated and being sold to civilians as condos and townhouses. I must say, for the money, it offers a fantastic view of the bay and the City though the drive is very hectic at times. Most of the still-standing military installation buildings, except for the main administration building at the entrance to the island itself, is now closed off and abandoned. If you ever get a chance to enter the main admin building, it's really beautiful and hosts gorgeous murals on its walls. It's a very spacious building and is great for photography!

So, I fought the traffic through North Beach and the Embarcadero, many areas closed due to the imprending fireworks show, and I couldn't believe the amount of traffic and people on the streets! I can compare it to being within five city blocks of Times Square on New Year's Eve!!

Arriving at the island, I started taking pictures right away... the tip of the Transamerica pyramid was covered in fog, and at times the tip would peek through ~ it was a great image. I then drve onto the island and looked for a parking spot at the very outer end, where I planned to set up. The wind was brisk, and water was being kicked up by the winds forecast to be steady at 15kts, but I thought it gusted at times to about 20 kts. There were already a lot of people walking around, BBQing and with friends and family, and of course along the water's edge were those with tripods and cameras, hoping for that fantastic fireworks picture over the SF skyline.

After some time, I hooked up with my friend and we waited patiently for night to fall. The scene from Treasure Island is a great dream, not only in the lovely skyline but also in the activity upon the bay waters.

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Quite a few tankers, cargo and container ships crossed into my line of vision, plus sailboats, tugs, pilot boats and water ferries of every sort. As night fell, the steamboats slipped their moorings and joined the traffic enroute the fireworks site at Pier 39 and the Aquatic Park areas. Yes, I counted at least two Mississippi (I haven't had to spell that since I was in grammar school here decades ago!) steamboats lit like christmas trees... it was a sight to see!

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Pelicans flew past many times, always a wonder to see and admire!
The fireworks at Sausalito started at 9pm and I was shocked we could even see it!! The fog had just lifted a little and we could see the lights glittering in the black, as the streams of fire soared upward then exploded. Soon after, the fireworks in San Francisco started and amazingly, the fog was thicker there than in Marin..... I think we saw just one hug red starburst that exploded, its red flares a glimmer of pinpoints of blood-red before it disappeared into the fog below, and that was it. We could hear the fireworks, the thunderous explosions but we couldn't see anything past the light flashes through the thick fog. We didn't know it then, and I didn't think of it either, but the smoke generated from the ground explosions of the fireworks going off created so much smoke on the water's level, that it mixed with the fog to hide everything from us watching from the east ~ and that included my location on Treasure Island. 45 minutes we could actually smell the thick gunpowderly smell that blew from the fireworks barge to the east by the wind. I think the best view would've been from Ft Mason or nearby there. In that spot, the wind would have blown everything away so that one could enjoy the light and color!

During this time, there was a steady stream of slow-moving white lights coming down onto Treasure Island ~ cars and more cars of people wanting to come to the island! That steady slow movement of lights did not stop till after 10pm, then started the slowly-increasing glow of red taillights as everyone tried to leave the island at the same time. So I waited around with my friend and watched the skyline, talked a bit about photography, and waited till the traffic died down.

I arrived in North Beach about 11pm and still North Beach was crowded with a mess of traffic of cars and people! I have never seen my corner so busy at this hour, and even as I was downloading my pictures to hard drive till midnight, I noticed a steady line of cars moving past my windows till past 1am!!!!

Of course, if you want to see my favorite images of the night, see them at my photo page here! Enjoy and hoping your Fourth was quiet and safe!

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