The Gold Gate Bridge at Sunset
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The Gold Gate Bridge at Sunset

Baker's Beach

tokyo wedding photographers On the road to San Francisco 2011

“San Francisco has only one drawback. ‘Tis hard to leave” ~ Rudyard Kipling

We’ve left our hearts in San Francisco, as we return to the start of our most recent travel tale. You can catch the end part here. Today it’s time to meet icons, play in some of the funkiest, most colorful, elegant, liveliest suburbs in the world and see just how many cupcakes and whoopie pies it’s possible to sample in only two days.

This is an excerpt from a 2011 blog post. You can read it all with images here.

Of course before all that we actually have to get to the airport and that would prove somewhat problematic as Tokyo was on on high snow alert on our departure day. We had planned, in light of the snow prognosis, to leave the night before and stay near the terminal. Nothing was going to prevent us from leaving. But there was just too much work to get done before leaving to even think of that option. Luckily, the snow wasn’t sticking and we headed out to Narita in heavy sleet and snowflake flurries. It was simply freezing outside. Would we get there? Oh, yeah. In plenty of time to get lost trying to find the Admirals Club.

As Tokyo floated beneath us, swathed in a coat of white at take-off, we got ready for what was ahead. Oh, who I am kidding? We fell straight asleep. Which is something we never do. An indication of our current sleep-deprived state. But we’ll always wake up for food and snacks. And with visions of working through the night perfecting our Ignite speech…we promptly fell back asleep again.

Somehow we arrived at LAX. It’s been just a little while since we’ve last been in the US and that coupled with all our stuff, my boots and attire made for quite the scene at the security screening. Just how many plastic trays do I need for all my belongings? I think it was 11 at last count. And that was a tight fit. Finally after the big re-dress we headed to the club again and the first thing Trace did was go straight into celeb mode…She was spotting the famous left right and centre. Apparently. I just wanted a coffee and to wash-up. After I finally convinced her a trip to the restroom was in order she was very rewarded upon the conclusion. As when we walked back through the lobby we heard a very important looking man on his phone announce that he had George Clooney and 2 body guards on the way up. Thank goodness our flight had just been called otherwise either: a) there may have been an international incident or b) there most definitely would have been an international incident. Universes briefly avoided collision. George, please remain ever grateful AA flight 170 to SF was on time.

The flight up to San Francisco was as visually epic as we remember. Flying over Big Sur and the stunning coastlines twirling around below us. We finally arrived, weary, with no work done but ready for our whirlwind of SF action. Beautiful day. We’ve arrived before we left Japan and it’s time to pick up our rental car.

The first 15 minutes of driving in America were beyond harrowing and a near death experience every 15 seconds. “Get left, no get right, no just stay in the middle…” Whatever…there was sheer panic in the little ford focus. With one way streets, trolley cars and freeways to contend with it’s amazing we are alive. We finally arrived at our hotel in the Golden Gate area, in one piece but there was plenty of honking trauma. People actually do use their horns. A LOT. In San Francisco. We are sure we didn’t do that much wrong. Maybe they were just welcoming us?

So after a quick check in, we discover the hotel is right behind a very fab little street lined with restaurants, bars, the loveliest cafes, upscale shops and more than just a few bakeries. We headed into Union Square to have a little look around and a shop, grab some Chipotle. And then we were seriously about to collapse. A few honks later and we were home for the night.

Some highlights of the colors, life and fantastic architecture and food that is so SF…

Loving the buildings… Each one auditioning for us…

After a dead-to-the-world sleep which required at least a gallon (we are in the US, now) of coffee to depart from, we spent the morning in the coolest organic cafe working on our Ignite speech. We were trying rather unsuccessfully to send all our slides through to the lovely Lindsay at Kubota for the presentation. We were on the search for wi-fi. We had supposedly found it here – or so they said. Coffee was excellent. Internet was not. But we did get the speech written. Didn’t get the slides sent. A bit of tidying up and timing to work on as well as loads of practice. In between trips to the car to add coins to the meter and the subsequent $50 parking fine when I was 1 minute late – it was all in all a very productive, beautiful morning. In defense of the parking inspector he was very cute and was very sorry because I was so hysterical and told me to just leave the ticket on the window of the car and we could park for free all day. He then drove off in his golf cart and I made the walk of shame back to the cafe to tell Trace. 1 point for me in terms of brushes with the law, 0 for Trace. She would really make up for this much later in the trip.

Here is the place our first inaugural WPPI presentation was essentially written, amid much drama and excellent cuppas.

Then we headed off to Baker Beach for our afternoon sessions and a brief beach-inspired picnic. Marveling at the majesty of the day. The last time we were in SF we were shrouded in the famous fog for most of the visit. Today was clearly the exception, the bluest skies, the clearest view, icons floating just beyond our reach. So many lovely families booked in. All the kids were fabulous, dogs were a delight. The Tokyo grapevine an all-powerful force. A big city, a small world. We are so grateful and excited by all this. A very popular spot too, with the local photogs, especially around twilight when we counted at least 5 shoots going on. And as luck and life would have it the sun bought out the fun, as the winter chill disguised itself as spring for a day. Yes, we had one lone hardcore Nudist starring in the distance of our last session for the day. Just so magic.

With our sessions over we just couldn’t leave as we were being tempted by a most spectacular sunset. What a California show. A huge Cali sun sinking over the water. The world was totally gold and orange, sparkling galore. Way to turn it on.

The glow from behind the cliffs was so mind-blowing. We dumped all our session gear and quickly threw on some more landscapey clothes and footwear and ran down to the beach to record the last moments of the day. The running part certainly wasn’t pretty. We are fairly shameless when there’s a sunset to get. Follow the light and try to find the sun from a different angle. With just a few minutes to get the shot, running all the while, we finally with seconds to spare, got the shot, hand held and all.

It was all a little overwhelming. Our jet lag, or just the emotions of being outdoors in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, doing what we love… But it was the perfect end to a gorgeous day. Then we wandered up to the northern end of the beach, curiously to see if the nudists were still around in the dusk but primarily to work on some long exposures.

Here’s what we got. The GGB not a bad muse. After the glorious oranges, we then got hues from pinks to purples to deep blues as the sun sank lower and the marine fog rolled in covering the city like a big cozy doona.

No idea which way to look. This way or that. North or South. Even behind us the scene was spectacular. We had fun playing, lost in time and at some point were both fully submerged in the ocean. But it was so worth it. And the perfect end to a day at the perfect beach.

But always time for just one more shot. Back to the main view. Our bridge for a moment.

And just when the day couldn’t get any more random, a wedding shoot popped into view!

Deep twilight brings out our favorites blues…There’s still some light. Cobalt skies and vermilion crossings.

We were exhausted but also very inspired and really were not ready to call it a day. So we quickly decided to head across the bridge to Marin Headlands and shoot the bridge from the opposite direction, looking back towards the city. We were leaving the next day, it was time to make every moment count. We can sleep when we’re dead. Having said that, as we were half way across the bridge surely terrorising most of the late Sunday commuters with our off-road driving, the deep fog rolled in and the temperatures plunged. And our spontaneous exploring had us going round and round in circles. For a long time. We were sure we were lost. It was freezing the wind whipping us around every curve of the headlands. Almost went over the cliffs a few times. Ok slight exaggeration, but the deers we encountered plum in the middle of roads and front and center in headlights certainly didn’t help.

Finally though we came around a bend to this view. A little past the time we would have liked to have had some late, last streaks of blue in the sky. But the color was gone for the day, all now putting on a show elsewhere. It was an elegant evening, stunning all the same and as the stars came out to play, frozen as we were, it was classic.

And it was then bye-bye Golden Gate Bridge – an urban icon simply on fire in the night, lighting the way home. We wouldn’t know it then, but the next day she would be shrouded almost totally in fog. The evening was spent reviewing pics from the day, finding sand everywhere and reflecting on how lucky we were to have had so many elements come together to work. Because if there is one constant in our lives it’s that things don’t always, or actually ever, happen according to plan. But then just sometimes, when you least expect it, they more than do.

After a brief sleep, and a bit of jet lag – which is always dealt with by watching some late night infomercials – we were up, the car packed and ready to hit the road. The day was grey, fog hung in the air. No hint of blue, or sun-time. We had the roads to ourselves, which we are sure the residents of SF were thrilled about, perhaps they got the memo. So we set-out for an AM adventure and of course a series of our very own Dee & Tee drive-bys. Still perfecting the art. So very ghetto. We took in the neighborhood, still auditioning for the perfect walk-up. Love them all.

No early morning tour of SF is complete without going to see where topless dancing originated. At 6:30am. Turns out a plaque commemorates it at The Condor. The Jack Kerouac museum right next door. A large influence on us and a favorite author. Blog post title of course in reference…Old battered suitcases and all. All pics a combination of drive-bying and walk-bying. A color kaleidoscope of inspiration and imagery taken by the best girls in town…Or so we tell ourselves.

We’ve done most of it before but we had a little time before we hit the road to Yosemite so we started off on the infamous 49-Mile Drive, starting at City Hall, then winding our way through downtown, the inner city, the hills, the Nobs and much more. Of course getting completely stuck in traffic as the morning marathon got underway, somewhere around Chinatown.

Japan town. O-hayo Gozaimasu.

Union Square and past the Hotel Triton where we stayed on our last visit to SF. Thank goodness we are not staying any longer, we could certainly do some damaged around here, both waistline and hip-line.

Next, as mentioned above, we got firmly wedged in Chinatown. The marathon was endless but we had a lot of fun people watching while we waited for the streets to come unblocked. At this point we are way off course and have no idea where 49 starts or ends.

So we just made our own way. As you do. And as we did the streets around Nob Hill were so extremely steep we felt like we would simply tip backwards into the waiting engine of the impatient taxi driver inches behind us. Totally and completely lost. But a beautiful area to explore.

We finally made our way down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Deserted in the morning, not a tourist in site. The dock area starting to come alive, the clam chowder on the boil. Alcatraz was somewhere ahead, lost in the fog. We had explored the prison a few years ago and totally were amazed by the experience and the history. But today we could barely make out it’s timeless shape through the haze.

And then somewhere up ahead, the fog parted like the red sea and a vision emerged. Yes, it was Ghiradelli Square. And you just have to stop there for some serious 8am shopping. $35 worth of chocolates later, coffees and hot brownies I am blissfully in chokky heaven, while Trace took in a spot of naval history.

Then firmly back on the 49 Mile Drive and we whiz past The Palace of Fine Arts and some more fab buildings. Bit obsessed with fire exits, ladders and all those doors and windows.

Drive-bys continue at the Presidio and the National cemetery. Moving and quiet in the early morning.

Then we wander on to Crissy Field and Golden Gate National Park – but can hardly make out the bridge. It seems like everyone is out and about now. Runners, walkers, cyclists, dogs – everyone is outside enjoying the day. Moving it every which way. We are, too and so lucky to have had yesterday’s weather for all those sessions.

Next we meandered down the coast. Firmly wearing the remains of the Ghiradelli Brownies -all over us – and wondering about morning tea. The famous sea lions on the rocks and the beach that’s just endless following us on the right. We stopped here on our last visit, partaking in several servings of SF’s famous clam chowder. No such cravings today. Yet.

After a quick time-check we realized it was time to make a few shortcuts. We had to leave about lunch time to make it to Yosemite before dusk. So we do a blockie and head north again to get to enigmatic Haight-Ashbury. No trip to San Fran complete with taking in the hippie revolution. And it helps if there is some Ben & Jerry’s at the foundation, a few fish-netted legs sticking out of the sky and a bit of flower-power, and psychedelic colors in your day. Ooooh we’d love a house here.

And then a brief stop into the busy Castro for lunch. No hot cookies, we preferred some Cafe Mystique.

So sadly as the blue sky came out to play and the fog took an intermission we had to farewell San Fran, for now. We will so be back. Sooner rather than later we hope. What a fabulous city. And simply beautiful, open people. Who honk, a lot. There are so many more Painted Ladies to photograph and dream about living in.

We are off to another dreamland now. Ansel Adams country here we come. Time to be inspired by color and light of a slightly different iconic nature. El Capitan and Half Dome await and perhaps Yosemite Sam, although we are secretly hoping for less in the way of Looney Tunes…but knowing our luck…You can never, ever tell.

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” ~ Ansel Adams

Wait for us. We are on our way.

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