She said, "You were just lucky."

I'd given a talk on my series of photographs Thirty Six Views of the Bay Bridge. The woman was pointing at Chestnut Street, San Francisco. The tower of the Bay Bridge jutting up behind Yerba Buena Island, the iconic Port of San Francisco sign, a ferry drawing its wake across the water, brooding clouds overhead, all these were captured in this image.

I was shooting during winter because the late afternoon sun from the south gave me the light I wanted. I researched sight lines and topography to find locations, and settled on Chestnut Street as a possible site. Then I drove from my home in Berkeley to San Francisco, without my camera. I needed to find a place where I could set up my tripod without trees or houses obstructing the view, and where traffic was minimal. I walked the neighborhood and found a good spot.

I returned home, and waited. I needed the right combination of cloud cover, low humidity, and wind to give me the clear air and interesting sky I wanted. On a day that looked promising, I loaded my tripod and camera into the car and drove back to Chestnut Street. I chose the lens, and played with the settings on my camera while looking at the histograms. Then I waited for the ferry to enter the frame. I snapped the picture … twenty seven times. I needed a variety of exposures to experiment with in post production. I then spent about thirty hours working with the image to give it the look I had developed for the series, reminiscent of early 20th century lithographs.

Was I lucky? Sure. I didn’t create the landscape, and the clouds could have been less dramatic. There is an element of chance in every photograph. But chance won’t get you far without a lot of hard work. As Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

- David Garnick

David Garnick is the editor of  Bokeh Bokeh Photo and directs the  San Francisco Bay Month of Photography. He lives and works in Berkeley, California.

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