Knowing San Francisco relatively well, I knew that when I tried to get a sunrise shot of the Golden Gate Bridge back in August I was really setting myself up for failure. Waking up before 4am, we drove to one of the lookout points to find we couldn’t see even the front of the car – let alone the bridge and the city! Disappointed, we drove back and caught up with some much-needed sleep, but I was determined to try again this year.

So in October, I flew back over – and during the same trip as the Amboy shoot, we headed back up the coast, capturing images along the way with our final destination : The Golden Gate Bridge at dawn.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Sunrise Dawn - Paul Reiffer, Professional London Photographer

When you first approach the lookout area on the Marin Headlands, the first thing that normally hits you (if it’s not foggy!) is the wind – and wow, this morning was no exception. The sky was already full of colour though, so time was tight (sunrise was due at 7:31am and it was 7:15 already). Never having managed to see the sunrise from the headlands, I wasn’t entirely sure from where on the horizon it would appear, but took a bit of a gamble after consulting the compass and set up in place. The shot above is actually around 10 minutes before the sun appeared, and you can clearly see the stream of car headlights across the bridge – being a Saturday, we managed to avoid rush-hour, but sadly that meant less car headlights for my photo!

Right on schedule, at 7:31am, the sun popped out behind Oakland, across the bay:

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Sunrise Dawn - Paul Reiffer, Professional London Photographer

I’ve decided to start experimenting with different aspect ratios for panoramic images. This is the first of a few images I’ve set as 3×1 (a lot of my panoramics are 2×1) and I think it really changes the feel of the photograph. Yes, when not quite so “letterboxed”, more colour is available in the sky above – but I really like the way this turned out.

Shifting my tripod a little further along the ridge, I wanted to get a shot that wasn’t of the bridge itself – but of the sunrise over the city. Obviously with such an iconic bridge, some reference to it should really be made, so I shot through the suspension cables toward the Bay Bridge, capturing that famous skyline as the sun brought it to life. This was my favourite from the morning.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Sunrise Dawn - Paul Reiffer, Professional London Photographer“Golden Gate Sunrise” – Print available to buy now

So, did I get what I wanted? Well, yes and no. It’s a real pain, but I kind of wanted a little bit of fog! Attempt 1, too much fog. Attempt 2, clear skies all around. Maybe I’ll just have to go for a 3rd attempt to get that one shot of the bridge towers poking out from the fog, with the sunrise in the background. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m quite that lucky – so this may take some time…!

Back to the hotel, later that evening I took the chance to use the view from the room to capture Twin Peaks at sunset. Given this was shot from a hotel room window, I have to say I’m really happy with how it turned out!

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, Sunset - Paul Reiffer, Professional London Photographer

And talking of views, later that evening we managed to spend some time with a friend who has an apartment on Portrero Hill. WOW – the view from the balcony is below. I love the fact this captures the “neighbourhood” feel of San Francisco, with the ball-practice going on down below; the whole time, the bustling city towering above everything else in lights and the (in)famous Bay Bridge heading out to the East. Thanks Tony! 🙂

San Francisco Downtown - Night - Cityscape - Paul Reiffer, Professional London Photographer