Believe me, I don’t only photograph Shoreline Park, despite what it may look like on this blog. But when you live practically next to one of the most underrated gems in the Bay Area, it’s hard not to end up with rolls and rolls of this place.
This time, I brought my Mamiya 7, the largest negative film camera I have. Capturing images on 6×7 medium format film with a Mamiya lens and Portra 400 may sound extravagant, but there’s something about this place that justifies it all.
I took this photo at a low angle at the start of the trail. The tip-top of the tree receives a warm and cozy blanket of reeds, basked in the golden afternoon sun. I noticed that this kind of composition doesn’t resonate with a lot of people, as most seem to prefer a bold revelation over a subtle concealment. But for me, the omission creates a sense of safety and mystery, and the prominent foreground layer anchors my feet, figuratively.
A few dozen steps forward, a pair of trees stood in an almost identical pose, shaped by the shoreline wind. Like two friends watching the sunset together, they too wear a seemingly wistful expression.
Turning around, the view was much more park-like. Here I used the vignettes and natural falloff of a wider aperture to enclose the scene. The sleek, manmade lines of the adorable boat and the elegant curves of the solitary Scots pine adorned with cones create a harmonious contrast.
Moving forward to portrait subject #4, this one had lost some of its foliage in odd chunks. Nevertheless, it provided shade and shelter for the inviting bench beside it. Despite being positioned beside the trail, the view from the bench was a privileged one, offering an unobstructed vista of the water. Empty benches always evoke a sense of untold stories in my mind. Someone, at some point, had occupied that space. What thoughts were they contemplating? What stories did they want to tell?
With most film, when the dynamic range of the scene is so wide, you have to pick whether you want to keep the light or the shadow. This scene posed such challenge. The beautiful rays of summer light cast the trunks and the bushes in a dim and flat shadow, while blessing the reed seeds with an almost shimmering quality. I was drawn to the quality of the shadow as much as the light at this spot. The shadow gave stage to the brightness of the light, and without the light, the shadow would lack a space to shape its character.
I metered for the shadow, and scanned with almost two stops above the metered exposure to bring more details back in the densest parts of the negative. Portra 400 and Sigma fp L performed excellently. With a lift to the shadow and some color correction to the sky, I was able to interpret the scene the way I envisioned it. A field of golden California needle grass shimmering in hope, buffered by the quiet space of shadow.
Last one of the roll was a difficult one to frame. I looked like some sort of scavenger in the bushes when I was hunting for a good spot. I loved the cute bundles of yellow flowers on a sparsely sprawled bush, like nodes in a network. Similar to its neighboring flora, the shoreline wind molded it into a gentle southeastern lean. Agains the classic summer colors of quinacridone gold and phthalo blue, these little yellow things looked as if they were reaching for something far, far away.
Lastly, not exactly a portrait, but a pattern that I found calming to look at, like soft, caressing touches on the mind.