Word and Image

San Francisco Cable Car

9/29/2011

When I was in San Francisco many years ago, I shot this image of the iconic cable car. The Powell Mason line runs from Market over Nob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. The hill is steep! I have taken many photos of the cable cars all along the route. I shot this on slide film. There is no record of the camera settings. This image shows two techniques. The first is panning. The car is moving and I am moving the camera and keeping the car in focus. The effect will blur the background. The shutter speed has to be just slow enough in order to get the blur. The second technique is tilting the horizon. It adds a dynamic feel of motion. This goes against the rule that you should always keep the horizon straight. Tilting is a street photography technique that gives an edge to the image. Depending on your choice tilting right or left will give the image a different feel. Often one of them doesn’t work as an effect. You can take a straight shot a bit wide angled and then crop/tilt in post processing. Or, with digital simply experiment and shoot three images – straight, right tilt and left tilt. In addition, I have kept the area of interest in the lower third following the rule of thirds. With slide film everything has to be perfect in the frame – exposure, shutter, f-stop, blur, framing and rule of thirds. That’s a lot to juggle.

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