Is San Francisco really that bad?

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DREW WILEY

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Well, the Palace of Fine Arts has been "the" go-to destination in SF for wedding and couples photography for decades; so popular, in fact, it now requires a permit. Therefore it is also "the" most logical magnet for gear thieves, along with nearby streets. And what that tells you is not to be so damn predictable. Who needs another postcard of something that's already been shot fifty thousand times?
Does a photographer need to be just another tourist, going to exactly the same places, bagging the same shots, unaware of his surroundings?

Anyone who has watched National news this past 24 hrs can put two and two together that something has fundamentally changed, and that guns get employed far more readily than before, whether to rob a purse or camera on the streets, or ruin the peace of a bucolic little coastal town just south of SF. But it seems to be an epidemic clear across the nation, and not just in any single predictable place.
 
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tokam

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Spent a couple of days in SF back in 1982 with some kiwi mates while we were on a tour in a rented motor home. We stayed in a very sketchy RV park which was next to a freeway flyover under construction. One night we decided to eat out and the man at the RV park recommended a diner about a 5 minute walk away. While we were at the lights waiting to cross the road a young stranger sidled up to us and asked if we knew where he could get a 'piece'. After a few seconds of confusion he said something like 'You know, a gun'. Well, we tore across the road to the diner where there was a couple of police cruisers parked outside with a number of cops inside on a break. We didn't bother telling them of our strange encounter.

Otherwise we all enjoyed a look around San Francisco including the waterfront area where we had quite a few beers at a place I think was called 'The No Name Bar'?

As it was originally planned as a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats, rained out that year, motorsports were high on the agenda and we saw the F1 GP in the Ceasar's palace carpark, Las Vegas, (dead loss as the track layout defined by concrete barriers meant that we could only see one corner). Then spent a couple of days at the Golden Gate Nationals at the Bayland Park Raceway. Saw plenty of big name drag racers and I have tons of pictures of those days. All in all a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, we didn't see Clint Eastwood in Carmel.
 

Vaughn

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Well, the Palace of Fine Arts has been "the" go-to destination in SF for wedding and couples photography for decades; ...

Yeah, but if you are walking by with a 4x5....
 

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jtk

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Spent a couple of days in SF back in 1982 with some kiwi mates while we were on a tour in a rented motor home. We stayed in a very sketchy RV park which was next to a freeway flyover under construction. One night we decided to eat out and the man at the RV park recommended a diner about a 5 minute walk away. While we were at the lights waiting to cross the road a young stranger sidled up to us and asked if we knew where he could get a 'piece'. After a few seconds of confusion he said something like 'You know, a gun'. Well, we tore across the road to the diner where there was a couple of police cruisers parked outside with a number of cops inside on a break. We didn't bother telling them of our strange encounter.

Otherwise we all enjoyed a look around San Francisco including the waterfront area where we had quite a few beers at a place I think was called 'The No Name Bar'?

As it was originally planned as a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats, rained out that year, motorsports were high on the agenda and we saw the F1 GP in the Ceasar's palace carpark, Las Vegas, (dead loss as the track layout defined by concrete barriers meant that we could only see one corner). Then spent a couple of days at the Golden Gate Nationals at the Bayland Park Raceway. Saw plenty of big name drag racers and I have tons of pictures of those days. All in all a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, we didn't see Clint Eastwood in Carmel.

fwiw I did see Clint in Carmel. My niece got press for arguing with him at City Council (he was on City Council). Also, the No Name Bar" is in Sausalito, not San Francisco. Poets famously read their work at that bar long ago.
 

DREW WILEY

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Times have changed, Vaughn. I remember being able to park right across the street from the Palace of Fine Arts, and in mornings at least, being able to fool around with a 4x5 for an hour or so, without annoyance from other photographers. Now it would be like trying to swim in a school of herring, with hungry sea lions and sharks patrolling around.
 

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I dunno, when I was last at PoFA, I had no issues taking pics w/ other photographers around. It was just 'normal'. People there enjoying the facility. If I needed to take a snap w/ no-one in the image, I'd just have to wait a few minutes for them to walk out of frame. This was in 2021.

Nikon F3, ZF.2 50 1.4, Delta 3200

 

DREW WILEY

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Huss - working with a view camera isn't like shooting a Nikon! It's a lot more methodical, takes time to set up a shot, and requires time under a darkcloth to compose and focus. And one has to be very patient sometimes, until EVERYONE is out of the scene long enough to close and cock the lens, insert the film holder, pull the darkslide, and make a potentially long exposure. It's not about a "snap" opportunity. But the benefit is not only a much larger negative, but the ability to maintain vertical lines and plane of focus, making it far more suitable to architectural applications.

You have demonstrated that, given the right angle of view, one can bag a nice shot with a smaller camera if they have to, especially if one needs to shoot quickly. I do both styles; but in SF hypothetically, it would all depend on exactly where and when. 35mm itself is usually far too small a format for my own printing objectives, and not a controllable enough system for any of the kind of commercial architectural photography I did in the past. Sometimes I make good with a 6X7 SLR system if I need to work quickly and more spontaneously, or on a very wet day; yet even that is not the same. But if one is seeking a bit of that compelling "authentic grit" look, the combination of small film and D3200 is indeed nice.

2021 was a pandemic year, so popular spots in SF are undoubtedly already more crowded in SF than then; and thieves have no doubt noticed that themselves. If some C4 explosive could be tucked into a camera battery compartment along with a remote control receptor connected to the hot shoe .... one more reason to carry an expendable camera. Tracking devices have sometimes been used, along with "bait" gear or purses, to apprehend a few of those lowlifes, just like with porch parcel thefts. But everyone has to be more cautious these days, including police, since guns are more commonly involved in what were formerly petty thefts.

It wasn't all that far from the Palace of Fine Arts where a couple of thieves spotted a man with an especially pricey DSLSR setup and driving a Lexus. They didn't rob him then and there, but waited it out, and followed him an hour all the way back to his residence in a nice Fremont neighborhood, where they robbed him at gunpoint and terrorized his whole family. Think they took one his expensive cars too. So even assuming oneself to be safe isn't always really the case in theft-prone settings. The nice thing about classic view cameras and real wooden tripods is that the thieves think you're just part of some hillbilly clan, with nothing more valuable than a herd of goats; and well, I am indeed originally from the hills, dress like that, and my old truck certainly looks the role itself ! Some of that is deliberate, and so far, has served me well to keep potential thieves disinterested.
 
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Sirius Glass

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The Cannery is E-M-P-T-Y!
 

Vaughn

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Times have changed, Vaughn. I remember being able to park right across the street from the Palace of Fine Arts, and in mornings at least, being able to fool around with a 4x5 for an hour or so, without annoyance from other photographers. Now it would be like trying to swim in a school of herring, with hungry sea lions and sharks patrolling around.

Yep...I took that image while assisting at a Friends of Photography Arcutectural (Sp?) Workshop in SF in 1990, give or take a couple years.
 
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jtk

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Credit where due. Bernard Maybeck and, later, donations by San Francisco public and friend.

The Palace of Fine Arts is a monumental structure located in the Marina District of San Francisco, California, originally constructed for the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition to exhibit works of art. Completely rebuilt from 1964 to 1974, it is the only structure from the exposition that survives on site. Wikipedia

Address: 3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123




Hours:
Open ⋅ Closes 5 PM


Phone: (415) 376-1704



Opened: 1915


Architect: Bernard Maybeck


Architectural style: Beaux-Arts architecture


Function: Theater


Area: 17 acres
 

DREW WILEY

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Wow. Forgot about them. Our shop would cut down huge stack of Duolux into thousands of picture backs for them, stacked onto a big pallet at a time and delivered to them. Yeah, not exactly "archival material"; but they had enough sense to put some Saran Wrap between the board and any picture material itself. And it was reusable. All for relatively small prints, of course. I've been in their ole headquarters in Carmel many times.
 

c41

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For the other side of the coin:
  1. Feb 2021 Photographer car broken into and gear robbed while stuck in traffic
  2. May 2021 Videographer gear stolen at Crissy Field
  3. Nov 2021 filmmaker gear stolen in smash'n'grab in Japantown
  4. Nov 2021 photographer followed to Fremont home and robbed there
  5. Dec 2021 SF Chronicle photograher robbed in West Oakland
  6. Jan 2022 wedding photographer robbery attempt in the presence of the wedding couple on Nob Hill
  7. March 2022 Canadian video crew robbed
  8. November 2022 photographer shooting at Palace of Fine Arts assaulted with robbery attempted
  9. November 2022 second photographer at Palace of Fine Arts assaulted with robbery attempted
  10. Dec 2022 Videographer robbed
9 incidents in two years of pro photographers and videographers shooting in SF for TV coverage or wedding client photography sessions (CA marriages 3.2 per 1000, so SF had about 24000 marriages in 2022...risk: about 0.002% of marriages in SF (and not all the incidents were related to wedding jobs)

So you have a 0.32% risk of getting married in CA?
 

DREW WILEY

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The officially reported incidents which actually make into the news are just a small percent of the real amount of daily crime. One has to research the actual police report data base itself for a clearer impression. Today's armed robbery incident in a long-in-business San Jose area (Campbell) camera store left either an employee or customer critically shot. We don't have all the details yet; but it's on our Bay Area TV nightly news right now.

Now take your statistic of .32% percent of the general public, and multiply those odds by a thousand times that it would be ONE OF US likely to be in a such camera store, rather than the general public. And there have been two such armed robbery incidents of camera stores locally in the last month, perhaps the same theft crew, perhaps not. But flying bullets aren't good for anything camera-wise, including customers.
 

wiltw

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So you have a 0.32% risk of getting married in CA?

The stat for annual marriages rate in CA are 3.2 marriages per 1000 population, which compares to 6.1 marriages per 1000 population for US overall.
CA also has one of the lowest rates of divorce in the US.
 

Bill Burk

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I can’t get my head around what to do. How can people hate so much? I drove past there twice yesterday. I was going to take you to Half Moon Bay. A scene is between two places we would have gone. The Johnson house is just north, and the Purisima Creek is just south. What if we had stopped by that pond in front of the mushroom farm early Monday afternoon?
 

Vaughn

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Sometimes one just plain blows it -- I just rode two miles back from the store with my valuables in plain sight.
I was lucky this time...
 

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wiltw

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The officially reported incidents which actually make into the news are just a small percent of the real amount of daily crime. One has to research the actual police report data base itself for a clearer impression. Today's armed robbery incident in a long-in-business San Jose area (Campbell) camera store left either an employee or customer critically shot. We don't have all the details yet; but it's on our Bay Area TV nightly news right now.

Now take your statistic of .32% percent of the general public, and multiply those odds by a thousand times that it would be ONE OF US likely to be in a such camera store, rather than the general public. And there have been two such armed robbery incidents of camera stores locally in the last month, perhaps the same theft crew, perhaps not. But flying bullets aren't good for anything camera-wise, including customers.

Yes, lots of crime in general, all over the place. While the number of incidents of photographers being robbed of gear might not all be reported, one has to think that a loss per incident of a couple thousand dollars in gear is not going to be fundamentally underreported to the same level as all the smashed car windows seen.
 

BrianShaw

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The stat for annual marriages rate in CA are 3.2 marriages per 1000 population, which compares to 6.1 marriages per 1000 population for US overall.
CA also has one of the lowest rates of divorce in the US.

Fifty percent is still a rather high divorce rate!
 

wiltw

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Did you get to check out PoFA and see if it was over-run with photographers?

Cannery? Are you now in Monterey?

San Francisco has a Cannery, too. Like most, the name has nothing to do with the stores and eateries that are housed there.
 
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