An Afternoon at Sutro Baths (Photo Gallery)

I took these photos on a drizzly day about a month and a half ago. They were intended to punctuate a post I’d planned about Glen Hirshberg’s short story “The Two Sams,” which is set in San Francisco. The story features the ruins of the Sutro Baths, and mentions various landmarks of the area: The Great Highway, Cliff House, the Camera Obscura. Hirshberg’s narrative makes a lot of use of  the fog and the mists, so common in that part of town;  so the weather on the day I went shooting was apropos. Then I decided not to write the post, and suddenly the photos seemed less perfect…

When I had my old Pentax, I liked to shoot slide film. I love the vibrant saturated hues of color slides, and the velvety high contrast of black-and-white slides. I don’t really miss color slides — nowadays, when it’s bright and sunny, I take my photos and load them into Photoshop, then push the Saturation slider as far to the right as I feel like. It’s not the most subtle effect in the world, but frankly, I’m not a strong enough photographer to always enjoy the luxury of being subtle.

But I do miss black-and-white slides. I’ve never been able to come close to replicating the range of deep blacks and creamy shades of gray of 50 or 100 ISO black-and-white slide film with a digital camera. I tend not to go black-and-white anymore. But if I’d had my old Pentax, that afternoon at Ocean Beach and the Sutro Baths would definitely have been a black-and-white day: a day of shadow and light, shape and texture.

The Pentax is long gone now, so I’ve had to find other ways to conjure from my photos what I see in my mind’s eye. Hope you enjoy them.

7 thoughts on “An Afternoon at Sutro Baths (Photo Gallery)

  1. I don’t think I have a favorite. They are all so lovely. I know what you mean about not getting the right b&w. Like everyone else I use digital now but I remember being able to print bold and drippy and moody photos in the darkroom.

    1. Thank you 🙂

      Re. digital vs film: I know, right? I try not to be that cranky old fart always talking about how things were better in the old days. Digital photography is great, and super convenient, but there are things about film that I wish digital would approximate better than it does.

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