October week 1 – Pagoda

At the edge of the water, below Strawberry Hill, at the east end of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, you find a picturesque pagoda.  This pavilion with its red columns and green roof glows when bathed in early morning light. It was presented to San Francisco on America’s Bicentennial by its sister city, Taipei, in 1976.  In either sun or fog this small structure seems like a cultural beacon catching the eye of every passerby.

The pagoda’s rooftop is adorned by intricate carved wooden beams and colorful painted designs on the interior. The exterior roof tiles are clay surrounded by fanciful dragons, monkeys and other animals that climb along each ridge of this eight-sided pavilion. The stone tables make for a wonderful place to enjoy lunch or play a game of mahjong.

I enjoy photographing a subject from various angles and applying different processing techniques.  This pagoda is an accessible subject which I can come back to often.

If there is a beautiful sky you always want to take advantage of it in your capture.  In this case its reflection in the lake allowed me to keep the pagoda in the top portion of the image while using the reflection as a lead-in diagonal line.  Wide angle is often very challenging because so much gets included the picture.

Remembering that early visitors took horse-drawn carriage rides around the lake, I wanted to render an image that felt much older than the structure.  Adding a little blur and some stress lines to the picture of this thirty-six year old structure makes it look like it has been in place since the 1900s.

Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly in Buddhist traditions, and were often located in or near temples.   Often you will see wedding parties and local squirrels posing in this pagoda/pavilion. But they too, in their own rite, are religious activities.

Just today someone asked if one of my photographs was a picture of a painting.  When I was in college I wanted my drawings and paintings to look like photographs and ever since I have worked at making many of my photographs look like paintings.  Sometimes this is achieved with Photoshop techniques and sometimes traditional in-camera choices.

It is surprising that there are still many people who do not consider photography a “legitimate” art form.  As I mentioned last week, we photographers just have a much bigger canvas – the very cosmos itself!  On that canvas this week I could have found blue angels, America Cup racing boats, blue grass performers, Giant’s fans and much more.

But the simple pagoda found its way into my viewfinder and heart!


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