Through the Aquarium of the Bay’s clear tunnel I saw these divers cleaning the arched acrylic walls from the outside (or maybe the inside, depending on your point of view). I wonder if they use Windex or Glass Plus?
The Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco opened in 1996 to mixed reviews. In 2001, it underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and became a pretty cool place. It’s not as big or impressive as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey. Nor does it have the variety of species or sheer number of fish as the Monterey facility. One can spend all day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and not see everything, the Aquarium of the Bay takes about an hour or so at the most. The one thing that the SF attraction has that Monterey doesn’t, is a tunnel (two tunnels actually).
Walking (or on the moving walkway) through he 300 feet of clear acrylic passage, surrounded by 700,000 gallons of Bay water, is the closest one can get to being underwater without scuba gear. Anchovies, rockfish, sharks, skates and rays swim along side the aquarium’s visitors and then up and over to the other side of the tunnel and back again.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)
The Aquarium of the Bay has other exhibits like touch pools and smaller fish tanks, but it’s the underwater tunnel that sets it apart and makes it worth seeing.
Near Fisherman’s Wharf, on Pier 45, was the Musee Mechanique. It claims to have the largest collection of antique arcade games. I remember playing some of them (or ones like them) as a kid. My children were fascinated at the games that people played in the age before television and home video games. There were a couple of more modern games like a Pac-man arcade game, but most were mechanically operated machines, all in working order.
There was the arm wrestling machine like the one Julie Andrews grapples with in the 2001 movie “The Princess Diaries”. I features a wrestler with a luchador-type mask reaching out to challenge you while he fends off another grappler. Then there was a game called “The End of the Trail” (and I use the word “game” loosely). It featured a broken down covered wagon in a desert scene. Curious, I plunked a quarter into the machine and all that happened was a breeze rustled the torn canvas of the abandoned wagon. You’d really have to be starved for entertainment to play that more than once.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)
Fortune telling machines must have been popular back in the day, because there were several of them in the collection. They reminded me of the 1988 movie “Big” with Tom Hanks.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)
An impressive display was the carnival scene. In an estimated 15 x 8 foot space, a miniature carnival was recreated in wood. When activated the carnival came to life, almost Disney animatronic-style. A band made of 4-5 inch tall musicians played while a ferris wheel turned and a fighters slugged it out nearby boxing ring.
The weirdest things we saw were several execution machines. Each one, with a slightly different theme, played out a miniature execution. The British one had a moving priest giving last rites to the condemned before the gallows door opened, hanging the poor devil. On the French version, doors to a Bastille-like edifice slowly open to reveal a prisoner placed in a guillotine. Moments pass and then the blade drops and the figure’s tiny head pops off. I wonder if these machines were considered the “Grand Theft Auto” of their day?
You’ve seen them before, those penny-flattening souvenir machines. You drop a penny into the device which whirrs and grinds and produces a copper-colored, paper-thin, metal oval with the attraction’s logo stamped on it. And for that single pancaked coin you pay a pretty penny, well, 50 cents to be exact. The thing that every tourist spot in San Francisco has in common is the ubiquitous penny-smashing machine. There seemed to be one on every corner. Even in the middle of the observation deck atop Coit Tower, where one would expect a great view free from crass commercialism, sat one of those machines. They kept showing up everywhere like the proverbial “bad penny”.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 33mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200)
Each of the 21 windows on the observation deck of Coit Tower has a pane of glass covering them. Looking down, I could see hundreds of coins from every part of the world resting on the wide window sills. Visitors to the tower slide them through the thin crack between the glass and the wall.
From the looks of things, the windows weren’t part of the original design. Mounted on the inside of the tower, they have that aftermarket feel. My guess is that they were put in to keep people from tossing coins onto the unsuspecting tourists below.
Floor to-ceiling fresco murals cover the walls of Coit Tower’s rotunda foyer. Painted in the 1930s as a New Deal Public Works of Art federal employment for artists project, they feature scenes of California life during the Great Depression era.
I was also interested in the scene of the San Francisco Chronicle (complete with reporters, editors and typesetters). Given the state of the industry, a long-time newspaper employee can get wistful for days gone by.
Another interesting detail was the man being mugged on the street in broad daylight. I think it’s interesting that the artists depicted the bad with good. I wonder if a government sponsored art project today would have the same freedom.
Telegraph hill climbs 275 feet above the bay in San Francisco. One of the City’s most noted landmarks is Coit Tower, which rises another 210 feet from the crest of the hill and can be seen from around the bay.
The view from the base of the
tower was at one time spectacular, but the trees from surrounding
Pioneer Park have grow so tall that even the coin-activated binoculars
on the ground are all but useless. There are only a few gaps that offer
any kind of a view.
The top, however, offers a
breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the City. From the windows that
ring the crown of the concrete tower, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges,
the Transamerica Building, Pier 39, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Angel
Island and more can be seen.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/16. ISO: 200)
I’m always looking for different angles or my shots, sometimes the more extreme, the better. It’s hard to get a better angle than from the top of Coit Tower
With all the different sights and attractions that San Francisco has to offer, it’s ironic that one of the biggest crowds we saw was gathered around something that’s considered a nuisance. Tourists were lined up, at times two deep, to get a picture of or just to watch the seals basking on the docks at Pier 39. Maybe Stockton can import a few dozen of the marine mammals and park them in McLeod Lake as a part of downtown’s revitalization.
The Palace of Fine Arts is located in the Marina District of San Francisco. It was designed by architect Ronald Maybeck for the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915. During our visit, the large Roman/Greek style rotunda was enveloped in scaffolding due to a renovation project, but the view of the majestic colonnades was still unobstructed.
Across the lagoon that is located to the east of the palace, closely placed houses line Baker and Bay Streets. Each home has a great view of the serene and stately palace as well as the lagoon and the narrow park area that surrounds it.
We saw a “for sale” sign on the house at 2427 Bay Street. It got us to wondering how much real estate like this would cost? I looked it up online. The four bedroom, three bath house features living and dining rooms, a breakfast nook, media room, a deck, kitchen with pantry, walk-in closets and a two-car tandem garage. If you’re looking to move to cooler climes or want a summer house, it is listed at an easy $3,995,000.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)
“We may explore the universe and find ourselves, or we may explore ourselves and find the universe. It matters not which of these paths we choose.” – Diana Robinson
One of the attractions we specifically wanted to see in San Francisco was the Exploratorium. Housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, it features hundreds of hands-on science exhibits that’s fun for both young and old. We spent several hours there and still didn’t see everything. There were experiments that explored sound, motion, magnetism and more. Being a photographer, my favorite part was a section that dealt with visual perception and light.
One exhibit gave masks to users who were asked to match their bodies’ postures with facial expressions of the masks.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 23mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)
Another placed a large opaque globe over the wearers’ head which kind of made them look like the robot “Marvin” from the 2005 movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The globe changed hues as an experiment on how color affects mood.
Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full