We live in a part of the world surrounded by marvelous natural beauty and much of it has been preserved thanks to dedicated conservation efforts of so many people. Yet many of the people who live here are unaware of so many of the natural wonders that surround us. There are over 500 hills peaks ridges and mountains in the San Francisco Bay area. For years I have been hiking and photographing these hills and mountains and so in 2014 I began a comprehensive effort to hike and photograph as many of them as I could. Beginning in July I began by climbing a new peak in the Bay Area for 121 straight days.
This website is an initial presentation of many of the summits with notes on photography, conservation efforts, hiking and history. Additional summits are being added on an ongoing basis. A book will follow with a wider selection of Bay Area peaks and more extensive text commentary.
The project has been covered by the San Jose Mercury News:
and also by Doug McConnell in his Open Road series
Q: What camera do you use photographing the Bay Area Peaks?
A: All photos are taken with an iPhone, using various models from iPhone 3 to the current 7 Plus.
Q: Why do you use an iPhone rather than more “professional” photo gear?
A: For years I have photographed all over the world using the best Nikon 35mm cameras and lenses. I know how to make “knock-your-socks-off” classic landscape images using that gear. I also know that it is cumbersome and expensive. Eventually I found I was going out just to make a photo, not to actually have an experience of a landscape. Instead I chose to focus on the experience itself and to use an everyday camera, a phone, that an ordinary person would carry. I don’t pick the magic hour when the light is best, or scout locations and wait for the perfect moment to get the shot. I walk in the landscape, hike/climb to the summit and take images as I go, on the move, of what I see when and where I am.
Q: Isn’t the iPhone very limiting?
A: Yes. That’s the point. By only having one lens, a wide angle (though now two lenses with the 7 plus) I have to work harder to frame an image that is interesting. Sometimes the light is too glaring, or dull and leaden . Without supplemental lighting (flash) it is more of a challenge to find an image that is still pleasing.
Q: What do you use for post-processing? Do you use filters?
A: In keeping with the idea of using everyday equipment, all of the post-processing is done on an iPad, mainly with Snapseed, or occasionally Photoshop. Typical processing adjusts for contrast and brightness, sometimes saturation and ambiance, to best fit viewing on a screen. Transmitted light is different than reflected light and optimizing for screen viewing, especially on a small screen, gives a better user experience. Occasionally I’ll add a filter, grunge or noise, or sepia or black and white, to evoke a mood.
Q: Why are there not many shots of the peaks themselves?
A: On each hike I look to find one thing, one photo subject, that is distinctive. That might be the trail, or a scene from the trail, or looking up at the sky, or looking down at my feet. Each image is taken while “on the peak”; it is not meant to be a photo “of the peak”.
Q: Can I buy a print of one of the images?
A: Yes. I plan to offer a selection of the best images as 12×12″ prints on stretched canvas. A calendar is also in the works. And eventually a printed book with a selection of 50 or so Bay Area Peaks with extended commentary.
Q: Will you be adding more peaks?
A: Yes. The website is an ongoing project There are many Bay Area peaks I have already climbed and photographed, which I will add going forward. And there are still other peaks I have not yet visited. Please check back frequently.
Q: How about hiking and climbing recommendations?
A: There are many options already available on-line. If you are specifically interested in peaks I recommend Peakbagger and Lists of John. There also quite a few sites devoted to hiking trails in local parks. If there is a lot of demand I can certainly add more maps and links to info on individual hikes. Not all the peaks have public access of course, though in some cases special arrangements can be made with the governing agency or landowner.
Q: How can I help preserve these lands?
A: People work to preserve things they care about, and they care most about things they enjoy. So the first step I recommend is to go out into your local parks, hike, explore, discover and learn to enjoy them. Then you will want to work to take better care of these natural treasures. Most local park districts have an associated volunteer association where you can contribute time or money. I am a big fan of land trusts. These NGO’s work very hard under the radar, negotiating and acquiring land or conservation easements to protect land from development. Below is a list of some of the main land trusts in the Bay Area. Finally, I’d add that many individual landowners, farmers and ranchers, care about the land and work to preserve their portions of it.
For twenty-five years I made my living as a travel photographer, going places and photographing for magazines, books and eventually stock photography. After all this time it never fails to amaze me that here so many interesting people and places in this world. My images have been published in hundreds of magazines and books worldwide. In addition to the travel work I have photographed for corporate, agency and non-profit clients including EBMUD, the National Park Service, Clorox and Interorient.
For a multi-year book project with environmental author John Hart, sponsored by the Bay Institute and the National Audubon Society, I photographed extensively throughout the San Francisco Bay estuary. Our book San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an Estuary was published by the University of California Press
You can see more images and stories at www.davidsanger.com.
Please free to add comments, suggestions or feedback below. Thanks for visiting.
Photography by David Sanger