Chinatown and Cable Cars: San Francisco, Day One

(17 photos) Last October, I travelled to San Francisco, my new Nikon D7100 in hand and two photography tours booked – one morning, one evening. I had a blast photographing the major tourist attractions, Golden Gate, Oakland-Bay Bridge, the Painted Ladies, to name a few. This October, I went back, but carried my Fuji X100T. I was excited to see the city through the Fuji lens!

So no sooner had we landed and checked into the hotel then I was off and walking, ever so confident in my ability to tackle the miles I would cover. I mean, I walked 33 miles in 3 days in New York City, so no problem. Or so I thought…

My first stop, Chinatown, was about a mile from the hotel. As I got to Grant Street, the main drag, I saw to my dismay that the street was pretty much covered in shadows. I hadn’t checked my sun app before setting out, but truth be told, it wouldn’t have made a difference in my plan. I had a limited amount of time and this was the only time I could get there. So I made the best of it and looked for whatever light there was.

My first shot, for obvious reasons!

Chinatown, California Street, San Francisco

Chinatown Grant Avenue San Francisco

Chinatown Grant Avenue San Francisco

Loved the backdrop of the Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid.

Chinatown Grant Avenue San Francisco with view of TransAmerica Building

Store interior Chinatown San Francisco

Chinatown Grant Avenue San Francisco

Chinese Lanterns Chinatown San Francisco

Chinese Lanterns Chinatown San Francisco

Chinese Lanterns Chinatown San Francisco

Having made my way down Grant Street and up a few others, I turned my attention to finding the Chinatown “gate,” finally asking a local shopkeeper where it was. She pointed back to where I had originally started, saying simply “down that way.” And, so, off I went. “Down that way” turned out to be 6 fairly long blocks, but I shot this picture when I once again crossed California Street. Note the sailors on the corner. It was Fleet Week in the city!

Chinatown San Francisco

A few more blocks south, and there it was: Dragon’s Gate. This, along with the photo above, are my two favorites from Chinatown.

Dragon's Gate Chinatown San Francisco

It was time to move on. My plan was to photograph a cable car with a view of Alcatraz in the background. Little did I know this journey would take me in circles and work my heart up to a beat it hasn’t pumped at in quite a few years. Partway through this unbelievable aerobic workout, I Facebooked my blogging buddy, Emilio Pasquale, and told him he was, oh, so right about about how tough the hills are in SF. I think I actually may have said something to the effect that I couldn’t breathe and was sweating bullets! On top of that, my left knee was beginning to act up. Yikes, what was up with that??

Sure wish I had hopped on this cable car at the beginning. On the other hand, then I wouldn’t have gotten this shot. See the span of the Oakland Bay Bridge in the distance? Pretty cool.

San Francisco Cable Car California Line

A common site in San Francisco – electric lines for the trolley cars.

Street Car Lines San Francisco

20-plus blocks later, I finally reached my next photographic destination. Sadly, none of the photos I took trying to get a combination of Alcatraz and a cable car were worth posting. I did manage to pan these two shots though:

San Francisco Cable Car Powell-Hyde Line

San Francisco Cable Car Powell-Hyde Line

From here, I decided to head 6 blocks over to Ghirardelli Square (home of the famous San Francisco chocolate) and perhaps, finally, catch a cable car and get a shot from inside. (I “cheated” with this next shot – it’s actually one I took with my D7100 last year that I never posted. Boy, was I glad I wasn’t carrying that kit!)

Ghirardelli Square San Francisco

I decided to forego a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae in favor of lining up at the queue at the cable car turnaround to catch a ride back to California Street. I waited for 40 minutes and gave up, thinking I should have opted for the sundae instead. Thank goodness for Uber.

Hyde Street Cable Car Turnaround, San Francisco

If you think my day’s adventures were over, think again. Come back in a few hours and see this afternoon’s post, San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

48 thoughts on “Chinatown and Cable Cars: San Francisco, Day One

  1. I’m so glad I got back here to look at your treasure trove of photos. It’s wonderful seeing a city I love through your eyes. The details are so crisp and clean. Don’t you just love the mix of architecture and how you can capture so much of it in one shot (or at least you can). 🙂

    I’ve hiked many of those hills. Some of them are so steep that you have to stop to catch your breath. I’ve even walked backward part way to give my burning legs a rest. You are a true artist, willing to work hard for your art. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  2. Thank you, Stacy! Those cable car shots are absolutely fantastic. You know, I just love how the people take a risk and stand on the running board and obviously enjoy the view and the ride…feel that wind in the hair. They wouldn’t be allowed to do that on our trams here. You’ve captured that feeling so well. I’m also intrigued by the street signs, only a name! Are there no boulevards, lanes, places, crescents, circles, roads and streets?! LOL. Re the Fuji: excellenty results; what lens did you use?


    • Ooh, I’m so glad you like the cable car shots, Janina 🙂 It’s not exactly the shot you challenged me to get, but hey, gives me a great reason to go back 😉 I noticed that about the street signs too – even on the map there is no “street, lane, etc” designation. Not so in my neck of the woods on the east coast!

      As for the Fuji, it’s a 23mm (35mm equivalent) fixed lens camera, though I was using a wide angle conversion lens (equivalent to 28mm). This model only has one other conversion lens – a telephoto (equivalent to 50mm). I love it!

      Thanks, as always 😊


  3. That’s some hiking Miss Stacy and I agree with @Bruce Thiesen – seeing very familiar streets and scenes almost anew through your vibrant vision. Fabulous.

    (BTW, there’s a great coffee / wine stop this side of the dragon gate on the corner of Grant and Bush. For next time!)


    • Ha! Thanks for the heads-up about the coffee/wine shop (wine, please 😉). I could have used a glass about that point in my journey … though then I likely would NOT have made it up even that first hill! Thanks, Patti, for your ongoing support and always leaving such wonderful comments 💕


  4. Oh Stacy – I always used to say the SanFran was my favourite city but it’s been so long since I was last there. Your photos have made me fall in love all over again. Stunning stunning shots. Really wonderful. Those pink lanterns are beautiful and the colour you’ve captured is amazing. I absolutely adore this whole post. X


  5. Stacy, I always wanted to see Chinatown and now I did. Loved the guided tour. Been on the cable cars and it brought back so many memories. Loved each and every one. Love, Mom


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