Alcatraz, Lighthouse, Chapel Windows

ISO800, 35mm (prime lens), f/1.8, 0.4 sec
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

The first of several upcoming posts taken at Alcatraz, the former federal penitentiary located on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  I was fortunate to receive an invite from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for a rare behind-the-scenes tour of various regularly off-limits areas.

One of the rules was that we could not bring a tripod as some of the areas are accessed via steep ladders or are narrow.  We were also moving at quite a brisk pace to cover all the nooks and crannies in just under 3 hours.

So without a tripod, I had to finally spring for a 35mm fixed/prime lens.  The Nikon D7000 is a APS-C (cropped sensor) camera meaning the 35mm becomes a 50mm “Nifty-Fifty” lens with the 1.5x crop magnification.  Being a fixed lens, the optics are sharper and the aperture is wide open at f/1.8.  This is about 4-stops of light faster than standard kit zoom lenses.  And without a tripod, I would need all the extra I could get.  For certain shots I bumped the ISO to 400, 800, 1000, and even 1600.  I pretty much left the aperture at f/1.8 all night.  These settings generally allowed me to take handheld shots without much shake and blurring, especially if I propped myself against some walls or pillars.

The Alcatraz Lighthouse dates back to 1909 while the original (now demolished) lighthouse dates back to 1854.  The original lighthouse was the first on the West Coast of the US.  Combined, both lighthouse have provided continuous light since 1854 except for a period in 1970 when the lightkeeper’s building burned down and the power source was cut.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, spot metering mode, 35mm (prime lens), ISO 800, 0.4 sec, f/1.8

Alcatraz, Lighthouse, Chapel Windows.  Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, California.  January 26, 2013. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.


10 thoughts on “Alcatraz, Lighthouse, Chapel Windows

    1. I appreciate the comment James. For me, the orange sodium light source coming from lower left off-camera really helps set the mood here, especially with the way the light paints the window frame. And even the window frame itself gives the impression of a medieval gate. The setting was just right and all I had to do was frame it properly!


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