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Photo Release: “San Francisco Blue Hour” by Justin Katz

A very high resolution, large-format VAST photo of the Downtown San Francisco city skyline at sunset dusk; fine art cityscape photograph created by Justin Katz in California

A 363-megapixel VAST photo

Downtown San Francisco, CA
The “blue hour” is that brief but magical moment of twilight, either early in the dawn, or late in the dusk, when the sun is at a significant distance below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue. My goal was to create a VAST photo capturing San Francisco at that special moment – but first I had to find the perfect location.

The City By the Bay is located on a geologic fault line, which means that there is no shortage of scenic overlooks, dramatic views, and picturesque locations. That being said, Twin Peaks is one of my favorites. It offers a great vantage of the entire downtown San Francisco area, with a straight view down Market Street all the way to the famous Ferry Building. In the background, you can see the recently reinvigorated Bay Bridge, with all its dancing lights.

On this particularly cold evening, I worked my way past the main viewpoint, and down the hillside where I could be in perfect position. I wanted to be able to see the famous Ferry Terminal building all the way at the end of Market Street. I sat on the side of the hill and waited for the sun to go down behind me and for all the other visitors to leave. In the span of about ten minutes, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, and the wind picked up dramatically. Without the extra layers and a sturdy tripod, this shot would not have happened.

While I waited for the light to be just right, I reflected on how I was witnessing San Francisco at a pivotal moment of its history, with the nearly completed construction of the West Coast’s tallest building, Salesforce Tower. With such explosive economic growth from the tech sector, this city has seen a lot of changes in the past ten years, some for the better, and some not. I have been part of those changes in many ways, and when you sit upon one of its predominant hills, you are confronted with how much the city is alive and evolving right in front of you.

Facing east towards downtown, my goal was to wait for the moment when all the lights within the city were illuminated, but the sky still had enough light to have the beautiful blue color I was looking for. Once the sun set below the horizon, the light changed at a dramatically fast pace, giving me precious-little time to capture the many exposures that I would stitch together to create this image – all while my fingers were going numb.

After successfully capturing the necessary images within the fleeting time window, I packed up my gear and hiked back up the hillside, excited to begin the technical process of using the source material I had just acquired to generate this VAST photo, one of the highest resolution photographs ever created.

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