The Unicorn!

Finally got the unicorn!

Now as to what a unicorn is varies to each person. Yes, a unicorn is a mythical creature that resembles a horse but with a horn that protrudes from its forehead, however for urban lore a unicorn is something or someone that is unattainable. Unattainable such as your dream car, your crush, a far off destination, super rare limited edition Jordan, and so on. Sometimes one can obtain their unicorn, once one catches a unicorn they can have a new unicorn in place of the former.

As for myself, my unicorn is to take a photograph of Lil Green Monster (my motorcycle) at the Pacific Overlook with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background during sunset. As simple as it sounds, it is not.

Pacific Overlook via Google Map
Pacific Overlook via Google Map

The Pacific Lookout is located on Lincoln Boulevard on the west part of the Presidio in San Francisco. The lookout is only accessible by a dirt trail that has a barricade that separates it from the street to protect pedestrians and cyclist from cars. The closest opening to the street of the barricade is over 150 feet from the lookout. With the Pacific Lookout having westward-facing views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge in the periphery makes the lookout point well visited by tourists, runners, and cyclists. To the east of the lookout are trees that blocks views to the east however provide shade from the sun early in the day.

What makes a simple shot so challenging, asides from accessing the site, are three reasons: people, timing, and the fact that vehicles are prohibited on the site. The lookout also is connected to a trail that many runners and bikers use, therefore the lookout provides a great spot for one to take a break and catch their breath. With a great view of the Pacific and GGB, there are people on the lookout at any given time of the day.

With views facing west and trees to the east, taking a photo at sunset during the golden hour is the ideal time to take a photo. However summer in San Francisco, the fog (aka Karl the Fog) rolls in from the coast right before sunset. Having fog block the view of the Pacific and GGB adds to the challenge to taking this simple photo.

Lastly, it only seems obvious that vehicles are prohibited on the lookout. There are no signs nearby that reads vehicles are prohibited but the fact that I had to ride onto a dirt trial that seems to be meant for pedestrians and bikers only for over 150ft to reach the lookout platform is what makes me believe that vehicles are prohibited. Since I do not want to get in trouble or get cited for ‘trespassing’, I’m weary to ride up onto the lookout since Lincoln blvd. is patrolled on a regular basis by the State Park Police.

Well, over the weekend after work and riding through traffic caused by the Doyle Drive closure, I was frustrated and needed to relax. With the sun starting to set, no fog but some clouds in the sky, and no one on the trail it was a perfect time to take the shot that I’ve wanted to take for months, time to get my unicorn! A quick drive by the lookout to make sure that there were no State Park Police nearby then went back around to the closest entrance and rode onto the dirt. Honestly don’t like riding on dirt since my bike was meant for asphalt, I slowly rode on the dirt and carefully maneuvered onto the lookout then positioned my bike to where I thought would capitalize on the view. Once the motor was dead, I quickly hopped off the bike and got to my knees to get a good perspective of the bike with the GGB in the background. Not satisfied with the way the bike was positioned I got up off my knees where I change the angle of the bike. Then back on my knees, takes photos, get up and readjust bike, then repeat two more times.

Taking all the photos took no more than three minutes; I was rushing and not thinking much about the composition, lighting, or other options (cell phone pics, I do need to invest in a DSLR). With my focus really on the trail to make sure that no one would walk up on me and on the road to make sure that there were no police rolling up. Now that I look back, if a police officer were to had rolled up on me, there wouldn’t be anything that I could do, so I should had taken a deep breath and make the most of the opportunity.

Below are a few shots that I was somewhat pleased with.

Pano from Pacific Lookout

Out of all the photos that I took, only two of them turned out decent. Biggest disappointment from many of the photos taken was that the front tire was turned to the left; out of habit that is position of that the handle bar is placed to lock the handle bar. Below is a photo with the tire turned to better understand what I am babbling about.

Angled tire that makes the bike look odd.
Angled front tire that makes the bike look odd.

However after some cropping (a suggestion from a new friend), removing some sky and the ground, the composition looks better. As a photographer that is still mastering the craft, I am always open to feedback. The idea of cropping was brilliant because I had tunnel vision at the time and could not see other solutions to making the photo to work for me.

Cropped version of the angled tire.
Cropped version of the angled front tire.

Here is another photo of the bike with the front tire less angled and straighter, and the photo already cropped.

Less angled tire, better?
Less Angle for the front tire.

With the front tire straighter the bike appears more familiar and what people imagine when they think of a sport bike.

Which photos do you like best?

Below is a video of me rambling after capturing my unicorn. From capturing my unicorn I am going through a roller coaster of emotions from glad that I took the opportunity to take the shot when it presented it self to a bit deflated when seeing that the photos taken were not that great; but no worries as I am planning on redoing this shot when the opportunity is right.

As for what is the next unicorn for me to capture? Well… let’s just say that I will be placing myself in danger to take the photo. Is risking my life worth taking a picture?

Yes. Why go through life when one is not willing to take the risks.

Cheers!

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