Lights in the Night

Like many photographers, the Golden Gate Bridge is one Matt Walker’s most popular motifs. When the fog lies low in the bay of San Francisco he’s off, searching for the best spot from which to capture the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge in the far distance – especially at dusk and at night. And with his ZEISS lenses in tow, he produces impressive images every time.

D800, Distagon T* 2/35, f/16, 67 s, ISO 100
"Morning Glory”: View of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge. In the background: San Francisco
Full resolution on Flickr

The Bay Area of San Francisco is densely populated and among its seven million inhabitants are many avid photographers. Matt Walker is part of the Bay Area’s passionate photographic community that specializes in pursuing a very special weather phenomenon: the famous low fog that hovers above the bay. “You need to constantly keep track of the weather,” explains Walker, “because low fog is so rare. We photographers are all connected and keep each other informed. There’s something mystical about low fog. Once you start doing fog photography, it becomes a real obsession.”

D800, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/16, 90 s, ISO 100
The Golden Gate Bridge in the morning fog during the “blue hour”
Full resolution on Flickr

It’s an obsession for which Walker puts his full trust in his ZEISS lenses — in addition to trusting his network and his intuition. The exact setting of the mechanical stop on the focus ring for infinity plays a key role when he takes pictures, as the smallest deviation can lead to out-of-focus images. “I’ve now switched over almost completely to ZEISS lenses. I bought my first one, the Makro-Planar T* 2/100, three years ago. I first experimented with high-speed images and classic macro-photography before moving on to landscapes and portrait photography. The results were terrific. Recently, I acquired my Distagon T* 2,8/15. I can hardly wait to photograph the sunset tonight.”

D800, Distagon T* 2,8/21, f/14, 30 s, ISO 100
“Deck of Diamonds“: Golden Gate Bridge with fog flowing down to the water’s surface
Full resolution on Flickr

If it’s an evening when the fog hovers above the bay, Walker will be in his element.  He mainly takes pictures at dusk, or at night when the city and bridge are lit up. This motif is particularly impressive during the “blue hour” shortly before sunrise or dawn. Such images show very intense colors: you see the lights’ reflections on the buildings and the shimmer of the rising or setting sun. The fog is purple, blue or pink. “The lenses’ balanced color rendering and stunning sharpness make it possible to capture such a surreal mood.  The picture above shows a phenomenon I’d never before seen: when I saw the image on the computer, I first thought the blur came from a shaky camera. But then I realized that I had captured one of those rare moments when the fog is caught inside the bay behind the bridge for just a short time before streaming out into the ocean. That’s how the spooky-looking reflections around the lights on the bridge were created.”

D800, Combined exposure from four different images: 1) and 2) f/14, 30 s, ISO 100 3) f/2,8, 0.6 s, ISO 100 4) f/16, 30 s, ISO 100
"San Francisco in the Spirit"
Full resolution on Flickr

The Golden Gate Bridge during fog is certainly Walker’s favorite motif, but not his only one. He travels frequently, taking pictures of landscapes, stars and typical cityscapes. But when he returns from his shootings, his hometown provides more than enough reasons to pull out his camera: “The Bay Bridge is a subject that’s neglected too often. In this picture, you see the bridge on the left and the financial district in the background in the weeks before Christmas. Like every year, the skyscrapers are festively lit. Above the skyline you can even recognize Venus. And on the TransAmerica Building, a blue light shines like a bright star.”

D800, Makro-Planar T* 2/100, f/14, 30 s, ISO 100, panorama image composed of three separate images
“Under the Bay Bridge”
Full resolution on Flickr

For Walker, the blue “star“ atop the skyscraper underscores what he likes so much about his chosen lenses, especially when used at night — namely, that highlights before a dark background appear evenly in their star form, without any bothersome reflections. This happens with both light sources located far away and smaller light sources, such as the lights on a bridge.  “All of the features of ZEISS lenses that I like so much are ones that help me compose images that work every time: reliable focus at infinity, excellent sharpness and colors, and minimal reflections.  You can see that on this last picture, which I think is a very “intimate” depiction of the skyline of San Francisco. It’s stylishly framed by the Bay Bridge, and the blue fire of light on the roof of the TransAmerica Building reflects itself so intensely in the bay, as if the beam of light were that close to the lens.”


About Matt Walker

Matt Walker has been taking pictures since he was young, but only got seriously interested in photography at the start of the digital age. A horticulturalist for large estate gardens in the San Francisco area and a father of three, Walker is currently active in architectural and product photography, though his main passion remains taking pictures of landscapes in low light. Walker’s work has appeared in Popular Photography Magazine and POP Photo.  In 2013, he won “Best Landscape/Nature Shot” by Popular Photography Magazine.



Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi Armand, yes those shots you need to park at the top of Yerba Buena Island, and make your way through some holes in a cyclone fence. For the shot below the bridge you need cross a road, and slide down steep trails. It's all illegal.

    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Post author

      Hi Jimmy!
      Thank you. You can have a look at the detailed EXIF data on Flickr.
      For these images Matt Walker decided to use the Nikon D800.
      Best regards
      your ZEISS Lenses Team


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>