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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Urban Life & Travel Talk 
Thread started 29 Jan 2015 (Thursday) 13:26
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Safety Concerns in Downtown San Francisco..?

 
porky1011
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Jan 29, 2015 13:26 |  #1

My work is sending me to a conference in SF at the end of April. I'm contemplating on whether or not to bring my camera gear to take some photos during my down time. Can any locals or others speak from experience on whether or not I should be concerned about gear/personal safety? I'll be staying at either Parc 55 on Cyril Magnin & Ellis, or the Grand Hyatt on Stockton & Sutter (with Parc 55 being the more likely destination). From my own research, this appears to be within the east end of the Tenderloin district. Having never been to the area, I can't get a good feel on whether or not to leave the gear at home, or to just not worry and go out & shoot.

If I do bring gear, I plan on packing light (5D3 + 17-40 + maybe a small 50 or 85 prime lens).. but you can only appear so light with a 5d Mark III body. Any help would be appreciated!




  
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tandemhearts
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Jan 29, 2015 13:51 |  #2

SF neighborhoods can change in about 3 blocks, so it all comes down to where exactly and when you are going out. Waterfront, no problem. Mid-day (most places you are likely to be) no problem. 11PM mid-Market, I'd pass.

Just like anywhere else, situtational awareness will serve you well.




  
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bobbyz
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Jan 29, 2015 19:10 |  #3

I keep insurance on my gear, so no worry if it gets stolen, breaks etc. Insurance is dirt cheap IMHO.


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Wilt
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Jan 29, 2015 19:19 |  #4

SF has a lot of smartphone theft...folks too busy on their smartphones to pay attention to their surroundings, heck they even walk into street signs! That makes for good targets of opportunity.

Look aware, decrease your value as a target.


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Jan 29, 2015 21:50 |  #5

porky1011 wrote in post #17405849 (external link)
My work is sending me to a conference in SF at the end of April. I'm contemplating on whether or not to bring my camera gear to take some photos during my down time. Can any locals or others speak from experience on whether or not I should be concerned about gear/personal safety? I'll be staying at either Parc 55 on Cyril Magnin & Ellis, or the Grand Hyatt on Stockton & Sutter (with Parc 55 being the more likely destination). From my own research, this appears to be within the east end of the Tenderloin district. Having never been to the area, I can't get a good feel on whether or not to leave the gear at home, or to just not worry and go out & shoot.

If I do bring gear, I plan on packing light (5D3 + 17-40 + maybe a small 50 or 85 prime lens).. but you can only appear so light with a 5d Mark III body. Any help would be appreciated!

Hi Porky!

I looked up the places. Thumbs up! Union Square is a nice and generally safe area, with the proviso that you're near Market St. South of Market isn't great.

I brought my 60D and 18-135 to SF a couple years ago, and it was great! Today were I to take the 5DM3, I'd bring the 24-105. Since you don't list gear, I'd recommend the 17-40. While I'd say it's safe to carry during the day, night time might be a bit different.

You're near some cool locations. If you go up Powell or Mason, you'll find California St, which crosses east/west. You can get an extraordinary (re: iconic) shot of the Bay Bridge from the top of the hill. You're also near Chinatown, which is loaded with photo ops. A walk a bit further will bring you to the Transamerica Pyramid. If you go up Columbus Ave a couple blocks, you can get a great shot of the building. You can also get a great espresso from Réveille Coffee at Columbus, Kearney, and Pacific.

I bought the two books linked below before going. They were invaluable. Additionally, I spent time with Google Maps, as well as other online resources. I've been to SF more than a few times, so I know the city a bit. That said, it's a city, and it is always easy to find yourself in the wrong area. While you can check with a hotel concierge as to where to safely travel, you'll do better to do your research in advance.

http://www.amazon.com …otographing+san​+francisco (external link)
http://www.amazon.com …+geographic+san​+francisco (external link)

Good luck and have fun! Hope this helps!


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e30mikec
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Jan 30, 2015 16:38 |  #6

This past summer I spent about 2 weeks in SF walking/skateboarding around the city with a friend of mine, both of us carried Canon 6d's and 35mm lens' (Canon L and Sigma Art). We walked from one side of SF to the other (east to west, north to south) in both the daytime and after dark multiple times, we never had any issue with safety , even while riding the subway late at night. Pay attention to your surroundings, don't stop to chat with the bums or people you might worry about mugging you and you'll be fine. I would do again and not think twice, also this was my first visit to SF ever.

Have fun and be prepared to walk everywhere, theres too much to see/photograph and the traffic sucks so wear comfortable shoes!


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porky1011
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Jan 30, 2015 17:38 |  #7

Thanks for all the response guys! After more scouting on the locations I wanted to visit, I actually went with booking the Grand Hyatt, so I'll be directly north of Union Square. Looks like there'll be plenty of photo opportunities, so as of now I'm definitely leaning towards bringing my gear. I'll be sure to utilize situational awareness, and keep my head from being buried in my cell phone. :lol:

As for gear, I never went about listing what I had, but now I see the usefulness in having a gear list (I went ahead and created one). :-P My tentative SF lineup is still the 17-40 + 85/1.8, but I wouldn't be surprised to see myself have a last minute change of heart and going with the 24-70 + zeiss 100/2 lineup. I envision myself taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, as well as some general portraiture, so I imagine either setup is similar enough to be up to the task. Having said that, I'm definitely open to more suggestions!




  
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Wilt
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Jan 30, 2015 18:03 |  #8

I posted this comment on another thread about SF and the Tenderloin:

"You are actually at greater risk of theft/larceny around Union Square, than within the Tenderloin! More tourists, more natives shopping in the stores around Union Sq. area."


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porky1011
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Jan 30, 2015 18:05 |  #9

mathogre wrote in post #17406553 (external link)
Hi Porky!

I looked up the places. Thumbs up! Union Square is a nice and generally safe area, with the proviso that you're near Market St. South of Market isn't great.

I brought my 60D and 18-135 to SF a couple years ago, and it was great! Today were I to take the 5DM3, I'd bring the 24-105. Since you don't list gear, I'd recommend the 17-40. While I'd say it's safe to carry during the day, night time might be a bit different.

You're near some cool locations. If you go up Powell or Mason, you'll find California St, which crosses east/west. You can get an extraordinary (re: iconic) shot of the Bay Bridge from the top of the hill. You're also near Chinatown, which is loaded with photo ops. A walk a bit further will bring you to the Transamerica Pyramid. If you go up Columbus Ave a couple blocks, you can get a great shot of the building. You can also get a great espresso from Réveille Coffee at Columbus, Kearney, and Pacific.

I bought the two books linked below before going. They were invaluable. Additionally, I spent time with Google Maps, as well as other online resources. I've been to SF more than a few times, so I know the city a bit. That said, it's a city, and it is always easy to find yourself in the wrong area. While you can check with a hotel concierge as to where to safely travel, you'll do better to do your research in advance.

http://www.amazon.com …otographing+san​+francisco (external link)
http://www.amazon.com …+geographic+san​+francisco (external link)

Good luck and have fun! Hope this helps!

Thanks for the location and coffee tips! If I somehow end up not bringing my camera gear for the trip, I'll be sure to at least try the coffee. I'll have a look at those books, and I'm definitely trying to do some research up front ahead of time :-).




  
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phantelope
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Jan 30, 2015 18:22 |  #10

depends where you want to go and at what times I'd say. I avoid the Tenderloin at all times, it's crummy and dirty anyways. Just don't look like a tourist. If in doubt in some area I have my camera on a sling and carry a simple fabric shoulder bag that I can draper over my camera, makes it less obvious. Or I wear my shirt/jacket over the sling and camera. Daytime you should be fine, at night be aware and pretend to be local, don't walk around with a map or guidebook in your hand. Same as any big city. I'd not go shooting alone in the dark in sketchy areas.

Camera theft is increasing in SF apparently (and phone theft going down with the fingerprint locks and all that) but if you are alert (not paranoid, just not stupid waving expensive gear around) and stay where people are or go with a friend chances are you'll be fine. Muggings are crimes of opportunity, they go for the obvious and easy target. Don't be one.


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mikepj
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Feb 02, 2015 23:12 |  #11

porky1011 wrote in post #17407747 (external link)
Thanks for all the response guys! After more scouting on the locations I wanted to visit, I actually went with booking the Grand Hyatt, so I'll be directly north of Union Square. Looks like there'll be plenty of photo opportunities, so as of now I'm definitely leaning towards bringing my gear. I'll be sure to utilize situational awareness, and keep my head from being buried in my cell phone. :lol:

As for gear, I never went about listing what I had, but now I see the usefulness in having a gear list (I went ahead and created one). :-P My tentative SF lineup is still the 17-40 + 85/1.8, but I wouldn't be surprised to see myself have a last minute change of heart and going with the 24-70 + zeiss 100/2 lineup. I envision myself taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, as well as some general portraiture, so I imagine either setup is similar enough to be up to the task. Having said that, I'm definitely open to more suggestions!

I've spent a lot of time in downtown SF with my camera gear, both during the day and at night. Never felt really unsafe, but as a general rule stay north of Howard and east of 7th. There are more bums around Union Square because that's where the tourists are, but they are pretty harmless. Go two blocks away from the square and you'll be left alone.

The Hyatt is pretty nice. I stayed there a couple years ago. Follow Stockton up the hill away from Union Square and it becomes a tunnel. You can get some cool night photos there with passing cars and long exposures. China Town is a few blocks further.

Coit Tower is a good place within walking distance to watch the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll want a long lens there though to get a good shot of the bridge. Walk to the other side of the tower for a nice view of the city and the Bay Bridge (shorter lens is fine with this view). Lots of photographers head up there every evening, so you won't be alone.

Head down Market to Embarcadero for some more photo ops. The Ferry Building is a good place to eat as well as make some photos. This would be your closest viewpoint of the Bay Bridge.

Have a great trip. San Francisco is a very photogenic city.


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porky1011
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Feb 03, 2015 12:53 |  #12

mikepj wrote in post #17412856 (external link)
I've spent a lot of time in downtown SF with my camera gear, both during the day and at night. Never felt really unsafe, but as a general rule stay north of Howard and east of 7th. There are more bums around Union Square because that's where the tourists are, but they are pretty harmless. Go two blocks away from the square and you'll be left alone.

The Hyatt is pretty nice. I stayed there a couple years ago. Follow Stockton up the hill away from Union Square and it becomes a tunnel. You can get some cool night photos there with passing cars and long exposures. China Town is a few blocks further.

Coit Tower is a good place within walking distance to watch the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll want a long lens there though to get a good shot of the bridge. Walk to the other side of the tower for a nice view of the city and the Bay Bridge (shorter lens is fine with this view). Lots of photographers head up there every evening, so you won't be alone.

Head down Market to Embarcadero for some more photo ops. The Ferry Building is a good place to eat as well as make some photos. This would be your closest viewpoint of the Bay Bridge.

Have a great trip. San Francisco is a very photogenic city.

Mike - thanks for the tips here. These were really helpful as well! The general rule of staying North of Howard and East of 7th'll help me mark the southeastern border of my adventures. I'll actually be spending time at the Moscone Center, so it was starting to push up to the region.

I probably won't be lugging the long lens around (just for ease of walking around), but maybe I'll bring a 2x extender to pair with the 85 for some kind of makeshift telephoto lens. Thanks again!




  
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tandemhearts
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Feb 03, 2015 13:09 |  #13

I'd clarify slightly the SE limit suggestion. The water front from AT&T park, north would be fine. As I read the "North of Howard and East of 7th" , I think you meant either North of Howard or East of 7th. I mean, Howard at 3rd is dull but safe.




  
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mikepj
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Feb 03, 2015 14:29 |  #14

tandemhearts wrote in post #17413664 (external link)
I'd clarify slightly the SE limit suggestion. The water front from AT&T park, north would be fine. As I read the "North of Howard and East of 7th" , I think you meant either North of Howard or East of 7th. I mean, Howard at 3rd is dull but safe.

Maybe we're thinking about this two different ways because the closest waterfront is actually facing east in that area. North of Howard and East of 7th would include Howard and 3rd (which I agree is safe, but boring, though there are a few good bars around there). With 7th (and then Leavenworth) running roughly North/South, I would generally stay to the East of that. It does take a couple of blocks to really become concerned too. Around Moscone, Folsom is definitely safe, as is most of Hyde, Larkin, etc.

I agree that the Embarcadero (or waterfront) is pretty safe all the way down to AT&T Park as well. If I was going to walk to AT&T Park from Moscone though, I would walk down Howard to Embarcadero, and then walk Embarcadero down to the park. During the day, I would probably take 3rd straight there, but I don't know if I'd want to walk that at night. It might just be that I'm less familiar with that area though.

Now I feel like we're making things confusing though. North of Howard; East of 7th. :-)


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tandemhearts
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Feb 03, 2015 15:38 |  #15

Who's on first?  :p




  
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