On the ferry ride into San Francisco I could hardly contain myself. The morning air was brisk and the low light golden as I ran from side to side in the boat, searching for the best photos to make. I must have driven the other, more placid passengers crazy as I walked past them a hundred times. There was simply too much to see. The day and my disposition were fresh and I was getting overstimulated.
The ride back was entirely different. I'd spent the morning walking through Chinatown and North Beach. There was a lot behold and photograph. After several hours and 500 photos I was satiated and tired. By now it was almost noon. The midday ferries are lazy and quiet in contrast to the packed commute runs. There were plenty of seats to choose from and I found one near a door with a window. The sun was higher and less interesting and the world had settled into an almost-noon rut. I decided to stay put for the ride back to my faithful truck that was waiting for me in the terminal parking lot.
For me, sitting in one place with a camera requires discipline. Cameras crave visual stimulation and changing perspective. This is one reason why my cameras and I have gotten along these many years. We are compatible—we like drama, and we like to move around. Sitting still, on the other hand, is something that does not come natural to me or my camera. But, this time we decided to give it a try.
I watched things develop from my low perspective. A group of women were chatting. The ferry door opened and closed, opened and closed. The light danced around my small, Formica table. I looked out the window as the cityscape gently bobbed to rhythm of the bay's water. My eyes felt droopy as the rocking motion soothed my own rhythms. My heart slowed down, my brain waves with it. A different kind of visual clarity took hold. Unlike the city streets where a photographer must be quick and alert, I was seeing tiny changes in an otherwise static scene.
I clicked my shutter in unison to the beat of the tide. The city looked stunning in the winter light and through the water-stained windows of the ferry door. Slight changes in perspective, focus, and light now seemed important. The roar of the boat's engines startled me out of my trance but I did not move from my chosen seat on the ride home. I continued to make images from this singular perspective. The women were still there, compelling in their expressions and friendship. The scene from the door windows was now rapidly transforming. The light and shadows on my table moved to the navigation of our captain. In the end, I made as many images from that seat as I did during my frantic walk through the streets of San Francisco. And the ride home was the best part of the whole day.