San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography in Classic Chrome – Part One


Every now and then we need to take a time out from our day to day lives.  We need to re-charge, feed our soul, and do whatever it is that makes us happy.  For me, this means getting on a plane and going to San Francisco, a city I photograph often and feel at home in.

I absolutely love San Francisco.  I love staying in the same hotel every time I go.  I love the people.  I love waking up to the sounds of the cable cars in the morning.  I love the food.  I love walking along the ocean, even though I live on the same ocean here in Vancouver.  And, above all, I love shooting street photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Unlike many cities that have small cultural communities, the Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest one in North America and the largest  Chinese community outside of Asia.  It has a vibe and a culture, especially once you get off the well travelled tourist streets.   It is a fabulous location for shooting street photography.

I travelled extremely light this trip, taking just the Fuji X-Pro2 with the 35mm f/2 lens on it.  I added a 16mm wide angle lens in one pocket of my jacket, a few extra memory cards and batteries in another, and I was good to go.

I think it is fair to say that most of my street photography is processed in black and white.  Street photography for me is about capturing the moment, the gesture, and the feel of the scene.  I am almost always of the mindset that if colour doesn’t add anything to a street photograph that it is best viewed in black and white.

This trip was different, however, because the light was amazing the entire week I was there.  At mid day the light was hard and bright and there were brilliant shadows cutting through the streets.  Earlier and later in the day the light was soft and beautiful.  The colours in San Francisco’s Chinatown are vibrant, but they were especially beautiful when combined with the light I had this week so I decided to shoot the entire set in Fujifilm’s Classic Chrome film simulation.

I also decided to spend time this trip working on getting closer to my subjects.  Every photograph in this blog post (except for the one in the intersection above) was shot from less than 10 feet away from my subject, and most were shot within 5 feet.   Most were captured using manual zone focusing which allowed me to move quickly through the city streets and react to a scene instantly.  With a light gear pack, manual zone focusing, and brilliant light it was easy to spend hours at a time just walking, observing, and occasionally shooting.   The week flew by, and I came home with a set of images I truly enjoyed making.  More importantly, I am re-charged and ready to tackle a busy holiday season.

This post and the photographs below are the first of two posts featuring new street work from this trip.  I hope you like the images as much as I enjoyed taking them.













Part two of this series can be viewed HERE.



16 thoughts on “San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography in Classic Chrome – Part One

  1. RogerB says:

    A great set of images to wake up to :-). I spent a lot of time shooting b&w in my early years but I’ve need to regain my touch. I react to the world now better in color, maybe because I’m now reacting better to people and I’m finding that color is less abstract and puts me more in the frame with the subject. With your images, I feel like I’m right there with them.

    Thanks again,

    • Ian says:

      Many thanks for commenting Roger. Getting close, and having that sense of immediacy, is exactly what I was going for.



  2. Luis Curran says:

    Great shots, as usual, Ian. Thanks. Which in-camera settings did you use for the Classic Chrome simulation?

    Thanks, Luis

    P.S. Which hotel did you stay at? I’m thinking of heading down that way soon but it’s been years since I stayed in the City.

    • Ian says:

      I actually kept the in camera jpg settings flat, there then selecting CC as my film simulation.

      I always stay at The Chancellor Hotel on Powell. Great people.



  3. FULLSPECTRA says:

    Ian these are superb. Wonderful light and very interesting subjects. Looking forward to Part II as I enjoy Part I! Great stuff!! Best, Rob.

  4. Georganna Griffin says:

    Great photos of a great place to shoot! I did a street photo shoot class with Valerie Jardin last Feb. & ChinaTown was my favorite place we covered! I live within a 100 miles of it, but I seldom get there! And, Classic Chrome was a good selection.

  5. kyle says:

    Really nice shots, Ian! It certainly seems like you made the right choice about shooting in color! 😉

    I really like how a lot of these shots (e.g. the third one) have a lot of depth to them even though they’re shot from close up. That’s a tough combination to pull off, but when done well it creates really powerful images IMO.

  6. Nick R says:

    Great photos that bring back happy memories of wandering around Chinatown in San Francisco 🙂 Do you tend to favour the LCD screen or viewfinder for street photography?


  7. Alex G. Villegas says:

    sir, i loved the street photos in this blog. im into street photography lately though i would consider myself still a newbie in this new genre. i am into nature and landscape photography before i delved ito street shots. i found this new genre very dynamic and challenging as compared to landscape which is mostly static. i loved to see more of your great street shots sir. regards and God bless too. much loved here from the philippines.

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