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22 January 2016
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we took the streetcar down to Montgomery station and walked over to Revelations, the King memorial fountain in San Francisco. We weren't expecting anything. Just curious.
The overcast sky set the tone. It had rained and the grassy field that serves as an amphitheater was soggy. All the planned festivities had been moved indoors. The speeches, protests and TV crews.
That left the fountain to the faithful, you might say.
We had a Nikon D300 with an 18-200mm Nikkor and a polarizer (which we probably didn't need). We set the ISO to 400 but switched between Aperture priority and Shutter priority modes continually.
In Aperture priority, we either opened the aperture or shut it down to control depth of field. There are some very deep shots in this series and we had to be able to use a small aperture to maintain focus through the range. There are also some pretty dark caverns behind the falls that needed a wide open lens.
In Shutter Priority, we slowed the shutter way down (relying on Nikon's Vibration Reduction to keep the image sharp) to soften the falls. We also speeded it up to stop the falling water in its tracks. There are two shots taken from behind the falls looking toward the church that show both effects.
It was crowded but the crowd was particularly well-mannered, polite and considerate of each other.
It was crowded but the crowd was particularly well-mannered, polite and considerate of each other. The fountain itself was irresistible to the children, who ran up the stairs to look down at the falls, dashed along the top where the reflecting pond mesmerized them and stood in awe at the bottom as the power of the water beat against the granite slabs in the pool below. More than one parent had to swoop up a child who had ventured too close to the water.
But Revelations isn't just an amusement.
Behind the falls is a walkway with large photos and engraved quotes in English and the 13 languages of San Francisco's sister cities. We were lured in by the sound of King giving a speech, louder than the water itself. You get a little wet, sure. But you can't walk too far without being impressed.
What impressed us, though, was a surprise.
It wasn't the quotes, which we had read before. Or the photos, which we'd seen before. It was the families.
Two or three children following a parent or two along the gallery, looking at the photos, listening to an adult explain what happened, reading the quotes for themselves. Understanding something about themselves and the world.
Families of all races, in fact. The children equally in awe.
The mayor was being shouted down in one of the buildings where the festivities had moved, protesters demanding the removal of the police chief. Martin Luther King, Jr., where are you? we wondered.
But outside it was different.
A group of children playing on the dry granite walkway suddenly froze as one of them fell and began to cry. There was no adult nearby but a young police officer walked over, bent down and asked the little fellow what happened. "You fell? Or you all right?"
The crying turned into sniffles and then the sniffling stopped. By then an adult had made it over and play resumed, a lesson learned.
It was all we could do keep from adding a few tears to the fountain.