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Holding the Fort Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

9 May 2019

The "fort" in North Beach depicted here burned down in March of last year, closing 10 businesses. No one was injured. Today only the brick facade remains.

Holding the Fort. Nikon D200, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor at f8, 1/160 second and ISO 100 processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

And it remains only because it has been shored up with an unusual configuration of buttresses. Walking by the site last weekend, we took a snapshot.

We were looking up so the first order of business was to correct perspective. Given the nature of the image -- bricks and windows and beams -- we squared it away as if we were somehow hovering above the street.

The second problem was that we were shooting into the light. Even though it was overcast, that flattened the colors significantly, as you can see from the uncorrected JPEG embedded in the DNG below.

We adjusted Clarity, Exposure, Highlights, Blacks and raised Saturation just a hair. We used quite a bit of DeHaze too. And we increased the saturation of the Oranges and Yellows. To deepen the shadows under the eaves we isolated them as a selection before applying a Levels adjustment to them.

When we were satisfied, we had departed from the original capture significantly.

But we weren't trying to make a pretty picture. We weren't telling a story either. We were making the most of pretty poor shooting conditions to document the situation.

And, in fact, although the images has been 'shopped, nothing we did to the image couldn't have been done in the darkroom. Perspective control would require tilting the easel and a little targeted burning would darken the eaves, for example.

In the corrected image, you can see the smoke scars above the windows, the sky through the windows, the reinforcement of the facade, even the Columbus street sign. And you can also see that over a year later, rebuilding has not begun.

Long after the news crews have packed up and gone on to the next fire, neglecting to follow the story, the site languishes in neglect despite its location in the heart of North Beach just adjacent to Washington Square and Haig Patigian's monument to San Francisco's volunteer firefighters of 1819 to 1866.

A few beams promise otherwise as they hold the fort for a brighter day.

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