Life in San Francisco: A Film Photo Essay by Nick Hogan

Light leak on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
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This week, we’re featuring a photo essay on film from photographer Nick Hogan. In this photo essay, Nick shares his love for San Francisco, a city filled with character and beauty. Scroll below to find a collection of 35mm film images from around San Francisco and more from Nick about his life in such an amazing city.

Analog cameras and films used: Pentax K1000 (Find at KEH Camera or on eBay) | Kodak Portra 400 (Find on Amazon), Ilford HP5 400 (Find on Amazon)

Connect with Nick: Website | Instagram

San Francisco on 35mm Film Kodak Portra 400

Life in San Francisco

A Photo Essay on Film by Nick Hogan

San Francisco is a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but, to me, San Francisco is and will always be home. This place that I have called home for the past six years feels forever welcoming, vibrant, and breathtaking.

The Golden Gate Bridge on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Skyscraper disappearing into fog on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

San Francisco is an extremely small city that is only seven miles wide and seven miles long. It feels like a big small town, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it.

But packed into these mere forty-nine square miles is a delicious medley of breathtaking views, incredibly unique and vibrant neighborhoods, different types of food from all over the globe, and many, many more things that will always make you want to explore and come back.

San Francisco rooftops on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Row of houses on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

When I first moved here, what initially left me awestruck was the breadth and depth of the views in the city. I’m originally from a suburb outside of Baltimore, Maryland where everything is very flat, suburban and bland.

The first time I stepped into this city I was blown away. I saw mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Lands’ End, saw the entire city teeming with life from a bird’s eye view at Twin Peaks, and took in the classic views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It seems that wherever you look you can see something incredible. Whether you are commuting to work, getting groceries or just walking around the neighborhood, you will most definitely be cranking your head in all directions.

Every day on my old morning commute to work, I would take the 5R MUNI line downtown, and, for a moment each day, I would catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge being bathed in morning light during sunrise. It was one of the best ways to start the day.

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in California, and I would argue the entire country. It would be THE most beautiful city in the country if it was not for the weather.

Row of houses on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Doorway with flowers on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

Before I moved to San Francisco, like most people, I thought all of California was one big stretch of coastline and every mile of it teeming with beautiful, warm sunshine. I even decided to go to college in SF. I saw a video and a few pictures of the University of San Francisco and was hooked. They even had palm trees on campus. I sent my commitment to go to college without ever being to the school, city, or the state. I was stuck whether I liked it or not.

So I flew out to California for my freshman orientation in August. I was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops with visions of boardwalks, beaches, and bikinis bouncing around in my head.

However, I exited the plane and was briskly greeted with a thick layer of fog and bone chilling fifty-five-degree weather. I was cursing under my breath and wondering what I got myself into, the brochures made the city look so nice, warm, and even tropical. There were even palm trees on campus?!

I asked around and was quick to learn that we were in the middle of what some people call an Indian summer. This means the typical summer months of June, July, and August are damn cold and depressing. There is always a layer of thick fog, damp weather, and high winds. BUT come the typical fall months of September and October, the weather takes a drastic shift to clear skies, warm weather, and everyone’s mood in the city instantly improves by leaps and bounds.

Long outdoors set of stairs on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Bookstore on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

As everyone’s mood improves, there is a mass exodus to one of the many parks or beaches in the city. This is something very unique and special about San Francisco, it seamlessly blends nature into all corners of the city and provides convenient local escapes.

Many times, I remember snagging a burrito and six pack of beer, bringing a blanket or two, and going to a day party in Dolores Park, which is a massive park located, in the Mission District, strewn with palm trees that overlooks the entire bay.

The lazy Sundays spent gathering myself together and then gathering my buddies and popping over to Off The Grid in the Presidio; where you can find some of the best food truck bites in the Bay Area, amazing drinks, and perfectly selected music for a lazy Sunday. All while relaxing, hopefully in beautiful sunshine and sometimes in frigid fog, with your friends on an immaculately kept lawn.

I even remember walking outside of my old house with a few roommates (I lived in an old Victorian mansion with twenty-four other people), and we would wander over to Alamo Square with warm, freshly made tacos from El Rancho Grande and a few cold beers bought from the corner store while we all sat together and took in the expansive views at Alamo.

I feel that no other in city in the world you can do this; having this amount of nature so prevalent in a city and having so many amazing views and vantage points that are all open to the public and surrounded by nature.

House on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Light leak on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Doorway with flowers on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

Having that amount of nature in the city really put me at ease. It made me feel at home and relaxed. When I would get tired of the parks to escape and relax, I could always cruise over to one of the two beaches in the city; Ocean Beach and Baker Beach. Bet you didn’t know SF had one beach let alone two?!

Even though they are usually not warm, have no boardwalks, and definitely have no bikinis, I still love each of them. I used to live three blocks away from Ocean Beach in a small little studio with no kitchen. I stayed there because the rent was dirt cheap, and it was close to the ocean. It was one of the most relaxing places I have ever lived.

I would climb up to my roof to watch the sun go down over the city and ocean, quick snag a last-minute surf session before going to class or go hiking on a myriad of trails by the beach. I was living my California Dream, and I was stoked!

When ever I got tired of Ocean Beach or wanted a slightly less cold beach, everyone would go to Baker Beach, which sits snuggly in the Presidio and has a commanding view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We quickly found out that Baker Beach is also a popular nudist beach, so we were careful not to wander too far into the nudist encampment on the far side of the beach.

It was always so magical to be bobbing in the ocean surrounded by great friends, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the break taking Marin Headlands behind the bridge. Every time I dove in to the deceptively cold, bone chilling waters, I took a second to pause and realize I was living out my dreams. It was such a surreal feeling.

City street on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Nighttime marquee on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

Even though there is so much nature in the city, each neighborhood in San Francisco is so unique, vibrant, and distinct. You have the constant humming of cable cars being carried through the breathtaking houses and uncomfortably steep hills of Russian Hill. You have the all the old, ornate Victorian style architecture littered with coffee houses, four-dollar toast and music venues all throughout Western Addition, The Panhandle and The Haight.

You have Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park snugging The Richmond and Sunset Districts tightly where you can find some of the best ramen and Boba in the city. You have the largest Chinatown outside of China bustling with a maze of alleys strewn with lanterns and quality Dim Sum spots.

You have The Mission where you can get some of the best burritos and tacos you’ll ever eat, catch great shows at a spattering of venues, and go to a littering of great dive bars. You have the fabulous neighborhood of The Castro which is a hub for the LBGT community where you can hit all the gay bars you could dream of, get some incredible food and coffee, and wander the beautiful streets for hours.

You have North Beach teeming with remnants of the Beatnik movement started by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg, so many iconic Italian eateries your head will spin, and go to a smattering of fantastic bars.

Cityscape on 35mm b&w film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
People getting off a bus on 35mm b&w film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Cliff House on 35mm b&w film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

Additionally, if you get tired of life in the city, within twenty minutes you can be in genuine wilderness. If you go north over the Golden Gate Bridge, you can see giant redwood trees in Muir Woods Park, catch a magnificent sunset at Mount Tam, see the expansive view of the entire city of San Francisco at Marin Headlands, or cruise over to the small surf town of Stinson Beach.

If you heart desires to go south you will see miles upon miles of staggeringly beautiful coastline, quality surf breaks, and the best Taco Bell on planet earth (it’s right on the beach and has a mini boardwalk, just google it).

Beach on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Beach on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film
Forest area on 35mm color film - San Francisco Photo Essay by Nick Hogan on Shoot It With Film

Quite simply put, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities on this earth. You have adventure at your fingertips in every corner of the city and in every mile outside of the city. You have breathtaking views from everywhere you look mixed with some of best food you will ever eat. You have a city that is astoundingly unique and amazing.

In this city, I had strangers turn into family, fell madly in love for the first time, and lived out a lot of my childhood dreams. If you ever have a chance to visit, I would love for you to have the chance to experience this vibrant, unique, and boundless place.

Thank you so much, Nick! You can find more of Nick’s work on his website and Instagram. You can also find his Asia Travel Essay here.

Check out all of our film photography features here, and if you want to have your own film work featured on the site, view our submissions process!

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