And the City Went Dim


If you were expecting all of San Francisco to go completely dark tonight due to the Lights Out San Francisco initiative…sorry to disappoint…it only went dim. Tonight, I was in San Francisco donating my time to capture a few of the key city buildings turning off their lights as part of tonights drive to fight climate change by reducing our energy consumption. It was pretty amazing to see numerous buildings in San Francisco go dark at almost the same time. However, as the organizers had predicted, there was a noticeable but not cataclysmic darkening of the city.

The Mandarin Oriental San Francisco hotel was gracious enough to grant me access to their highest floor as a location to shoot from. They have a sky bridge on their highest floors that connect the two halves of the building. This sky bridge has floor to ceiling windows and grants panoramic views of San Francisco facing both North and South. It was from this vantage point that I was able to capture Coit Tower, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge going dark.

(Coit Tower and Alcatraz Going Dark)

The goal was to also capture the Transamerica Tower also going dark, but they turned off the lights before the expected 8pm PST event…I guess three out of four isn’t bad! To show the difference, below is a photo take at a different time with the Transamerica Tower lights on and the ones from tonight.

(Previous Image of Transamerica Tower and Coit Tower)

(Lights Out San Francisco – Coit Tower Before)

(Lights Out San Francisco – Coit Tower & Golden Gate Bridge dark)

If you click through on the lower two images, you can look off in the distance of left edge and see the Golden Gate bridge. You can also check out the Photos Page on the Lights Out San Francisco website (as of this posting, the photos page was still in mock-up mode with simulated photos, as photos from the various photographers trickle in tonight I would expect to see them posted on this page).

One of the other notable events of the night was that Google supported the event by turning the Google homepage “dark”, at least for visitors from San Francisco. You can see a screen shot of this at the LOSF blog. I wasn’t able to see this in action because I live outside of the city, but Google also put up a page supporting the event.

At the end of the night, I think the event raised some awarness about the need to conserve energy. A number of people that I talked to while out shooting knew about the event, some even saw the darkened Google Homepage. As one person commented on my previous post, it would be great to see this occur across the country or world with a large enough impact to be photographed from space. The people behind LOSF are planning a Lights Out America for early in 2008….

Sunday Morning Update:

This morning I was watching the morning news on local San Francisco stations and was glad to hear that most of them covered the LOSF event last night (here is a story from the SF CBS station…unfortunately, I couldn’t find any stories reported from last night on line–so much for real-time news…). What I found surprising (and a little bit disheartening coming from the news) was how all the stations gave this feeling of disappointment that the event wasn’t more noticeable.

Part of that is due to how hard it is to time multiple organizations across the city to flip the switch at the same time. As I stated above, the Transamerica Building either never turned the lights on at the top of the pyramid or turned them off early (they were off at 7pm PST when I arrived to prepare for my shoot). The other part of this is due all the residual lighting that our cities have. All the street lights couldn’t be turned off for obvious safety reasons; yet these lights produce a lot of light pollution that creates a secondary glow effect on buildings. Even when the lights in/on a building are turned off, the street lights light the building more than most people realize (notice the glow on the top of the Transamerica Building).

Regardless, there were a lot of people and businesses that could have turned out their lights that didn’t. Notice the entire floor middle way up in the Transamerica building that appears to have all their lights on… I think in the end, all the media attention (good or bad) helped to draw awareness to the event and the cause. I know this was one of the key things that Nate Tyler, the Founder of LOSF, was hoping to achieve.

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