How To: No Flash Corner

Here’s a map of “No Flash Corner“, a place I consistently photographed for a year. If you’re interested in a combination of extraordinary natural light and the serendipity of street photography, it can’t be beat. Trouble is, it’s seasonal, and extremely fickle. If it’s the slightest bit foggy, it’s just any other corner in the city (with a swell neutral backdrop).

No Flash Corner Map
(The intersection of Post & Grant in downtown San Francisco.)

Obsessions are a chance to dig deep into new knowledge. I learned more about photography by consistently photographing that one spot than from doing anything else, before or since. I spent weekends there and came home with nothing. Other days were more successful.

The spot is best in June and July, but those are two of the foggiest months in San Francisco. When the sun’s out, the light is strongest and the bright spots are at their widest. Earlier or later in the year, the spots are smaller, and faster moving, and there’s more variables to wrassle. Here’s a map that shows exactly how it works.

The yellow line shows how things work from April through September. When the sun reaches a point in the sky just north of Post (sometime between 4&6pm, depending on the season), it’ll reflect off the mirrored building due East of noflashcorner. Your subjects, if they’re standing in the right spot, will be brightly lit from two directions at the exact same time. In the fall (the red line), light reflects off a blue-mirrored building (the light isn’t very strong), and bounces down on noflashcorner and three blocks of Grant St.

If you have a flickr account and end-up shooting there, add your pictures to the “No Flash Corner(s)” pool I set-up for capturing global locations with stellar reflected light.

If you like betting on weather, crowds, and whether or not you’ll be lucky enough to align the right subject with the perfect light, give it a shot. Leave the tele-zoom at home and let me know how it goes!

Video: No Flash Corner (1) on Vimeo

5 thoughts on “How To: No Flash Corner”

  1. I read this blog at work where they have just recently started blocking access to flickr (I work for the government). Since the pictures that accompany your blog are all hosted there, they don’t show up. Is there anything that you can do about this or am I out of luck?
    Yours and Alec Soth’s blog are my must reads…

  2. Thanks, Ford. I’m probably going to keep continuing hosting the images over on flickr — it’s the easiest upload/resize method for me. Apologies on that.

  3. Another tip: I’ve recently relocated to a city that’s not as dense as a San Francisco or New York. Because the downtown isn’t chock-full of high-rises, there are more opportunities for reflected light to reach street level. A Houston, Phoenix or Seattle might have similar opportunities.

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