Shooting the Golden Gate Bridge, Bon Iver & the Andromeda Galaxy
Word on the Street: 8 Questions with Brian Fulda from Light
In each edition of “Word on the Street,” we interview a Guide to learn about their Sidewalk and some of their best travel stories.
Meet Brian Fulda, professional photographer and technical support specialist at Light, the makers of the L16 camera. He dishes on his top five philosophies on photography, traveling the Faroe Islands with Bon Iver, and his venture into deep space photography.
1. You just published Light Presents: 5 Ways to Photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. What is your Sidewalk about?
It’s about discovering the lesser known, unique perspectives of the Golden Gate Bridge and learning some fundamentals of photography that will elevate the quality of your photos. The bridge is not easy to photograph in a unique way, and a lot of professional photographers think that it’s cliche to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge. While I wouldn’t totally disagree, I do think it’s a right of passage. The bridge is an icon - it’s the heart of San Francisco.
I want people to see the bridge in a way they haven’t seen it before.
2. Do you have a favorite stop on the Sidewalk? Why?
The Golden Gate Overlook. Being able to look straight down the bridge is amazing because this angle helps you appreciate just how much the bridge actually arches in the middle. I’ve been to this spot countless times and it’s never that crowded; people don’t seem to know about it so you don’t have to compete for a shot. Also, the way the cypress trees frame the bridge always make for interesting photos. Try going at night for an even more unique image.
3. What is your favorite place or thing to shoot in the Bay Area?
A lot of photographers in the Bay Area are attracted to the beaches or to Mount Tamalpias, but Mount Davidson is my favorite place to shoot. It’s the tallest mountain in the city and one of the only places where you get 360 degree views of San Francisco.
Every time I go, it’s always a little different - the fog, the lighting, the foliage. There is this fallen, leafless eucalyptus tree that has been stripped of its branches by the wind. When it’s foggy, the dark branches against the white fog gives an eerie composition. Some of my favorite times to shoot are when the weather is gloomy - the times when people don’t want to be outside.
4. Your portfolio features photographs of deep space objects. How did you get into that?
Over the past two years I’ve really become more and more enamored with deep space photography. Most people become interested in space when they are kids, but I didn’t get the bug until I saw the movie Interstellar. I fell in love with astronomy.
I started looking at space photography online and thought that all the images of nebulae and galaxies were taken from the Hubble telescope in space. I realized that some of these images were taken with a DSLR and a consumer-grade telescope by amateurs. I was blown away.
Then began what became a six-month search for the right telescope and rig to shoot deep space.
5. What is your favorite photograph of the past year? How did you capture it?
My favorite is the one I took of the Andromeda Galaxy from Del Valle Regional Park near Livermore, CA. Del Valle is great because you can find fairly dark skies there without having to travel too far from San Francisco - it’s less than an hour’s drive.
The reason why this image is my favorite is because it gives some cosmic perspective. The Andromeda Galaxy is said to be very similar to our own, the Milky Way. Each galaxy has around a few hundred billion — that’s a number followed by 11 zeroes — stars in them, and each and every one of them are similar to our own sun. So to look at that image and think that we are on a tiny planet orbiting just one of those hundreds of billions of stars gives me a feeling I can’t come close to explaining. It’s a feeling of being so small that it’s unfathomable. I can only hope it gives others that sense of scale too.
6. If you could go on a 7-day photo expedition anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would go to Antarctica. It’s such an unknown place. There is so much of that continent that hasn’t been explored by humans. I’m constantly looking for a shot that has never been taken before, and I think Antarctica would have a ton of opportunities for new, never-seen-before-images. And to bring it full circle, since I’m in love with space, visiting Antarctica is probably the closest I will get to visiting another planet.
7. Given all of your photography background, it is pretty fortunate that you now work for a camera technology company.
Light is my first job since graduating college - I started in March of last year. One of the really cool things about working here is being part of something that is going to make a difference in the world of imagery and photography. When you truly care about something, it makes your job so much easier. Yes, there is a lot of work to accomplish at Light, but it’s also really fun as well.
8. If you could travel with someone (dead or alive - no family or friends) to any city where would it be?
I have always wanted to go to the Faroe Islands, because it looks absolutely stunning there. The Faroes are an archipelago in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Iceland. It’s full of wildly-rugged terrain that sharply rises out of the Atlantic. Think waterfalls flowing into the ocean, sea cliffs that are hundreds of feet tall, and small Nordic villages and lighthouses nestled anywhere they can squeeze — those are the Faroe Islands. I'm always in search of places like this that feel like a fairytale in real life - I love taking landscape photographs that make you go "wow, that's a real place?"
I would bring Justin Vernon of the band Bon Iver because I'm sure he could play some fitting music for that place, and also because that would just be the hipster thing to do, haha. The music video for their song Holocene was filmed in Iceland, which is pretty similar to the Faroe Islands, so I already know it would be a great fit for the dreary weather there.