` Re-photographing Watkins's Pacific Coast
Carleton Watkins, Seal Rocks, Cliff House, 1865
Adam Katseff and George Philip LeBourdais, Seal Rocks, Cliff House, 2014
Watkins's picture of the iconic Seal Rocks from the lower Cliff House balcony gave us the opportunity to make an almost perfect match. Although we were several feet lower, making the horizon line in our image touch the top of pyramid-shaped rock in the center, the composition is identical. Filters over our lens allowed us to use a long exposure like Watkins, creating a smooth texture in the water as it moved around the rocks.
Carleton Watkins, Alcatraz from North Point, 1862-63
Adam Katseff and George Philip LeBourdais, Alcatraz from North Point, 2014
Of all the Watkins photographs we restaged, we experienced the greatest change in the landscape in the view of Alcatraz Island from North Point. Although you can see the shape of Angel Island in both pictures, the profile of Alcatraz is markedly different. In order to see the island and its famous prison building clearly, we had to place the camera at the end of Pier 39, which opened only in 1978, half a mile further into the bay than the historic North Point where Watkins took his picture.
Carleton Watkins, The Cliff House, San Francisco, 1863
Adam Katseff and George Philip LeBourdais, The Cliff House, San Francisco, 2014
The Cliff House restaurant has been a San Francisco landmark since it was first built in 1858 on a cliff north of Ocean Beach. Though vegetation has grown all over the hills of Sutro Heights since Watkins took his photograph, our view from the remains of the parapet shows the same relation of the restaurant to Seal Rocks in the water behind it. Note the Giant Camera Obscura at left, built in 1946.
Carleton Watkins, The Wreck of the Viscata, 1868
Adam Katseff and George Philip LeBourdais, The Wreck of the Viscata, 2014
Watkins's view of the wrecked ship Viscata was taken on Baker Beach, part of present-day Presidio Park, next to where the Golden Gate Bridge meets San Francisco. Finding his location was an easy walk across the sand, with people and dogs running by, to a small hill. From there, we saw the horizon of the Marin Headlands come into perfect alignment with Watkins' photograph.
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