Cruising the West Coast — Alcatraz Island at Night

As you know from Wednesday’s blog article, some mental midget at Homeland Security decided the passengers aboard the Sapphire Princess were either too dangerous or were seriously endangered if we docked at our scheduled 1:00 P.M. time, but all those dangers would all miraculously disappear if we were allowed to dock some five hours later.  And so it was that we nestled alongside Pier 35 with the clock ticking.  Ursula had made prepaid reservations for a very special nighttime tour of Alcatraz Island, which was scheduled to depart from Pier 33 at precisely 6:45.  We would have no time to spare, and there were no refunds for missing the boat, as it were.

We got in line for disembarkation and then proceeded to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait some more.  Hundreds of anxious, time-pressed passengers stood before us, the long line snaking around the central portions of the ship and winding around the pieces for sale in the art gallery.  Hundreds more lined up behind us as we waited for the gangway to be secured.  It was nearly 6:30 by the time our feet hit the pier.  We took off at a near run, dodging left and right around passengers who were in no rush having already missed their scheduled activities.

With just minutes to spare Ursula pulled up to the booth to claim our tickets, only to find her progress impeded by a couple before her, a couple with a never-ending list of questions and who obliviously continued to eat up valuable time even as the passengers started boarding the ferry.  When Ursula finally reached the teller, the last of the passengers were already approaching the ferry and less than two minutes remained before the scheduled departure time.

With tickets in hand, we and another couple behind us became the last passengers to board.

We had made this journey once before, but during the day.  And if you must choose between the two times, I would definitely suggest the nighttime tour of Alcatraz Island.  The ferry arrives at twilight with just enough time to capture images of the exterior:

A Guard Tower

Alcatraz in Twilight

It leaves well after dark has descended upon the bay, providing you with a stunning view of the lights defining the San Francisco skyline:

San Francisco’s Night Skyline

The images below were captured without the use of a tripod or monopod.  Most shots were made using the “Handheld NightScene” mode on the new Canon G1 X.  “Handheld NighScene” is a rather impressive piece of engineering, allowing the camera to shoot at lower ISO settings for less noise even in low-light situations.  The trick is to hold the camera very steady as it takes three photos in rapid succession, and then internally combines those images to increase the amount of light information for the final photograph.  The downside is that if anything in the scene is moving, it will take on a ghostly blurred look.  You can see this effect in some of the following pictures — cell doors nice and sharp, tourists blurred in movement.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you’re trying to capture such a haunting environment:

Ghosts on the Block

Ghosts in the Prison Library

What else awaits you on Alcatraz Island at night:

Preparing for Escape

The Control Room

A Typical Cell

The Alcatraz Lighthouse

An Ominous Line of Cells

A Bleak Exterior as Well

Alcatraz Prison at Night

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One response to “Cruising the West Coast — Alcatraz Island at Night

  1. Pingback: Cruising the West Coast — Muir Woods | R. Doug Wicker — Author