Many of the 13 million tourists who visit Marin each year stop first at Vista Point, the overlook at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
They descend in droves from tour buses, pile out of packed minivans, and pedal over from the city in caravans of rented bikes. They wield cameras, phones, GoPros and iPads to record the moment, using San Francisco, the bridge or just the fog as a backdrop.
A few snap and run. Many more linger. Some flash peace signs. Some balance in odd positions in order to “hold” the bridge with their hands. Couples give their expensive cameras to strangers in order to get a picture of themselves. Others indulge in endless selfies.
People are in a good mood. They are on vacation. They speak in many languages and use gestures to ask others to photograph them. Most say please and thank you in English.
Most of them are also cold. They are dressed for L.A. warmth, not Bay Area bluster. They shiver as they smile. They hug to stay warm. They wear matching sweatshirts purchased at the Wharf.
Vista Point offers a carousel of diversity — Indians, the women wrapped in saris; Japanese and South Koreans, affluent and in groups; Western Europeans, darkly dressed and aboard bikes; Mexicans, up from the Central Valley with family; and, of course, Americans from the heartland, comfortable in pastel T-shirts and mom jeans.
A few years ago, I began photographing these tourists photographing each other at Vista Point and at Battery Spencer in the Headlands above the bridge. As they made their snapshots, I made my own.
Some of the images speak for themselves — a bride, young lovers, two men dressed as prisoners of Alcatraz. Others show a fleeting family dynamic — one unsmiling person in a cheery group. But most are of happy (and windblown) visitors enjoying their moment in Marin.
Check out the gallery below of photos taken in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.