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‘Off the Beaten Path’: tranquil SF spots

originally posted by SF Gate
October 29, 2012

There is iconic San Francisco – the skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars. Then there is secret San Francisco – the unpaved spots of tranquillity tucked inside city parks.

More than 60 Bay Area photographers went in search of natural San Francisco for the new exhibit “Off the Beaten Path,” which runs through Jan. 12 with works at McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park and at the Harvey Milk Photo Center at Duboce Park.

“These pictures depict relaxation, softness, serenity, harmony and beauty,” said exhibit judge and photo center instructor Grant Rusk.

There are nearly 100 images, taken by accomplished artists, amateurs and city parks employees. Judges sorted through more than 1,000 submissions, choosing among them: a red-tailed hawk stretching its wings in Stern Grove. A wooden stairway leading through a lush forest at Buena Vista Park. A bubble the size of a basketball floating over Dolores Park. An infrared image of the Japanese Tea Garden that looks like a floating island of snow-covered trees.

“Maybe people will see my pictures of Stow Lake and want to go there to look at it in a different way,” said Mitsu Yoshikawa, a professional nature photographer who used a 4-by-5 large-format camera for several black-and-white images in the show, including a furious waterfall at Golden Gate Park.

“This exhibit reminds San Franciscans that our open space is just as magical as anywhere else in the United States,” said Phil Ginsburg, director of the city Recreation and Park Department.

This year, the national conservation nonprofit Trust for Public Land named San Francisco’s the best urban park system in the country. One of the winning criteria was that 96 percent of San Franciscans live within a 10-minute walk of parkland, Ginsburg said.

One of the founders of that park system was John McLaren, whose home of 50 years now hosts the exhibit. “To see his home come to life, with a lot of the very seeds he planted, is an astounding thing,” Ginsburg said.

Twelve-year-old Sarabeth Spector captured the spiderweb-like shadow of a jungle gym at Duboce Park. Her mother suggested that she enter it in the call for submissions, and the judges chose it without realizing she was a kid.

“I liked the contrast of the shadows on the ground,” said Spector, who has never been in an art show before. “I like the way a photograph can capture a moment and keep it stuck there.”

The idea for the show came to Harvey Milk Photo Center Director Dave Christensen more
than a year ago, when he took a shortcut through Golden Gate Park to get to a meeting.

“It was a stressful day, and when I got inside the park, all of a sudden I felt I was somewhere else, enveloped in a deep forest,” he said. “I was transported. We have these places of refuge readily available to us in the middle of the metropolis.”

Off the Beaten Path: Celebrating San Francisco’s Signature Parks and Hidden Gems: Through Jan. 12. McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park, 501 Stanyan, S.F., and the Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott St., S.F. Free.

For more information click here.

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