Friday, May 12, 2006

The Giant Camera

On the western most edge of the city and county of San Francisco sits the Giant Camera.

The Giant Camera is actually a camera obscura, a walk-in pinhole camera and minor tourist attraction. Visitors to the Cliff House will find the Giant Camera ensconced on the lower back deck, close to another minor tourist attraction, Seal Rock. The Giant Camera doesn't fit the decor of the rather modern looking Cliff House retaurant. The camera's design is really almost tacky, but it is loved by San Franciscans.

The experience of being inside the Giant Camera is magical. Several visitors at a time enter the camera through the front doors and find a position around a central viewing area. Once inside a guide closes the doors, and the visitors suddenly find themselves in a very dark, very quiet space. They wait in the for their eyes to adjust to the dark with nothing but the sound of the Pacific and their whispers and giggles.

Allowing for the adjustment, the guide then opens the aperture, which is located on the pyramid-shaped structure on top of the camera, and an image of the Pacific Ocean magically appears on a horizontal surface in the middle of the room. The guide can rotate the aperture to provide different views of the ocean, and even Seal Rock.

Most tourists and visitors seem underwhelmed by the experience. Afterall, there's a much better and realistic view just outside the door, but for anyone who has ever been remotely serious about photography the Giant Camera is wonderful, pure magic.