Photography opportunities at the Marin Headlands (California, Sausalito), part I- man-made textures

One of my favorite places for photography is the Marin Headlands area in Sausalito. Proof to that are my previous posts with photographs taken in that area. I like it because it is only about 70 miles from my home, it offers a variety of photographic opportunities, the temperature there is cool and constant (no guessing about what to wear), and the light is often variable throughout the day. In this post, I call attention to the man-made textures of the Headlands.

Location and parking

The Marin Headlands can be accessed from Highway 101, the exit is Alexander Ave. If you are going West, it’s the last exit before the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic there often changes, so rely on your Google navigation to get where you want to get. I usually park at the Rodeo Beach parking lot by the Coastal Trail access, from where I can reach the historical sites (see below) for textures. Rodeo Beach fills up quickly, and I often end up parking at the Visitors’ Center parking lot. Another option for the historical sites is to drive straight to Battery Spencer, with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, or to Fort Baker, South of 101.

A word of caution: don’t ever leave anything of value in your car! The Golden Gate Bridge area and all of San Francisco (if you cross the bridge for other adventures) are plagued with car break-ins! Although I have never felt unsafe at the Marin Headlands, San Francisco across the bridge is dangerous for photographers, particularly at the Twin Peaks area.  Exert extreme caution if you cross the bridge with the intention to photograph!

“Smash and Grab” sign at the Rodeo Beach parking lot


There are several types of photography you can engage in at the headlands, and I will explore a few more in future posts. Today, however, I want to call attention for the interesting man-made textures present at this area.   

Man-made textures – Protecting San Francisco 

The hills North of the Golden Gate Bridge have several tunnels, bunkers, and batteries that were put in place to protect San Francisco from attackers, dating back to as early as the Civil War period. On the North shore, there are three forts and several attack positions, whereas South of the Golden Gate, there is Fort Baker. If you want to learn more about these fortifications, I have found a good link here

Rusty door, Battery Townsley
Rusty door, Battery Townsley, detail
Rusty handle, Battery Mendell, detail

Why photograph textures ?

Finding and properly photographing an appealing, stand-alone texture that will look good when printed and hung on the wall of a gallery is difficult, but the more you look, the more you will find. This is a relatively unexplored gender of photograph, and each photo is difficult to repeat. This means that those who become good at it might have a reasonable chance to stand out in the crowd. 

Although I do not consider myself an expert in texture photography as stand-alone piece of art, I sometimes use those photographs to add texture to other images. For example, in my series Monterey Trees, I have added the same texture to all my photos, to make them look older. 

If you are not familiar with adding texture to your photos, and would like to learn more about it, watch How To Apply Textures In Photoshop 2020, by fellow photographer Howard Grill.

Inside Wall, Battery Mendell

Tips on photographing textures and patterns

  • tripod might come in handy when it is gloomy and foggy, usually throughout the summer; 
  • I like to photograph textures with my lens closed down (f/11-f/22), for maximum depth of field, but a more precise recommendation for which apertures to use would depend on your camera, lens, distance to the subject etc; 
  • I like to use wide angle lenses for textures and patterns. Focal lengths between 24-35mm work really well for me. Try to position your camera as parallel to the subject as possible; 
  • Certain textures will look ok even if you use a higher ISO, although I try to keep mine below 200 on my Nikon cameras;
  • Most types of outdoor photography benefit from a partly cloudy day and more diffused light. If your day turns out sunny and cloudless, a diffuser will come in handy to concentrate on the small stuff.


Wall Art Botanical Images

Wall Art Photography projects

Wall Art landscapes and miscellaneous


Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

17 thoughts on “Photography opportunities at the Marin Headlands (California, Sausalito), part I- man-made textures

  1. There’s something strangely satisfying about these rough textures. It’s not only textures though, it’s that the objects you photograph come with their own stories hidden under the layer of rust.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You certainly picked the right image for you introduction. It presents decay as a source of beauty. I generally don’t photograph man-made objects but that certainly merits some admiring attention.


  3. Have you changed something about your website? I just realized I hadn’t seen a new post from you in some time, and sure enough — here you are, but I never got an email notification. Perhaps I need to sign up again. I’ll try that.

    The photos are wonderful. I’m a great fan of rust: so much so that on my last trip to Arkansas, my favorite souvenir was a clutch of rusty railroad spikes I picked up along an abandoned line. Industrial rust is so interesting, and often quite colorful — as your photos show! The texture on the Battery Townsley door looks like barnacles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t changed anything, but on occasion I have stopped following blogs through no choice of my own, WordPress does weirs things and the feed, which I used to rely more on to see new posts, is not perfect in showing them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a nice photographic change of pace for you. You’re not alone in feeling a visual attraction to manmade objects in decaying states. For example, Linda Grashoff has a fondness for oxidation on dumpsters:

    It’s a shame photographers in the Marin Headlands and San Francisco have to be afraid of thieves. Maybe it would be prudent for you to carry mace or pepper spray with you. Though they wouldn’t keep thieves from breaking into your car, they’d at least offer some personal protection.


    1. Thank you. I can run, but I’m not sure I am able to use pepper spray or mace properly. I grew up in a dangerous, violent city and I have been able to take care of myself there. Maybe that knowledge will help me here too 😉


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