Ocean Beach, San Francisco.
The ruins of the Sutro Baths at Lands End on the western edge of San Francisco.
Quite a few of our recent Wordless Wednesdays have focused on the western parts of the city. Here are some previous posts:
In addition, there is our video and article about Lake Merced.
Today we talk about Lake Merced, as well as the recent video we made featuring it.
Lake Merced is located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, in the vicinity of the SF Zoo and SF State University.
Despite its odd shape and the fact that it borders three golf courses, it is actually a natural lake. It is fed primarily by an underground spring. In the 19th century, the lake briefly had an outlet to the ocean, approximately where the Great Highway breaks off from Skyline Boulevard, just south of the zoo. The outlet is long gone, but the lake’s ecosystem retains some of its saltwater heritage among the fish and other wildlife that inhabit it. Lake Merced and its surrounding park remain one of the last and largest natural spaces left in the city (in spite of the golf courses), and is home to a variety of plant and animal life. On the day I visited to shoot video, I encountered this egret.
But it is definitely an urban natural space, with sounds and sights from the surrounding city mixing with nature. I am particularly fond of this view looking east over the lake to some apartment buildings. It brings to mind Flushing Meadows in the New York City borough of Queens.
I have been spending more time in the western neighborhoods of San Francisco of late, and Lake Merced is one of the spots I revisit. This is what inspired me to make it the subject of a CatSynth TV video, complete with original synthesizer music.
Here is see the final post-production on the video in Pro Tools. Front and center is Tracktion’s BioTek software synthesizer, which I reviewed during NAMM 2016. It was among the primary instruments used in this video where I blended its mix of natural and traditional-synthesizer sounds with the sounds of the field video.
I also made extensive use of the 4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator and Epoch Modular Benjolin (designed by Rob Hordjik). They both have very elemental sounds that resemble air and water. The Benjolin is chaotic by design, and a small turn of a knob can change it from liquidy to screeching, so it’s sometimes a challenge to get a good recording that fits the concept of the music. The SMR is a lot of fun to play, especially using alternate tunings and changing the spread and morph parameters. A clock is used to constantly shift the bands.
Rounding out the sound palette were the Arturia MiniBrute 2, Mimimoog Model D, and Metasonix R53 vacuum-tube waveshaper and ring modulator.
The Moog Model D, the MiniBrute and several of the modules make cameos during the video, as does Sam Sam. Watch the video all the way through to spot her 😺
This was a fun video to shoot and put together, something a bit more creative and abstract than our usual demos or live-show reports. I have more of these waiting in the queue to be made…
Many years ago, I noticed a small rock that appeared to be in the middle of the street at the top of a hill in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco. I also noticed it a few times while traveling on BART. Turns out it is, in fact, an official San Francisco Park, the Lakeview and Ashton Mini Park.
It really is just a speck of undeveloped land on the crest of a hill in the middle of Ingleside, a largely residential neighborhood wedged between I-280 and CA 1 (19th Avenue).
From the official San Francisco Parks guide:
This rocky outcrop is part of a ridge of sandstone in the Merced and Ingleside Heights neighborhoods. While the park is very small, its grassy and rocky slopes are home to a variety of native plant species, including buckwheat, dudleya, farewell-to-spring, coast onion, and soap plant. This diversity of plants means there are flowers in bloom at Lakeview/Ashton Mini Park through most of the spring and summer. This wide window of flower availability provides a crucial long-term food source for many local butterflies and other insects. In 2003, a locally rare arboreal salamander was found hiding amongst the rocks. This relatively large brown salamander, four inches long when mature, has a whitish belly that in juveniles is darker and covered with light-blue spots. Arboreal salamanders have tails that are well adapted for grasping branches to help climb trees.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go check finally it out up close. I made my way up the steep incline of Orizaba Avenue to the park, which also marks the ends of Shields and Lakeview Streets.
As I had recalled from when I first noticed it, the park is dominated by a large mound of rock surrounded by tall scrub grass. But there is a path through the grass to the top of the rock.
And from the top of this rock is a fantastic and perhaps underappreciated view of the southwestern section of San Francisco. Looking north along Orizaba, we see a wide swath of western San Francisco, including Forest Hill, Golden Gate Heights, and Mount Davidson (the highest natural point in the city). We also see the iconic Sutro Tower peeking out from behind.
Looking south, we see the Ingleside and Sunnyside neighborhoods, bisected by I-280 and BART. Beyond are the hills of Daly City and San Bruno mountain.
The Pacific Ocean is visible in the distance to the west. Closer by within Ingleside is another, larger park, with a copse of trees on top.
I did not visit the other park on this day.
This was a lovely spot, and I lingered there for quite a while despite the chill in the air. It was, however, not entirely immune from the current problems of San Francisco, with a few signs of recent homeless and drug-use activity. But overall, it was clean and quiet. I will come back when I find myself in the vicinity again.
The western neighborhoods of the city still have a lot of secrets to offer, and I am eager to discover them.
The Murphy Windmill in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
You can find out more about the windmill and its history at outsidelands.org