Revisiting the Story Behind 2022’s Most Viral Shot of San Francisco

When a local shutterbug managed to capture this aerial photo of San Francisco last year, little did they know the image — which has oil-paint-like qualities to it — would become among the most viral pictures of San Francisco taken in 2022.

A snap taken in 2022  was on such a level. It was taken 5,000 feet above the Golden Gate Bridge and about three miles offshore, making rounds on Twitter and Instagram for its awe-inspiring nature. Over a year later, the image remains one of our favorites that focuses on SF taken in recent memory.

“It’s amazing the response and amount of kind words I’ve gotten about this photo,” Oren Rubinstein, the photographer behind the still wrote in an email to me in February of 2022. “It reminds me of how much a picture can mean to so many people — and take you completely by surprise.”

A Bay Area local for over thirty years, Rubinstein says that he’s been shooting pictures on an almost daily basis for many years now. His subjects? The region’s cornucopia of natural wonders and urban fixations.

“I’m intrigued by the natural beauty of the Bay Area, and how the urban/suburban landscape integrates within the canvas of the land, ocean, and bay waters,” he says. “Having lived on the coast-side for the past 20 years, the natural focus for me has been looking west towards the sea and northwest to the Gulf of the Farallones.”

Regarding this specific shot, Rubinstein liked that the picture completely ignores downtown and SoMa, trading towering metropolitan sprawl for San Francisco’s more leveled, greener neighborhoods, like the Sunset District. There’s an uncanny feeling of unchanged-ness in this image — Golden Gate Park sitting largely as it has been for over 150 years; the Golden Gate Bridge still wearing its iconic red hues coming up for now 91 years — even though so much has shifted in SF.

“The ‘small towns’ of the Richmond and Sunset districts, feel connected and ‘bridged’ to that golden beauty of the Bay and beyond by the Golden Gate Bridge,” he adds in closing, before waxing on a bit more gratitude for how widely admired the picture has been.

When asked if we would like to have a more high-resolution photo of the image to use, Rubinstein noted that he actually preferred the more “paint-like” quality of the original photo.

To this day, we still agree with him… 100 percent.

Feature image: Courtesy of Oren Rubinstein; more of his work can be found on Instagram [at]oren_

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