'The Uphill Battle', by photographer Joe Shapiro received a lot of attention when we shared his image over on our Instagram. So we decided to contact him to learn more about his process.

Image Title

The Uphill Battle

How I Got This Picture - Joe Shapiro

Technical info

Film Used

ILFORD Delta 400




Pentax 67ii


SMC Pentax 67 1:2.8 90mm

Exposure time

1/500 f5.6 (if I remember correctly)

Other equipment

My hands and eyes

Firstly, tell us the story behind this image. What inspired you to shoot it?

To the left of the frame is Mt. Davidson, San Francisco's highest natural point and one of the best views in the city. The reason I was there in the first place was to photograph the 103 foot cross that's atop Mt. Davidson. Some of you might recognize the cross as it was featured in the 1971 Clint Eastwood classic, 'Dirty Harry'.

The photo was taken back in October of 2022. This is right at the start of the fall which meant there is more overcast days in the forecast. On this day, I woke up extra early to go make this photo knowing that it was supposed to be foggy in the morning, but I digress.

The photo that we are here to talk about was actually made as I was driving away from Mt. Davidson. As I glanced in my rear view mirror, a potential scene caught my eye. I pulled over about halfway down the street to see if there was any shot worth making. After looking at the scene for a few seconds, I still wasn't sure if I should make a photo or keep moving. I figured 'why not?' since I was already there. I jumped out of my car and I quickly made the photo, then proceeded to drive off into the fog.

Weeks later, looking at the photo for the first time, I knew exactly what I wanted to name it: The Uphill Battle. We've all had those uphill battles in life and it often looks and feels that way. Especially when you're at the bottom of said hill.

Did you come across any challenges?

I really didn’t face any challenges.

What process did you use?

Usually, I plan instinctually.  It’s the film that happens to be in my camera. It’s the weather conditions and the time of the day. I know what my cameras and my preferred film stocks can capture in a particular scene. When I come across a scene that interests me, I can envision what the photograph will look like. And, sometimes, it is just dumb luck, like when I looked in my rear view mirror.

When it comes to process, I’m like a musician who can’t read or write music. All I use are my hands, eyes, and camera. The camera is in my hand and view finder is always up to my eye. I don’t use a light meter or tripod. When I see a scene that intrigues me, I ask myself if I’m going to regret not taking this photo. I rely on my experience and instinct.

How did you process it?

You would have to ask the good folks over at Photoworks SF on how they do their magic.

What about printing?

I’ve just started to make small prints. At some point I’d like to do a large print.