I was in San Francisco for an overnight this past Friday, and decided after dinner to walk down to City Hall. Civic Center, where City Hall is located, is not the best part of town, especially after dark. As I walked down Market St. after 9 p.m., surrounded by the creatures of the night, I wasn’t sure this excursion was a good idea. But when I arrived at the building, I got a pleasant surprise.

City Hall was lit up in red and white, the colors of the flag of Peru, to commemorate the country’s independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Backed by the sky at the blue hour, it was a striking scene.

I had only my fixed-lens 28mm camera with me, and no tripod. But I could open up to f/1.7 and shoot at 1/50 second at ISO 2500. I used the new AI Noise Reduction filter in Lightroom to improve the image quality. This shot was taken at 9:15 p.m.

This image, taken from across Larkin St., has the crosswalk functioning as leading lines.

I stayed for a while, photographing from different angles, and then a group of people appeared. They were Spanish-speakers, so I talked to one of them for a moment in Spanish—and he told me why the building was lit up in red and white, which I hadn’t known before. He was from Peru, and he and his friends were there to unfurl banners celebrating San Francisco and Peru. Here’s what that looked like.

Whenever a lucky accident like this happens, I’m reminded that it’s always worthwhile to go out with my camera. I may come across nothing especially interesting or photo-worthy. Then again, I may come across a colorful City Hall and celebrating Peruvians. You never know.