California has had a strange winter…first it seemed there would be no winter, magically winter made a brief December appearance that lasted 2-3 days, and then disappeared giving way to California warmth that seemed would lead right into summer, until March came and brought with it a slew of much needed rain. The tough part of this late "winter" was that it left weathermen with some trouble predicting accurately what would and would not happen….so when fellow Aperture Academy instructor Paul Porter and I sat staring at a very rainy coastline on Saturday afternoon less than 24 hours before our Big Sur workshop, we had to wonder if the forecast for ‘partly cloudy’ skies was real…or just a weatherman hope to give the city a optimistic hope for a break in the rain.
Thankfully we woke Sunday morning to see that the weathermen for once were correct, and the sun shone out from a breaking storm. There would be a photography class that day…and the weather would be striking!
Paul and I met our class just outside Carmel-By-The-Sea for a brief orientation prior to heading out for a full day of shooting. Everyone had a different level of experience, but no lack of enthusiasm for what the day would hold…and everyone was as excited as we were for the nice weather.
Our first stop of the day was the Catholic Carmel Mission…I love this location, of all the indoor manmade locations we visit in any of our workshops, this one, I believe has the most different opportunities for great images. There are so many little details here that as one student pointed out, "I could have spent all day here."
Paul and I spent the first portion of our time at the mission going over basic settings, and how to approach a scene, and begin to develop a routine when shooting. For me, that routine is Composition---Aperture---Shutter Speed---and ISO (if needed) I follow that routine every time I shoot. While it’s tough for newer shooters to get into a mindset that lets them handle these technical skills, I found that over the course of the day most people were really starting to get comfortable with the settings, and manually changing them.
While there are no iconic images in the mission, there are so many other possibilities here that it really is a treat to shoot. This time of year every flower seems to be in bloom and not only do they provide options for composition using patterns, shapes, colors, and textures, but they also make nice foregrounds for larger scenes, and great examples for using shallow depths of fields.
We spent two hours here at the fort, everyone scattering about finding their own takes on the wonderful opportunities.
Our second stop was the first of the truly iconic locations in Big Sur. The Bixbie Bridge is a large stone bridge that instantly brings up thoughts of, "how did they do THAT?!" Photographically it allows us a chance to really talk about the polarizing filters, and the use of leading lines in compositions with either the bridge, or the coastline. A few clouds hung around in the sky to help give some more interest to the compositions. Paul and I saw some really nice shots of this popular location.
The 3rd stop of the class is probably one of the favorites for most participants. McWay Falls is like something out of a fairy tale. A perfect cove with the most beautiful turquoise water, and an idyllic waterfall that falls right on the beach and into the sea. Those participants that had ND filters were encouraged here to really work on using them to get some blur in the images and add a little extra pop to their images. Those without ND filters were given feedback on compositions, and different ways to work with the scene.
As we drove down the road to our final stop, Pfieffer Beach everyone was hoping a few of the clouds would hang around. We walked our group out to the beach and after a VERY nice group shot, everyone set up for the setting sun. Paul and I made sure we gave everyone the instructions needed to begin to get some of those shots with the silky wave movement. Those students who were without graduated ND filters, were given loaners to use so they could see how those simple pieces of resin are able to really open up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of balancing tricky exposures in the field.
A few scattered clouds mingled along the horizon and provided some nice texture and color towards the end of the sunset for those students shooting wider-angle compositions. Some students took a more intimae approach and shot the hole in the arch with the moving water and rocky foreground, excluding sky and surrounding mountains. Whether you shoot wide or close, this is a really nice location to practice those long exposure skills, and we saw some very nice images on the camera backs!
Once the sun was gone, it got cold and before long everyone was eager to return to the van to re-warm and get ready for the final drive down highway 1 back to Carmel, and their vehicles. After a winding ride back we returned everyone, with their full memory cards to their waiting cars so they could head off to process those images and keep practicing all the new tips and tricks they learned throughout our fun (sunny) day together. Until Next Time, Brian, Paul, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
Brian, Paul and the rest of the Aperture Academy.
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.