When it comes to photography in the last 10 years I don't think there is any better example of how far technology has come than with night photography. The kind of shots that is possible now with the new level DSLR cameras are mind blowing. Just the increase in ISO performance and screen resolution alone has made night shooting so much more fun. It's always fun to take groups of photographers around San Francisco to learn the capabilities of their cameras, and see some of the coolest spots around.
Jean Day and I met our group of eager night shooters at Baker Beach. After concluding a brief orientation we loaded up and sat off for a nice overlook of the Golden Gate Bridge. Once on scene Jean and I worked with the class on the settings, and compositional ideas...we also went over a few of the little tips to help make better shots of this bridge, like waiting for lighter traffic periods to start your shot so that the oncoming headlights retain some detail. This is a great vantage point for shooting some really nice telephoto shots of the towers with the traffic. It was great to see most people had some larger lenses to work with to get those intimate details. I believe Jean did some light painting of the nearby trees as well to help those with wide-angle lenses get some different perspectives. All in all it's a nice first stop and before we know it an hour has passed, and it's time to move on to spot number two.
The Palace of Fine Arts is a marvelous building. It just looks like something I would expect to see in Rome, or in another European city. Though not in Europe, this building has a great history, and also is really fun to photograph. We start out along the pond area, and work with the wonderful reflections. We cover composition, settings, and begin to go over some of the more technical things like white balance here as well. Many photographers I've found have the most difficulty setting this to make their shots look correct. For a lot of people just this little change makes a world of difference in the way their images look.
After shooting the reflections, we move under the dome to shoot some more of the intimate details, and symmetry of pattern within. Having access to a sweet location like this at night is a real treat. Students get on their backs, or tummies, and grab all kinds of crazy angles...it's always a laugh to see the crazy angles people will contort their body in to get that special shot....and now they have the right settings to make sure it comes out!
Time is ticking, and it's time to move to Lombard Street. This curvy road is a favorite from all of the photographers we take. We break the group up into 2 smaller factions and Jean and I work with them on how to get those streaking headlights, and taillights, curving through their photos. Both shots are great, but require some different techniques in order to achieve the best results. My groups had a little trouble with what seemed like a never ending trail of cars who wanted to turn down the little roadway we were perched on. It's all part of the challenge though! Because we were all having so much fun we decided to try a little light writing as well...and I have to say, I'm not the greatest speller...but my groups did get some really nice swirls. I hope Jean had better writing skills than I did.
After a short break in North Beach we conclude the night on the Embarcadero looking out at the Bay Bridge. This iconic shot is always an "ah-ha" moment...and a great way to end the night. Many people have seen this shot, as it is quite popular, but most don't know how to do it, or think they might not be able to do it...so for those new to night photography watching this very shot come out on their camera is quite a site. It's easily one of my favorite parts of any workshop...that little light that comes on and you see people start to get it.
We shot as long as we could, and at 12:30am, tired, and with full memory cards we pack up and head back to the cars. Jean and I had a great time with the crew, and we look forward to seeing all of your wonderful shots!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Jean and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here. (More photos below the comments.)