Our Night Owls workshop is all about photographing the city lights at night. So on this very cold, foggy, and windy Bay Area evening, Matt Granz and I greeted 13 fun and friendly photographers eager to learn the skills necessary to bring out the magic of this particular type of imagery. We met at Baker Beach and took some time introducing ourselves as well as for Matt and I to get to know our student's skill levels, what type of camera gear they used, and any particular needs they wished to work on through the evening.
A heavy fog lingered at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we walked down to the beach as there was still enough action to create some interesting compositions. This beach is known for sneaker waves suddenly coming up and surprising beach goers, and tonight was no exception. High tide caused a few to run to safety while a couple of others did get their feet wet, but no camera gear was lost or damaged by the surf. The students had a chance to warm up their trigger fingers finding a nice balance in their compositions using the edge of the surf as a leading line to the bridge as the towers receded into the fog. Matt and I moved about helping each student with their particular set up, discussing composition, shutter speed for motion in the water, depth of field, and the importance of stabilizing tripods for longer exposures. Daylight dimmed and the sunset tried its best to glow through the fog, but there were still opportunities to capture some color on the distant horizon.
Following this warm up session it was time to travel over to the Palace of Fine Arts and take advantage of the beautiful golden light of this stately columned landmark. It was a bit less windy in the city and students learned that longer exposures would create smooth reflections of its golden colors in the foreground pool. Accents of star bursts from the building lights were achieved as students found using smaller apertures would create this sparkling effect. Matt and I also worked with students on white balance to maintain the more accurate colors of the Palace, while picking up other colors of the evening from both the foreground pool and and the twilight blues of the foggy sky above. Next our team of Night Owls moved beneath the rotunda so students could try their hand at the many architectural features found here. There is always something interesting to witness in San Francisco, and here was a man playing an electric piano who asked that we stay quiet and clear of the center of the rotunda as a young man was leading his girlfriend to the area to propose marriage. Of course we complied and remained on the periphery until the event was decidedly concluded with squeals from the bride as their friends and family came out from hiding to give their congratulations. While waiting, our students still had opportunity to photograph the high arches, patterned ceilings, and filagreed columns, then moving about freely finding new and interesting compositions in the low, warm light of the Palace.
Back on our way through the streets of the city, we made a brief snack stop before going to the famous Lombard Street for some fun shots of car lights winding their way down this whimsical drive. Matt and I divided our group to allow for the opportunity to shoot from two locations achIeving very different images from both headlights and tail lights. Beginning with 30 second exposures, our students began capturing some wonderful streams of light curving through their frames accenting the red bricks of the street and beds of blooming flowers. The low fog added an ethereal feel to the images and was another condition which students learned would effect exposure as the city lights bounced back upon the scene. Adjustments for smaller apertures were made to help tame exposures and create sharper star points from the street lamps. Matt and I both incorporated a little light painting with flashlights just to show our student's how easy it was, and to fill the void as we sometimes had to wait for cars to come down the street.
Happy with their new achievements and having achieved some excellent shots, our group traveled to our last stop of the night at the Embarcadero for some iconic images of the Bay Bridge with the old pier pilings in the foreground. The new LED lights on the bridge were still not working properly, but Matt and I helped our students with multiple minute exposures which could still capture streams of light and color through their cameras not readily seen with the naked eye. Once again we worked with students on changing the look and feel of a scene using white balance and capturing sharp images with the use of a shutter release cable or remote. More wonderful and ethereal images with the bridge lights reflecting off the fog and in the Pacific before us were captured and everyone came away with unique shots and a new appreciation of the world of night photography. We took a couple of minutes getting our group shot memento, and returned our tired, but happy group of Night Olws back to their cars to say our farewells somewhere near 1AM.
UNTIL NEXT TIME!
On behalf of Jean, Matt and the Aperture Academy team, we thank you for a another great workshop!
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.)