It’s always interesting to hear the reason why people come on our night photography classes, but most of them are some form of the following. 1. I have no idea how to do it. 2. I want to go out, but I just want to go out with others at night.
Well, we’re here to help with BOTH. Phil Nicholas and I met a group of nine eager photographers in Sausalito, to show them a fun night of photography in, arguably, one of the best places in the world for night shooting: San Francisco!
We started with an orientation before loading up in the van and setting off for the city. It was summer, so the daylight lasts forever. Our first goal was to head out to Battery Spencer, where we were practically on top of the Golden Gate.
A thick fog had descended on the bridge, and all but the closest tower had vanished in the wall of grey. It’s fast moving, so we were able to continue to shoot. The fog added a bit of extra dimension too, and as the gaps came and went, bits of the clouds lit up with the fading evening sun.
The bridge never completely came out, but we were able to see enough of it to make some great evening shots, and then work right into the blue hour. As the lights on the bridge came on, our night class officially got started.
The tricks to good night shooting are long exposure, proper white balance, and, of course, a nice composition. Phil and I really try to help people see all the possible opportunities for shots... and there were some great shots coming out!
Our next stop of the night was the Palace of Fine Arts, which has some of the most interesting architecture in the city. It was built in the 1930s for the World Fair, and remains to this day as a place for artistic endeavors.
We like to shoot it because it looks great at night. The fog had managed to sneak into the city, and was snuggled around the perimeter of the building, but that’s just fine because it helped give the sky some texture and hold some of the reflected light from the building. Aperture, shutter speeds, and composition are the goals here, and Phil and I always try to make sure people are starting, by this point of the workshop, to get the hang of how we approach these shots, and where the limitations are, as well.
Lombard Street is stop number three, where we get to shoot headlights and taillights winding down the crookedest street in the city.
I like to do a little live action dodging and burning with my group to help them get a nice balanced exposure. I think this shot, more than most, is where the light bulb starts to go off, and people begin to see they're capable of making some outstanding night images.
Our final stop for the night was the Embarcadero, where we shot the wonderful Bay Bridge. The fog had managed to linger about all night and give our shots some added atmosphere. It doesn’t change the fact we’re looking at higher apertures and longer shutter speeds though. The only thing the fog was doing was giving us more interesting photographs! Of course, we discussed white balance, as well, at all our spots, so we could really hammer home how important it is, and how it changes even during the night.
Though the clock said we were supposed to end at midnight, we always go over... it’s just so much fun! However, after a long night of chasing the fog around the city, it was time to get these tired photographers back to their cars. But, what a great night!
Until next time,
Brian, Phil, 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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments.