San Francisco Night Owls Photography Workshop - June 10, 2016

Night Owls Night Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy

San Francisco is a beacon for photographers. Boasting countless amazing vistas from which to take in the beautiful views of the city, this city knows it's special and uniquely apt for photography. I mean, you could fill countless hours of shooting just two of the five major bridges in the Bay area. And that's exactly what we did!

Shortly after our customary meet and greet, Joe and I decided to take our group across the bridge to Battery Godfrey for a pretty sweet angle of the Golden Gate bridge for sunset. It's not very often that on our "Night Owls" workshop we photograph during the day. Only in the summer are the days long enough for us to start before sunset.

So, there we were, up on the bluffs above Marshall beach, enjoying sunset, photographing one of the most beautiful and recognizable pieces of modern engineering in the world. It was inspiring, as we saw a little glow on the horizon with the clouds scattered around, all lit up pink for us... and you can bet that Joe and I made sure everyone was getting some quality products!

Next on the list was the Palace of Fine Arts. A monstrosity of Greco-Roman influenced architecture, the palace is lit up at night and its orange glow contrasts nicely with the blue sky right after sunset. We had our group quickly set up to take advantage of the fading blue light. As it got darker and darker, we concentrated more on balancing, what would be called by many, a pretty tough exposure.

Because the night sky and the shadows from the non-lit areas are vastly darker than the lighted areas, the photographer must choose to overexpose to get slightly more detail in the shadows, while managing the overexposed parts to just a few bits of the lit areas. However, with the reflecting pool in our foregrounds, it was quite easy to find quality compositions, and to use the reflection of the Palace to create symmetry in the photos.

After a short break at a local store for some snacks, we headed over to Lombard Street. Well, looking down Lombard Street, to be exact. We split our group in two and as I took my group down the street to look up, Joe kept his group at the top to look down. The idea here is pretty simple, and it's actually easier done than said.

Using long shutter speeds, as cars go down the twisty switchbacks, their headlights and tail lights become beaming streaks of light as they wind down the road. Since the cars themselves don't emit light, they aren't even seen in the final picture. Once they get a couple really good shots from their starting points, both groups switch and do it all over again from the opposite end.

It's pretty cool, there's just streaks of colored light racing though everyone's shots. People freak out at this spot. It's just so hard for your brain to comprehend if you've never seen the effect before, and the randomness of the car lights, and different angles that everyone is standing at, ensures that every single person will come away with a unique photo.

Our last spot of the night was in front of the Bay Bridge, on the waterfront. Some old pier pilings remain in the water, just in front of our spot, and Joe and I coordinated our group to use them in their compositions. It was low tide, so the pilings were exposed three or more feet, which was pretty cool.

The water was calm, but our exposures there ended up running 30 seconds and beyond. The water picks up the colors from everywhere, from the blue in the bridge's LED lights, and the orange in the sodium vapor lights behind us, making it a very nice contrast in colors for the scene.

Before we knew it, it was time to wind up the workshop. After we got everyone to look really goofy for our quick group shot, we piled into good ole ApCab-1 and headed back across the Golden Gate to Sausalito, to conclude for the night. (I don't think we ever get back on time! But we sure have fun.)

Until next time,

Scott, Joe, 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.



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