May is the transition month in San Francisco between Spring and Winter. Winter, you say? Well we all know that San Francisco is a cold, foggy, mess in the summer months...so May is one of those final pushes for a chance at decent weather, reasonable temperatures, and a fog free evening of photography. The fog can be a great addition to photographs, but for the night shooting of the bridge, we'd prefer to have a clear fog free bridge for our class. Mike and I met a group of 10 eager photographers, who were ready for a fun night of exploration in this wonderful city. Our group began with a brief orientation so we could all get better acquainted. Once the formalities were over we piled into the ApCab and set off for the city. Our first stop of the night was the Palace of Fine Arts. This is a perfect spot for photography. Great architecture, a great pond, and a great sunset to start things off. Mike and helped the group get set up with their tripods, and cameras...and went over the basic settings. Normally when the sun sets earlier our classes miss out on this wonderful transition time from sunset to twilight. This is one of my favorite times to photograph architecture. The sunset can add some drama to the scene, and that wonderful blue hour, when the lights come on and the sky is a cool shade of blue is a really pretty scene to capture. Mike and I helped the class make the technical transitions with their cameras so they could capture some really nice images of this scene.
Our next stop of the night was Lombard Street. This crooked stretch of cobblestone is a treat for every photographer. We break our group up into two smaller pods and work with them on shooting up and down the street for the passing headlights and taillights. These lights, due to the movement of the cars will leave behind streaks of light in our images. This is a quicker and more man-made example of the same concept that we use when photographing star trails. Anything emitting light, and in motion will leave a trail behind it as it moves through the scene. Everyone loves this kind of photography. Each group gets their turn at shooting the top and the bottom of the street while Mike and I work with them to capture the best possible images.
The third stop of the night is the Embarcadero where we have a amazing view of the Bay Bridge, one of the two iconic bridges leading into San Francisco. Our foreground is a batch of old pier pilings that help us get a balanced exposure between the bridge and the foreground. By this point in the evening the group is starting to get the basics of night photography down and everyones images look fantastic. We encourage the group to change up their compositions and work to balance out the pilings so they fill the space in the foreground in an aesthetically pleasing way. Here we also make some more suggestions on settings, and white balance for night shooting.
What trip to San Francisco would be complete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove over this beast on our way into the city, but we save the photography for the end. Fort Baker is a great little spot for shooting the bridge. Our group marches out on the the fishing pier and sets up to shoot this gateway to the city. It's well past midnight by now, so we're a little over time...but nobody seems to care because photography is all about that adventure and staying out well past your bedtime! Mike and I do a last round of checking on the images with the group, and are feeling really good about the collection of the images everyone collected. The only thing left to do is get these folks home so they can get to processing them!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Mike, 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.