Night is usually the time when people have put their cameras away and are settled in for an evening of rest and recovery from their long day. However, with the popularity of digital photography and the high quality images possible at night, more and more people are venturing out after the sun has set in order to capture images. There's one problem...most people don't know where to start, or how to do it. The Aperture Academy is here to help you get started, and make some amazing photos!
A group of 12 students met instructors Brian Rueb, Alicia Telfer and Jean Day at Baker Beach in San Francisco on a warm spring evening for a night of fun, education and night photography.
The class began with an orientation where everyone got to know one another, and the instructors could familiarize themselves with the students and their individual camera gear, including learning about anything each student might want to focus on during the class, to really customize the learning experience.
Once the orientation had concluded, it was time to start shooting. The first stop was right on Baker Beach! The class walked out on the sand to a perfect vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge. The instructors primarily worked with the class on settings and composition at this spot. It's a great way for the class to get some early questions answered before nature shuts the lights out and the true night photography can begin.
The beach is always an interesting experience. In addition to the wonderful view of the bridge and the great evening light on the water and sand, we also got treated to a group of seven nude folks hand-in-hand running into the waves in some kind of bizarre rite of passage. Everyone got a good laugh, and we kept on shooting the bridge.
When the sun was just about to set, it was time to head off to the Palace of Fine Arts, where we could take advantage of the "blue hour," that period of time just after the sun goes down and the sky turns a twilight blue &emdash; and that really looks nice with architectural photography!
The golden lights on the palace mixed with the blue of twilight made for some really nice photography, and our class got some great images of the palace as the light changed from blue to black. Alicia, Jean and Brian helped the students to adjust to the changing conditions with their shutter and aperture settings, as well as with their white balance settings. As the natural light of the day gave way to artificial lights of night, the instructors showed everyone the camera changes needed to keep colors looking natural.
When the blue hour had faded, we moved from shooting the structure out in front of the pond, to underneath, where we focused on more abstract and interesting design-type images of the structure itself, especially the lines, symmetry and textures of the dome and pillars. We had photographers in every corner at every angle, all pointed up to capture shots of this amazing building from the early 1900s.
The next location is one of the best! Lombard Street is one of the more iconic areas in San Francisco. The twists and turns of this cobblestone section of road brings in foot traffic, car traffic, and even the occasional tricycle race. Tonight it would be the subject of our photography.
We broke the class up into two smaller groups and then put one at the top shooting down, and the other shooting from the middle looking up. Each shot required slightly different settings, and Brian and Alicia were in each place to help the students use the tricks of the trade in order to capture the best shots this stunning locale has to offer. Alicia even added some wonderfully fun light painting to the experience and wrote words for the class to see in their images!
Night flies when you're making photographs! After a brief stop for a cup of coffee and snack, it was off to the Embarcadero for our last stop of the night: the wonderful vantage point of the Bay Bridge with old pier pilings in the foreground. This spot is as iconic as it gets for San Francisco night images. It's always great for us to watch the students get their own version of this special image, and even better yet, to help them understand the "why" and "how" behind the image.
The class really got some nice images throughout the course of the night, they learned a lot, and had some nice unique takes on these popular and iconic locations. It was great to see the images on their cameras, and watch as they composed new shots and figured out the correct settings as the night went on. It was almost 1:00AM when everyone finally got back to their vehicles...and it was so worth it!
Until next time,
Brian, Alicia, 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.