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San Francisco doesn't take it's nickname "Fog City" lightly and on this Summer July evening mother nature was living up to her best -- FOG!
Fog is a double edged sword...you either love it, or it skunks you but on this night it rewarded us big time! We met our group of 13 eager photographers on Baker Beach to kick off the evening with a quick orientation. Everyone got to introduce themselves, talk about the gear they had brought and then we walked through the various stops we would visit and what to expect.
By the end of orientation, mother nature had blown some low, damn fog into the mouth of the Golden Gate region and socked in the bridge. So, we do what we photographers do best, we loaded up in the Aperture Academy Mercedes passenger van, affectionately dubbed the "ApCab", and drove into the city in search of great light and conditions...and we found it!
We arrived at the Palace of Fine Arts with about 20 minutes to the start of the "Blue Hour". Scott, Kelly, Glen and Stephen spent this time getting everyone setup, talked about the settings that we would be using and seeking out great compositions. As we waited for the light to fade we talked a lot about RAW versus JPEG formats, post processing and camera gear in general.
With the light faded it was showtime and what a show we got. When the lights kicked in and illuminated the main Palace structure, this drab, foggy scene transformed into a magical setting and with some long exposures we were able to capture the golden glow of the pillars and the nice blue tones the fog was casting off.
From there we moved into the inside of the Palace, which is a labyrinth of pillars and arches with great shots everywhere you turned.
From our first stop we loaded up and headed for a quick snack and bathroom break before arriving at our next photography location, Lombard Street. Often referred to as the "Crookedest street in the world", this is a 1 block stretch of brick paved road that makes for fantastic night images to capture motion. It's a great place to learn how to control not only long exposures but learn how to time them for best results. Often a favorite location for participants, we spent a little extra time here allowing everyone to visit and shoot a variety of vantage points. Coit Tower stood proudly in the distance, with the Bay Bridge as the backdrop and by this point, the fog has lifted up much higher and reflected some of the city light back, giving our sky a very dramatic, almost Gotham City, feel.
Now it was time to head to the Jewel of San Francisco...the Embarcadero. Even at midnight this area is bustling with tourists, cars and even roller bladers. On this evening we saw our favorite group of roller bladers, a band of about 50 people that go skating down the waterfront to the sounds of a boom box blasting out 70's music. It looks like a great time!
We spent the next hour at the waters edge, shooting safely from the railing and capturing the Bay Bridge and used some old pier pylons as our foreground to balance the scene and create leading elements for our compositions. We worked with apertures of around f/11 to f/16 and shutter speeds nearing 2 and 3 minutes which allowed us to capture brilliantly exposed images. And again, the glow of the fog in the sky provided a lot of drama for our captures.
With cameras full of new images and many new skills learned, we loaded up "ApCab" and made our way back to Baker Beach to return students to their vehicles for the night. This was a fun group and everyone got along well and had a lot of great laughs. Thank you everyone who joined us and we hope to see you again in the future!
Until next time...Scott, Stephen 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.