It's hard to believe that the Golden Gate Bridge is turning 75 years old. For many people they can never remember a time when it wasn't there. It's one of the most photographed bridges in the world, a stopping point on every photographer's trip to the Bay Area. When they light the bridge up at night it's spectacular. However, San Francisco is more than just the Golden Gate Bridge. And night photography is a tricky subject to tackle.
A group of 13 eager photographers met professional photographers and Aperture Academy instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Donschikowski on the beginning of a beautifully warm Memorial Day weekend for dome fun, and photography of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the rest of the city as well.
The clouds were looking nice so the first order of business after a brief orientation to get to know everyone was to head out to the bluffs to photograph the setting sun as the last bits of warm light faded from the sky.
The class set up and Scott and Brian helped work with the class on composition as well as the use of graduated filters and polarizers to help achieve the best results for this stunning sunset scene. Our classes bring out every level of photographer from the beginner to the enthusiastic amateur. Everyone has a different level of expertise and needs different information to make the best photographs. For some it's all about learning the manual settings, and how to make the best choices in the camera. Others know the settings, but need help finding that great composition, or how to use filters to help get more evenly balanced exposures for post-processing. Our instructors are knowledgeable about all aspects and eager to help.
The sunset didn't disappoint, but after the sun had set the cool ocean breeze was getting to be a bit much, and everyone was ready to head inland to the more pleasant temperatures of the city. The first stop was the wonderful architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts. We used the reflection of the pool in front of the Palace to help give our evening shots a nice aesthetic. The blue of twilight mixed with the glowing orange of the lights on the palace makes for a complimentary color masterpiece. Brian and Scott helped students to set white balances, and begin to work with the class on longer exposures needed to get the best results. While the class spread out to get their own unique composition, Brian even helped a couple begin to do some light painting on the foliage surrounding the pool to give the scene a different look.
From the outside of the Palace to the inside, so to speak. The next area of photographic exploration was under the giant symmetrical dome. Composition was the focal point here as the class tried to work on finding unique angles and shots of this great piece of Bay Area history. While we photographed a group of bikers and skaters lit with LED lights drove into the area and entertained our cameras with a moving light/art show.
Our third stop for the night was the wonderfully crooked Lombard Street. Our group moved into two smaller groups, one shooting taillights moving down the street as the other went low and shot the headlights coming down. Brian and Scott helped show some tricks and tips to capture the best images, and as always helped students get the right manual settings to understand the "why" behind the shot. When the cars were few and far between, super driver Scott even took the Aperture Academy Van down Lombard Street so everyone would have another car to shoot. It was quite the dedication to help students get that perfect shot.
When everyone had taken their turn at the top and bottom shots of Lombard Street, and even gotten a few nice images of the Coit Tower in the distance, it as time to load up and squeeze one more shot in before our fun evening of night photography came to an end....The Embarcadero.
One of the most iconic shots of the Bay Bridge is from the Embarcadero. The old pier pilings that parallel the walkway help give this scene a great foreground element and a really nice balance to the scene. After taking a customary group shot, it was time to line up the class and start shooting. The instructors spent time with everyone getting just that right white balance, and helping to tweak composition to get them just perfect. This was also the longest of our exposures for the night, with many topping in at two-two and a half minutes in length.
The class is always thrilled to see their images, and have their own version of this popular night photography location. Time flies when you're having fun, and even though the class was scheduled to end at midnight, we shot, shot, shot until almost 12:45am with everyone still enthusiastic and ready for more...but sadly, our night had to come to an end, and the only thing left was to release the wonderful class to head back home to start to processing their images.
Until next time,
Brian, Scott, 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.