San Francisco is one of America's iconic cities. The Golden Gate, trollies clinging and clanging up and over some of the nation's steepest city hills, and the winding Lombard Street. So many visitors come to this city, but most only enjoy its beauty during the daylight hours. It makes sense it's the easiest time to capture that magic in photographic form. However, some of the true beauty of the city by the bay can be best enjoyed at night. This brings new challenges that a group of eager photographers were willing to learn…
On a windy and cold Friday night a group of 12 photographers met instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Davis for an evening of fun, and photography in San Francisco. After an orientation at Baker Beach, the instructors got to know the group a bit more, what their experience levels were and what they wanted to focus on during their night of education.
The group starts shooting immediately on Baker Beach. It's not only one of the best views of the Golden Gate, but a great location for allowing our instructors to go over some of the basics of composition and using leading lines to help create movement in an image. Students come to us with a variety of skill levels and questions. This spot allows us to really get right in to helping the more entry level photographer with some of the questions they might have on aperture and shutter speed.
It's easy to get excited about shooting, and before we got too lost in the first location we packed up in the ApCab and headed inland to the Palace of Fine Art. After taking an extra lap around the area to “check the scenary" Scott finally found the right road, and we were on our way. The Palace of Fine Art is an amazing piece of architecture. From the columns to the dome it stands out in a city full of unique architecture. During the thirty minutes prior to night it's a an opportunity for a students to put to work one of the best compositional elements…use of complementary colors. The orange and gold tones of the building lit by it's the lights from its spotlights matched with the deep blues of the night sky create an amazing image to behold. For many students it's one of their favorite of the night. Instructors work with the students to help them understand the aperture and shutter settings needed to capture the image they see in their head.
The class moves from the perimeter of the structure to the inside of the dome area. The lights create interesting plays with colors, shadow, and depth that can create very interesting close up shots, and abstract style imagery. The students had a field day trying to come up with new and exciting ways to portray the location.
It would be easy to spend an entire evening patrolling the Palace in search of new and exciting images…but we still have two more stops, and after wrangling the class together it was off to Lombard Street to work on long exposures to capture the movement of cars down the winding brick road.
The group spent their time on Lombard Street working on using the tight curves of the street and streaking headlights to create curves in the composition to create movement of the eye through the images. Because of the tricky exposures the instructors taught the class some of the tricks they use to get more exposure on the darker buildings on the street while not allowing too many cars to pass and burn out the foreground. For much of the class this is really an ‘Ah-Ha' type moment as they see the way shutter and aperture paly together to create an interesting and effective image.
It was still cold and the class was ready for a small break to grab a snack, or warm drink to refuel their system before heading off to our final location, which for many is an iconic location in San Francisco night photography- The Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero.
“What are you taking pictures of?" is the question asked by many passers by as they stroll the Embarcadero on a night time walk, and pass by our class.
The lights from the Bay Bridge, mixed with the wonderful old dock pilings littered in the bay create a beautiful and well-balanced composition. For many of the students this shot is one they've seen online or in our gallery, and has become an image that resonated with them.
“I want to be able to do that," is what people say when they sign up for the night class in our gallery. When they finally get in the class, and get out to the spot and SEE that they have created their own version of the shot and better yet, understood why the shot turned out. Well, it's one of the joys of putting on these classes. The students came to us with a quest for knowledge, and desire to improve their photography. They left with answers to their questions, images they were proud of, and better yet…a fun evening with people who love photography as much as they do.
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.