When the light from the day fades away, San Francisco turns on her night lights and the whole city transforms. Everything seems to glow, and a new kind of environment is created. It's what makes San Francisco special. The potential for capturing this magic with a camera is what brings photographers out for the Aperture Academy's Night Owl class.
Fifteen eager photographers met at a foggy Baker Beach where instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Davis, and intern David Richter, met the group, discussed the evening's events, as got to know everyone a bit before heading off.
The first spot of the evening was Baker Beach, and even though the Golden Gate Bridge was playing hard to get, the location was still a perfect place for our instructors to continue to acquaint themselves with the students, and their gear.
Composition, aperture vs. shutter speed, ISO, shooting on RAW, and lens compression were just a few of the topics that the class discussed during that first stop...all before the lights in the city came on....
By the time the group hit their second stop, The Palace of Fine Arts, the lights were on, and they were ready to begin the real night photography. The Palace is a great place for night photography; the architecture there is spectacular and the pond is almost always perfectly still and reflects that architecture beautifully.
The group spread out and instructors worked with the class on getting the best exposures possible, and helped them to find compositions that really brought out the best in the scenes. Once most of the class had gotten the exposures dialed in, they were encouraged to experiment with different, more extreme compositions and fine tuning their white balance so they could see the different dramatic effects that can be created.
The third stop of the night was Lombard Street, which under most circumstances provides a dry spot away from the coastal mist often encountered during the first part of the evening. However, on this night, the fog was so thick that even Lombard St. was dealing with a thin layer of mist in the air.
The class broke up into smaller groups, and Scott and Brian worked with individuals on exposure, and helping to find the different compositions the curvy street provided. Students got some great images of car lights streaking down the hill, as well as some extra light fun (provided by instructor Scott Davis, as he painted circles along the street using flashlights and iphones).
The mist in the air caused the students to constantly check their lenses to make sure they didn't have water drops on them. Before long, a few students started to get cold, so that became the perfect time to leave the area and take to North Beach, where everyone could get a cup of coffee or tea, and warm up a bit.
The break always does the class good. By the time it's over, everyone is ready to move on to the last stop of the night, the Bay Bridge...which is always spectacular.
Even though the Bay Bridge lies only a few miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge, it is rarely, if ever, obscured by the fog and wind that plagues the famed Golden Gate...which makes it much easier in terms of photography.
Our group parked and made a small walk to the shooting area, which utilizes old pier pilings as a foreground in front of the bridge to create a dramatic and well-balanced image. Most students have been practicing the longer exposures all night, so they're more aware of how the exposures blend with the f-stops, and everything is syncing in their minds. At this point, the instructors mostly help with composition during this final stop, with only an occasional suggestion about white balance or extending exposure. It's a great way to end the night. Many students get their favorite images from this location, and in addition to learning more about night photography, they have the satisfaction of coming away with full memories, and full memory cards, filled from a fun night out.
Until next time,
Brian, Scott, David, 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.