Picture it. It's a gorgeous Saturday morning. You get up in time to watch the sun rise in striking colors of yellow, orange, and gold, with the last wisps of overnight fog slowly rolling between hills and valleys. What a great way to start the day. So what do you do next? Why, you go do a photography workshop at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens! (Which is exactly what I did on a recent Saturday morning....)
I love these garden workshop days. I get to spend all morning in a beautiful and peaceful setting that is over 55 acres and has more than 8,000 species of plants. PLUS, on this particular morning, I got to share this time with the five excited students who signed up for our latest Aperture Academy workshop.
As I arrived, I noted the sun slowly being eclipsed by very thick fog (I mean THICK; it was nearly raining!). Such conditions could present my students with some challenges, but I was confident we would still have a great day.
Everyone arrived right on time and came ready and excited to learn about plant and flower photography in a natural environment. We started the workshop off with some introductions so I could get to know my students a little better and they could get to know me.
Next, I outlined the plan for the day, and what they could expect from me. Then, I went over some of the technical aspects of photography basics. I introduced the exposure triangle, and discussed how aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur) and ISO (noise) play together to create your image.
Next, I discussed the more creative aspects of photography, such as composition and how to use the Rule of Thirds and leading lines to create dynamic images. In addition, I talked about finding a pleasing angles for our subjects and to be aware of the backgrounds in our images. I also showed the students some of the tools I carry with me in my bag; a small 5-in-1 reflector, to help enhance (or diffuse) light conditions, and a viewing loupe that I use to make it easier to see the images on the back of my camera in bright light (which might not be an issue for this day). After covering the basics, I did a final check-in for any questions, and then we were on our way.
As someone who frequently visits the Botanical Gardens, I know that one of the most awesome things about it is that the scenery is always changing. There are plant species representing nearly every continent on earth, and something is ALWAYS in bloom--you just need to find it!
We entered through the main gate and hung a left towards the Great Meadow and through the Temperate Asia section, where we started our search for subjects to photograph. We didn't have to go very far before we spotted some gorgeous purple flowers and tall bamboo trees. We stopped there for a bit to let everyone get comfortable with their equipment and the environmental conditions.
The fog was thick, which made for very even light, but it was pretty dark, so we made some adjustments to make sure our shutter speeds were fast enough to minimize motion. I checked with each of my students to answer questions, offer critiques and general information as we continued.
After everyone was relatively comfortable with their cameras, we continued our journey through the Garden, on the hunt for anything that caught our eye. We headed through the MesoAmerican Cloud forest, to the Native California area, and across the Conifer Lawn. Each section of the garden offered a wealth of subject matter for my students, from the vibrant pink shades of the Belladonna Lillies to the gorgeous symmetry of the Zebra Aloe plant, and the peaceful reflections in the water at the Moon Viewing Garden.
The thick fog had lifted a bit, providing a little more light for us to work with, while we continued making the appropriate adjustments to our camera settings to accommodate the changing light conditions.
We ended up in the Garden of Perennials, where there was a wide variety of flowers in bloom. I took a moment to show my students that sometimes the most interesting part of a plant or leaf is one that is not readily seen.
I spied some beautiful green ivy leaves along the ground, and to demonstrate my point, I showed everyone that the underside of the leaf has a gorgeous red color lining the veins, arguably the more beautiful side of the leaf. So, take note... sometimes you need to look past the obvious, or "boring." You might find something spectacular waiting to be discovered.
This same area also hosts several honey bees and everyone had a great time trying to catch one in a photo.
It really is amazing how quickly three hours passes! We continued our journey through the Andean Cloud Forest into Chile, South America, and on to Australia and New Zealand. We crossed the Waterfowl pond, seeing small turtles poking their heads out of the water at us. As we made our way back to the main gate, I took a few minutes to answer a few more questions.
We arrived back where we started and I thanked my students for sharing part of their day with me, and sent them on their way with new skills and full memory cards!
Until next time,
DeAnna, and the entire 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.