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Natural Bridges State Beach is not only home to the iconic rock archway, which has given it it's namesake, but also it's the temporary home for up to 100,000 majestic Monarch butterflies.
These gorgeous and frail creatures travel from as far as the valley regions, west of the Rockies. They inhabit the large eucalyptus grove located at Natural Bridges. Enjoying shelter from the wind amongst the trees, as well as a food source for the migrating butterflies.
On this beautiful sunny Saturday in November, Aperture Academy instructors Ellie Stone and Jean Day met up with 15 students in front of the Monarch visitor's center. The sun was shining as bright as the smiling and eager students.
The workshop kicks off with introductions. Learning every individuals skills, equipment and expectations, allows the instructors to tailor their teaching style to meet each students need.
Before heading down the wooden walkway to view the butterfly viewing area, Ellie went over some camera foundations, including aperture and iso settings. Making sure everyone was ready to capture some fantastic butterfly images.
Reaching the main viewing platform was very exciting. Right above their heads were large clusters of monarchs. Since the sun was shining, the butterflies fluttered in and out of the large clusters. The instructors made sure everyone had the right settings to capture the action. Adjusting aperture, iso and even white balance. The shaded grove was causing most cameras to capture images that lacked warmth. The students were giddy to learn about this alteration, which made their images come more to life, in both warmth and saturation.
The group was almost ready to head up to the sandy beach for sunset, when a real treat occurred. One of the monarchs had affixed itself to a student's hip. She became an instant star! Not only for all the other students, but all passer byes as well. She probably has never had that many photos taken of her hip, in all her life. After about 10 minutes, the butterfly decided to get a little more personal, and proceeded to climb up her back and ultimately land on top of her head, where it remained for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. What a fun way to end our butterfly portion of the workshop.
Now it was time to head for the beach, so all the students snatched their tripods, and an extra layer of clothing from their cars for the sunset shoot. The group made the short journey across the silky sand to the iconic rock arch way that is, Natural Bridge. Ellie quickly set up a fun group shot in front of the rock, to commemorate the enjoyable day of photography.
As the sun began it's decent towards the horizon, Jean and Ellie helped with composition and exposure strategies. All learned tips on capturing waves with a slower shutter speed, to give the water a smooth, yet fast motion appearance. After the golden glow of the sun disappeared, so did the group. The temps were dipping and students ready to wrap up the adventure, with lot's of new knowledge and fond memories.
From Ellie, Jean and the rest of the ApCad crew, see you next time....
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
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