Ferris Bueller said it best, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it." I love that quote because it is so true! As photographers, we train ourselves to look around and notice our environments, but even for us, life moves fast, and sometimes it's hard to take the time to stop. Does that sound like you too? Well, we at Aperture Academy are here to make it just a bit easier (and a whole lot more fun) to stop and take a moment. In fact, I am even going to let you in on my secret and share one of my favorite locations. Are you ready?.....It's the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum!!
The Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz is one of the best places I know to slow down and take notice. The arboretum is a 135-acre research and teaching facility maintaining over 300 plant families, some of which are rare and threatened, from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California. This rich diversity offers a unique opportunity for study, research, and of course, photography. The landscape changes through the year, so you are never quite sure what you will see.
On a recent Saturday morning, I met 3 excited students to explore what the Arboretum had to offer, learn a little more about photography, and hopefully have a lot of fun. Everyone arrived right on time and was eager to get started.
As with all of our workshops, I start with some brief introductions to help me get to know my students and find out what their expectations are for the morning. After introductions were complete, I covered a few of the basic principles of photography that we would be practicing during our workshop. I reviewed the technical aspects of the Exposure Triangle and how Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO work together to create images. Next I covered some of the more creative aspects of photography and compositional basics like Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and awareness of your backgrounds and textures. Finally, I noted some of the environmental challenges we would have to work with such as bright sun and slight breezes.
I answered a few quick questions, gave my students some basic settings for their cameras to start with, then we were off to explore! The Arboretum landscape constantly changes depending on the season so it is always different and interesting to find out what's currently in bloom. This summer the arboretum sponsored exhibit featuring environmental art installations from local artists. We were definitely going to work those into our photos! We started in the Australian garden with Kangaroo Paw and its fuzzy blooms of red and yellow, moved through the New Zealand Garden, down into the South African garden and its alien-like Protea with its stunning colors. We continued through the California natives section, and ended up in the Aroma garden and the Succulents with their wide variety of textured and patterned plants. In addition to the varied plant life, we also stop and notice that we are joined by hummingbirds, bunnies, and butterflies.
As we proceed through the arboretum, I let my students explore to uncover what they find interesting to photograph. I check in with each person to help them fine-tune compositions, explore different camera settings, reinforce some of the concepts we were learning about, and most importantly, make sure we were all having fun!! I challenged everyone to really look at the subject matter, try to see the different angles, move positions to create more interesting compositions, and appreciate the colors, textures, and the setting as a whole.
I looked at my watch and realized that our time was almost up. We had covered a lot of ground, and noticed a lot of really great things today. At our final stop in the succulent garden, we set up for our group shot. After a few final questions, I reminded my students to keep noticing and looking around, because I didn't want them to miss anything. Then I bid them all Adieu, and closed the book on another very successful Aperture Academy Workshop!
Until next time,
DeAnna 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.