It was one super gorgeous summer day in San Francisco when fellow Aperture Academy instructor, Alicia Telfer and I met our 13 students who were charged up and ready for a day of photographic exploration. Baker Beach was our starting point and the weather was almost balmy with some nice clouds and fog surrounding the bay area, but not so much to obscure the sky or the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We had an orientation getting to know everyone, finding out about their camera gear, experience levels, and if there was anything in particular they wished to work on throughout the course of the day. We always have quite a variety of skill levels with our students and a range of camera makes and models including Canon, Nikon, Sony, even Pentax, but our instructors have had opportunity to work with most of them and can assist students in getting to know their particular model.
With our get-acquainted session over, it was time to hit the beach and help our students get their trigger fingers warmed up with some basic compositions using the surf as a leading line to the main subject of the Golden Gate Bridge. Following some preliminary group instruction, Alicia and I moved about our group assisting with tripod and camera set ups. We always teach our students to take control of their cameras and personal creativity using manual mode, getting familiar with the important combination of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and reading a histogram to help zero in on the best exposure for any given scene. Setting the right aperture for a particular focal length to insure sharpness front to back was practiced, as well as incorporating polarizing filters to enhance the blue sky making the clouds pop on the horizon and removing glare from the surface of the water.
Once everyone had gotten a few different and technically pleasing shots, we made our way back up the beach and piled into the ApCab for a short ride over to Fort Point just beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This Civil War era location is great for working on all types of compositions with a variety of lighting conditions and subject matter. To keep things cozy and allow for some elbow room, Alicia and I separated into two groups showing our students a few of our favorite spots that deal not only with different types of lighting, but also some great compositional elements. The fort has so many different conditions for our students to learn new skills as they worked with longer exposures and changing white balance in some dim light situations, to outdoors with strong back lighting. The repeating patterns of doorways, brick arches, shadowy alcoves, old iron canons, the under structure of the bridge, and the towers rising up to the fog were all studied and captured. Some of our students even enjoyed photographing a few actors rehearsing for the forts upcoming performances of Shakespear's Macbeth. During the last hour of our time here, the class is free to go out to explore on their own and in spite of the cold winds, everyone always goes to the roof to capture views of the City by the Bay with its many sailboats, tankers, and kite surfers. Alicia and I wandered between students helping to give them different perspectives and assisting with compositions and exposures.
As the fort was closing, we gathered back in our warm, comfortable van and driving across the bridge, took a very welcomed dinner stop in Sausalito. Italian food, hot coffee, and conversation was a great way to break up the day and recharge before the final portion of our adventure. We always enjoy this time together learning of each others' travels, sharing pictures, best places to go, and experiences. It's also amazing to find so many of our students who live in the Bay Area have spent so little time or even know about some of the places we take them, but once they have a camera in hand the world and its possibilities really opens up. Alicia and I also took this opportunity to go over anything the student's might still have questions about or to offer tips and recommendations on camera gear, software, or places to shoot on future travels.
Our final stop was at Rodeo Beach to shoot the iconic sea stacks where we found the tide so low we were able to walk right up to them. The fog while still offshore, managed to obscure the sun so we helped our students in finding various compositions using ripples in the sand as foreground interest, the cliffs of the Marin Headlands reflecting off the smooth, wet sand, and of course, the dark silhouettes of the sea stacks making for some dramatic black and white images. We also helped our students with longer exposures using polarizing and neutral density filters to create the dreamy effect of the water as it swirled around the rocks. The sea mist was really starting to blow on shore so this also became a lesson in keeping filters and lenses clean of the salty spray. Positioning tripods to keep them steady and level in the wet sand, and using a remote or shutter release cable was also practiced to insure the sharpest images possible. This was such a fun and inquisitive group full of questions about so many things photography related that time flew and before we knew it, night was falling. The fog had quickly overcome the bay and we were unable to get a final shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at night, but our students had all learned the skills necessary to make this possible on another adventure in the City by the Bay.
UNTIL NEXT TIME!
On behalf of Jean, Alicia and the Aperture Academy team, we thank you for a another great workshop!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments here.