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San Francisco/Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - August 11th, 2012

Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy at San Francisco and Marin Headlands

San Francisco in summer. As Mark Twain once pontificated, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." How apropos a statement to attribute to such a beautiful city in an otherwise beautiful season.  But summer is a little different in The City. 

In summer, San Francisco can provide a rare and sometimes welcome glimpse into the cold white of winter by the coast, an escape from the rising temperatures of the inland empire, and great potential for amazing imagery.

While other Bay Area-philes are basking in the coarse midday sun or retreating inside to the cool shade, The Aperture Academy's Scott Donschikowski and Alicia Telfer led a group of eager photographers into the fray to capture the sights of San Fransisco in all its summer wintery glory.

Meeting at Baker beach, the summer skyline in The City did not disappoint.  Huddled around the now famous ApCab, the group began introductions and opened a dialogue for the day's activities. Instructors Scott and Alicia explained how the day would unfold, and the many places and different shooting scenarios the group would encounter.  With everyone caught up on introductions and such, the team opted to leave Baker beach because of the heavy fog that was displacing the bridge, and to take in the photographic sights of Fort Point.

Fort Point is a massive, tiered stone cannon fortification built by the US Army Core of Engineers throughout the 1850's to protect the San Fransisco Bay from potential aggressive foreign action.  The Fort stayed active as a battle station throughout the Civil War, and was maintained as a barracks, continuing to be operational into the Second World War. 

In the original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point was to be destroyed and removed, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss redesigned the plans because of his love of the craftsmanship of the Civil War Masons. And many photographers have been able to enjoy his decision!

The architecture of the fort was the focus of the Aperture Academy's venture on this workshop stop.  The distinct brick archways, textured walls and weathered doors, all provide a glorious look into our past. The materials and craftsmanship exudes a warmth and a wonderful contrast to the cold white skies above. 

Scott and Alicia split the group in two, and took turns leading them around to focus on specific parts of the fort's architecture. For instance, in the old powder room, with its mysterious shadows cast into the light, is a perfect place to show how slower shutter speeds can turn the living into ghosts of themselves, which reminded us of those who once occupied this place.  And the topmost level, with its stunning views of the undercarriage of the Golden Gate bathed in the summer fog, proved to be a popular place to photograph for the group, despite the howling wind.

With closing time approaching, Alicia and Scott gathered everyone up to shoot the bridge from a couple different upper vantage points. By this time, it was increasingly difficult to find the Golden Gate, as it had succumbed to the ever-growing fog.  However, regardless of conditions, it was time for the group to head across the bridge and into Sausalito for an afternoon break for some food.

The Sausalito harbor is protected to the north by a large hilly range, which traps the fog in the Marin Headlands, and which helps the North Eastern Bay have nearly the opposite weather as The City we left behind.  As a result, Sausalito was beautiful, and the perfect respite for weary and cold travelers who once more must go into the fray.

And into the fray we went, crossing through the Hawk Hill tunnel, where we once again found the weather perfectly grey, with fast moving white-capped fog trails speeding toward the south. However one thing at Aperture Academy that we believe and pass on to all of our students is that even if the weather turns bleak, as photographers we must (and can) be prepared to shoot, and get interesting, worthwhile and impressive images. 

In this situation, the lack of a true sunset at Rodeo beach gave Scott and Alicia the opportunity to teach the students about shooting in monochrome, good ways to simplify compositions, and the best ways to capture wave crashes on the sea stacks off the beach.

As the tide slowly came in and light faded, the group stayed perched on the shoreline and snapped away into the nearing darkness, taking advantage of the even lighting to produce some amazing-looking black and white images of the rough coastline. 

As day turned to dusk, we were all eager to see if the last location of the night would be accessible, considering the heavy fog over the bridge all day.

On arrival at Hendrick Point, which sits on the eastern bluff of the Golden Gate, we found it fogged in and the bridge was completely invisible.  But not to worry! Scott and Alicia did what photographers do, they adapted to the weather and conditions, and took the group and the ApCab back to the Embarcadero to shoot the Bay Bridge for the last stop of the evening. 

Just like the night before on the Aperture Academy's Night Owl workshop, this was where the group finished out the itinerary and students captured at least one fully visible bridge... completely lit, from fore and back (and with no fog!). A terrific way to capture the bridge!

With those beautiful bridge shots and the night growing ever deeper, it was finally time to pack up the cameras, fold up the tripods, and drive the ApCab back to Baker beach for all to depart their separate ways and take a look at their bounty. 

Thanks to all our students! You are troopers who, in the face of whipping winds and colossal fog, whipped right back and conquered the day!

Until next time,

Scott, Alicia and the rest of the Aperture team

If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.

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