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San Francisco & Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - August 22nd, 2009

Summer for most brings thoughts of warmth, and sunshine, unless you're in San Francisco where the weather can change rapidly and often...for the worse.

Friday's weather was a pleasant, sunny 70 degrees. On Saturday, for the workshop, it was foggy...and cold...and windy.

Normally, we like to take in the sites and experience Baker Beach for the first location of our San Francisco workshops. However, when the bridge is playing hide and seek (emphasis on the hide) with the elements, changes need to be made to provide the students with the most opportunities to learn and photograph.

Luckily, we have alternate schedules prepared in case of unexpected weather.

Considering the conditions, we chose to bypass the beach and head straight to Fort Point, which, in addition to being an amazing location to work on composition and tricky exposures, it also provides some amazing views of the Golden Gate. It was a great time for shooting at the fort, as there was a living history exhibit going on all day. Once we got comfortable with the idea of Civil War soldiers hanging out in a World War I fort, the event provided some interesting subjects to photograph.

Did I mention there was wind, too?

Lots of wind. (Proof captured below (sorry Ellie!))

Wandering the top of the fort with that wind was an experience. We only had two students blown out to sea. While on the top of the fort, the students that kept their footing enjoyed photographing the spiral staircase and working with instructors to add a ghosting effect on the stairwell that provided color and interest to the scene.

From there it was off to the Palace of Fine Arts, to work on more architectural photography. The palace is a great place to work on detailed shots and the use of balance and perspective to create unique images. Many students chose to lay down, to get some amazing angles on the dome and pillars.

Afterwards, it was a brief break for coffee (for some "ha ha") and then off to Rodeo Beach to practice long exposures and get some moody shots of the sea stacks and fog. One important concept Brian and I like to teach is that even if a "sunset" isn't ideal, you can still come away with great shots by changing the way you look at the scene. Because of the fog, we opted to shoot in monochrome. Why? Because when color is lacking, you always have black, white and grey.

I added some competitive flavor to the shoot by offering a free workshop to whomever came away with the best image from the beach. This helped fire everyone up, and when the light was gone...nobody was ready to quit. If you've read about our other workshops, then you know good and well we will let students photograph until we all drop. (We always, day or night, have places and concepts to teach!)

From the Beach to the Bridge. We set our sites on the Embarcadero and photographing the Bay Bridge and the old pilings that litter the waterfront. For this shot, the fog was our friend. It allowed us to pull some color and drama in the sky with long exposures, which really added to the overall image balance.

The night images are always a big hit, so it was no surprise that the group was game for a second location and more night photography. The night was going great.

Although, on our way to the second location on Treasure Island, we passed a limo filled with a bachelorette party...and for one poor lass, the evening was not going so well. Not only had she had her fill of libations, but she was now giving it back to the world on the side of the road while her friends took photos of her. This gave our group a good laugh, and we joked about taking the whole workshop up there to get properly exposed photos of the event so the ladies would be able to cherish that night...forever.

The main focus of the second location was photographing the Bay Bridge from an alternate angle, and including the lights of the city. This is such a cool shot...the long exposures and lights give the image a very moody, Gotham City-type feel.

Unfortunately, we can't shoot forever, and it was well past 10pm when we finished shooting and got everyone back to their vehicles. This was the one portion of the trip that was by far the most challenging--getting four vehicles full of people from point A to point B in a city full of busy traffic. I had led the group, and at times they must have wondered if I was even paying attention to my GPS...one student summed it up best by saying,

"You mean, he HAS a GPS?"

Our workshops are never without adventure...and it was sad to see this one end, as everyone was a blast to work with. We look forward to seeing your images, and seeing you on another workshop in the future!

Until next time!

Stephen & Brian

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



Ellie Stone - August 24th, 2009 (1:29pm)

Wow, what an experience the San Francisco workshop was. This was my 2nd workshop with Stephen & Brain, and while it was completly different in terms of weather & sceenary, it was equally as fantastic.
Well, maybe a close 2nd....Shasta was pretty magnificent ;-)
I did come away with more than a few shots that I'm super excited about!
Thanks again to Stephen & Brian for a great experience & am looking forward to the next one!
Maybe next time you can get some more flattering pic's of me....geez! ;-)

Best regards,

Cherie - August 24th, 2009 (2:14pm)

This looks like a really great workshop! The action shots of the students, and the concentration and focus they're showing tells the whole story of your workshops. Really good stuff!!

David Mackiewicz - August 25th, 2009 (8:29am)

I not only learned from you and Brian, but from the students that were set up next to me. I have always shot in the automode and was a bit intimidated by the high calibier of people that were in the workshop. I soon discovered that it wasn't an issue and the instruction was geared to my level.

Diane - August 25th, 2009 (6:35pm)

Thank you both so much! I had a great time and got some great some shots. Nicole and I may join your Yosemite workshop. I would love to get a new camera first. So we'll see. Regardless, we'll meet up again at your gallery:) Thanks again! DI

Brian Rueb - August 26th, 2009 (1:28pm)

Thanks to everyone for a great workshop....you were all a pleasure to meet and work with...looking forward to seeing you again in the future.

Alan Block - September 1st, 2009 (11:44pm)

Thank you for a first-class workshop and a very enjoyable day. I've attended a number of workshops over the past several years and this was definitely the most instructive and well organized. Equally impressive was the way you handled delivering a great workshop in considerably less than optimal--really dismal--weather conditions. Too bad we didn't have Mother Nature paying better attention in class. I'll be seeing you at another workshop in the near future.

Larry - September 2nd, 2009 (2:56am)

Thanks for another great workshop! As of today, I get to call myself a published photographer since one of my pictures, a fire burning in the hills above the city, was featured on the CBS website and shown on several news stations today. I even had people contacting me to buy the picture today. I would of never been able to accomplish this picture without your workshops. I applied what I learned in this workshop on the Bay Bridge shots and the work we did with ND filters to come up with my first published photo. Thanks!

Dennis Funderburk - September 6th, 2009 (6:56pm)

Thanks Stephen and Brian for a wonderful workshop. I traveled from North Carolina and the workshop was definitely worth the trip! I learned from fellow students as well. I never shot in Bulb mode until this workshop and I am now comfortable with long exposures. I get the most compliments on a photo using a ND graduated filter (recommended by Stephen) at night on the Golden Gate Bridge to get a longer exposure. I was able to get a beautiful picture of the Golden Gate Bridge Sunday night from Marin Headlands before my plane left. I plan to attend your future workshops. Congratulations on your gallery! Best Regards, Dennis

Dennis Funderburk - September 10th, 2009 (7:14pm)

I almost forgot. I get alot of compliments on a wonderful shot of Rodeo Beach in black and white. Brian helped me to get an amazing composition and Stephen recommended a slow shutter speed to get a smooth glassy effect from the waves as they came in and receded. Thanks again! Dennis

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