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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.



 





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