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San Francisco is an amazing city. It's got a little something for every one. In terms of city design no other city is quite like it. It's a city of extreme design. Steep narrow roads, skyscrapers, bridges, and beaches. People get lost here just looking at the scenery. It can be an overwhelming experience for sure. People always leave having taken hundreds of pictures and get home wondering if any of them were very memorable.
Photography can be difficult under the best circumstances, when you have a city as beautiful as San Francisco it can be overwhelming and lead to subpar images. The Aperture Academy is here to help. Our team of talented photography instructors is equipped with the knowledge and experience to help people take the mystery out of photography so students can begin to create images that utilize the best the camera has to offer combined with the best the brain can dream up.
We began all classes with an orientation to familiarize our classes with the instructors and allow the instructors to get to know the students, their gear, and most importantly what they want to work on during their day with us. All of our students have a variety of experience behind the lens, and for us to make sure we educate the best we can we need to know what the students want to work on most. Whether it's beginners learning manual settings or more advanced students hoping to use filters to balance exposure, we're here to help and provide the whole experience in a fun atmosphere.
When orientation was complete the class moved out to Baker Beach to work on some images of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge is so iconic, it's often hard to get new and different images. The instructors worked with the class to ge the proper exposure, and then fine tuned the lesson with tips on composition and using the lines of the cliffs, and surf to lead the eye through the image. We often talk about these leading lines in our composition discussion as they are very strong ways to control the way a viewer sees an image.
Baker Beach isn't the most scenic location, but it serves us well to get a good start knowing the students gear and experience level before heading to our second stop; Fort Point.
Fort Point is a Civil War era fort located directly under the might Golden Gate Bridge. Once inside this piece of American war history our instructors break the group up into smaller groups and take them to some of their favorite stops inside. The fort is full of great symmetrical hallways and archways that really help to explain composition. When dealing with symmetry it's important to be perfect, or skewed to the point its obviously intentional. In addition to the many compositional possibilities the fort has to offer, there are also a variety of different lighting situations. Whether we're in the artificially lit hallway section that combines filtered outside light with the fluorescent bulbs, the dimly lit powder room, our outside in all natural light. This location is great for teaching a variety of different techniques including white balance. The fort is huge, and has so many possibilities for images that the instructors try to spend only half the time doing group work so they can turn the class loose for the last portion to explore the fort on their own and see some of the nooks and crannies that are too small for a larger group to photograph. While the students explore Brian and Ellie walk the fort answering any questions the students have during their independence.
It's break time in Sausalito after our time in the Fort. The students can grab a bite to eat, or a warm beverage before we set off again. Photography is a demanding endeavor and its surprising how much energy taking photos takes out of you. It's always good to stay hydrated and well fed to keep that energy level up. We go until the light has gone, and it's great to make sure your energy meets the demands!
The sunset stop for the night is Rodeo Beach. We stop the van and make the walk out the beach to the iconic sea stacks that sit just offshore. Though a bit hazy, the sun was hanging low in the sky and casting warm light over the rocks and sand. The goal of this location is to shoot moving water and create dreamy seascapes using the rocky beach as foreground and the sea stacks as a main subject. The tide was out extremely far and it allowed us closer access to the rocks than is normal for this time of year. The class spread out and Ellie and Brian worked with the students on composition and proper filter use with the graduated neutral density filters and polarizers to create dreamy, well balanced images.
It's so fun to watch as the students have those ‘AH-HA' moments and start to make sense of the science and math part of the photography experience and allow themselves the joy of being able to create without the stress of wondering if the settings are correct, or WHY they aren't correct!
The class really got some great images at the beach and were giddy as they made the walk back in the dark to the van to set off for one last spot. We like to end our class by giving a preview to our night photography class. We stop high above the city in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and city. The instructors work a bit with the class on the longer exposures, white balances, and apertures needed to properly make night images. These concepts are foreign to many photographers, and although we only touch on it, it's easy to see the lightbulbs begin to go on and students start to see how really endless the opportunities to photograph are in a city like San Francisco.
Even though the possibilites are endless, our class is not it was time to head back to the city and call it a day. A very FULL day full of fun and photography in San Francisco.
Until next time,
Brian, Ellie 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.