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San Francisco is a beautiful city, home to millions, and as diverse as any in the world. From architecture to coastal beauty, there is something in this city for everyone. Photographically, there are numerous places to shoot, and people often don't have the time to visit all of them so they want to come along on a "best of" type tour. And that's just what we provide. Aperture Academy instructors have scanned the city for some of the best locations to get amazing images, as well as the best areas for opportunities to teach many of the camera functions that give photographers (of all skill levels) difficulties or confusion.
On this workshop, a group of eager photographers met professional photogs Brian Rueb and Scott Donschikowski at Baker Beach for a brief orientation, to allow our instructors to familiarize themselves with the students' experience level, gear, and expectations. It also gives the class a chance to familiarize themselves with the instructors, the other students, and ask any questions they may have about the day.
Once the formalities were done, it was time to SHOOT! The class set out to Baker Beach for a first shoot of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The first spot serves primarily as a location to go over the cameras and help newer students get accustomed to the manual settings. For more experienced shooters, we work more on composition and how to use leading lines of the surf and neighboring hills to help draw the eye into the frame. The students started to grasp some of the basic order of operations when setting up their shots (f-stop, shutter speed, then ISO if necessary). As they started to shoot, their minds were appropriately on continually changing settings as the light changed.
We didn't spend too long at Baker, as we had much more interesting locations to visit. The next stop was the old civil war garrison, Fort Point. Located directly under the Golden Gate Bridge, this piece of war history offers not only stunning views of the bridge, but exciting architectural nooks and crannies to photograph, as well.
Inside the fort, the class split into two smaller groups so Scott and Brian could take them around the fort into some of the more intimate areas, where larger groups would have difficulty photographing. In this section of the class, we typically visit areas that not only provide interesting compositional elements, such as repetitive shape and extreme symmetry, but also provide different lighting opportunities.
It's all artificial light in the powder room and with the row after row of repetitive barrel shapes, there is really a lot of different options for composition, such as shallow focus or more detailed shots of the whole area! The repetitive doorways of the officer's wing provides mixed natural and artificial light to work with, and the brick archways on the second floor are a great way to work in all natural light and begin to use the graduated neutral density filters to show how we can balance areas that are even a little brighter on one side of the shot.
These places are only a bit of the wonders in Fort Point. There are so many magical little twists and turns that one really needs to explore it for themselves to find their own images. We turned our group loose the last half of this location so they could wander and explore each nook and each cranny (what is a cranny?). While they explored, the instructors worked the fort in a game of "find the photographer" and then helped each student work on capturing the images they'd found in the magical fort.
When we left Fort Point, everyone had worked up an appetite and it was time to grab a late lunch/early dinner in Sausalito before heading out for sunset at the iconic Rodeo Beach.
Rodeo Beach is a wonderful little spot on the Marin Headlands. When you walk out on the sandy beach to the little cove and look out at the craggy sea stacks right off shore, it's hard to imagine that you're only a few miles from one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. We spread out across the rocky shoreline and Scott and Brian helped each student find a nice composition using the curves of the rocks in the beach, and how to balance them all out with the nearby sea stacks.
Once it was show time, Brian and Scott helped everyone dial in their compositions. They helped those with filters work with them to get the best results, and helped those without filters use one of the instructor's filters to see how they really help to balance exposure. We also used the polarizer to help bring out the reflections in the sand and give the sky some real nice contrast. There were SO many good shots on the students' cameras!
The sunset was great and faded fast, but we always like to end our class with a bang, so we made one last stop at the top of the headlands overlooking San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
One student had seen the shot we have of the bridge in the gallery, and was really excited to finally get his shot to make his own version, and better yet, understand HOW it was made. "I'm like a kid in a candy store," he said, as he looked at the shot on his view screen.
That's the best part about photography, once the mystery has been erased from the creation process, it's all about enjoying the outcome!
Here's to enjoying photography,
Until next time,
Brian, Scott 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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments here.