It was a cold and foggy summer day in San Francisco, but that did not deter this eager group of 12 photographers from joining Matt Granz and I on another Aperture Academy adventure. We met our group at Baker Beach which included some of our returning students, four of whom had been with us only the night before. It's always great to see familiar friends and meeting new people who share our love of photography. We had a brief orientation getting to know everyone, finding out about their camera gear, experience levels, and if there was anything in particular they wished to work on throughout the course of the day. This helps Matt and I in tailoring our instruction to various levels of experience and really keeps us on our toes.
The San Francisco/Marin Headlands workshop is designed to give photographers a variety of shooting conditions and experiences to increase their skill levels and familiarity with their cameras. On this very blustery day, we all piled into the ApCab van and headed over to Fort Point just beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This Civil War era location is great for working on all types of compositions under different lighting conditions with a plethora of subject matter. We teach all of our students to take control of their cameras using manual mode, getting familiar with aperture, shutter speed, and reading a histogram to help zero in on the best exposure. We start by separating our group in two and Matt and I then show them a few of our favorite spots that deal not only with different types of lighting, but also some great compositional elements.
From low, incandescent indoor lighting, a mix of indoor and outdoor lighting, and then outdoors for sunlit comps, the fort has so many different conditions for our students to learn new skills. They loved all the repeating patterns of doorways and brick arches, getting abstracts in the shadows, and even capturing a few ghosts in their long exposures. After warming them up with some technical information, the class is free to go out and to explore on their own using their new found skills and find some of their own unique views. In spite of the gale force winds and fog shrouding the Golden Gate Bridge, everyone headed for the roof for even more abstract shots of the bridge supports and towers disappearing into the fog. Matt and I continually checked on students to see what type of images they were getting and offer tips for exposure and composition. We love it when we take a sample shot and our students come away with a different kind of composition of the same subject matter showing their individual creativity.
As the fort was closing, we gathered back in the warm, comfy van and took a very welcomed dinner stop in Sausalito. Italian food and hot coffee were enjoyed as well as conversation on topics not all having to do with photography. It's always a pleasure to spend this time together and learn of each others' travels and photo-related stories. It also gives Matt and I a chance to go over anything the student's might still have questions about or to offer tips and recommendations on camera gear or software. The fog, forced by high winds was still rolling over the Marin Headlands as we arrived at our next location at Rodeo Beach.
First, we spent a little time in the marsh area where a heron entertained a few of our wildlife shooters, though I think it kept pulling up kelp instead of fish. It was also a nice spot for getting reflection shots of some old boat dock pilings in the lagoon. The tide was up and leaving little room for escape from the rocky shore so we opted for shooting the iconic sea stacks from the cliffs above. This also became a lesson in keeping filters and lenses free from the salty sea spray, and in keeping tripods steady as the winds battered us and the shoreline. Using neutral density filters, lower ISO, and smaller apertures, our group managed to achieve exposures to soften the waves and create a more ethereal look to the surface of the water. In the late evening light the fog grew heavy and blocked out the sun, spoiling a chance for sunset, but creating conditions perfect for black and white images and even longer, moodier exposures.
The cold, fierce winds and heavy fog was not going to keep our students from getting a final shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at night. We returned to the van and drove back over the headlands to Fort Baker for one last chance with the iconic bridge. We had to take a few moments for our group shot memento even though by this time most of us were shivering from the cold, damp air. Almost completely covered in fog, but with enough showing to tell what it was, the lights glowing in the early night, Matt and I helped our students to set up and with a little instruction on settings, everyone began getting the most wonderful, mystical, moody shots. The bridge lights glowed and reflected off the dark, blue water. A large sea stack anchored the image, and the bridge spanned the bay while disappearing into the barely visible city on the opposite shore. The complimentary golds and blues of the night paid off at this location and gave our students a special image as an encore to the many other fine photographs they captured through the day.
Kudos to all for braving the extreme weather and sticking through to the very last shot!
UNTIL NEXT TIME!
On behalf of Matt, Jean and the Aperture Academy team, we thank you for a another great workshop!
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.
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