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San Francisco has the nickname "fog city" due to the large amounts of the misty stuff that hangs over the place, especially in the summer months. Its presence diffuses light wonderfully in many ways, and we had plenty of high fog on this day as Jean, and I greeted our class at Baker Beach last Saturday.
We were very excited to get to work on this weekend with a group of happy photographers who had varying amounts of skills and experience. As is sometimes the case, we had several students who had attended our Night Owls Workshop the very night before! As per our tradition, the very first thing we did was gather around the ApCab and have our orientation session and introductions. By doing this we all get to know one another and the varying levels of experience, and what expectations everyone has who has come to our class to learn. Many times after the orientation we will head down the beach to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge, but because of the fog covering the towers, we changed our plans and made tracks for Battery Godfrey to shoot a straight ahead view of the same Bridge from a much less seen perspective. The wind was blowing hard and howling at the cliff’s edge, and our adventure was afoot!
After taking various pictures of the bridge for about a half an hour we let the brisk wind push us onward to Fort Point. I greatly enjoy showing our class the various parts of this old battalion and the way light and shadow play throughout it’s various corridors. As is our style, we break up into two groups to explore and photograph different aspects of this brick fortress. I took my group upstairs right away to play with vanishing points in the officer’s quarters and to shoot long exposures, playing with low light settings, and how to make an instructor turn transparent as a ghost.
After some time photographing in the many sections of the fort, the class has some experience with the various settings of their cameras, so we let the students freely explore and try out what they’ve been learning on their own. While they are thus engaged, Jean and I go around and check up on them a bit during this time to see how they are doing as they continue shooting. The top of the fort is always the place everyone wants to get to by this time. On this particular day, a cruise liner was leaving the city and many of the students lined up to shoot pictures of it as it just barely cleared the lower deck of the famous red bridge that Fort Point resides underneath.
By now we had all worked up quite a hunger, and so off we went to Sausalito for a delicious lunch break. While dining we always get a chance to get to know one each other a little better while dining on some great Italian cuisine. After finishing our meals we were all recharged and ready for our next stop, Rodeo Beach.
Upon our arrival, we found the beach was mostly empty. I always like it when we get this place to ourselves. The high fog had scared off other photographers, and that was fine by all of us. We trekked through the sand until we were in the presence of the sea stacks, large rocks protruding out from the shoreline, which make for a dramatic photo presentation.
By now everyone had settled into a comfortable rhythm with his or her camera gear. The focus for Jean and I usually turns at this part of the tour to helping everyone find interesting ways to frame, and teaching of how high vs. low perspectives can lend a lot of difference to an image. The wind was coming off the ocean, so reminding everyone to wipe their lenses was absolutely critical. It is so easy to take some of the best pictures of your life at the ocean, only to find out when you get home and see them on your computers much larger screen that every image has rain freckles and that nothing is useable. So, between reminding everyone of this fact and helping each individual get very different images, from sharp wave crashes, to blurred ocean movement, and close up abstracts, Jean and I covered quite a gamut and were so happy to see incredible results on the back screens of each and every camera!
As the sun started its journey down and creating some warm color, the fog started breaking up. This caused quite a bit of excitement, and many the students were able to get blue skies showing behind orange edged puffy billows. Then almost as suddenly as the colors started up, they all faded away with the sun setting behind a thick marine layer. I’m happy to report that no one seemed at all disappointed. It was a fantastic time and everyone came away with spectacular results!
The fog was heavy as we proceeded along the Marin Headlands back to our parked cars, and it precluded us from taking our traditional last shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at night with San Francisco lit up behind it. Everyone was fine with this however, and understood just as every photographer does, that Mother Nature is the one who is in control, and that we are merely along for the ride to enjoy what she reveals to us. Today she was very kind indeed!
UNTIL NEXT TIME!
On behalf of Jean, Matt 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.