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San Francisco is a city filled with iconic locations, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the scenic beauty of the pristine coastline. There is so much to see that it can be overwhelming on where to go and what to photograph. For someone just learning the settings of their camera, that only compounds the frustration.
At the Aperture Academy, we are here to help. For the new photographers, we're here to answer those questions on aperture vs. shutter speeds, what ISO is, how to use white balance, etc. For the more experienced photographers, we're here to help put them in nice spots to photograph and help work on filter use and composition.
A group of photographers with varying backgrounds met professional photographers and instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Davis in the Baker Beach parking lot for a fun day of photographing the wonderful city by the bay. The class began with a brief orientation that covered the route and goals for the day; it also gave Brian and Scott a chance to get to know the students, their gear, and what they'd like to work on for the day.
Once the formalities were out of the way, it was time to get out and shoot. The class started on the beach, and within minutes of completing the orientation, they lined up and made their first photographs of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. That location serves as a good introductory lesson in the use of a polarizer, and for composition. It also allows Scott and Brian to help the newer photographers begin to shed some of the mystery of manual settings. This first stop was brief so we could devote more time to the richer locations that lay ahead.
The second stop of the day was, for many, one of their favorites. Fort Point is a historic civil war garrison that has (with the help of restoration) withstood the test of time. It not only offers a glimpse into its war history, but also offers numerous opportunities to make very interesting photographs!
The group broke up once we were on the inside of the fort. Scott and Brian took the smaller groups to a few different spots throughout, in order to showcase some of the different learning objectives. Each spot we showed the students worked great for demonstrating different concepts about composition, white balance, and depth of field (aperture). For instance, we visited a row of doorways that not only provides interesting repetitive shapes and patterns, but mixes natural and artificial lights. It's a perfect place to explore the changes in white balance and how those settings in the camera work. Another example is when we spent time shooting row after row of brick archways that allow us to continue our work on composition, while also getting a brief chance to show how the graduated neutral density filters can work even in areas where they might not be even considered an option.
Once we'd shown the class a few of our favorite locations, it was time to turn them loose to explore the fort on their own. The area is so full of little interesting corners and textures that it really is best to have the freedom to find your own special compositions. And while the students wandered the fort, Brian and Scott sought them out individually to answer questions and look at screens to see what they were seeing in their viewfinders.
While the class explored the fort, the weather took a change, and what began as a day with blue sky and white clouds turned into a drizzly mess, as a low hanging fog bank swept into the city. However, if fog was going to sweep in, it was a convenient time, as it was just in time for our afternoon break in Sausalito so the class could eat a late lunch and re-energize before we set out for our sunset shooting location.
Our sunset shots began at Rodeo Beach, a secretive little cove of goodness located on the edge of the Marin Headlands. Interesting visual opportunities like ancient sea stacks sitting just off of a rock-lined black sand beach. The class set up along the shore and Brian and Scott worked with them each to utilize the beach and rocks as an interesting foreground subject to blend with the craggy sea stacks. Thankfully, the fog bank subsided some and we were able to get some nice definition in the sky... and even some warm hints of light and color as well. The conditions gave the class opportunities to work on using grad filters, neutral density filters and polarizers in a combination to create dreamy seascape images with milky looking moving water.
Rodeo Beach is always a class favorite, as the pounding surf gears up the heart rate and the scenic beauty of the whole area really gets everyone motivated to make some nice images. Judging by the shots we saw on their cameras, they came away with some real winners!
Our last stop for the day was a scenic overlook of the Golden Gate Bridge from high atop the headlands. We arrived just in time to catch that magical blue hour light right after the sun has set. The lights were on the bridge and beautifully illuminated the clouds passing through. We warmed up our white balances a little and as a result, the images the class turned out were awesome! They looked like a fiery sunset over the bridge and all had a very nice mood and drama to them. Brian and Scott helped the class dial in the tricky low light camera settings, and everyone came away with really nice shots of the bridge. And sadly, the last bits of blue hour light gave way to darkness, signaling the end of our time together.
Thanks for a great day! Until next time,
Brian, Scott, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team