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San Francisco/Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - March 17th, 2012

Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy at San Francisco and Marin Headlands

Mother Nature often likes to keep us on our toes here along the California coast, and on this particular weekend, she thought she'd throw in one last big storm before calling it quits for the winter. So it was on a blustery chilly afternoon that a gang of hearty and tenacious Aperture Academy attendees gathered together to tackle the weather gods. Thankfully the temperamental gods respected our aplomb and courage and rewarded us with a respite from the rains that had deluged the Bay area the previous 24 hours. In fact, despite the gale force winds, actual photography conditions based on light and dramatic cloud formations were superb. The thick, gray layer of clouds even opened up occasionally to reveal patches of blue sky and helped cast a wonderful light on the area.

Our group of eager photographers gathered with instructors Scott Davis and Ellie Stone at Baker Beach, where the fun part of the day was about to begin. The weather was perfect to utilize polarizers and gradual neutral density filters for balancing exposures along the banks of Baker Beach. The students were introduced to the basics of compositional leading lines and depth of field, all in front of the iconic "Gate into the Bay" backdrop, the Golden Gate Bridge.

After a short ride to Fort Point, the old brick walls and long hallways called for some attention, and we got away with some great angles on the old architecture of the Fort. At the powder room, students played around with leading lines and a shallow depth of field. Inside the deep and symmetrical office quarters, which span half of the fort, the dark and moody corridors made for lovely black and white compositions. And the panoramic view over the Bay from the top (where students tried their hands on panoramic images and different angles on the Golden Gate Bridge), was a fun and educational excursion that added to the great variety of images available when photographing the city by the bay.

Next stop: Sausalito for a well deserved break, some delicious food and hot drinks to refuel the batteries and restore dropping core temperatures. Accompanied by laughter and stories about past, present and future trips, it was time to leave for our sunset spot of the day. While the moody overcast weather moving into the Bay may not be the best sign indicating a great sunset, the group was willing to shoot whatever Mother Nature had to offer, and that's just the way we like it.

No weather is too bad for photography; it's all in the creativeness and capability to interpret the scenes in front of you... and we had our students work hard on that. Surprisingly, the sky opened up and the sun peeked through giving us far more color than we had anticipated.

After a short hike to Rodeo Beach, braving fierce winds and what looked to be the highest tide of the year, we had to slightly divert from our normal shooting spot as waves crashed all the way to the cliff's edge. Fortunately our group was like a wild herd of billy goats and easily scaled to higher vantage points that allowed for excellent views of the crashing waves. Coupled with some much appreciated golden light filtering through the clouds, our spot proved to be a bonanza for drama-filled coastal scenes.

The group spread out over the beach to find their personal compositions, and even though the sun eventually hid again behind a thick cloudbank, the patterns and textures in the sand, big crashing waves, as well as the incoming tides, provided some great opportunities to let creativity flow.

The last spot of the day proved to be a challenge for the kind of photography you usually do from the vista high above the Golden Gate Bridge, overlooking San Francisco and the eastern side of the Bay. Working on longer exposures to bring interest into the shots and illuminate the city lights properly is hard enough, but when winds feel like it has the power to blow you and your tripod right off the cliff, it makes photography certainly, well, let's call it... interesting. We were up for the challenge and most walked away with some fantastic nightscapes.

With a bounty of different lighting conditions and challenging exposures and compositions, we all came away with some great imagery to share with friends and family; and most important of all, practical knowledge and new skills that will assuredly help improve one's photography beyond the workshop.

On behalf of Scott and Ellie and the entire Aperture team, we wish to thank everyone for braving the weather and spending a fun day of photography with us. Until next time....

If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.

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