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At the Aperture Academy, we're fortunate to have instructors who love their work and love the locations they photograph. There's little that they would rather be doing than showing a group of people around some of the best spots possible for photography in San Francisco; and at the same time, helping them become more adept at using their equipment and come away with a few nice images along the way.
On a particular Saturday afternoon in March, a group of eager students met instructors Stephen Oachs and Brian Rueb on Baker Beach specifically to learn more about landscape and outdoor photography, and experience some of the best places in the city to practice.
Baker Beach is a great location. Not only is the view of the Golden Gate Bridge spectacular, but because our group assembles there, it allows us to be in the field learning within 15 minutes of the beginning of class. Also, this first location is a good chance for instructors to get to know the students a bit more, and vice versa. We work with each individual on composition and how to best approach a scene. What works? What doesn't? We also begin to cover the manual mode on the camera...many students have never put their camera on that scary "M" setting...lucky students, because we shoot on "M" ALL DAY.
The weather on this day was perfect. Clouds were beginning to roll in, the fog started burning off right when class began, and the waves were very small on Baker Beach...which was a luxury many of the classes in previous months hadn't had.
A good hour was spent on the beach learning more about camera settings and the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. The students began to feel more confident in their abilities to work their gear, and we kept that "mojo" working right into the second stop of the day...Fort Point.
For many of the students, Fort Point is their favorite part of the day. While some of the folks have visited the fort at some point in their lives, we're always shocked at how many people have never been in the fort at all. Those who have been in the fort previously haven't been there for photography, so it's a great experience.
The first part of our time in the fort is usually spent broken into smaller groups exploring some of the more intimate portions of the fort's interior. Our instructors help to work on exposure, composition, and on how white balance works and how it can be used to creatively enhance an image.
The fort is such an interesting location that many students are giddy to explore it some on their own. Who are we to deny them?! After the instructors go over the lessons and locations they have for inside the fort, the class is let loose for a bit of personal time they can use to practice the concepts they've been learning all morning, as well as take the opportunity to see some of the nooks and crannies Fort Point has to offer. Stephen and Brian made the usual rounds during this time, giving out extra points and giving students more ideas on places to explore.
Photographing in a windy fort takes its toll, and when we finish, the glazed look in everyone's eyes lets us know it's time to take a break and refuel. We headed into Sausalito, to a little cafe where we could warm up, grab a soda, coffee, or bite to eat and get a bit of that energy back. This break is also a good time for the group to swap tales from the field, and ask our instructors any questions they may have had from the morning session.
One of the goals of every workshop is to provide students the opportunity to shoot a fantastic sunset from a fantastic location. Weather and conditions don't always cooperate, but we certainly always make the effort...however, if there is a smidge bit of hazard involved...
The tides weren't horrible on Saturday, but there were a few waves here and there that made getting out to our beach photography point a bit tricky. We handled it in a military fashion, and sent wave after wave of eager photographers around the point and into action. We mostly all made it without issue...only a few people got wet...and not too horribly.
Once on the beach, we were rewarded for our efforts with glasses of wine generously donated by one of our students. It was a really nice way to enjoy the beach as the light began its descent, and we set up for sunset.
Sunset is the time of the class where we really work with students on the proper use of filters to help balance out exposure. Graduated Neutral Density filters, as well as polarizing filters, were all used in combination to help get the best possible results in our images. Sunset was very nice, too! The instructors were very pleased with the quality of the images, and the degree of learning that had taken place over the afternoon. A really great group, for sure!
The last spot on this workshop tour is always a favorite. Photographing the mighty Golden Gate Bridge, with all its lights on, is an experience for sure. We line the class up along one of the best vantage points for getting that shot, and spend plenty of time there to make sure they understand the importance of using the higher aperture and longer exposures. We were treated to a couple really large barges passing under the bridge, which gave some of the images a very unique take.
It was a long day, and we admired the fact that the group kept on shooting, and their excitement level remained high all day. They ate up every piece of advice we gave them and often ran with it to come away with their own unique takes on the places we visited. It was truly a pleasure to work with them...and during the van rides from place to place, someone always had a story, joke, or piece of photographic information to make the ride more enjoyable. Thanks for a great day!
Until next time,
Brian, Stephen, 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.