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If you don't like the weather in San Francisco, just wait five minutes… it'll change. Spring weather was definitely in the air and it provided a theme that would follow Brian and I as we greeted our class at Baker Beach this past weekend. This turned out to be a very good thing.
As is so often the case, Brian and I were very excited to get to work with a group of eager photographers who had a diverse amount of experience from newbie to advanced hobbyist, some of which were a part of our class the night before! After our traditional orientation and introductions we grabbed our gear and proceeded out along Baker Beach to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge. The tide was much calmer than usual but we still had to watch out as that it was definitely coming in and would still take us by surprise every now and then. The good news is that we all stayed dry!
At this first stop we introduce our class to the general basics of using the Manual Mode, and how f/stops, shutter speed, and ISO work together. We also get to show some more advanced concepts such as how a polarizer filter eliminates glare and adds contrast to a cloudy sky. There are countless ways to frame this famous red bridge at this location, whether from a high point of view or low one near the surf, and many times the people who wander into our viewfinders can add that extra element of magic to make a very memorable image.
After taking various pictures of the bridge for about an hour we headed to Fort Point. This old brick built protector of the San Francisco bay that was built in 1863 stands three stories tall directly underneath the somewhat newer metallic structure of the Golden Gate Bridge, which takes on a completely different look from what we were previously shooting from the beach. Here we break up into two groups to explore and photograph different aspects of this old battalion. We play a lot with low light setting, and shadow play in various corridors. A particular fun theme is finding various vanishing points, of which there is a seemingly endless supply of at this fort.
Once the workshop class has some experience with the various settings and some good understanding of the concepts Brian and I have been teaching, we let them loose to explore. We call this “hide and seek” as that we then look for and find the students to see how they are doing as they continue shooting. The top of the fort has so many great views… so much so, that all of the class spends the rest of their time here getting fantastic images of the ocean, the city, the headlands and yes, the bridge until it's time to pack up and leave.
At this point, we make a quick trip across the bridge to Sausalito for a delicious lunch break. While here we recharge and get a chance to get to know one another better while dining on some great Italian cuisine. During this time the topic of conversation kept turning to the weather. The clouds that had been with us all day were now starting to become increasingly darker and more threatening. Brian and I however were not to be dissuaded by them and kept a good positive attitude.
As we left the diner however, the clouds suddenly let loose and the rain began to fall. I went straight for my android and was looking at radar maps and seeing a big band of storm clouds directly over us, but I also saw breaks in them. With that information, we stayed our coarse and headed to Rodeo Beach along the Marin County coastline with hope springing eternal (re-read the first sentence of this review).
We parked at Rodeo Beach as the rain was starting to subside. There was still enough of it however that we also packed along a few umbrellas as we began or trek along the sands to the cliffs at the south side of the beach. The surf was nice and even and so we were able to get to the beautiful sea stack rock formations just off the shore. Everyone immediately set up their tripods. Some of us braved the rain, wiping our lenses between shots while others broke into groups of two to three, taking turns as a team holding the umbrella over one another's cameras, and using the gradient filters as they got their shots of an emerging sunset which was about to become EPIC.
Rarely have I seen clouds and light come together along the California coastline as well as they did on this evening. Some photographers spend weeks, months, even years looking for the kind of light we were now experiencing! To make matters even better, just as the sun was turning everything colors, the rain stopped! The umbrellas were quickly dropped and everyone started shooting amazing images with their newfound skills. Lenticular clouds formed off the coast as the sky burst into hues of red, orange, yellow, blue and purple. The best part was that because of the rain we had the whole beach to ourselves. Usually there are many other photographers at this spot, but today it was all ours and ours alone.
When the sun was fully set, we started doing longer exposures. The effect of this on the waves results in a misty looking ocean scene, which is magical to say the least! Everyone was feeling very happy afterwards as we loaded back into the ApCab for our last destination of the evening.
As night fell, we landed at the Marin Headlands near Hawk Hill at the end of our journey to teach a quick lesson in taking long exposure photos of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here we do a quick stop to shoot only a few images at specific settings. The storm had moved on and we had a nice clear view of everything, and also got to see a big multi forked lightning strike over the Oakland Hills. Though none of us caught it in our two-minute exposures, not one of the members of our class were all too concerned. We caught epic light. A sunset that was more than just a sunset. Everyone was more than happy!
Until next time,
Brian, Matt 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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments here.