On a cold, gray day at Baker Beach in San Francisco, instructors Scott Donschikowski and Jean Day greeted 13 equally cold, but enthusiastic students for a day of photo fun and learning. As is the Aperture Academy practice, Scott led off the group with introductions all around welcoming back returning students and getting to know new faces, to get a feel for each individual's skill levels and needs, to help them make the best use of their time while increasing their abilities. On this afternoon, the Golden Gate Bridge was shrouded in fog so a shoot from Baker Beach was discarded, opting instead to begin the workshop at Fort Point.
Everyone piled into the ApCab van for the short ride over to the old fort, to begin working on making magic with their digital cameras. The architecture here is a great way to introduce students in using depth of field techniques, which bring everything in a scene, such as the large and repeating brick archways found on the second level, into focus. The multiple doorways down a long hall of the Officer's quarters was also useful for creating abstract images while learning depth of field, changes in white balance, and the need of a tripod for longer exposures in dim lighting.
The old cannons mounted on wagons gave the students the opportunity to learn ways of seeing from different angles and centering in on details of the structures. The powder keg room is always a favorite stop, and it's where Scott and Jean made sure everyone had the opportunity to explore their creative abilities in isolating subject matter with shorter depth of field and learning the effects of white balance under tungsten light. For those inclined to brave the bitter cold winds from the top of the fort, shots of the steel understructure of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding views of the bay granted opportunities to use wide angle lenses to capture large scenes and longer focal lengths for more compressed and intimate compositions.
When the time came for the doors of the fort to close, the crew made their way back to the warmth of the van for a ride over to Sausalito for a welcomed dinner break. In this short distance, the fog lifted showing clear blue skies and greeted all with warmer temps on the North Bay. Conversations over dinner included accomplishments the group had made so far, and Scott and Jean answered additional questions to help students retain information learned, as well as giving advice on post-processing once they returned home. After warming up and refueling over some great Italian food, it was time to head over to Rodeo Beach and the Marin Headlands.
A short hike through the sand and this group was ready for new opportunities to capture the natural landscape of the beautiful California coast. Many wanted to learn how to capture the spray of the waves in fast action shots, and polarizers were used to cut the glare off the water for a deeper, richer look at the ocean. Emphasis was made on finding interesting foregrounds in the shapes of the rocks on the beach while including the iconic sea stacks surrounded by high tide. Students learned the value of using a graduated neutral density filter to balance out the brighter sky with a darker foreground, and the use of long shutter speeds for creating silky, smooth water for a more ethereal look.
As darkness began to fall, the gang made their way up the Conzelman Road for a final stop to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge and city skyline at blue hour, but the Bay area refused to cooperate with a fog so thick the bridge couldn't be seen and driving required extra caution. In spite of the cold and ending conditions, everyone had a fun day of learning, filling their memory cards, and acquiring new skills to take their love of photography to the next level.
As always, thanks for spending your time with us at the Aperture Academy!
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