San Francisco has enough icons to fill several days of sightseeing. People come from all over just to see it, and try to bring home an image or two that does the location justice. On Saturday a group of eager photographers met Aperture Academy instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Davis to see some of those iconic locations and come away with the know-how to create some memorable shots.
The group goes over the day in a brief orientation that allows the class to get acquainted with one another, as well as provide the instructors with valuable information on the students’ photographic background, equipment, and goals for the day. It’s important that we try our best to provide the students 1-1 information to answer their questions and move them forward on what it is that they want to learn.
Once orientation is finished we head right out on to Baker Beach. Baker Beach, during the warmer days is partially a nude beach. The weather on this May Saturday was very chilly and windy, and we weren’t expecting to see any nudity…however a few men found the courage to shed their clothes and parade on the beach despite the shriveling cold. This didn’t distract the class (too much) from the chance to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the best vantage points in the city. This time of day isn’t the best for light, but it gives our instructors a chance to work on the basic settings for those just getting comfortable with the manual settings on their camera, as well as how a polarizer can make images pop a little even during day-time photography.
The class loads up the ApCab after a productive and interesting time on Baker Beach, and sets off one of the cities hidden treasures, Fort Point. Fort Point is a civil war era fort that boasts all the old nooks and crannies and bits of history that it had hundreds of years ago. The class breaks up here into smaller groups so Scott and Brian can spend time with the students in some of the smaller, tighter fitting areas of the location and work with them on subjects like composition, white balance, using symmetry effectively in an image.
The fort is a playground for photography. After taking the students to a few of our favorite spots, we turn them lose for a bit to explore the location and find out some spots of their own, and work on a bit of what they’ve learned thus far in the day. Once we turn them lose, it’s a challenge to find them again. The fort twists and turns, and it’s easy for them to get lost in their shooting and forget the time. It took two instructors and a team of park rangers to finally put an end to the festivities and get the group back together so it could head to Sausalito for a food and drink break before heading off to the Marin Headlands to see if the gray skies would give way and give the group a decent sunset.
The break is a great chance for the class to continue to build camaraderie and continue to talk about photography. Students get a chance to ask more questions and share shots on their phones from some of the amazing places they’ve visisted in their journeys.
Once the class is fed, it’s time for a nap. Well, it might be time for a nap, but we still have a few more hours of photography left. It’s back into the ApCab, where Scott and Brian switched driving duties, so the class would have someone to poke fun at. Brian is trying to be a better driver…he’s just not good at talking and driving at the same time.
Rodeo Beach is a little gem on the SF coast. Sea Stacks and rugged coastline are just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of the second larges city in the state. Our group walks out to the beach under ominous gray skies. The plan under these conditions is to work on the long exposure shot, to blur water, and use the graduated neutral density filters to the best of their ability to create even and balanced exposures. The filters’ are a great tool for the landscape photographer in a variety of conditions, but they shine the best when the sun is setting and the sky is exploding with color…and that wasn’t happening. We had some definition in the sky, but the sun wasn’t breaking through.
Just as we were about to pack up a hint of sun dipped below a break in the clouds and the sky began to change. Within minutes what was only a gray sky turned into one full of light beams, reds, pinks, purples, and yellows. It was a show to see for sure. It was back to shooting, and putting those filters to their best use. The color didn’t last long but the class came away with some amazing shots in a short period of time. It’s one of the magical things of landscape photography, the unexpected.
The class walked back to the ApCab with smiling faces, and even tough we’d passed the ending time by 30 minutes…we weren’t done. There was still one more stop left, and a class full of eager students ready to see it!
No visit to San Francisco is complete without a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, and no views of the bridge is better than the one from the top of the Marin Headlands at night with the lights of the city and bridge out to shine. The small walk up from the parking area leads to a windy and cold view of the city that can only be tamed by trying to focus on photography, and not the biting wind. The class spread out and the instructors worked with them to get the settings needed to capture this beautiful scene and bring home a bit of what our night owls class works on- bringing the magic of night on to the camera.
The wind was brutal, and the cold was numbing, but the conditions couldn’t have been better for capturing some great images of the bridge. No amount of wind was going to blow the smiles off these guys and gals faces, they’d endured the weather all day, learned some new techniques, seen some new places, captured some great images, and seen a sunset come from nowhere. They came to the city ready to learn and they left with success and a fun time to boot!
Until next time...Brian, Scott 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.