San Francisco in the spring is perfect. The weather is usually very nice, and the chance of rain is usually quite slim. What better way to spend a day than learning about landscape photography with the Aperture Academy?
A small group of six met up with instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Donschikowski for our San Francisco and Marin Headlands workshop.
We get groups of all sizes for our workshops, and while most of our groups are larger, we enjoy the smaller groups just as much. It gives us more time to get to know the students and really help them towards achieving their photographic goals.
We started our day at Baker Beach, and it was clear from the beginning that we had a group that was going to get into their work. Two students got their feet wet within moments of us setting up to photograph. One student, who had been on a previous workshop, had brought her water shoes in preparation for the occasion.
The weather was great. White clouds came streaking into the city, giving us a great opportunity to use polarizing filters to help bring out more dynamics in the sky. With a small group, three of which were returning students, it didn't take long to familiarize ourselves with the gear, and get a better idea of where people were at with their photography. Most of the group had a good grasp on their cameras, but wanted to learn more about how to approach a scene, and then adjust the camera to best capture it. We worked on that a lot on the beach, and carried it right on through to our second stop.
Fort Point was a ghost town on this day...which is rare. Normally it is bustling with people, and even finding a parking spot is difficult. But, we rolled right in, parked, and were inside photographing within 5 minutes! The small group was nice, because we didn't have to break up into 2 or 3 groups; we were able to stick together, and everyone was given plenty of time to capture the images the instructors had laid out for them.
As was usual, our plan at the Fort was to take students to a few of our favorite locations in and around the fort, to allow us to work with individuals on some of the areas with more difficult lighting situations, and then we turn them loose to explore the fort on their own and practice what they've learned during the first part of the day.
The interior of the fort is full of very symmetrical architecture, which can be challenging compositionally. We always spend time in a few of the areas and work with students on balanced compositions, and even a bit with filters to help balance some areas of harsh light.
One of the highlights of the fort is the powder room. A low lit, small room, located in the bottom of the fort. We use the area as a place to teach shallow depth of field in photographs, as well as using repetitive shape as an element in imagery. Some of the images the students came away with from this location were amazing!
We took a scheduled break for dinner in Sausalito, and because of the small group and the extended daylight hours, we also made a stop to photograph a nice area overlooking the city, that had some old pier pilings in the foreground, before heading into the Marin Headlands for sunset.
Rodeo Beach is an amazing spot for photography if you walk far enough down the beach. We had a perfect tide, and took our class down to some sea stacks. This spot is the culmination of all we've worked on during the day. There are ample rocks to use so students can create an interesting composition from top to bottom.
The lighting was tricky, so it became a great spot to work on using our split graduated filters to balance out exposure. The water, and the colors in the sky, made this another spot worthy of using polarization to help the images. We also used higher apertures and longer exposures to capture dynamic movement in the water, and give the images that "silky" looking water that many photographers enjoy.
The sunset started out a little iffy...but a clearing on the horizon allowed a few blasts of pinks and reds to seep into the shots right at the end. Some of the images the students took even had great sunbursts. The only downside of this location was that one of our students had her camera hit by a wave. Photography is a tough thing sometimes. Getting those great images often requires immersion into your subject, which comes with risk. A word of caution to all photographers: Your gear is always more important than a shot. Never leave your gear. Luckily, most cameras now are weather sealed very well, and hopefully, her camera will bounce back.
When the sun was gone, and the last bits of pink had faded, we set off to shoot the Golden Gate from one of the best vantage points in the Marin Headlands.
San Francisco is so bizarre with the way the light works in the twilight hours. While the beach, only three miles away, was gray and socked in with clouds, the bridge still had some lingering color in the sky, and the clouds were much more dispersed and photogenic. It's a good example of one of the best rules in photography...if the light in one area isn't any good....MOVE!
The class really got some great images of the Golden Gate. The earlier images had some great pinks and blues in the sky, and as night crept in, the sky became dramatic and almost fiery in places. There were lots of nice images showing up on the students' view screens.
This group was dedicated, and really put in a hard day's work gathering images. Many of the students were also hockey fans, and we put the game on and worked hard to make sure we finished on time so the class could still catch the last part of the San Jose Sharks game, which ended the same way our class did...with a win!
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.